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Great emblem of the General Staff

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation ([Генеральный штаб Вооружённых сил Российской Федерации, Генштаб - Genshtab] Error: {{Lang-xx}}: text has italic markup (help)) is the military staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. It is the central organ of the Armed Forces Administration and oversees operational management of the armed forces under the Russian Ministry of Defence.

The staff is organized by functions, with each directorate and operating agency overseeing an area. Working with the staffs of each of the services, the Main Operations Directorate drafts plans for strategic operations for the Supreme High Command. When the headquarters of the Supreme High Command approves the plans, the General Staff issues them to operational commanders as Supreme High Command directives. The General Staff Academy is responsible for training officers for the General Staff. The wartime command post for the General Staff is buried deep underground nearby Chekhov, Moscow Oblast.[1] The Chief of the General Staff is appointed by the President of Russia, who is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. As of 2014 the Chief of the General Staff is Army General Valery Gerasimov.

General Staff is located in Moscow on Znamenka Street in the Arbat District. Together with the Ministry of Defence building and several Staff directorate office buildings nearby, it forms the so-called "Arbat military district" as it is often referred to among the military personnel to outline the highest supreme command of the Russian Armed Forces.


General Staff (old building) in Moscow

In the Soviet Armed Forces, the Soviet General Staff acted as the main commanding and supervising body of the military. The Red Army Staff was first formed in 1921 but, historian John Erickson says, until 1924 developed into an unwieldy grouping dealing with combat training, routine Red Army affairs, and defence policy, all without real definition Erickson dates the development of the Staff as the Soviet 'military brain' from Mikhail Frunze's appointment to the post of Chief of Staff by Order No.78 of 1 April 1924. 'From this date.. the history of the Soviet General Staff - as it was to become - begins'.[2]

On 22 September 1935, the authorities renamed the RKKA Staff as the General Staff, which essentially reincarnated the General Staff of the Russian Empire.[3] Many of the former RKKA Staff officers had served as General Staff officers in the Russian Empire and became General Staff officers in the USSR. General Staff officers typically had extensive combat experience and solid academic training.

William Odom wrote that 'during World War II [the General Staff] became Stalin's main organ for operational direction of all military forces. After the war it became the most powerful centre for virtually all aspects of military planning, operations, and determination of resource requirements. The minister of defence had only a limited staff for his own support, leaving him heavily dependent on the General Staff.'...'Within the Ministry of Defence, all the resource allocation issues were normally resolved by the chief of the General Staff before going to the minister, and finally, after consultation with GOSPLAN, to the Politburo.'[4] During the Cold War, the General Staff maintained Soviet plans for the invasion of Western-Europe, whose massive scale was made known secretly to the West by spies such as Ryszard Kukliński and later published by German researchers working upon the National People's Army files.[5] After the first Chechen war began, the government, in the person of Boris Yeltsin, began to encourage the General Staff’s participation in the direct leadership of military actions. Moreover, on 11 January 1995 at a meeting between Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin and the Chairmen of the Chambers of the Federal Assembly, Vladimir Shumeyko and Ivan Rybkin, President Yeltsin announced his intention to pull the General Staff completely out of the Defense Ministry and attach it directly to himself. Yeltsin never implemented his plan, possibly because at that time the General Staff was headed by General Mikhail Kolesnikov, a modest person who respected official subordination, or possibly because he did not find the right person for the job. It is very difficult to judge the motives behind Yeltsin’s actions. In any case, this proposal apparently did not win much support in military circles. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and especially since 2004 the General Staff and the Russian Ministry of Defence have attempted to divide direction of the armed forces between them, often in intense bouts of bureaucratic disagreement. It has been reported that the General Staff's main role now is that of the Russian Ministry of Defence's department of strategic planning, and the Minister of Defence himself is now gaining executive authority over the troops. However some Russian commentators dispute this.[6]

During the Russian Military Reform of 2008 the operational and administrative functions of the General Staff were divided into two spheres: the planning of the use and development of the armed forces, and the planning of comprehensive supplies. The restructuring was not publicly announced, but the Main Operations Directorate was slashed by 40 percent, leaving only five out of the eight units of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).[7]

General Staff organization

  • Main Directorate of Communications[8]
  • Main Operational Directorate[8]
  • Main Intelligence Directorate[8]
  • Main Organizational Mobilization Directorate[8]
  • Directorate of the Chief of Radioelectronic Combat Troops[8]
  • Military Topographical Directorate[8]
  • Main Command - Ground Troops[8]
  • Main Command - Navy[8]
  • Main Command - Air Forces[8]
  • Aerospace Defense Command[8]
  • Strategic Missile Troops Command[8]
  • Airborne Troops Command[8]
  • Operational Training Directorate[8]
  • 8th Directorate[8]
  • 12th Main Directorate[8]
  • Troop service and safety of military service Directorate[8]
  • Directorate of the Chief of the Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Defense Troops[8]
  • Directorate of the Chief of Engineering Troops[8]
  • Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research[8]
  • Central Command Post[8]
  • Hydrometeorological Service[8]

War time headquarters

According to, Chekhov and the nearby Sharapovo were constructed in the late 1950s, and underwent modernization and expansion beginning in the early 1970s. Although these two installations may constitute one interrelated complex, the US intelligence community believes that the facilities at Sharapovo are probably for the wartime Defense Council and those at Chekhov for the General Staff. According to a 1983 US intelligence assessment, the deep underground facilities at these complexes for the National Command Authority are "harder, deeper and much less vulnerable than previously estimated".


  1. page on Chekhov
  2. John Erickson, The Soviet High Command 1918-1941: A Military-Political History 1918-1941, St Martin's Press (Macmillan), London, 1962 (1964?), pp. 173, 203–204, 796.
  3. See Philip Bayer, Evolution of the Soviet General Staff 1917-1941, New York, Garland, 1987
  4. Odom, The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale, 1998, p. 27.
  5. William E. Odom, The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale (1998), pp.72-80, and the Parallel History Project,, and the associated Polish exercise documents, Seven Days to the River Rhine (1979).
  6. Pavel Felgenhauer, Russia's Imperial General Staff, Perspective, Volume XVI Number 1 (October–November 2005)
  7. "Military reform “almost” complete", 9 April 2012.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 8.19 8.20 RF MOD website

Further reading

  • Захаров М.В. Генеральный штаб в предвоенные годы. — М.: Воениздат, 1989

Zakharov, M.V. General Staff in the pre-war years, Moscow, Voenizdat., 1989 (chapter 6) [1]

External links

Coordinates: 55°45′02″N 37°36′10″E / 55.75056°N 37.60278°E / 55.75056; 37.60278

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