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Soviet Border Guards - the basics of the PV KGB

Soviet frontier guards always had a special place in our publishing house. We do have a book about Border Guards in plan, as well as a big collection of appropriate uniforms. But since the topic is very complicated and not too popular, we need to build a bigger fan base.

In this article we will cover the very basics of the PV KGB (Pogranichniye Voiska, Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti). Later on, links and lists will be added into this blog post for simpler navigation.

Soviet Border Guards PV KGB

Brief history of the Soviet Border Guards

Just over 6 months after the creation of the RSFSR (Russian Socialist Federative

Soviet Republic) on November 7th 1917. The Border Guards were founded by a decree

of V.I. Lenin on May 28th 1918 (this will later become the Anniversary day of the Soviet Border Guards). The idea behind was to protect the Socialist State from the aggressive activities of the capitalist states.

The Border guards were subordinated to the soviet security “organs”:

  • Cheka (1918),

  • GPU (1922)

  • OGPU (1923)

  • NKVD (1934)

  • MVD (1946)

  • MGB (1949)

  • MVD (1953)

  • KGB (1957 till 1991)

The protection of thousands of kilometers of land and sea border requested the development of ground, naval and air units especially dedicated to this task. These forces could carry out military operations the same way as regular Soviet Army units do. The prime example would be The Sino-Soviet clashes in 1968-1969). In this conflict, the Soviet Border Guards have proved that they can perform local operations without requiring any significant force.

From 1980 to 1989, continuing their traditional duties by preventing any illegal territorial incursion or exits, the Soviet Border Guards of the Order of the

Red Banner Central Asian District (KSAPO), operated as well in Afghanistan in support of

the 40th Army.

Soviet Border Guards PV KGB
Soviet border guards in Afghanistan

Organizational Structure of the Soviet Border Guards

In 1984, the PV KGB troops included following numbers:

  • 220 000 men

  • 343 aircrafts (including helicopters)

  • 545 coastal ships

  • 1608 radar stations

  • 1294 towers equipped with searchlights

  • 22328 vehicles

  • 2213 armored vehicles (including 700 BTR).

To protect the “Rodina Mat”(motherland) and patrol its 62710 km long frontier, the Soviet Union was divided in 10 Border District (Pogran Okrug). Each one being in charge of a

distinct portion of the border. Each District commander was usually a General Major.

Soviet Border Guards PV KGB

In 1991 , the following structure of a Border district was stated:

  • Border Detachment (Pogranitchnie Otriadi/POGO) from 3 to 13, depending on the border length

  • District HQ

  • NCO formation schools ,1 or 2

  • Special communication Regiment or Battalion, 1 or 2

  • Special Aviation Regiment or Squadron,1 or 2

  • Military Warehouse

  • Special Engineer-Construction Battalion,1 or 2

  • Special Engineer-Construction Company, 1 or 2

  • District Military Hospital, 1 or 2

Some district also had some other units:

  • Border Guards training units, 1 or 2

  • Special Border Control Point (OKPP), 1 to 5.

  • Division or mostly Special Brigades of Coast Guards Ships (OBSKR), 1 to 5

  • Repair Plant

  • Other training or security units.

Soviet Border Guards PV KGB

The structure of the Border Detachment of PV KGB

Let’s have a look first at the structure of the Border Detachment or POGO. Each POGO is in charge of a specific section of the border and is roughly the equivalent of an

Army Regiment. It was usually commanded by a colonel. It is subdivided in several Border Command Posts (BPC), usually between 1 and 4, called Pogranichnaya Komendatura. Each one being the equivalent of an army battalion and commanded by a lieutenant-colonel. It could include some Special Border Control Points (OKPP) and various combat support units.

The main Force of a BCP composed of several outposts (Pogran Zastava) and

a reserve PZ in the rear acting as the operational reserve of the BCP commander. Usually a

POGO consistsed of 10 to 15 PZ. The biggest one was the 114th Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky 2nd Class Border Detachment “Rushtshuksky”. Located on island Kunashir, South Kuriles (KTPO-Red Banner Order Border District for the Pacific Ocean) manning 26 PZ. The distance between outposts would vary from 13 km to 35 km or even up to 70 km. Each PZ was assigned to a section of the state border and usually commanded by a Major (but it was possible to have a Lt-Colonel or a Captain as well).

The structure of a PZ was following:

  • 3 officers (including a political officer)

  • 2 Warrant officers

  • 36 NCO and enlisted men

PV KGB Soviet Border Guards

Essentially, it was a stronger version of an Army platoon - just not big enough for a company. The unit was organized in a staff group, two rifles sections, K9 section, signal & remote sensing section. In 1968-69, a third rifles section was added, making a total of 50 people per unit. During the Afghan era, a fourth rifles section was added for a total of 64 men, making it roughly the equivalent of an army motor rifle combat company.

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