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Defining Russian Military Science

  • Last updated: 20 Jul. 2021 12:00

Russian Studies Series 3/21


by Charles K. Bartles1

Defining Russian Military Science

Review of:

Nikolay Nikolaevich Tyutyunnikov. Voyennaya mysl' v terminakh i opredeleniyakh: v trekh tomakh [Military Thought in Terms and Definitions: In Three Volumes], Pero, 2018.  Volume 1 (ISBN: 978-5-00122-140-1); Volume 2 (ISBN: 978-5-00122-141-8); Volume 3 (ISBN: 978-5-00122-139-5).

Sergey Konstantinovich Leontiev, Dmitry Vladimirovich Loskutov, Alexey Dmitrievich Rogozin, Oleg Konstantinovich Rogozin, Dmitry Olegovich Rogozin, Valery Vitalievich Semin, Sergei Vasilievich Yagolnikov. Voyna i mir v terminakh i opredeleniyakh: Voyenno-politicheskiy slovar [War and Peace in Terms and Definitions: A Military-Political Dictionary] (Dmitry Olegovich Rogozin Ed.), Veche, 2017.  Volume 1 (ISBN: 978-5-4444-6546-2); Volume 2 (ISBN: 978-5-4444-6547-9).


The Soviet Union published its first complete 8-volume Soviet Military Encyclopedia (Sovetskaya voyennaya entsiklopediya) set from 1976 to 1980. Only the first volume of the 2nd edition was published (in 1990), before the Soviet Union collapsed. The Russian Federation published its first military encyclopedia set Military Encyclopedia (Voyennaya Entsiklopediya) from 1994-2004. These encyclopedias contain all manner of military related information regarding theory, history, technical developments, geography, biographies, and particularly terms and concepts, from the Americal Civil War to the Bureau of Military Commissars, from Military Strategy to Air Defence, from Food Service to Radio Control.

Traditionally, these publications have served as the authorative source for all manner of information on the Soviet and Russian military, and the primary “go to” source of information when a researcher is investigating a particular Russian military term. Recently, the encyclopedia has moved online. But fortunately Russian scholars are continuing the traditions of the Military Encyclopedia, and in 2017 and 2018, two quite different military dictionaries were published, although both very much in the spirit of the Military Encyclopedia.

Military thought in terms and definitions: in three volumes

Some background is required before discussing these works. Voennaya Mysl (Military Thought) is the Russian Armed Forces oldest and most venerated journal on military theory, intended for senior officers, specialists in Russian Ministry of Defense institutes, faculty and students of  military academies, universities and institutes, and the defense industry. The journal’s articles are usually authored by senior officers and military academics. Past authors have included leaders and senior officers of the Ministry of Defense, General Staff , Military Districts, Fleets, and Branches of the Armed Forces (Ground Forces, Aerospace Forces, Navy, Airborne Troops, Strategic Rocket Forces), and academics and scientists from military academies and research institutions. The journal regularly publishes analysis, material from roundtables and reviews of issues pertaining to Russian security (in many senses of the term), the development of military doctrine in regard to the changing military-political situation; general military developments; training of the Armed Forces; scientific and technological developments; and analysis of ongoing and proposed military reforms. Most issues also include some form of historical analysis.

Consequently, we can say that the journal has promoted the development of (Russian) military science; improved servicemen’s knowledge of military affairs; assisted in the implementation of scientific recommendations and best practices; provided analysis of the development of strategy, operational art, and tactics in the course of war and armed conflicts; published the results of military-scientific research; and covered military developments in other countries. The nature of Military Thought, and fact that it has been publicly available by subscription since 1989, and free to access in its entirity in an online format since 2020, means that the journal should be a popular venue for anyone conducting analysis on Russian military and security issues.

With this in mind, Nikolay Tyutyunnikov’s Military Thought in Terms and Definitions: In Three Volumes is premised on a unique idea. Most encyclopedias and dictionaries are created by compiling information from the authoritative works in their fields, but for this compilation Tyutyunnikov has taken a more novel approach. He has chosen to collect this information from the terms and definitions as found in Military Thought. Tyutyunnikov has meticulously combed Military Thought articles published in the last twenty years (from 1996 to the last entry of August 2017), picked out relevent terms and definitions, and then compiled them. This appears to be a task that Tyutyunnikov is quite well suited: he served from 1989 to 1999 in the  27th Central Research Institute of the Russian Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation until his retirement from active duty as a lieutenant colonel. He is now a Candidate of Technical Sciences and Senior Researcher working in the defense industry, and has published over 130 articles.

It is important to emphasize that the terms and definitions he presents should not be considered to be officially, or even universally, accepted by the Russian defence community, although in some cases they may be. Rather, these terms and definitions should be understood as only reflecting the point of view of the authors of the articles. In some cases, there are many different definitions for the same term, revealing not only the different views of the respective authors, but also how a definition of a term has changed over time. Therein lies the value of Tyutyunnikov’s compilation: while other such publications provide only the current definition of a term, this volume allows an analyst to track the evolution of a term, and to easily determine when terms are first found in the Russian security establishment’s journal of record.
There are important practical uses for such a compilation. Since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and exploits in Eastern Ukraine, there has been somewhat of an ongoing debate about whether Russia was pursuing a new way of conducting war, termed: “hybrid war”, or was more simply changing forms and methods in response to the changing character of war. This difference may appear to be an issue of semantics, but fully understanding the underlying model of Russian decision-making is essential if Western policy makers ever intend to transition from simply reacting to the Russian actions to proactively shaping those actions. Tyutyunnikov’s compilation illuminates the “hybrid war” debate, for example, by revealing when and how the term entered into common usage in the Russian defence establishment, as the compilation has three definitions for “hybrid war”. Interestingly, despite many assertions that the Russians were executing a hybrid war theory/doctrine/plan/ since 2014, the earliest discussions of the topic in Voennaya Mysl is found in late 2015. If there had been a Russian theory of “hybrid war” at the time of the annexation of Crimea, it probably would have been discussed in some form well before implementation. Tyutyunnikov includes these three definitions:

hybrid war – measures of interstate confrontation to realize national interests. Its essence and content consist in combat actions conducted both by regular army formations and by detachments of nongovernmental executors (ideologically motivated gunmen, local small-town gangs, private punitive formations, international mercenaries, foreign "specialists" any connection with whom is officially denied), according to a uniform plan and intent to attain the same end objective (2017).2

hybrid war – conflict in which either or both sides want to further their objectives by both military force and information warfare (IW) operations, including media campaigns, cyber attacks, and information flowing through public networks, public activities of religious and nongovernmental organizations, economic and political pressure, and rivalry in cultural and sports events (2015).3

hybrid war – in our view, the best definition of the term was given by F. Hoffman, an American military expert, one of the fathers of the term “hybrid war”, who asserts that the 21st century becomes a century of hybrid wars, where the adversary in order to achieve political goals, instantly and coordinately uses a complex combination of conventional weapons, guerilla warfare, terrorism, and criminal behavior on the battlefield. A.I. Podberyozkin, a MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University)) professor, adds that such a war is conducted simultaneously in all the environments, by any means (political, economic, informational, military, etc.), systematically and interconnectedly. At that, still there is no precise, concrete and clear idea concerning the ways to conduct such wars, control systems, reconnaissance, communication, electronic warfare, and logistics makeup. Their performance capabilities in hybrid war conditions are unknown either (2017).4

how useful Tyutyunnikov’s compilation is for quickly and easily finding information about important topics, as percieved by the authors and editorial staff of Voennaya Mysl, and discovering, when, and in what context, these topics were discussed.

Tyutyunnikov’s compilation brings another issue to light regarding the way information is presented from Voennaya Mysl.  The definitions and concepts found in it are often cited in the West as: “the Russian view of…”, “how Russians see…”, “the Russian definition of…”, and so on. But Tyutyunnikov’s compilation makes it clear that there can be a range of Russian views on a given topic, and that there should be no monolithic characterization of the Russian defence establishment by simply reading a Voennaya Mysl article. Just as a Western officer or academic may put forward his or her own view in a Western security or military themed journal without implying that this view is his/her government’s opinion, the same can be said of a Russian officer or academic publishing in Voennaya Mysl.

Although the individual articles found in the journal may not be prescriptive in terms of describing an official “Russian view” on a given topic, the journal is still a valuable source of Russian perspective. The articles, as a whole, can be used to describe a “range of Russian views’ on a given topic, and this is the manner in which information from Voennaya Mysl should be considered. Understanding a range of Russian views on a topic may not provide an easy answer to a given question, but it may provide the left and right limits of what that answer might be.

In total, the volumes consist of 2778 entries classified under 459 headings in three volumes. The first volume consists of entries dealing with general Russian Armed Forces terminology, including entries devoted to war and peace, as well as military (combat) actions and the command and control of troops (forces). The second volume consists of entries dealing with the organization of the Russian Armed Forces, including branches of the Russian Armed Forces Forces (Ground Forces, Aerospace Forces, Navy, Airborne Troops, Strategic Rocket Forces), other elements within the Russian Armed Forces, military elements in other branches of government, support of military operations, weapons and military equipment, and military education. The third volume consists of entries dealing with the “informatization” of the Russian Armed Forces, including entries reflecting the role and place of information in military affairs, network-centric warfare, and the automated command and control system of troops.

War and peace in terms and definitions: a military-political dictionary

At first glance, the most striking aspect of War and Peace in Terms and Definitions: A Military-Political Dictionary, is who was involved with its production. The book is edited by the – somewhat notorious in NATO circles – Dmitry Olegovich Rogozin, former Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the defence industry (2011-2018), Chairman of the Military-Industrial Commission, and now Director of Roscosmos (Russian space agency).5 He once threatened to fly a Tu-160 strategic bomber over Romania (in jest) after an airspace closure diverted a flight he was on.6 The work is an update of a previous 2011 edition, and is apparently a family affair as Dmitry Rogozin’s late father – Lieutenant General (ret.) and Doctor of Technical Sciences Oleg Konstantinovich Rogozin (1929-2010), who was the First Deputy of the Armament Service of the Soviet Ministry of Defense and Head of the Advanced Weapon Systems Directorate, served as the lead author. Dmitry Rogozin’s son – Alexey Dmitrievich Rogozin, the Vice President of the United Aircraft Corporation, and General Director of the Ilyushin Aviation Complex, served as a coauthor. The other contributors all hold noteworthy positions. They are Sergey Konstantinovich Leontiev, Advisor to the General Director of the Advanced Research Fund; Dmitry Vladimirovich Loskutov, Assistant to the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation; Valery Vitalievich Semin, Doctor of Technical Sciences; and Sergei Vasilievich Yagolnikov – Doctor of Technical Sciences, Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Head of the Central Research Institute of the Aerospace Defense Forces, and member of the Russian Federation Academy of Military Sciences.

In terms of content and structure, Rogozin’s work is much more traditional.  Rogozin’s two-volume compilation consists of 27 thematically organized chapters, two appendices, with over 1300 separate entries. Each entry is generally quite concise, usually having just a few sentences, but more complex topics may have a few paragraphs. For instance,

13.67. MOBILIZATION PREPARATION OF THE ECONOMY— a system of measures to prepare the economy for action in war conditions. Mobilization training is carried out in peacetime and includes:

development and regular adjustment of the mobilization plan providing a quarterly increase in the production of military products to a level that meets the needs of the Armed Forces in a war (military conflict);

creation and maintenance of a mobilization reserve (production areas, machine-tool equipment, stocks of raw materials, etc.), a fuel and energy base, technologies for the production of military products, reorganization of the administrative apparatus;

working with (inspection) of the economy’s mobilization readiness in wartime.7

15.7. MOBILIZATION PREPARATION — a special type of preparation for command personnel, headquarters, military commissariats, and other command and control bodies (naval forces). It is a set of organizational and training measures aimed at increasing the mobilization readiness of troops (naval forces) and practicing activities to implement military mobilization.

It consists of studying the basics of military mobilization, mobilization plans, duties of officer and personnel in managing mobilization, planning, organizing and implementing mobilization measures of all types, in working out the actions of subunits and units during the transition to wartime states, putting into service those liable for military service, preparing weapons and military equipment for combat use.

It is carried out by conducting mobilization assemblies and classes, trainings for the practical development of individual mobilization measures, random inspections of the mobilization training of units and formations, bringing them to full readiness.8

Unfortunately, Rogozin does not cite the sources of these entries as rigorously as does Tyutyunnikov, but when provided they are from an authoritative source. In general, there is much overlap regarding topics covered by Rogozin and Tyutyunnikov, but Rogozin’s work has more technical terms (aircraft, electronic warfare systems, weapons, etc.), while Tyutyunnikov gravitates more towards theory and concepts.


Both Military Thought in Terms and Definitions: In Three Volumes and War and Peace in Terms and Definitions: A Military-Political Dictionary would make fine additions to the library of any student of Russian defence and security. These works are both useful, but it should be kept in mind that they are for very different things. If one is just looking for a short definition of a given Russian military term, Rogozin’s book is the better choice. On the other hand, if one is looking for the origin of a given term, or wants to know how that term is evolving, or wants to discover how the term is perceived differently by different stakeholders in the Russian security community, Tyutyunnikov’s book is the better choice. War and Peace in Terms and Definitions: A Military-Political Dictionary is probably the best option of the two for most readers, but Military Thought in Terms and Definitions: In Three Volumes is by far the more alluring.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these books, though, has nothing to do with their similarities or differences between each other, but how they are radically different from US and NATO publications. For instance, the term “strategy” has a rather paltry twenty-seven word definition in the US military’s terminology manual.9 (Most definitions in this manual are of similar length and only one or two sentences in length.) This is in stark contrast to the Russian publications. Rogozin has no definition for the broad term of “strategy”, and instead has specific definitions for “military strategy” and “military-political strategy” that are each about a page in length, while Tyutyunnikov has seven different definitions and devotes three pages to the concept.10

Words have meaning, and Russian defence scholars and officers invest considerable effort to define explicitly what exactly these words mean for the Russian military and security communities. If Western scholars and analysts wish to gain a firm undertanding of the thought process in the Russian military and security communities, Tyutyunnikov and Rogozin’s books are essential resources.

1 (back) Charles K. Bartles is an analyst and Russian linguist at the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Chuck is also a space operations officer and Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve that has deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and has served as a security assistance officer at embassies in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. He has a PhD from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the US Army, NATO Defense College or NATO.

2 (back)  N. N. Tyutyunnikov, Voyennaya mysl' v terminakh i opredeleniyakh: v trekh tomakh [Military Thought in Terms and Definitions: In Three Volumes] (Vol.1). Pero, 2018, pp.39. Quoted from: S.G. Chekinov, S.A. Bogdanov, “Evolyutsiya sushchnosti i soderzhaniya ponyatiya «voyna» v XXI stoletii [The Essence and Content of the Evolving Notion of War in the 21st Century]”, Voennaya Mysl (below VM), January 2017, pp.30-43.

3 (back) Tyutyunnikov, Voyennaya mysl', Vol.1. pp.40. Quoted from: A.V. Khomutov, “Opyt i perspektivy ispol'zovaniya kontseptsii yedinoy informatsionno-kommunikatsionnoy seti v upravlenii voyskami [The Unified Information and Communications Network Concept: Past Performance and Future Prospects for Troop Control]”, VM, November 2015, pp.17-22.

4 (back) Tyutyunnikov, Voyennaya mysl', Vol.1. pp.40. Quoted from: Yu.A. Popkov, “Osobennosti takticheskoy razvedki v gibridnoy voyne [Features of Tactical Reconnaissance in Hybrid Warfare]”, VM, August 2017,pp.41-45.

5 (back) Rogozin is a Russian politician who led the Rodina Party in the 2000s before being appointed Moscow’s representative to NATO from 2008-2011, during which time he published two books. His book Vrag Naroda (Enemy of the People) Moscow, Algoritm, 2008, was also reviewed at the time in this series. The review is available here:

6 (back) “Russian diplomat Twitter-threatens to fly a bomber into Romania”, The Atlantic, 10 May 2014.

7 (back) D. Olegovich Rogozin (ed.), with A. A. Danilevich, D. V. Loskutov, O. K. Rogozin, A. Dmitrievich Rogozin, Voyna i mir v terminakh i opredeleniyakh: Voyenno-politicheskiy slovar [War and peace in terms and definitions: a military-political dictionary], Moscow, Veche, 2011. pp. 420.

8 (back) Rogozin et al., Voyna i mir, Vol.1, pp. 438.

9 (back) DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, January 2021, pp. 203. Those interested in further comparisons may wish to examine also the NATO-Russia Glossary of Contemporary Political and Military Terms, first published in June 2001 and available at

10 (back) Rogozin et al, Voyna i mir, Vol.1.pp. 83-84; Tyutyunnikov, Voyennaya mysl',Vol.1. pp.158-161.