The Chasti Osobago PJaznacheniya (ChON), or special units, were authorised by the Central Committee on 17 April 1919. The first units were formed in Petrograd and Moscow the provinces followed suit. Only volunteers could join, they had to be aged between 14 and 55 and of fanatic lovaltv - communists, idealistic vvork-
crs and peasants, trade union members and members of the Young Comm-unist League (Komsomol). Recruitment remained voluntary until ChON units were disbanded in 1924/5. ChON units fought in close co-operation with the Cheka and played an important part in the establishment of Sov iet rule and the defeat of counter-revolution. They were always present at the most dangerous points on the battlefield, and were usually the last to withdraw. W hen retreat was the only option, many Chonovlsi stayed behind in occupied areas to form clandestine networks and partisan detachments.
On 24 March 1921 the ChON became a somewhat peculiar branch of the Red \rmy, under the control not of military commanders but of commissars, who still held paramilitary status. ChON personnel were divided into permanent staff and militia. By December 1921 they numbered 39,673 and 323,372 respectively.
\di iiI infantry commanders oj the Southern Front. They are dressed in a mixture oj infantry and naval uniforms, with navy caps, beskozirkas, dark-blue duck jumpers and telniashka undershirts all in evidence, tlthough infantry gear was obviously more practical on land, naval infantry who were undoubtedly some o f the best troops of the Red Army clung to their naval clothing with justified pride.
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