I'm not entirely sure if I'm going to be able to do justice to this topic (due to the fact that the website I used was packed with random bits of information), but I'll certainly try for you military buffs out there.
The article that I used began with a general description of Soviet infantry, published in Great Britain in 1987, that focused on the use of short spades by the common soldier. Most commonly, these were used to dig and as a measuring device, due to the fact that the spade was 50cm long, the blade 15cm wide and 18cm long.
Spetsnaz belonging to other units, on the other hand, were not expected to dig trenches or even take up defensive positions. Instead, the spades were used as an effective melee weapon; spetsnaz soldiers would receive much more training with this simple tool than the general infantry. Not only can it be used to block blows from a knife, bayonet, fist or even another spade, it also serves as an accurate ranged weapon. These individuals are taught how to launch the weapon at an enemy and can, more often than not, cripple or mortally wound their target (especially if they are hit from behind with the spade).
The Spetsnaz are one of the forms of the Soviet military razvedka (which is often translated as "intelligence gathering") that operate somewhere between the lines of reconnaissance and intelligence. They are the shock troops, for the lack of a better term, whose actions include elements of espionage and terrorism among foreign countries, much like certain CIA-backed operations during the Cold War.
According to the author of the article, the spetsnaz really hit their peak during the 1950s, in that the Soviet leaders realized that these units could aid in the removal of nuclear weapons from Western societies. They were believed to be the answer to a majority of the USSR's problems for this very reason: they would be able to disrupt the nuclear weapons, the leaders, and even the production and distribution means of the opposing country.
Now, it was actually at this point that I began to grow curious about the author of this article; the source of the last paragraph contained not a few tall statements and I wasn't sure if this was some joke. It turns out that Viktor Suvarov, the pen name for Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun, was a Soviet spy who defected to the United Kingdom and then gained fame by publishing books about the Spetsnaz, the Soviet military, and the USSR, in general.
Many of his claims, though, are extraordinarily controversial, including his belief that Stalin planned to use Nazi Germany as a means to wage war against the West. Indeed, Suvarov states that Stalin prepared the Red Army to liberate Europe from the Nazis, even as he provided support to Hitler earlier on.
So, I guess my ultimate point is that the article I had considered a legitimate source, may in fact be composed of a certain amount of exaggerated statements. I'm afraid I've wasted some time, though, because the only thing that I've come away with is that Suvarov is a fairly good story-teller...
Recordings (with Josh Solomon):
1. Page 76, Dialogue 1
2. Page 80, 3-7, Dialogue 4 (Composition)