The Soviet Red Army Cavalry was founded in 1918 and was disbanded as a main fighting force in 1955. Cavalry Regiments were transitioned from ‘Horses‘ into ‘Tank’ and ‘Mechanized’ Infantry Units – with a number of these Units maintaining a ceremonial Cavalry Unit similar to those found in the military of the UK (such as the ‘Household Cavalry’ and the ‘Royal Horse artillery’, etc). The Soviet Red Army Cavalry naturally evolved out of the various and extensive ‘Czarist’ Cavalry – or Monarchist Units that fought on the battlefields of WWI! Those who criticise the USSR for continuing to support Cavalry after 1917 – generally have nothing to say about the Russian Cavalry that charged Imperial German machine-gun positions between 1914-1917!
Between 1918-1924, the Soviet Red Army Cavalry was comprised of frontline ‘Troopers’ using ‘pikes’ or ‘lances’ – whilst the other lines of ‘Troopers’ used swords (with all Officers carrying swords as a sign of ‘rank’). Between 1924-1941 – ALL ‘Troopers’ (excluding Officers) were required to give-up their swords and master the ‘pike’ (or ‘lance’). At least this was the way these ‘Troopers’ and horses were ‘trained’ at the various Cavalry Schools. When being posted into their regular positions, however, quite often the training techniques were modified, changed or even given up as individual Cavalry Units adjusted to the needs of the roles they were asked to fulfil. The Training Schools taught ‘discipline’, ‘horsemanship’, ‘co-ordination’ and the ability to take ‘decisive’ action – whilst the practical considerations of everyday life and battlefield conditions often left to drastic alterations and developments.
In 1941, the Soviet Red Army Cavalry Units were issued with ‘carbines’ – with Officers still being permitted to carry their swords. The 1891 and 1930 Models of the Czarist-Soviet main military ‘Rifle measured around 5.5 feet long (with fixed bayonet). Although this looked impressive when carried through Red Square on the shoulder of each soldier marching in endless ranks – as the modern battlefield developed – the length of this ‘Rifle’ became ever-more cumbersome and difficult for soldiers to efficiently use! Although this type of ‘Rifle’ had its place, a shorter ‘Rifle’ was required for close-in fighting. This included fighting in densely forested areas (where long ‘Rifles’ would often get ‘caught’ when changing aim or position, etc), as well as when soldiers had to fight in streets, houses or trenches, etc. Mounted soldiers (or ‘Troopers’) – as well as their horses – certainly could not be expected to carry such a long ‘Rifle’ and efficiently make good use of it in a state of emergency!
Therefore, a ‘carbine’ is generally considered to be a ‘shortened’ version of the prevalent ‘Rifle’ of the day. The concept of the ‘carbine’ may well have originated during the late 1500s in France and referred to the weapon these ‘Light’ Cavalrymen used to carry. In this instance, this may well have been a ‘slang’ term used in the French language which referred to mounted archers from Flanders who were considered deadly shots and sure bringers of ‘death’! (The association is unclear but may refer to an assumed connection between the ‘carrion beetle’ and the ‘plague’, etc). Whatever the origin, a ‘carbine’ appears to refer to a ‘short’ and highly effective weapon carried when sat in the saddle and used when riding the horse whether into or out of battle. The 1938 ‘Carbine’ Model measured just 1020 mm (or 3.4 feet) long (minus a bayonet) – and fired a round measuring 7.62 mm! The ‘Carbine’ Model 1938 was sighted to fire up to 1000 meters! The Izhevsk Machine-Manufacturing Plant was the only place equipped for producing this ‘Carbine’ between 1941-1942 – during the height of the ‘Great Patriotic war’ – when the workers of this factory produced over 1,106,510 which were sent immediately for frontline service!
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