The Russian Liberation Army was formed in 1943, under the command of Lt. General Andrey Vlasov. After the disastrous defeat of German forces at Stalingrad, German treatment of the citizens of occupied areas of the USSR was improved, in order to encourage support for the German regime. As part of this effort, the German High Command sought to take advantage of the malevolent feelings that most citizens of the USSR held towards Stalin and the Soviet regime.

In this context the RLA was formed out of Red Army POWs. Those who joined the RLA saw it as a chance to fight against Stalin, which they saw as being in the best interests of Russia. The RLA would eventually number some 300 000 men by mid-1944. About 40% of those who served in the RLA were Ukrainian. The German High Command used the RLA primarily for propaganda purposes; Vlasov’s army was never committed to a major military operation.

In the spring of 1945 many units of the RLA surrendered to the Western allies; veterans of the RLA, however, were repatriated to the USSR on the insistence of Stalin. Branded as ‘traitors of the Fatherland,’ most of the ‘Vlasovites’ were either executed upon their return to the USSR or given long sentences in the camps of the Gulag.