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Labor army in 1920, Mark V.

The notion of the Labor army (трудовая армия, трудармия) was introduced in Soviet Russia during 1920. Initially the term was applied to regiments of Red Army transferred from military activity to labor activity, such as logging, coal mining, firewood stocking, etc.

Russian Civil War

The first labor army (1я Трудармия, 1-я армия труда) was created after the defeat of Kolchak on the base of the 3rd Army located in the Urals region by the initiative of the army commander Mikhail Matiyasevich (командарм Михаил Степанович Матиясевич).

Leon Trotsky, acting as People's Commissar of Army and Fleet Affairs and Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic at this time, developed this idea further. He argued that the economic situation in the country required introduction of the universal labor duty. In the case of workers, this could be done with the help of trade unions, while in the case of peasantry, Trotsky argued, it was possible only through mobilization.

He argued further that "army-type organization is in fact inherently soviet type of organization".

His critics argued that this idea was leading back to the times of tsarism and slavery. Trotsky retorted that unlike old times, workers were supposed to work not for exploiters, but for their own good, for their own state, i.e., labor duty is the fulfillment of the obligations of the liberated working class with respect to their "worker-peasant state" in the cases of emergency.

By the end of the Russian Civil War and the introduction of New Economic Policy (partially supported by Trotsky) the idea of the labor army ended, especially after Joseph Stalin's assumption of power and the implementation of his policies of industrialization and collectivization, which effectively solved the problem of workforce mobilization both in industry and agriculture.

World War II

The term "labor army" re-emerged during the second world war as an informal reference to the obligatory labor duty introduced in 1941. Conscription to labor duty was similar to military mobilization. The mobilized persons were informally called trudarmeytsy (трудармейцы, i.e., "labor-army-ists").

Soviet Germans

A notable category of labor armyists (German: Trudarmisten) were Soviet Germans. It started in 1941, when the NKVD (via Prikaz 35105) banned ethnic Germans from the Soviet military. Tens of thousands of these soldiers were sent to the Labor Army.[1]

During 1942 eventually all male Germans of ages from 16 to 50 years and all female Germans of ages 16–45 without children younger than 3 years were conscripted to labor duty. Most of them worked at "NKVD objects" (i.e., basically in the same conditions as in Gulag prison camps; the Germans were supposed to be housed in separate camps, but this was not always done), and in coal mining and petroleum industries, railroad construction, ammunition, general construction, and other industries. Many lost their lives in the labor army.

Basically the Labor army was dismissed in 1945, but Germans were held for much longer. In 1948 they were transferred to the status of "special settlers" and were not allowed to return home. In 1955, after the official visit of Chancellor of Germany Adenauer to the Soviet Union and the signing of a number of Soviet-German agreements, this status was abolished (the process of resettlement of Germans to Germany was started at this time as well). Still, the Germans that were deported initially from European and border regions (in particular, Volga Germans) were not allowed to return.

See also Population transfer in the Soviet Union

Later Soviet Union

Until the last days of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Army incorporated the idea of the labor army. With obligatory military duty in the state, men deemed unfit for regular military duty, as well as many able-bodied ones, were assigned to construction battalions (стройбаты).

See also


  1. Ethnic cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949, J. Otto Pohl, Greenwood Publishing Group, via on 2010 10 12
  • GKO decree № 1123сс “О порядке использования немцев-переселенцев призывного возраста от 17 до 50 лет” от 10 января 1942 г.
  • GKO decree № 1281сс “О мобилизации немцев-мужчин призывного возраста от 17 до 50 лет, постоянно проживающих в областях, краях, автономных и союзных республиках” от 14 февраля 1942 г
  • GKO decree № 2383 “О дополнительной мобилизации немцев для народного хозяйства СССР” от 7 октября 1942.
  • NKVD Order № 0083 (January 12, 1942) “Об организации отрядов из мобилизованных немцев при лагерях НКВД СССР”.
  • Наталья Паэгле, ЗА КОЛЮЧЕЙ ПРОВОЛОКОЙ УРАЛА ("Beyond the Barbed Wire of Ural"), Krasnoturyinsk, 2004 (Part III: Labor Army) [1]

External links

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