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Political commissar
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Political commissar

A political commissar is an officer appointed by a communist party to oversee a unit of the military. They were first used by the Red Army by Leon Trotsky, who faced the task of integrating Czarist officers and troops into the new Red Army, while insuring their loyalty. The political commissar were appointed by the Communist Party to military units to direct political propaganda and ensure that Party decisions were implemented. In this system, each unit has a political officer who is not responsible to the normal military chain of command, but instead answers to a separate chain of command which is controlled by the Communist Party. The purpose of the system is to ensure political loyality and to prevent the military from acting independently and perhaps stage a coup d'etat. Often the commissar usurped functions of a regular military commander.

After 1942, the political officials in the army were no longer called commissars, their title becoming politruk (политру́к), an abbreviation for "political leader". The position was abolished after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

During the Russian Civil War, Joseph Stalin was the political commissar of the Western Front against the White Army forces of Baron Wrangel.

Military of China

The position of political commissar has also existed and still exists in the People's Liberation Army of China. Usually, the political commissar is a uniformed military officer, although this position has been used to give civilian party officials some exposure to the military. The political commissar was head of a party cell within the military, however military membership in the party was restricted for lower units starting in 1980's. Today the political commissar is largely responsible for administrative tasks such as civilian relations.