Spetsnaz (Russian: Войска специального назначения, (спецназ, tr: Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya) is an umbrella term for any special forces in Russian, literally "special purpose forces". Historically, the term referred to the military special units controlled by the military intelligence service GRU, the Spetsnaz GRU. Currently, the term is also used to describe any special purpose units or task forces of other ministries (even the Ministry of Emergency Situations special rescue unit), also in some other post-Soviet countries.
The Russian acronyms "SPETSNAZ" (spetsialnovo naznacheniya) and "OSNAZ" (osobovo naznacheniya), both short for "special purpose", are general terms used for a variety of special forces or regular forces assigned to special tasks. They are syllabic abbreviations typical for the Russian language of the early Soviet era, although many Cheka and Internal Troops units such as OMSDON used a osobovo naznacheniya designation in their full names.
Modern terminology mostly uses "spetsnaz" abbreviation to refer to special purpose forces or just special forces.
The elite units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation were mostly formerly controlled by the military intelligence GRU (Spetsnaz GRU). They were heavily involved in the wars in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in Chechnya in the 1990s and 2000s, as well as in the training of pro-Soviet forces and various secret operations during the Cold War. Since 2010, as a result of the 2008 military reforms, GRU special forces come under the control of the Ground Forces.
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