There are many disciplines in intelligence, including all of the intelligence modalities or “INTs,” counterintelligence (which can be defensive or offensive, strategically and operationally speaking), and deception. The Anglo-American deception related to D-Day, which was first revealed in depth in the 1970s in books like Anthony Cave Brown’s Bodyguard of Lies, is probably the most familiar deception operation known to our readers. But the Russian history of what they call maskirovka evidences a durative doctrinal history continuing more or less unabated from Tsarist times through the entire Soviet experience, to the Russian experience in the Near Abroad today.
Some of this may be based on Russian cultural characteristics: never be simple or straightforward when complexity is a possibility! But it’s too pat and too glib to dismiss maskirovka as simply Crazy Ivan doing his thing. Ivan’s not crazy, he’s clever; and his thing has largely worked for his country under overall leadership of widely varying outlook and, frankly, quality, against enemies that were even more variable yet. \
David M. Glantz, COL, USA, Ret., is the editor of The Journal of Slavic Military Studies which was formerly, in Cold War days, a USG-sponsored review of Soviet Russian military doctrinal, historical and theoretical professional publications. A couple of months ago, he brought forth an early Soviet maskirovka publication, Krasniy Maskirovchik, from 1923:
Glantz’s analysis of this document was posted at the occasionally interesting War on the Rocks website a couple of months ago.
The word “maskirovka,” like its counterpart “razvedka,” which encompasses the broad realm from tactical reconnaissance to all levels of intelligence, is typically Russian in the sense that it describes a wide range of actions aimed at deceiving enemies in peacetime and wartime. As such, it encompasses every deceptive measure ranging from simple camouflage through sophisticated strategic deception. Even though later Soviet and Russian military theorists would supplement this term with broader new concepts such as obman [fraud] and zhitrost’ [cunning or ruse], at the time this magazine was published, “maskirovka” was the catch-all term applicable to anything done in peace or war to fool any real or imagined enemy.
For more from Glantz, on other subjects, and more on history including some new-ish thoughts on Stalingrad, an awkward and hard-to-navigate archive of The Journal of Slavic Military Studies is available online. We did find some articles free to download, but some of the .pdfs came across deformed. (In that case, we found that the HTML version was legible).