I’ve come across a large number of articles talking about the unprecedented number of generals (7) killed so far during the current war (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/26/ukraine-russan-generals-dead/ for instance), but I can’t easily find information online about how many generals Russia actually has. Without a sense of how common and how crucial generals are in the Russian military, it’s hard to make any particular update on the situation. The way that the news has been worded suggests that seven is a high percentage in this context, but considering the level of positive propaganda from the media, I’m not sure I should put any trust into the framing here. If anyone could share further information about the number/strategic importance of Russian generals, it would be greatly appreciated.

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Wikipedia gives 1,107 Russian generals for the year 2008. Seven might be high in the sense that usually militaries conduct their operations in a way to avoid generals dying but it's a rounding error when estimating the total amount of generals that Russia currently has. 

Locating and targeting generals in real-time is probably easier now than it was at any point during the 20th century, so a top-heavy command structure makes sense.

3Dirichlet-to-Neumann5mo
From what I understand from Devereaux articles on modern armies, I would expect modern armies to have a lot of lower ranks officers but actually not that many generals, given the emphasis on local, low level adaptation and décision. https://acoup.blog/2020/03/20/collections-why-dont-we-use-chemical-weapons-anymore/ [https://acoup.blog/2020/03/20/collections-why-dont-we-use-chemical-weapons-anymore/]
2Karolina5mo
That is my understanding too (although I only became curious about military leadership structures after Russia invaded Ukraine, so I’m no expert lol). US generals operate at a safe distance from the fighting and delegate decision making power to lower rank officers. Apparently the Russian military employs fewer junior officers. I’m not sure if this is by shortage or design, but my understanding is that issues typically resolved by junior officers must sent up the chain of command. I’ve also read speculation that Russian generals are entering front lines in an effort to boost low moral.

Russian army has very many non-battle units. For example, Logistical Support. This units have own generals too.

Even military band conductor can be a general in Russia.

Zvi claims a total of 20 Russian generals in Ukraine here: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/C2Njf7NutyiYxGsxq/ukraine-post-5-bits-of-information#Military_Situation

I wonder where Zvi is getting that number from?

We don’t know how many Russian generals are in Ukraine. Russia has not made that information public.

What you can look at is data from past wars. Twelve US generals were killed in Vietnam over a period of idk how many years.

Vietnam casualties by rank: http://www.americanwarlibrary.com/vietnam/vwc4.htm A major Russian general is equivalent in rank to a US brigade general (grade 07 in the first table).

The frequency of Russian generals who have died over the period of one month seems unusually high in comparison. FWIW Russia’s military is said to have a top-heavy org structure.

6lc5mo
If by spies you mean intelligence officers, they are not. Facial recognition and simple internet checkups make passable fake identities pretty much impossible to do well. People generate too much data about themselves in 2022 to be "engineered" without herculean effort. When intelligence officers have to travel to a foreign country, nowadays they need to do so by using their actual identity and fitting an extensive cover story into that. If you posted something like "man I can't wait to join the CIA" on your facebook page when you were 16 then you're probably out of luck. More than one SOF/CIA officer has been stopped at customs after a long planning period because their hometown newspaper quoted them as wanting to be a SEAL when they grew up. It is true that spies (as in the people being blackmailed) can send information more conveniently nowadays due to the internet, but it's still risky for them to do so. They can't use traditional tradecraft like TAILS because just using things like that is too suspicious. So the CIA or whatever intelligence agency has to make some innocuous purpose-built websites for infodumps and hope that either no one is monitoring this high level government employee's cell phone or they aren't looking closely.

In an interview retired US 4-star general Barry McAffry said that the fact that many Russian generals have been killed is a bad sign on net for the Ukrainian cause because it is evidence of a strong will to win in those generals.

Interesting take! My gut reaction is that sounds more like contrarianism for contrarianism's sake than a thought-through opinion, as I wouldn't expect the generals to have much choice in where they're located unless we were expecting them to disobey superiors when their lives are at risk. I might be missing out on some important context, though.

3rhollerith_dot_com5mo
Are there any contrarian 4-star generals?
1Sam Reggis2mo
Generals probably have choice about where in the battlefield they are. If they are getting shot by snipers and artillery then that is probably their decision to get so close to the front.
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The numbers look comparable to the upper echelon losses in the first few weeks of the German invasion of Russia during WWII, which is quite telling. On the other hand, it only takes one Zhukov to turn things around.

Sure, but doubtful if 1 'Zhukov' will be able to boost ultra-low morale of Russian troops?