44th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

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44th Rifle Division
44th Mountain-Rifle Division
44th rifle elite.jpg
Soldiers and officers of the 44th Kievan Rifle Division, an elite unit of the Ukrainian SSR[1]
Active 1918 - 1957
Country  Soviet Union
Branch Red Army
Type Rifle
Size Division
Engagements Winter War, World War II
Decorations Order of Red Banner (1928)
Battle honours Shchors Kievskaya (1920)
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Alexei Vinogradov

The 44th Kievskaya of the Red Banner Rifle Division of Nikolay Shchors, or 44th Kievskaya for short, was an elite military formation of the Soviet Union.

Although it was an elite formation, the division was destroyed during the Winter War, after being ordered to help the 163rd Infantry Division break a Finnish siege on the Raate road. On 30 November 1939, it was part of the Special Rifle Corps, 9th Army, together with the 54th Rifle Division.[2]

Early history[edit]

Creation[edit]

The unit is also famous for being the one of the first military formations out of which was formed the short-lived Soviet Ukrainian Army (1918–1919). It was formed by the order no.6 of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine on September 22, 1918, as the 1st Insurgent Division along with the 2nd Insurgent Division. The 1st Insurgent Division was formed out of insurgent squads of Tarashcha and Novgorod-Sieversky uyezds. The chief of division (nachdiv) was appointed N.Krapivyansky and the chief of staff S.Petrikovsky (Petrenko).

Initial order of battle
  • 1st Red Cossacks Regiment (Vitaly Primakov)
  • 2nd Insurgent Regiment, later called Tarashcha (V.Balyas, later M.Barona, and then V.Bozhenko)
  • 3rd Insurgent Regiment of Bogun, later called simply Bogun (Nikolay Shchors)
  • 4th Insurgent Regiment (Ya.Kisel)

By the end of September the Division grew to 6700 bayonets, 450 sabers, 14 [artillery] guns, and from 10 to 18 machine guns "Maxim", 5 to 6 Colt, 20 to 30 Lewis. Because of that, selected regiments were reorganized into brigades. However, the name for the units were nominal as the brigade's headquarters were never formed, and functions of kombrigs were performed by the regimental commanders (colonel).

  • 1st Brigade of Red Cossacks (1st Regiment and 2nd Regiment) (Vitaly Primakov)
  • 2nd Brigade (3rd Bogun Regiment and 2nd Tarashcha Regiment) (Nikolay Shchors)

Around that time at the divisional headquarters a security company was formed out of some 700 soldiers. That new unit was planned to be transformed into the 5th Regiment and used as a reserve. Also the 4th Insurgent Regiment was recommissioned as the 6th Insurgent Regiment (commander T.Chernyak) and along with the 1st Regiment of Red Cossacks was soon transferred to the 2nd Insurgent Division. In their places, were created the 3rd Insurgent Regiment, later called Novgorod-Sieversky (T.Chernyak) and the 4th Insurgent Nezhyn Regiment (P.Nesmeyan) transformed out the security company.

Ukrainian-Soviet War[edit]

During the preparations for an assault on Kharkiv most of the division, however, refused to obey orders except for the Red Cossacks and the 4th Insurgent Nezhyn Regiment. For that the divisional commander N.Krapivyansky was dismissed and court martialed. I Lokatosh was appointed he new chief of division and I. Panafidin the political commissar. The name of the division also changed to the Special Insurgent Division (order of Military Council of Kursk direction group of forces of November 21, 1918) as well as its formation consisting now only out of two brigades:

  • 1st brigade (P.Kovtun) (Novgorod-Sieversky Regiment - T.Chernyak and Nezhyn Company - P.Nesmeyan)
  • 2nd brigade (N.Shchors) (Bogun and Tarashcha Regiments)

Приказом по войскам 12-й армии №2 от 16 июня 1919, объявлено о формировании из частей 1-й Украинской Советской армии в составе 44th Rifle Division of the Red Army.[3]

Winter War (Destruction at the Battle of Raate Road)[edit]

Main article: Battle of Raate Road
Soviet dead along the Raate Road, 1939

The 44th Rifle Division participated during the Soviet invasion of Poland in autumn 1939. Later, during the Finno-Russian Winter War, the division was sent to the Finnish front as reinforcement for the Soviet 163rd Rifle Division which had attempted to advance into central Finland and become surrounded after capturing the town of Suomussalmi and was suffering heavy casualties.[4] The 163rd Division, which was running short of food, was almost completely annihilated in combat with the Finnish 9th Infantry Division before the 44th Rifle Division could reach its position. With no ski troops, the 44th Rifle Division was completely road bound in the deep snow. The Finns, mounted on skis, and carrying superior arms (submachineguns), were able to break the route of march of the 44th Division on the road leading to Suomussalmi. By breaking the division into pieces along the road, after Finnish radio intelligence had confirmed that the whole division had entered the Raate road,[5] the Finns were able to annihilate the entire unit. According to Robert Edwards, the division's Commander A. Vinogradev managed to escape, but later, on the orders of Stalin's emissary, Lev Mekhlis, he was shot for incompetence following a sham trial. Of the 44th Division's 17,000 troops, 1000 were captured and 700 escaped. The rest died.[4]

Other records suggest that Division Commander (komdiv) Aleksei Vinogradov was sentenced in January 1940 to the Highest Degree of Punishment (VMN) by the Military Tribunal of the 9th Army.[6] along with his chief of staff Onufri Volkov.[7] On January 11 he was publicly executed in front of formation.

Later history[edit]

The division was recreated after its destruction and part of 13th Rifle Corps, 12th Army, Kiev Special Military District in June 1941.[8]

'Captured Soviet Generals' says that the division commander, Major General S.A. Tkachenko, was captured by the Germans. The division was immediately caught up in conflict and suffered heavy losses. By 21 July 1941 the division was already short of shtat (establishment or Table of Organization and Equipment) by over 4,000 soldiers, 199 cargo trucks, and over 3,000 rifles and carbines. Divisional morale fell despite some small victories. Ultimately the division was wiped out in combat near the village of Podvyskoe in the Kirovograd and Uman region.[9]

The division was recreated at Leningrad in October 1941. It fought in northern Russia and Kurland with the 67th Army of the Leningrad Front in May 1945. It was briefly reactivated after the war from 1955 at Buzuluk in Orenburg Oblast, from the 270th Rifle Division.[10] It was part of the 22nd Rifle Corps in the South Urals Military District. It was redesignated the 44th Motor Rifle Division in 1957 and then the 270th Motor Rifle Division in 1965.

Structure[edit]

T-26 tanks of the 44th Rifle Division in Finland prior to an attack

On July 8, 1939:

  • 25th Infantry Regiment
  • 146th Infantry Regiment
  • 305th Infantry Regiment;
  • 122nd Artillery Regiment
  • 179th Howitzer Artillery Regiment
  • 312th Independent Tank Battalion
  • 66th Separate Anti-Aircraft Machine Gun Company
  • 56th Separate Anti-Tank Battalion
  • 61st Separate Battalion
  • 12th Separate Battalion
  • 4th Separate Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 42nd Separate Motor Battalion
  • 5th Separate Decontamination Company
  • 38th Artillery Battalion
  • 113th Separate Repair Company
  • 78th Medical Battalion;
  • Mobile Field Hospital
  • 156th Field Postal Station;

List of commanders[edit]

  • July 1919 - August 1919 - Ivan Dubovoi
  • August 1919 - Nikolai Shchors
  • August 1919 - September 1919 - Ivan Dubovoi
  • September 1919 - October 1919 - Mironov
  • October 1919 - Petr Volkov
  • October 1919 - January 1922 - Ivan Dubovoi
  • 1930s - D.Kozlov
  • 1930s - Yaroslav Shtrombakh
  • January 1939 - January 1940 - Aleksei Vinogradov (Was sentenced and January 11, 1940 he was executed.)
  • January 1940 - P.Furt
  • January 1940 - September 1941 - Semyon Tkachenko

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 71 рік Зимовій війні. Як у карельських снігах загинула елітна українська дивізія
  2. ^ Leo Niehorster, 9th Army
  3. ^ (Russian) History of the 44th Mountain Rifle Division, accessed September 2012.
  4. ^ a b Edwards, The Winter War, at 152-174.
  5. ^ Militarian maailma nro 13, Radiotiedustelun synty Suomessa (in Finnish)
  6. ^ List of repressed personnel of the Red Army (kombrigs)
  7. ^ List of repressed personnel of the Red Army (colonels)
  8. ^ Leo Niehorster, 12th Army, 22 June 1941
  9. ^ Aleksander A. Maslov, David M. Glantz, Harold Steven Orenstein, Captured Soviet Generals (via Google Books), p.13-14
  10. ^ Craig Crofoot/Michael Avanzini, Armies of the Bear, 113 (Vol I, No. 2?).

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]