top of page

Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (1954–1988)

Группа советских войск в Германии, ГСВГ

The Dangers of Post Cold War Stockpiles

Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (1954–1988)

Группа советских войск в Германии, ГСВГ

The Dangers of Post Cold War Stockpiles

Excellent site for information on Soviet uniforms and hats!

Group of Soviet Forces in Germany

The Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (1954–1988) (Russian: Группа советских войск в Германии, ГСВГ), also known as the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany (1945–1954) and the Western Group of Forces (1988–1994) were the troops of the Soviet Army in East Germany. The Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany was formed after the end of the Second World War from units of the 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts. The group helped suppress the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany. After the end of occupation functions in 1954 the group was renamed the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. The group represented Soviet interests in East Germany during the Cold War. After changes in Soviet foreign policy during the late 1980s, the group shifted to a more defensive role and in 1988 became the Western Group of Forces. Russian forces remained in Eastern Germany after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany until 1994.


The Group of Soviet Occupation Forces, Germany was formed after the end of the Second World War on 9 June 1945 from formations of the 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts, commanded by Georgy Zhukov.


In January 1946, the 2nd Shock Army left the Soviet Zone. A month later, the 47th Army was disbanded, with its units withdrawn to the Soviet Union. In October the 5th Shock Army was disbanded. In 1947 the 3rd and 4th Guards Mechanized Divisions (Mobilization), former mechanized armies, arrived in the group from the Central Group of Forces. In 1954 the 3rd Shock Army became the 3rd "Red Banner" Combined Arms Army (Russian: 3-я краснознаменная общевойсковая армия).[4] The 3rd Guards Mechanized Army became the 18th Guards Army on 29 April 1957. On the same day, the 4th Guards Mechanized Army became the 20th Guards Army.


After the abolition of the occupation functions in 1954, the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany was known as the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSVG) on 24 March. The legal basis for the GSVG's stay in East Germany was the Treaty on Relations between the USSR and the GDR of 1955.


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


The 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 USSR 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.

Organization as of 1988

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.[6] 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, the 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


The Soviet troops occupied 777 barracks at 276 locations on the territory of the German Democratic Republic. 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 Western Group of Forces. In addition, there were about 208,000 relatives of officers as well as civil employees, among them about 90,000 children. Most locations were in the area of today's Brandenburg.


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.

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


1st Guards Tank Red Banner Army – Dresden

9th Tank Division – Riesa

11th Guards Tank Division – Dresden

20th Guards Motor Rifle Division – Grimma

2nd Guards Tank Army – Fürstenberg/Havel

16th Guards Tank Division – Neustrelitz

21st Motor Rifle Division – Perleberg

94th Guards Motor Rifle Division – Schwerin

207th Motor Rifle Division – Stendal (note; earlier Western reporting lists this as a Guards unit; this is incorrect)

3rd Red Banner Army – Magdeburg (as of 1988)

7th Guards Tank Division – Dessau-Rosslau

10th Guards Uralsko-Lvovskaya Tank Division – Altengrabow

12th Guards Tank Division – Neuruppin

47th Guards Tank Division – Hillersleben

8th Guards Order of Lenin Army – Weimar-Nohra

27th Guards Motor Rifle Division – Halle

39th Guards Motor Rifle Division – Ohrdruf

57th Guards Motor Rifle Division – Naumburg

79th Guards Tank Division – Jena

20th Guards Red Banner Army – Eberswalde

25th Tank Division – Vogelsang

32nd Guards Tank Division – Jüterbog

35th Guards Motor Rifle Division – Krampnitz

90th Guards Tank Division – Bernau bei Berlin

16th Air Army – Zossen

6th Guards Fighter Aviation Division – Merseburg

16th Guards Fighter Aviation Division – Ribnitz-Damgarten. Withdrawn 30 October 1993 to Millerovo, North Caucasus Military District, and joined 4th Air Army.

105th Fighter-Bomber Aviation Division – Großenhain

125th Fighter-Bomber Aviation Division – Rechlin [town, not in airfield] – disbanded July 1993 or October 1993.

126th Fighter Aviation Division – Zerbst

Other Group-level formations included:

6th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Karlshorst, Berlin) (ru:6-я гвардейская отдельная мотострелковая бригада) - withdrawn to Kursk in 1994

35th Guards Separate Air 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).

34th Guards Artillery Division (Potsdam) (formed 25 June 1945 to 9 July 1945 in Germany)

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 1945–1949)

Georgy Zhukov – 9 June 1945 to 21 March 1946

Vasily Sokolovsky – 22 March 1946 to 31 March 1949


Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG 1949–1988)

Vasily Chuikov – 1 April 1949 to 26 May 1953

Andrei Grechko – 27 May 1953 to 16 November 1957

Matvei Zakharov – 17 November 1957 to 14 April 1960

Ivan Yakubovsky – 15 April 1960 to 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

Pyotr G. Lushev – 7 July 1985 to 11 July 1986

Valeriy A. Belikov – 12 July 1986 to 12 November 1987

Western Group of Forces (WGF 1988–1994)

Boris Snetkov – 26 November 1987 to 13 December 1990

Matvei Burlakov – 13 December 1990 to 31 August 1994

Military Soviet WGF

Members of the WGF military soviet in June 1993:

Commander-in-Chief of the WGF – colonel general М. P. Burlakov

1st deputy commander-in-Chief of the WGF – colonel general A. N. Mityukhin

Deputy commander-in-Chief of the WGF for the withdrawal of forces – lieutenant general С. В. Тshernilevsky


WGF chief of staff – lieutenant general A. V. Теretev

Deputy commander-in-Chief of the WGF for logistics – lieutenant general W. I. Isakow

Deputy commander-in-Chief of the EGF for armament – major general W. N. Shulikov

Commander of the 16th Air Army – lieutenant general A. F. Tarasenko

Dannenwalde 1977 Rocket Disaster


On August 14th 1977, at about 2pm, a catastrophe took place in an ammunition depot of the Soviet troops stationed in Dannenwalde, East Germany.

It is believed that lightning struck in a stack of 122-mm Katyusha rockets (which are used on the world's most widely used multiple-launch rocket system BM-21). 

Because of the lightning the stored missiles were inflamed, which also set other ammunition on fire.

Thus, the solid rocket motors were activated, after which they started uncontrollably. The exact number of the ignited rockets is not known but is probably at least a thousand.

The rockets flew up to a radius of 20 kms and landed in several villages located in this area. Because the ignition of all rockets were removed the missiles did not explode but there was much damage due to their impacts.

The inhabitants of Dannenwalde fled from the place. An ammunition train, parked outside the gate of the base, could still be shunted to a safe area by railroad workers. If it would have exploded the disaster would have been a lot worse in Dannenwalde! For several hours there were uncontrolled explosions and rocket launches. The explosions ended at about 7.45pm

The exact circumstances are still being kept secret and the number of deaths is still not known and it is estimated 50-300 deaths

After the withdrawal of Soviet troops more than 200 rockets were found buried during a cleanup in 2002.

Today still an unknown quantity of ammunition can be found in the bottom of the former military site.

Since the Russian armed forces have imposed a 40-year secrecy access to the records is not possible until 2017.

The Dangers of Post Cold War Stockpiles

bottom of page