The Rise and Fall of Soviet Operational Art, 1917–1941
The operational level of war, the level between tactics and strategy, links tactical missions together to accomplish strategic aims. Before the nineteenth century it was not generally recognized that there was such a level. During the nineteenth century military theorists sometimes referred to “grand tactics” in an effort to get at this concept, if only vaguely. But by the end of that century and the beginning of the next the concept came into being both in Germany, where the term operativ came into parlance in the General Staff, and in Russia. This chapter will explore the development and refinement of this important concept by Soviet military theorists in the years between World Wars I and II. The sophisticated theories they developed based on the notion that there was an “operational art” that would lead to success at this level laid the basis for Soviet success in World War II, and for the theories of armored maneuver warfare in practice both in the Soviet Union and in the West in the latter half of the twentieth century.
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