According to the all-union military service law of September 1925, the Soviet Armed Forces consisted of three components: the Ground Forces, the Air Forces, the Navy, the State Political Directorate (OGPU), and the convoy guards. The OGPU was later made independent and amalgamated with the NKVD in 1934, and thus its Internal Troops were under the joint management of the Defense and Interior Commisariats. After World War II, the Strategic Missile Troops (1959), Air Defence Forces (1948) and troops of the All-Union National Civil Defence Forces (1970) were added, standing first, third and sixth in the official Soviet reckoning of comparative importance (with the Ground Forces being second, the Air Forces fourth, and the Navy fifth).
The Council of People's Commissars set up the Red Army by decree on January 15, 1918 (Old Style) (January 28, 1918), basing it on the already-existing Red Guard. The official Red Army Day of February 23, 1918 marked the day of the first mass draft of the Red Army in Petrograd and Moscow, and of the first combat action against the rapidly advancing Imperial German Army. February 23 became an important national holiday in the Soviet Union, later celebrated as "Soviet Army Day", and it continues as a day of celebration in present-day Russia as Defenders of the Motherland Day. Credit as the founder of the Red Army generally goes to Leon Trotsky, the People's Commissar for War from 1918 to 1924.
At the beginning of its existence, the Red Army functioned as a voluntary formation, without ranks or insignia. Democratic elections selected the officers. However, a decree of May 29, 1918 imposed obligatory military service for men of ages 18 to 40. To service the massive draft, the Bolsheviks formed regional military commissariats (военный комиссариат, военкомат (voenkomat)), which as of 2005 still exist in Russia in this function and under this name. (Note: do not confuse military commissariats with the institution of military political commissars.) Democratic election of officers was also abolished by decree, while separate quarters for officers, special forms of address, saluting, and higher pay were all reinstated.
After General Aleksei Brusilov offered the Bolsheviks his professional services in 1920, they decided to permit the conscription of former officers of the Imperial Russian Army. The Bolshevik authorities set up a special commission under the chair of Lev Glezarov (Лев Маркович Глезаров), and by August 1920 had drafted about 315,000 ex-officers. Most often they held the position of military advisor (voyenspets: "военспец" an abbreviation of "военный специалист", i.e., "military specialist"). A number of prominent Soviet Army commanders had previously served as Imperial Russian generals. In fact, a number of former Imperial military men, notably a member of the Supreme Military Council, Mikhail Bonch-Bruevich, had joined the Bolsheviks earlier.
The Bolshevik authorities assigned to every unit of the Red Army a political commissar, or politruk, who had the authority to override unit commanders' decisions if they ran counter to the principles of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Although this sometimes resulted in inefficient command, the Party leadership considered political control over the military necessary, as the Army relied more and more on experienced officers from the pre-revolutionary Tsarist period.