106th Guards Airborne Division

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106th Guards Airborne Division
Russian 106th Airborne Division patch.svg
106th Airborne Division patch
Active 1944 - present
Allegiance Soviet Union Soviet Union
(1943 - 1991)
Russia Russian Federation
(1991 - present)
Branch Большая эмблема Воздушно-десантных войск России.png Airborne Troops
Type Airborne forces
Role Light Infantry
Airborne Infantry
Airmobile infantry
Part of Medium emblem of the Вооружённые Силы Российской Федерации.svg Russian Armed Forces
Garrison/HQ Tula, Russia
Nickname Tula Division
Motto Нет задач невыполнимых!
(There are no impossible tasks!)
Anniversaries 26 April
Engagements World War II
Soviet-Afghan War
First Chechen War
Second Chechen War
Commanders
Current
commander
Maj.Gen. Andrey Serdyukov
Notable
commanders
Lt.Gen. Alexander Lebed

The 106th Guards Tula Red Banner Twice Order of Kutuzov Airborne Division, (106-я гвардейская Ордена Кутузова Второй степени дважды Краснознаменная воздушно-десантная дивизия) more generally referred to as the Tula Division, is one of the four airborne divisions of the Russian Airborne Troops, the VDV (Russian: Воздушно-десантные войска, Vozdushno-desantnye voyska). Based in the city of Tula, to the south of Moscow, it is administratively located within the Moscow Military District.

History 1944-1991[edit]

The Division was founded in January 1944 as the 16th Guards Airborne Division, and from then until the end of the Second World War fought in Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia (including in Prague), mostly with 38th Guards Rifle Corps of 9th Guards Army. It became the 106th Guards Rifle Division in December 1944, as all the original VDV divisions and brigades were being reconstituted as Guards Rifle formations. The Division's apparent honorifics are 'Red Banner, Order of Kutuzov', (Feskov et al. 2004, p. 74) though an early Western writer reported them as 'Dneipr-Transbaikal' seemingly incorrectly, at one point in its history.[1]

As the attention of the Soviet leadership began to shift towards their ability to project force overseas, the need for a rapidly deployable force to spearhead large-scale operations became apparent and the VDV was once again built up as such an air assault force. The Tula Division, from that point until the present day, was to be one of the most frequently-used elements of it. Two of its regiments took part in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. As nationalist unrest grew in the southern republics of the USSR throughout the end of the 1980s, the division was deployed to Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1988 and to Fergana, Uzbekistan, in 1990. Throughout this time the division was commanded by General Alexander Lebed.

In 1991, an attempted coup against the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev took place in Moscow. As the coup faltered, and the plotters lost the initiative while support for Boris Yeltsin, the President of the Russian SFSR, grew, the plotters called in reinforcements from the Tula Division, in the form of a battalion from the 137th Parachute Landing Regiment. When they arrived, Lebed stated that he had orders to secure the Parliament building, where Yeltsin's supporters were barricaded. He did not, however, give the order for his men, equipped with BMD armoured vehicles, to launch an attack. This may have been because at that point in the coup, the Tamanskaya Division was in the process of switching its own allegiance from the plotters to the parliamentarians, but whatever Lebed's rationale, the episode helped to boost his own public profile immensely. Following the failure of the coup and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in 1992, he was appointed commander of the Russian 14th Army in Moldova.

History since 1991[edit]

Paratroopers from the Tula Division stand to attention during an exercise in Kazakhstan.

In 1994, the Russian Army was ordered into the breakaway southern republic of Chechnya by Yeltsin, then President of the Russian Federation, after the refusal of the separatist government to surrender to Moscow's authority, beginning the First Chechen War. Battalions of the Tula Division were attached to 'Group West' (the western element of the three-pronged invasion of Chechnya). They took part, in December that year, in the first Battle of Grozny, helping to capture the city's central railway station, which had proved to be one of the most difficult and costly strategic points in Grozny for the Russians to capture.

In March 1995, the battalions were transferred to the command of 'Group North' and continued fighting, notably around Argun. In May, they withdrew from Chechnya. The division's losses in the first war are unclear: 36 of its soldiers have been confirmed killed in action, but the number missing in action is around 200.

The Second Chechen War began in 1999. With Moscow determined to avoid a repeat of the quagmire that the first war had become, the Russian force committed in 1999 was larger, better equipped and better organised. The Tula Division's contribution to that force was the 51st and 119th Parachute Landing Regiments. Its losses in this war were still considerable but less than in the first: 67 of its soldiers were reported either killed or missing in action. For its actions in the second campaign, the Tula Division was awarded the MoD Pennant.

In 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, paratroopers from the division were sent to Afghanistan to evacuate the staff of the Russian embassy in Kabul, so as to ensure their safety in the face of the American military campaign in support of the Northern Alliance's advance towards the city.

On 26 April 2004, the Tula Division celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Subordinate units and fighting strength[edit]

Paratrooper during a 2011 military exercise in Ryazan Oblast.

Modern Russian airborne divisions are relatively smaller formations, in manpower terms; typically, they number around over 5,000 men. The Tula Division was until 2005 the exception to this rule, numbering over 7,000 men. The reason for this was that it included 3 Parachute Landing Regiments, whereas the other 3 VDV divisions had only two such regiments. In 2005, however, the 119th Parachute Landing Regiment was disbanded and the division was thus bought essentially into line with the other 3 divisions. As of 2006, the subordinate units of the division are as follows:

Commanding officers, 1943-2014[edit]

BMD-2s with paratroopers of the 106th Guards Airborne Division.
  • Major-General Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kazankin (1943–1944)
  • Major-General Ivan Nikolayevich Vindushev (1944–1946)
  • Major-General Ivan Nikitich Konev (1946–1947)
  • Major-General Afanasiy Romanovich Kopichko (1947–1949)
  • Colonel Aleksandr Dimitriyevich Yepanshin (1949–1951)
  • Major-General Aleksandr Akimovich Gerasimov (1951–1955)
  • Major-General Aleksandr Andreyevich Koreshchenko (1955–1960)
  • Major-General Magomed Tankayevich Tankayev (1960–1961)
  • Colonel Konstantin Yakovlevich Kurochnik (1961–1964)
  • Major-General Yuri Mikhailovich Potapov (1964–1969)
  • Major-General Aleksandr Ivanovich Pitkov (1969–1972)
  • Major-General Anatoly Mikhailovich Dobrovolsky (1972–1976)
  • Major-General Yevgeny Nikolayevich Podkolzin (1976–1980)
  • Major-General Gennady Vasilyevich Filatov (1980–1984)
  • Major-General Fyodor Ivanovich Serdechny (1984–1988)
  • Major-General Aleksandr Ivanovich Lebed (1988–1991)
  • Major-General Aleksandr Petrovich Kolmakov (1991–1993; now overall commander of the VDV)
  • Major-General Yevgeny Yuryevich Savilov 1993-2004)
  • Major-General Andrey Nikolayevich Serdyukov (2004–present day)

Sources and references[edit]

  1. ^ Mark L. Urban, Soviet Land Power, 1985