Baltic Military District

The Baltic Military District (Russian: Прибалтийский военный округ (ПрибВО)) was a military district of the Soviet armed forces in the Baltic states, formed briefly before the German invasion during the World War II. After end of the war the Kaliningrad Oblast was added to the District's control in 1946, and the territory of Estonia was transferred back to the Baltic Military District from the Leningrad Military District in 1956. The Baltic Military District was disbanded after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and reorganised into the North Western Group of Forces, which ended its existence after withdrawal of all Russian troops from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 1 September 1994.

Baltic Military District
Soviet Union Baltic Military District.svg
The district in 1991 (marked in red)
Active11 July 1940 – September 1991
Country Soviet Union
TypeMilitary district
EngagementsWorld War II
Hovhannes Bagramyan, Aleksandr Gorbatov

World War IIEdit

First formationEdit

The Baltic Military District was first created by order of the USSR People's Commissar of Defence on 11 July 1940, under the command of Colonel General Alexander Loktionov. Its headquarters was formed from the headquarters of the disbanded Kalinin Military District in Riga on 13 August.[1] This was after the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States but before they were forcibly legally absorbed into the Soviet Union. It controlled troops on the territory of the Latvian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics as well as the western part of Kalinin Oblast. On 17 August 1940 it became the Baltic Special Military District, changing its boundaries to control troops on the territory of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics. The western part of Kalinin Oblast was transferred to control of the Moscow Military District.[1]

The district was created in order to strengthen the defense of the northwestern borders of the Soviet Union and to protect the approaches to Moscow and Leningrad from German-controlled East Prussia. The district troops closely cooperated with the Baltic Fleet. In August, the district included the 8th and 11th Armies, soon augmented in September by the transformation of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian armies into the Red Army's 22nd, 24th Territorial, and 29th Territorial Rifle Corps respectively.[1] However they were notoriously unreliable and defected in large numbers to the Germans after June 1941.[2]

In 1940 and 1941 the district formed new units, including two mechanized corps (the 3rd and 12th), as well as local and republic military commissariats. Loktionov was replaced by Lieutenant General Fyodor Kuznetsov in December 1940. In May 1941, the headquarters of the 27th Army was formed by the district. At the same time, the district headquarters developed a plan for responding to a German invasion, and ordered that troops be brought to combat readiness on 18 June. However, by 22 June, when Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, began, the district's newly formed units were not completely manned. When the war broke out, it included six rifle corps in the 8th, 11th, and 27th Armies, the 5th Airborne Corps, the 3rd and 12th Mechanized Corps, and six fortified regions. According to the district's plan, the 8th, 11th, and 27th Armies were to cooperate with the Baltic Fleet in defending the coast from Haapsalu to Palanga, focusing on the defense of the 300-kilometer border with East Prussia.[1]

On 22 June 1941 the District consisted of the:

3rd Mechanised Corps was also located within the district at Vilnius.

On 22 June, after the outbreak of the war, the district headquarters was used to form the headquarters of the Northwestern Front. Parts of the former district headquarters remained in Riga, led by the deputy district commander, evacuating to Valga on 1 July and then to Novgorod, where they were disbanded.[1]

Second formationEdit

The Baltic Military District was formed for a second time in accordance with a directive of the General Staff of the Red Army on 30 October 1943, although its assigned territory (the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian Soviet Socialist Republics) was at that time still under German occupation. Its headquarters was formed in Vyshny Volochyok from that of the 58th Army, under the command of Major General Nikolay Biyazi. The district was disbanded on 23 March 1944, and was used to form the headquarters of the Odessa Military District.[1]

Post warEdit

Postwar, the district was formed for a third time on 9 July 1945 at Riga on the basis of Samland Group of Forces formed from the former 1st Baltic Front, under the command of Army General Ivan Bagramyan, who would lead it until 1954. It initially included only the Latvian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics.[1] Following the disbandment on 27 February 1946 of the Special Military District, which had been administering Kaliningrad Oblast (formerly East Prussia), the oblast was transferred to district control on 1 March. The Special Military District headquarters was reorganized into the 11th Guards Army headquarters.[1] In January 1956 the territory of the Estonian SSR was transferred from the Leningrad Military District.

Circa 1944 a headquarters for Internal Troops in the area was created, which became HQ Internal Troops NKVD-MVD-MGB Baltic MD (Управление ВВ НКВД-МВД-МГБ Прибалтийского округа). This headquarters supervised several Internal Troops divisions, including the 14th Railway Facilities Protection Division NKVD from 1944 to 1951.[4] Other divisions deployed included the 4th, 5th, and 63rd Rifle Divisions NKVD.

On 30 April 1948 10th Guards Army became 4th Guards Rifle Corps.

The main combat formation within the District was the 11th Guards Army in the Kaliningrad Oblast, following the disbandment of 10th Guards Army. In the 1950s it comprised the 1st TD (former Tank Corps) and all the remaining Guards formations - 2nd Rifle Corps, 16th Koenigsberg Red Banner Rifle Corps (the 1st and 26th RD, 29 MD) and 36th Nemanskiy Red Banner Rifle Corps (5th and 16th RD, 30th MD).

In 1955 the district's forces comprised the 11th Guards Army, the 2nd Guards Rifle Corps, the 4th Guards Rifle Corps, the 1st Guards Rifle Division, the 5th, the 16th Guards, the 26th Guards, the 28th and 42nd Rifle Divisions, the 1st Tank Division, the 28th Guards, 29th Guards, and 30th Guards Mechanised Divisions, and the 15th Guards Airborne Corps (76th Guards Air Assault Division and 104th Guards Airborne Division).[5]

In 1955 4th Guards Army Corps consisted of 8th Guards Rifle Division (Haapsalu, Estonian SSR); 118th Guards Rifle Division (Tallinn, Estonian SSR); 36th Guards Mechanised Division (Klooga, Estonian SSR); and the 2nd Machine-Gun Artillery Division (Saaremaa Island, Estonian SSR). However, in July 1956 the 118th Guards Rifle Division was disbanded.[6]

For the entire postwar period the 11th Guards Army comprised the 40th Guards Tank Division (former 2nd Guards Cavalry Corps, then 28th Guards Mechanised Division) and the 1st Tank, and the 1st and 26th Guards MRD (former Rifle Divisions). In 1960 the 5th Guards MRD, a former Rifle Division, was disbanded.

With the transfer of the Estonian area to the Leningrad Military District the 2nd Guards 'Tatsin' Tank Division went with it, leaving the District with only the 1st 'Insterburg' Tank Division in Kaliningrad, which had been reorganised from the 1st Guards Tank Corps in the later part of 1945.

The 51st Guards Motor Rifle Vitebsk Division of the Order of Lenin Red was disbanded in accordance with district Commander' directive No. 006471 dated 5 May 1960.

In 1969 the 8th Guards Motor Rifle Division was moved from the District to the Central Asian Military District and arrived eventually at Frunze.

In 1979 Scott and Scott reported the HQ address of the District as PriBVO, Riga-Center, Ulitsa Merkelya, Dom 13, with the officers' club in the same location.

Commanders of the Baltic Military DistrictEdit

Guaskovsky at a military parade in Riga, 1959.

Forces at the end of the 1980sEdit

Soviet armoured vehicles in Lithuania in 1991

Toward the end of the 1980s the District's forces consisted of:

Russian Wikipedia notes on the 13th Rifle Regiment say that from May 1956 to August 1994 [11] the 13th Regiment was stationed in the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic and then Latvia as part of the 24th Tank Training Division. The regiment was training and preparing junior officers and specialists: BMP commander, gunner guns of drivers of various military vehicles, radio chiefs, commanders of the engineering units. Located in the village of Adazi-2 (now Kadaga) near the town of Riga. Holm says the regiment was at Adazi until November 1993.[12]

In accordance with the Directive of the First Deputy Chief of the Joint Armed Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States on 11 March 1992 No. 314/3/0327, and the Directive Commander of North-Western Group of Forces on 29 August 1992 No. 6/1 / 0287, 13th Guards Red Banner Sevastopol training Motor Rifle Regiment named Red Latvian Riflemen was reorganised as the 25th Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade Sevastopol Red Banner named after the Latvian Riflemen. In accordance with a directive of the Defence Minister of the Russian Federation on 11 October 1993 No. 314/1/001200, Directive General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on 11 November 1993 No. 453/4/01002-25 25th Guards Motorized Rifle Sevastopol Red Banner separate brigade named after the Latvian Riflemen was relocated from Latvia in Pskov Oblast Russia, becoming part of the troops of the Leningrad Military District.

The 7th Guards Cherkassy Airborne Division with its headquarters at Kaunas Fortress, and the 44th Training Airborne Division, at Gaižiūnai, of the Soviet Airborne Forces were also located within the district. The Soviet Air Force's presence within the District in the 1980s consisted of the 15th Air Army, headquartered at Riga, and the 2nd Army of the Soviet Air Defence Forces.

On 1 January 1991 the 15th Air Army consisted of the:[13]

  • 79th Separate Communications Regiment (Riga)
  • 249th Separate Mixed Aviation Squadron (Riga) with 7 Mi-8, 1 Mi-6 and a few transport aircraft
  • 285th Separate Electronic Warfare Helicopter Squadron (Jelgava, Riga area) with 19 Mi-8
  • 886th Order of the Red Banner "Stalingrad" Separate Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment (Jēkabpils, Latvian SSR) with 12 Su-24 and 14 Su-17M4 [known as the 16th ORAP in WW2]
  • 39thth Fighter-Bomber Aviation Division (Liyelvalde, Riga area) [activated 1981][14]

The 15th Air Army was activated in July 1942; from Oct 1943 attached to the Bryansk Front, and later the 2nd Baltic Front; ended the war attacking the Courland pocket. It was renamed the 30th Air Army in January 1949, but became 15th Air Army again in April 1968.

During September 1991 the District was reorganised into the North Western Group of Forces (ru:Северо-Западная группа войск). The Baltic MD was renamed by USSR Presidential Decree of 15 Nov 1991[15] The North Western Group of Forces was subordinated to the jurisdiction of Russian Federation by a Decree of the Russian President of 27 January 1992.[16] It ended existence on 1 September 1994 with all Russian forces withdrawn from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Russia officially ended its military presence in the Baltics after it turned off the Skrunda-1 radar station in Latvia on 31 August 1998. Ground Forces in the Kaliningrad oblast came under the command of 11th Guards Army, which four to five years later became the Ground and Coastal Defence Forces of the Baltic Fleet.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ivanov 2002, pp. 593–594.
  2. ^ Nigel Thomas, Germany's Eastern Front Allies (2): Baltic Forces, Osprey, 5.
  3. ^, Baltic Special Military District Order of Battle 22 June 1941
  4. ^, Headquarters of Internal Troops 1941-1951, accessed April 2014.
  5. ^ Feskov, 2004, p.49
  6. ^ Holm, 2015
  7. ^ Scott and Scott, The Armed Forces of the USSR, 1979, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado (for district commanders to 1972)
  8. ^ Michael Holm, 18th Guards Motor Rifle Division, 2015.
  9. ^ Feskov et al 2004, p.106
  10. ^ "107th Motorised Rifle Division".
  11. ^ Until 1993 - as the regiment until August 1994 - as an induction. 25 Definition of SMEs. omsbr.
  12. ^ Holm, Michael. "24th Tank Division". Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  13. ^ "OTAN vs Pacto de Varsovia". Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  14. ^ Michael Holm, 39th Aviation Division Fighter-Bomber, retrieved January 2013.
  15. ^ Krasnaya Zvezda 26 Nov 91 First Edition p.1
  16. ^ Moscow Interfax in English 1418 GMT 28 January 92


  • [1]
  • Andrew Duncan, Russian Forces in Decline - Part 2, Jane's Intelligence Review, October 1996
  • Feskov, V.I.; K.A. Kalashnikov; V.I. Golikov (2004). The Soviet Army in the Years of the 'Cold War' (1945–1991). Tomsk: Tomsk University Press. ISBN 5-7511-1819-7. (inc district commanders 1972-)
  • Ivanov, Sergei, ed. (2002). "Прибалтийский военный округ" [Baltic Military District]. Военная энциклопедия в 8 томах [Military Encyclopedia in 8 volumes] (in Russian). 6. Moscow: Voenizdat. pp. 593–594. ISBN 5-203-01873-1.

Further readingEdit

  • V.I. Feskov; Golikov V.I.; K.A. Kalashnikov; S.A. Slugin (2013). The Armed Forces of the USSR after World War II, from the Red Army to the Soviet (Part 1: Land Forces). (Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской (часть 1: Сухопутные войска)). Tomsk: Improved version of 2004 work with many inaccuracies corrected.
  • Petersen, P. and Petersen, S. (1993) "The Kaliningrad garrison state", Jane's Intelligence Review, 5:2, 1993
  • И.А. Губин. Слово о Краснознамённом Прибалтийском. — 1. — Riga: Авотс, 1981. — 296 pp