The 21st Guards Motor Rifle Division is a unit of the Russian Ground Forces, within the Far East Military District, formed from the Red Army 31st Guards Rifle Division, an infantry division of World War II which subsequently became a motor-rifle, and ultimately a tank division.
The division traces its origin to the 328th Rifle Division, which was formed in the Yaroslavl area in August – September 1941. The division initially consisted of the 1103rd, 1105th and 1107th Rifle Regiments and the 889th Artillery Regiment. Colonel P.A. Yeremin (August, 1941 – April, 1942) took command. On December 7, 1941 the division entered battle in area of the city of Mikhajlov of the Ryazan area. Colonel P.M. Gudz (April – September, 1942) held command from April 1942.
As part of the 10th Army, then the 16th Army, the division joined the Western Front, participated in counterattack near Moscow and the winter offensive of 1942, around Zhizdra and Kirov. On May, 24th, 1942 for its courage and heroism the division became the 31st Guards Rifle Division. The new regimental titles were the 95th, 97th, and 99th Guards Rifle Regiments and the 64th Guards Artillery Regiment. In the summer of 1942 the division fought in the Bryansk area. General-Major A.F. Naumov (October, 1942 – February, 1943) took command in October 1942.
Colonel, since November 17, 1943, general-major, I.K.ShCherbina (February, 1943 – July, 1944) took command from February 1943. In 1943 as part of the 16th Army (since April, 16th, 1943 – 11th Guards Army) the division attacked the Oryol direction, on August, 15th, 1943 participated in clearing the city of Karachev. It then took part in Operation Bagration and the Gumbinnen operation. On July, 2nd, 1944 the division for skilful actions in Vitebsk-Orshansk (Оршанской) operations of 1944 has been awarded the honourable name Vitebsk, and on July, 23rd, 1944 at clearing the city of Molodechno it was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
In July, 1944 during the Vilnius operation the division skillfully forced the river Neman in area of the city of Alitus, for which, on August, 12th, 1944 it was awarded the Order of Suvorov, 2nd class. General-major I.D.Burmakov took command of the division in July and remained in command until the end of the war. The division has entered East Prussia on October, 18th, 1944 against stiff German resistance.
On November, 15th, 1944 for valour and heroism of soldiers in these engagements the division was awarded the Order of Lenin.
The division participated in the East Prussian Offensive of 1945. During the assault on Koenigsberg, now Kaliningrad, the division distinguished itself breaking the external defensive boundary. The division participated in the rout of the remaining German forces and the taking of the Pilau (Baltiysk) naval base.
More than 14,000 of its soldiers were awarded decorations and medals during the war, and eleven were awarded the coveted Hero of the Soviet Union.
In 1945 31st Guards Rifle Division was reformed as 29th Guards Mechanised Division, with the 94th, 93rd, and 92nd Guards Mechanised Regiments. In 1957 29th Guards Mechanised Division was retitled 29th Guards Motor Rifle Division. Seven years later, in 1964 the division became 31st Guards Motor Rifle Division. It may have been based at Vilnius for a period.
In 1969 31st Guards Motor Rifle Division was relocated from Kaunas in the Lithuanian SSR (Baltic Military District) to Belogorsk, in the Amur area of the Far East Military District. In 1978 31st Guards Motor Rifle Division became 21st Guards Tank Division.
The division used to comprise:
- 2nd Guards Tank Vitebsk Red Banner Suvorov and Kutuzov's awards Regiment;
- 111th Guards Tank Red Banner Kutuzov's awards of Regiment;
- 125th Guards Tank Regiment;
- 143rd Guards Motor-Rifle Order of the Red Banner Regiment (Yekaterinoslavka, a constant readiness unit which changed its number from 277th Guards MRR in the late 1980s or early 1990s);
- 64th Guards self-propelled Artillery Regiment;
- 1064th Antiaircraft Rocket Regiment.
One of the machine-gun artillery divisions is deployed in Blagoveshchensk.
Circa 2004-6 the division became the 21st Guards Motor Rifle Division, and its full formal title today is the 21st Guards Motor Rifle Vitebsk Lenin Order of the Red Banner Suvorov's awards Division.
Sources and references
- Soldat.ru, but corroborated in Feskov et al., The Soviet Army in the Period of the Cold War, Tomsk, 2004
- Keith E. Bonn (ed.), Slaughterhouse: The Handbook of the Eastern Front, Aberjona Press, Bedford, PA, 2005, p. 365
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