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Spetsnaz Information and Resources

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About Spetsnaz

By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor

This Russian styles of martial arts date back to the 10th century. Throughout the history of this huge country, Russia had to repel invaders from the north, south, east, and west. All attackers brought their distinct styles of combat and weaponry. Battles took place on different trains, during freezing winters and sweltering summer heat, with the Russians often greatly outnumbered by the enemy forces.

As a result of these factors, Russian warriors acquired styles of fighting that combined strong spirit with extremely innovative, versatile, and sometimes gruesome tactics.

Systema ( Spetsnaz), is the combat, movement, and conditioning system taught to elite Russian Special Operations (Spetsnaz) units. It is a fast growing martial arts in the USA - exploding in popularity after being featured on Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior: Green Berets vs Spetsnaz, the Discovery documentary Secrets of the Secret Service, and the Richard Gere spy thriller The Double.

Created in 1974 to act independently of the Red Army, Spetsnaz once epitomized the menace and power of the Soviet State. It was the U.S.S.R.'s secret weapon during the Cold War.

Spetsnaz helped the Soviets overthrow the government of Afghanistan in 1979 by storming the national palace in Kabul and gunning down President Amin and his family. In 1985, when terrorists took over the Soviet embassy in Beirut, a Spetsnaz strike team infiltrated the embassy, abducted four of the terrorists and sent one of their decapitated heads in a bag to the terrorists' leader.

Even today, Spetsnaz is perhaps the most exclusive and most secretive military unit in the world. Comprised of snipers, explosives experts and close-quarters combat specialists, Spetsnaz handles counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, sabotage, and reconnaissance missions. They operate in Chechnya and the Russian breakaway republics, and there are rumors of Spetsnaz operators in Afghanistan that were helping with the hunt for Osama bin Laden. A March, 1999, Time magazine story about Spetsnaz soldiers freelancing as muscle for the Russian Mafia called them "a sinister force" and the "perfect killers."

There are stringent standards required of anyone assigned to Spetsnaz. Potential warriors must be secondary school graduates, intelligent, physically fit, and "politically reliable." Upon induction, they will be asked to sign a loyalty oath in which the inductee acknowledges death will be his punishment for divulging details about his service. After induction, a few will be selected for an arduous, six-month-long NCO school. Those not selected for NCO school receive training in their units. In addition to basic military training, they will be trained in the following specialized skills:

  • Parachuting.
  • Martial Arts: Hand-to-hand combat, silent-killing techniques, knife-fighting.
  • Sabotage using explosives, incendiaries, acids, and abrasives.
  • Infiltration techniques, including defeat of locks and security systems.
  • Foreign language and culture.
  • Foreign weapons, tactics, and vehicles.
  • Survival.
  • Reconnaissance and map reading.
  • Rappelling.

Spetsnaz are not well known within the Soviet military, they do not publicize their existence and capabilities. Russia has denied it even exists. Their uniforms are not distinctive, with ground forces Spetsnaz usually wearing airborne or signal troops' uniforms and naval Spetsnaz wearing naval infantry or submariners' uniforms.

Their ethnic makeup is likewise not distinctive and to some degree reflects the ethnic characteristics of the intended target. For example, Spetsnaz units in the Far East are alleged to have available North Koreans and Japanese from Manchuria and the Kuril Islands.


About Cathy: She and her Doberman Trooper conduct research into all kinds of topics and produce articles like the one you see here. To contact Cathy, write to thecathyfactor@yahoo.com. Get the facts from Cathy, and let the Cathy Factor give you an edge.


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