Army (Soviet Army)

Army (Soviet Army)

The term Army, besides its generalized meaning (see "army") specifically denotes a major military formation in militaries of various countries, including the Soviet Union. This article explains history of development, organisation, doctrinal employment and the differences between Soviet Armies and their counterparts in other national armies.

Special titles given to Soviet armies included 'Red Banner', following the award of the Order of the Red Banner and 'Shock'. Armies which distinguished themselves in combat during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 often became Guards Armies (see Russian Guards). These included the 8th Guards Army.

The Armies of Soviet Union exhibited large variations in structure and size during the military history of the Soviet Union.

History of development

Russian Civil War

During the Russian Civil War, most Soviet armies consisted of independent rifle and cavalry divisions, and corps were rare.



Comparison with foreign Armies

Theory and practice of the 1930s



Comparison with foreign Armies

For the list of Armies see List of Armies of the Soviet Union.

econd World War

In the emergency of 1941 it was found that inexperienced commanders were finding difficulty in controlling armies with subordinate corps, and they were abolished, to be recreated later in the war.


Thus Stavka Circular 01 of July 15, 1941 directed several changes to Red Army force structure, the elimination of rifle corps headquarters and subordination of rifle divisions directly to rifle army headquarters among them. [David M. Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995. ISBN 0-7006-0899-0, p. 65] During World War II ordinary Soviet armies initially consisted of a number of Rifle Corps, however composition varied depending on the operational needs. For example, in the October 1944 Battle of Debrecen, the 27th Army was a massive organization with nine rifle divisions, an artillery division, and four attached Romanian infantry divisions. The 40th Army, by comparison, had only five rifle divisions. [БОЕВОЙ СОСТАВ СОВЕТСКОЙ АРМИИ (Soviet Army Order of Battle) 1941-1945] Both armies were part of the Second Ukrainian Front.

As World War II went on, the complement of supporting units attached to Soviet armies became more numerous and complex. By 1945, a Soviet army typically had attached mortar, antitank, anti-aircraft, howitzer, gun-howitzer, rocket launcher, independent tank, self-propelled gun, armored train, flamethrower, and engineer-sapper units. For example the 47th Army in January 1945 had nine rifle divisions, a Guards gun-artillery brigade, a rocket launcher regiment, five anti-aircraft regiments, an independent tank regiment, four regiments of self-propelled guns, an armored train unit, a DUKW truck battalion, an engineer-sapper brigade, and two flamethrower units. In particular, the ratio of artillery pieces to riflemen increased as the war went on, reflecting the Soviet need for increased firepower as manpower reserves began to sag in the face of staggering losses of rifle troops. The ratio of field guns to ration strength in the Red Army increased from 6 guns per 1000 men in June 1941 to 9 guns per 1000 men by April 1945. [Krivosheev, pp. 250-251, and Glantz ("When Titans Clashed"), pages 301 and 305.]

The Air Armies of the Red Army Air Forces were attached to Fronts. They were made up of two to three Aviation Corps. One of the longest serving, still active today in the Moscow Military District, is the 16th Air Army.


The famous image of the flag over the Reichstag was of forces from 3rd Shock Army's 150th Rifle Division. The 1st Shock Army was formed, in accordance with pre-war planning that saw Shock Armies as special penetration formations, in November-December 1941 to spearhead the counteroffensive north of Moscow in December. [Glantz, 2005, p.144] A total of five shock armies were formed, the 2nd (former 26th Army), 3rd, and 4th (the former 27th Army) by the winter campaigns of 1942-3. During the Stalingrad counteroffensive the 5th Shock Army was the last such formation formed. 2nd Shock Army was reformed three times, most famously after being encircled in the Liuban' operation south of Leningrad, after which its commander, General Andrey Vlasov, went over to the German side.

Comparison with foreign Armies

See also List of Armies of the Red Army

Cold War


Following the Second World War, an Army was reorganised with four to five divisions, often equivalent to a corps in most militaries. During a war, an Army of the Soviet military was typically subordinated to a Front. In peace time, an Army is usually subordinated to a Military district.


Comparison with foreign Armies

See also List of Armies of the Soviet Union

ee also

For Air Armies see Air Army (Soviet Union) article.



* [ Kursk order of battle] .
*John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1975
*Feskov et al, The Soviet Army during the Years of the Cold War 1945-91, Tomsk 2004
*David Glantz, Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War 1941-43, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 2005, []
*David Glantz, When Titans Clashed, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 1995
*Krivosheev, G. F., Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century, Greenhill Books, London, 1997
*Aberjona Press, Slaughterhouse: The Handbook of the Eastern Front, Bedford, PA, 2005 (especially for army HQ raising/disbandment dates)
* - (Russian)

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