Spetsnaz: Inside Russia’s Insane Special Forces Training [VIDEO]

Published March 16, 2018

Spetsnaz forces are revered in their countries, though not much is known about their secretive and shadowy training regimens.


This video shows the Special Forces in action in Syria.

Special forces are, by their nature, secretive in their affairs. The comings and goings of surreptitious agencies thrive flying under the radar – in Russia, even more so. Spetsnaz (an acronym for Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya, Special Purpose Military Forces) is the umbrella term for all special forces carried out in Russia and the former satellite states of the Soviet Union. They are worshiped almost as demi-gods in their own country, and often compared to teams such as the Green Berets.

Due to their intrinsic shadowy nature, not much about how these super soldiers are trained is known for certain – but with former members’ testimony (and an increase in transparency due to social media), a blurry picture starts to form.

Spetsnaz as we know it was formed after WWII when the full might of the Soviet Union was in power.

Spetsnaz Logo

Wikimedia CommonsThe logo of the Spetsnaz, depicting a bat, to reflect their secrecy and agility.

Other than secrecy, Spetsnaz soldiers are taught to value authority. According to Spetsnaz, an account of the forces by a former member named Viktor Suvorov (who later defected):

“The spetsnaz training battalion works on the principle that before you start giving orders, you have to learn to obey them. The whole of the thinking behind the training battalions can be put very simply. They say that if you make an empty barrel airtight and drag it down below the water and then let it go it shoots up and out above the surface of the water. The deeper it is dragged down the faster it rises and the further it jumps out of the water. This is how the training battalions operate. Their task is to drag their ever-changing body of men deeper down.”

Suvarov points to belittling tasks such as cleaning toilets with toothbrushes or being forced to induce vomiting on oneself as a way to break down individual pride in order to better comply with orders.

As far as earning social cache in the ranks, Suvarov claimed that demonstrating bravery was the most valuable currency.

“A man who will jump further than others on a motorcycle, or one who will wait longer than others to open his parachute, or one who hammers nails into a plank with the palm of his hand–such people are assured of respect,” he wrote. “A man who goes on running in spite of tiredness when all the others are collapsing, who can go longer than others without food and drink, who can shoot better than the others–such people are also well thought of.”

Spetsnaz training also included a rigorous emphasis on sambo, a mixed martial art with Slavic roots (the term is another acronym meaning self-defense without weapons). The hand-to-hand combat has existed since the days of the Revolution, blending Judo with other Eastern European defense training to emphasize disarmament and submission by any means.

Though they have different origins, Spetsnaz operations, and their American counterparts have many similarities, with the former often taking cues from the latter down to kits, helmets, and symbolic berets.

Next, check out the French military tactic of using eagles to catch drones. Then, take a look at these photos of the Anderson Prison Camp, a Civil War POW camp that was the worst of its kind.

Andrew Milne
Andrew Milne holds a Bachelor's in journalism from Fordham University and his work has appeared on Bon Appétit and Food Network.
Katie Serena
A former staff writer at All That's Interesting, Katie Serena has also published work in Salon.
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Milne, Andrew. "Spetsnaz: Inside Russia’s Insane Special Forces Training [VIDEO]." AllThatsInteresting.com, March 16, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/spetsnaz. Accessed May 18, 2024.