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Знак ГСВГ.jpg

The Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (1949–88) (Russian: Группа советских войск в Германии, ГСВГ), also known as the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany (1945–49) and the Western Group of Forces (1988–94) were the troops of the Soviet Army in East Germany.

The Soviet armies permanently stationed in Germany were the predominant land-based military defence against NATO from the late 1940s until 1989, a primary factor in the military situation during the Cold War. The possibility of an escalation of the Cold War was kept low due to the dangers of nuclear escalation and mutual assured destruction.

Russian forces remained in Eastern Germany after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany until 1994.


Memorial at the Airport in Großenhain

The Group of Soviet Occupation Forces, Germany, was formed after the end of the Second World War from formations of the 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts. On its creation on 9 July 1945 it included:

The 5th Shock Army and 47th Army left the Soviet Zone shortly after. The 2nd Shock Army was replaced by the 4th Guards Mechanized (Tank) Army. The 3rd Guards Mechanized (Tank) Army was established, HQ Forst Zinna, later 18th Army.

Withdrawals from East Germany in 1956 and 1957/58 comprised more than 70,000 Soviet army personnel, including 18th Army Staff.

GSFG had the task to ensure for the adherence to the regulations of the Potsdam Agreement. Furthermore, they represented the political and military interests of the Soviet Union. In 1957 an agreement between the governments of the Soviet Union and the GDR laid out the arrangements over the temporary stay of Soviet armed forces on the territory of the GDR, the numerical strength of the Soviet troops, and their assigned posts and exercise areas. It was specified that the Soviet armed forces were not to interfere into the internal affairs of the GDR, as they had done during the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany.

Following a resolution of the government of the USSR in 1979/80 20,000 army personnel, 1,000 tanks and much equipment were withdrawn from the territory of the GDR, among them the 6th Guards Tank Division, HQ Wittenberg.

In the course of Perestroika the GSFG was realigned as a more defensive force regarding strength, structure and equipment. This entailed a clear reduction of the tank forces in 1989. The GSFG was renamed the Western Group of Forces on 1 June 1989.[1] The withdrawal of the GSFG was one of the largest peacetime troop transfers in military history. Despite the difficulties, which resulted from the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the same period, the departure was carried out according to plan and punctually until August 1994. Between the years of 1992 and 1993, the Western Group of Forces in Germany (along with the Northern Group of Forces), halted military exercises.

The return of the troops and material took place particularly by the sea route by means of the ports in Rostock and the island of Rügen, as well as via Poland. The Russian Ground Forces left Germany on 25 June 1994 with a military parade of the 6th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade in Berlin. The parting ceremony in Wünsdorf on 11 June 1994 and in the Treptow Park in Berlin on 31 August 1994 marked the end of the Russian military presence on German soil.

In addition to German territories, Group of Soviet Forces in Germany operational territory also included the region of town of Szczecin, part of the territories transferred from Germany to Poland following the end of the Second World War. The rest of Poland fell under the Northern Group of Forces, while the southern regions (Austria, Czechoslovakia) were under the Central Group of Forces.

Structure and equipment in 1991

Soviet watchpost in Wittenberg, 1991.

The Soviet troops occupied 777 barracks plants at 276 locations on the territory of the GDR. This also included 47 airfields and 116 exercise areas. At the beginning of 1991 there were still about 338,000 soldiers in 24 divisions, distributed among five land armies and an air army in what was by then the WGF. In addition there were still about 208,000 relatives of officers as well as civil employees came, among them were about 90,000 children. Most locations were in the area of today's Brandenburg.[2]

In 1991 there were approximately 4,200 tanks, 8,200 armored vehicles, 3,600 artillery pieces, 106,000 other motor vehicles, 690 aircraft, 680 helicopters, and 180 rocket systems.[citation needed]

Abandoned Soviet Army barracks in Stendal, 1991.

At the end of the 1980s, the primary Soviet formations included:[3]

Other Group-level formations included:

  • 35th independent Landing-Assault Brigade (effectively an airmobile brigade; Cottbus, Germany, activated October 1979, and transferred to Kapchagai, Kazakh SSR, in April 1991. Eventually became part of Kazakh Armed Forces).[7]

Commanders-in-Chief of the GSFG

The first three Commanders-in-Chief were also Chiefs of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany.

Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany (SOFG 1945–49)
Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG 1949–1988)
  • Vasily Chuikov – 1 April 1949 until 26 May 1953
  • Andrei Grechko – 27 May 1953 until 16 November 1957
  • Matvei Zakharov – 17 November 1957 until 14 April 1960
  • Ivan Yakubovsky – 15 April 1960 until 9 August 1961
  • Ivan Konev – 9 August 1961 to 18 April 1962
  • Ivan Yakubovsky – 19 April 1962 to 26 January 1965
  • Pyotr Koshevoy – 27 January 1965 to 31 October 1969
  • Viktor Kulikov – 1 November 1969 to 13 September 1971
  • Semyon Kurkotkin – 14 September 1971 to 19 July 1972
  • Yevgeni F. Ivanovski – 20 July 1972 to 25 November 1980
  • Mikhail M. Zaytsev – 26 November 1980 to 6 July 1985
  • Pjotr G. Lushev – 7 July 1985 to 11 July 1986
  • Waleri A. Belikov – 12 July 1986 to 12 November 1987
Western Group of Forces (WGF 1988–94)
  • Boris W. Snetkov – 26 November 1987 bis 13.Dezember 1990
  • Matvei P. Burlakov – 13 December 1990 to 31 August 1994

See also


  1. Chris Lofting & Kieron Pilbeam, 'Sperenburg,' Air Forces Monthly, February 1995, p.42
  3. Steven J. Zaloga (1989) Tank War-Central Front – NATO vs. Warsaw Pact. Osprey Elite Series No 26. ISBN 0-85045-904-4
  5. Michael Holm, 16th Guards Fighter Aviation Division
  6. Michael Holm, 125th Fighter-Bomber Aviation Division, accessed September 2011
  7. Michael Holm, 35th Landing-Assault Brigade

Further reading

  • Lutz Freundt, Sovetskiye voyska v Germanii, 1945–1994 (Soviet Troops in Germany 1945–1994), publisher Publishing House, 1994.
  • Scott and Scott, The Armed Forces of the USSR, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1979
  • Roter Stern über Deutschland, Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk und Stefan Wolle, Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin, 2001, ISBN 3-86153-246-8. This German book, The Red Star over Germany, Soviet troops in the GDR, presents 49 years of the Soviet Army stationed in East Germany.

External links

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