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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 7/17/2005 5:40:13 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/17/2005 5:45:34 PM EDT by Charging_Handle]
I have been trying to research the Soviet army to see how exactly how many divisions they had in the Cold War era. Can anyone give a breakdown of of their divisions by numerical designation, as well as whether they were infantry, motorized infantry, tank, Guards, etc?

So far I am finding some stuff, but not a complete list. Here's one that lists all of the Soviet units stationed in Germany during the Cold War:


Also, if you have any knowledge of how the Russians organized their units, feel free tob discuss that as well. Troop strength, layout, etc will all be helpful.

Basically, I'm just looking to see how their army compared to ours, as well as the similarities and differences in organization, weapons, etc.
Link Posted: 7/18/2005 6:39:56 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/18/2005 6:40:42 AM EDT by Charging_Handle]
OK, though my research is still falling short of my intended goals, I have found some interesting stuff.

As of 1941, The Red Army was composed of some 300 divisions. An estmated 12.5 million fought for the Red Army in WWII at it's peak.

As of the early 1980's, there was 194 active divisions.

And in 1989, they had 150 active divisions. At the same time, we had only 18 active US Army divisions and 3 active USMC divisions. All I can say about that (even though the Soviet Union's units were not on the level of ours) is YIKES! That is a very siazble army with primarily armored and mechanized units.

Now, a little about how these units were organized:

A motorized Rifle Division contained approximately 12,000 troops and was made up of 3 motorized regiments, 1 tank regiment, 1 artillery regiment, 1 air defense regiment, a surface to surface missile battalion, an anti-tank battalion, chemical company, engineer company, signal company, recon company and rear service companies.

A tank division consisted of about 10,000 troops. Within it were 3 tank regiments and a motor rifle regiment (along with the other supporting unit types listed above most likely).

An airborne division (air assault) was made up of around 7000 troops (maybe as high as 8000 or 9000, my info was a bit vague) and contained 3 airborne regiments, 1 airborne artillery regiment, 1 airborne air defense artillery battalion and a recon company.

The Soviet Army also contained lots of independent brigades and regiments.

I only have been able to locate the order of battle of Soviet forces in East Germany from1945-1990 and their order of battle from Afghanistan in 1983. But I will keep searching and see if I can get a complete list of all their active divisions as well as indepenedent brigades/regiments. If I can do that, I will post them here. Then I will attempt to find info regarding how said units were equipped (how much of and what).

If one had all of that info in front of him at once, it would likely make any of us who was alive between 1945 and the early 90's cringe, just seeing what a massive force we'd have been going up against had war broken out. I think very few average Americans had any idea what a strong force we would have been facing in Europe. In fact, there seems to be many here at this site (particularly in GD) that can't grasp just what an overwhelming force the Soviets had during much of the Cold War.

All I can say is thank God it never did hit the fan in those days. Even in a non-nuclear war, the destruction and loss of lives would have been so enormous it would make the toughest men vomit.

Link Posted: 7/18/2005 4:48:43 PM EDT
Many moons ago when I was stationed in Germany, we were briefed that our Brigade, the 1st Brigade of the 3ID, was opposed by the 57th Guards Motorized Rifle Division and that the 3ID was facing the 8th Guards Army. I think US divisions were larger but it still would have been a bad situation.
Link Posted: 7/19/2005 4:57:56 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Charging_Handle:
And in 1989, they had 150 active divisions.

What's your source on this number? It seems pretty high, since it was only 5 years later that the Chechnyans handed the Russian army a pretty serious ass spanking in the first Chechen War. Granted, the Soviet Union broke up in 91, but I don't think they'd have lost more than half of their fighting force to the breakaway republics. Yeltsin only commited 40k troops to Chechnya. I'd think if they still had 75+ divisions, they could have commited a lot more troops (and been able to actually keep Grozny).
Link Posted: 7/21/2005 10:00:39 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/21/2005 10:03:19 AM EDT by Va_Dinger]
I found this on Globalsecurity.org


Just scroll down. For some reason the information is at the bottom of the page.
Link Posted: 7/21/2005 6:38:58 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/21/2005 6:41:17 PM EDT by Charging_Handle]
Yup, the Global Security site is where the info came from.

Also, just because they had them doesn't necessarily mean they would use them all. Take a look at Afghanistan. I doubt they ever had more than 100,000 troops on the ground there at any given time. And their army was larger in the early 80's than at the end of the decade.
Link Posted: 7/21/2005 6:44:00 PM EDT
I know that there were 30 divisions in the Ukraine alone when the USSR dissolved. There were also a shitload (20+, the number escapes me) along the Chinese border for the duration of the Cold War.

I have all this shit at home, including a really good "Armed Forces of the World" type book from '89, at home. Unfortunately I'm at work at the moment.
Link Posted: 7/22/2005 5:34:16 PM EDT

Originally Posted By METT-T:
I know that there were 30 divisions in the Ukraine alone when the USSR dissolved. There were also a shitload (20+, the number escapes me) along the Chinese border for the duration of the Cold War.

I have all this shit at home, including a really good "Armed Forces of the World" type book from '89, at home. Unfortunately I'm at work at the moment.

Very cool. That should be interesting to see sometime when you have a chance to get around to it.
Link Posted: 8/4/2005 6:56:15 AM EDT
Go to Amazon.com and search for Soviet Armed Forces. They have quite a few books on the subject. There was one that I had years ago which did a great job of detailing their OB and TO&E, but the name escapes me.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 3:01:32 PM EDT
The numbers are huge, and it was indeed a big army, but you have to understand the big picture as well. The numbers of units tied up doing border security along the Chinese border can't be underestimated. Remember that the Soviets had to keep a big chunk of their forces tied up facing Japan in WWII just in case, and took some chance in committing some of those units in action against the Germans. So when you look at the big numbers of units, you also have to remember the big numbers of commitments they had. The Chinese were a big threat to them back in the day of Afghanistan. The Chinese were sending weapons and ammo like mad to the Muj just like we were. So 150 divisions isn't out of the question when you're facing the Chinese army on that really long border.

They also played the same numbers game as we did in having hollow divisions. Just as many of our units weren't combat ready, or would take so many days to make combat ready, they did the same thing. Many units were used as labor force for wheat harvesting in the Fall.

Lastly their divisions were about 2/3rds to 1/2 the size of ours, and their logistics tail was smaller.

The average Soviet conscript served for two years. There was a four week indocrination/basic training period then he went to a unit. He then went through four 6-month cycles of training. Basically they'd train for 6-months, then the unit would repeat the 6-month training cycle. After four of these cycles, his time was up and he could go home.

In the mid-80's there were about 60 million males from the ages of 18-49 that qualified for military service. Each year about 2-2.5 million reached 17, which was the registration age. About half of those would be inducted each year, the other half deferred for various reasons. It is generally held today that the system was pretty corrupt, like the rest of the Soviet system, and if you were the son of a party big wig, or such, you probably weren't going to be going in, or at least going in as a grunt.

About 53% of the Soviet Army was Russian. That component was generally thought of as "good" quality. Basically as good as any conscripts, and they accepted the draft as their duty. Something they might not like, but something they had to do so they did it. Those that had been deferred enter the reserves. Obviously some that are deferred are permanently deferred for medical, etc reasons and don't serve at all.

Once the troop's two years is done, he goes into the reserves as well. Everyone in the reserves serves until 50. Thsoe in the reserves muster and train periodically. When you think about how ibg those nubmers of people, you can see why they need all those units.

While there were alot of failings in the Soviet Army, as far as corruption, etc goes, you really can't say the average Soveit soldier was a wimp or a screw-up. The training was definately NOT for the politically correct, and they were some tough SOBs. Year's of rural farm life, and two years of training didn't make for a pansy. You also have to figure that most of them accepted service as their duty and could be counted on to do his job just like the long line of heros before him.

Link Posted: 8/7/2005 3:27:17 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/7/2005 3:33:04 PM EDT by Ross]
The Motorized Rifle Battalion (BMP)-
The squad= 9 men: 4xAK-74, 2xRPK-74, one RPG (also with Makarov), one Makarov (Driver). The maneuver team (dismounts) were seven. The driver and the gunner stayed with the BMP. The dismounts have no radio.

The platoon= Three squads and a platoon leader (Makarov) and asst PL (AK-74). Each BMP actually had two empty seats (they are designed to carry 9 dismounts max) and those are used by the PL and APL as required. One of the riflemen in the platoon is armed with an SVD instead of an AK-74. Some sources site that there is also a SA-7 in one of the platoon's BMPs with someone assigned and trained to use it. It is possile that the SAM gunner was actually attatched and simply rode in one of the empty seats. There is one portable radio in the platoon.

The company= Three BMP platoons and a company headquarters BMP with the CO (Makarov), XO/Political off (Makarvo), Senior Tech, (Makarov), First Sergeant (AK-74), BMP gunner (AK-74), and driver (Makarov). There was one, more powerful protable radio. The RTO came from the Battallion commo section and isn't part of the company. There were an additional two RPK-74s in the HQ track.

The Battalion= Three BMP companies. A Battalion HQ (one command BMP variant and a UAZ and GAZ truck, and various radios, and junk), Anti-Air platoon (3xBMPs with 3 SA-7's or SA-14s each), Auto grenade launcher platoon (3xBMPs with two AGS-17s each. Each BMP=weapons squad), Mortar battery (company sized unit with all the stuff a unit that size needs, 6 120mm mortars), Commo pla toon, medical aid station, supply platoon and a repari platoon.

While the Soviets didn't task organize as low a level as we did, they still knew combined arms was the way to go and did task organize. Leaving the two empty seats in each BMP is a pretty simple and effectvie way to be able to mix up troops at the squad level, which we generally don't think of them doing, which in itself is VERY interesting.


ETA: This info is directly from FM 100-2-3, The Soviet Army, troops organization and equipment.

If you want to learn about the Soviet Army and how it was organized, this is the manual on it. There are three manuals in the series, and pretty much covers everything you'd want to know about them. It doesn't have the actual order of battle as far as what unit is where, but does explain what each unit type is, what it can do, and how it does it.
Link Posted: 8/25/2005 8:18:46 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Charging_Handle:
Basically, I'm just looking to see how their army compared to ours, as well as the similarities and differences in organization, weapons, etc.

The standard line I heard during the 80's was the Soviet Army was
-had more tanks and guns on the ground compared to logistical tail than US units
-had very short term soldiers (2 year conscripts as described above)

The general view also was that Red Army divisions would be used like ammunition in a big war. Along with the high "tooth to tail" ratio in their units, they had much fewer maintenance and support units so for example tanks down for maintenance would wait much longer to get back into action compared to a Western unit.

Turnover of conscripts was always a problem with very little "tribal knowledge" passed on consistently. Much of the technical work done by NCOs in Western militaries is done by officers. In the 70s and 80s there was a trend for more career NCOs (warrant officers?) called praporshik (sp?) with the long term know-how vital to militaries.

General Soviet Army practice is to learn strict obedience to orders, centralized control, and learn battle tasks by repetitive single task training. However, they are not dumb robots marching into battle.

Training and unit proficiency suffer with annual fall harvest time when huge numbers of the Soviet military are sent to help with farm food collection.

Individual unit loyalty isn't very strong except for perhaps the more elite airborne and commando units made up of volunteers. Communist thought is that the ideal socialist man has no need of strong unit loyalty if his political ideology is "correct" so much training time is spent listening to daily political education/indoctrination. In other words, they felt that a good communist should always make a good soldier.

Physical fitness is emphasized to a brutal degree.

Many deviant activities such as blackmail, racketeering, alcoholism, extortion, desertions, suicide, drug addiction, and so on are all present to a higher degree than the general population in the Soviet military.

A lot of detail like this is in the book "Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army" by David Isby. Some used copies are available on Amazon. Most of the above is from chapter 7 "Behind the Weapons". Chapter 3 is all about orders of battle. Note the book was last revised in 1988.

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