During the late 1930s, Soviet Russia was in a dangerous position. The only communist country on Earth and more or less completely without allies, not to mention suffering from considerable unrest and dissatisfaction with the government, Stalin's advisors told the Premier that an invasion by one or more nation in Europe during the next two decades was not only plausible but perhaps even likely. In response, Stalin ordered a massive expansion and rebuilding of the Soviet military (which had been gutted by purges intended to ensure there would be no disloyal elements) and to put in place a long-term system for conscripting, training and equipping a massive number of soldiers with more equipment, using local expertise and resources exclusively. Essentially, the Soviet Union would be placed on a constant war footing and it's industry would expand to match.
This forced modernization process actually went a great deal better than it ought to have, all things considered. Throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s, Soviet Russia built more roads, more factories, and more infrastructure than other nation on Earth. Tanks, guns and munitions were stamped out and placed in storage so that the moment it became necessary the arsenal of Russia could be opened and the people equipped with the tools they needed to force back the invaders. The Soviets also engaged in a very public arms race, hoping to deter potential belligerents by showing off the might of Soviet industry.
During this time, however, the Premier was becoming increasingly concerned over the safety and security of his government and his position. With all these weapons and munitions laying about in warehouses, there was a very good chance he might be providing the fuel for a counter-revolutionary movement, if it ever came to that, and the rapid expansion of the army had reversed much of the work done during the Purges to ensure ideological purity. In other words, the day might come when the guards of his guns started handing them out to the people so they could come for him. An assassination attempt in late 1943, planned by one of his own advisors, helped to cement the rising paranoia, and Stalin began the process of creating an army within an army that he could rely on being loyal to him where others had failed, a force built from the ground up to be fanatically devoted to him and him alone.
He called them the Black Guard.
Stalin's Little HelpersEdit
Nikolai Yezhov, the commander and architect of the Black Guard, took every precaution to ensure that the force his was creating would never betray the Party. Everything about it was designed to inspire a combination of ideological purity, superiority, and loyalty. The organization was invite-only, based upon reports and purity tests, and invitees were allowed to refuse the position. Yezhov carefully constructed an artificial culture and set of traditions to instill into recruits that would set them aside from others, including shaved heads, a special rank and decoration system, uniforms based upon Cossacks, and so forth. They were even instructed in a cut down form of Russian that, when spoken fluently, completely ceased to resemble the original language. A member of the Black Guard automatically outranked all non-officers of the Red Army, and they were given special privileges. Finally, Yezhov peppered the organization's non-commissioned officers with rehabilitated criminals, hoping to add a brutal edge to the command structure and ensure there would be enough people willing to carry out distasteful orders that mob mentality would kick in.
In the early days, the Black Guard were kept something of a secretive organization. They had three tasks; ensure Stalin's safety, to exterminate out political and ethnic groups that were considered "counterrevolutionary", and to act as a secret police for the Red Army, eliminating elements suspected of disloyalty. These purge missions were intended as much to desensitize members of the Black Guard as it was intended to keep the Red Army loyal, and by the time the invasion of Europe started in 1949 the Black Guard was made up of hardened killers.
If You Want it Done Right...Edit
In 1951, Nikolai Yezhov came to Stalin with a proposal. It was hard to keep the Black Guard happy with the war on but them on the home front. Stalin, who was becoming frustrated that Germany had not yet been overrun, approved immediately, and within a month the first Black Guard combat unit shipped to the front, where the unit proceeded to commit multiple war crimes, interfere with the order of battle, and generally make a big mess of things.
However, they also managed to win a lot of battles, and positive reports of Allied units giving ground before them were greatly encouraging to Stalin and Yezhov, which prompted them to begin recruiting more members for the Black Guard and send more units to the front. At the same time, other members of Stalin's advisors began to take advantage of the unit, most notably Stalin's Chemical Weapons chief Nikolai Melnikov, who oversaw issuing the Black Guard with mustard gas, sarin, lewisite, and worse. These chemical weapons were used profusely by the Black Guard, including against civilian targets on several occasions. Soon, Allied units were breaking and running at mere rumours of the Black Guard's involvement.
Too Much of a Bad ThingEdit
As the war gradually turned against the Soviet Union, Stalin ordered full scale recruitment for the Black Guard, expanding them massively. They gained tank divisions, helicopters, and their own air force wing over the course of the last years of the war, and they deliberately stepped up their atrocities in order to attempt to instill fear back into the advancing Allied armies. Unfortunately, they had gone too far; now they were just making them angry, and the looser recruitment standards and cut down training meant that they were not able to fight with nearly the ferocity they used to be. Their terror tactics became ever more desperate and ever more tragic with each passing day as they were forced back, engaging in morbid and chilling war crimes as the Soviet lines finally began to collapse and the 1955 border withdrawal began. This late in the war, many members of the Black Guard were conscripts forced to participate in these war crimes by veteran members, and by this point, even other Soviet units would have nothing to do with them; it was not uncommon for Red Army artillery units to ignore "danger close" warnings from Black Guard units, and the number of friendly fire incidents soared. The last straw came in June that year, when Allied High Command issued the famous General Order 66, declaring the entire Black Guard to be war criminals to be executed immediately upon capture, and authorizing the use of chemical weapons on Black Guard positions. The Black Guard as an organisation quickly disintegrated, its demoralized and horrified members deserting en masse. It later turned out that General Order 66 was in fact a propaganda piece specifically designed to cause the Black Guard to fragment, and no such orders were ever actually issued to Allied troops.
At the end of the war, the few remaining members of the Black Guard were tried as war criminals by the Red Army, and it was then that the Soviet Union switched from black uniforms and paint schemes to the modern green, in order to avoid association with Stalin's "Terror Divisions".