76th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
|76th K. E. Voroshilov Division|
|Active||September 5, 1922–1942|
|Role||Tactical attack and defense combat operations|
|Part of||Stalingrad Front (?)|
|Garrison/HQ||Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia|
|Engagements||First Battle of Kharkov, Battle of Stalingrad, Operation Uranus, Battle of Kursk, Belorussian Offensive, Battle of the Baltic (1944)|
|Decorations||Order of the Red Banner (1937), Red Army Guard (November 23, 1942), Order of Lenin (June 19, 1943)|
|Battle honours||K. Y. Voroshilov, Vitebsk, 51st Guards Rifle Division|
The 76th K. E. Voroshilov Division (Cтрелковая дивизия им. К.Е. Ворошилова) known also as the 76th Armenian Mountain Division, was a Soviet infantry fighting unit of the Red Army that fought on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. The 76th was made up primarily of Armenians from the newly established Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia, but also included among its ranks several different nationalities. The division was officially created on September 5, 1922, at the near end of the Russian military conquests of the southern Caucasus republics.
The 76th was initially formed as a brigade-sized unit and led by several non-Armenian commanders including Major Generals S. V. Chernikov, E. F. Pryakhin, K. E. Goryunov, N. E. Kaladzen, N. T. Tavarkiladze (the latter two were ethnic Georgians), Colonel G. G. Voronin, and subordinate commanders A. P. Melik-Shahnazaryan, H. T. Atoyan (the latter two being Armenians). Instruction was carried out in Armenian and the unit published a military newspaper, The Red Soldier, and a newsletter The Red Fighting Man (both in Armenian). During the Second World War, a third paper, Voroshilovets, under the aegis of Armenian novelist Hrachya Kochar, began publication in Russian.
In 1935, the division was named after Soviet Central Committee member (and later Marshal of the Soviet Union) Kliment Voroshilov. Two years later it was bestowed with the Order of the Red Banner. In 1938, soldiers of other Soviet nationalities began to enter the ranks of the division, though it remained in the Armenian SSR and retained its flag, its number, and traditions.
The Second World War
In the summer of 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and drove into the large landmass of Russia and Ukraine on three fronts. The southernmost drove through the Caucasus with the objective of capturing the petroleum fields and reserves in Baku, Azerbaijan. By autumn, the German Wehrmacht had pushed far into the regions and was nearing the outlet of the northern Caucasus. In order to prevent a possible link up between Iran, whose leader Reza Shah Pahlavi harbored pro-German leanings, the Allies launched a joint mission to invade and occupy the country. The 76th Division, as part of the 47th Army of the Transcaucasian Front, crossed the Araks River in August at the border town of Julfa, Nakhichevan and settled in the northern Iranian city of Tabriz.
Ukraine, Stalingrad, Don
With Iran pacified, in September 1942 the division was sent to Ukraine in September and incorporated into the 38th Army. It took part in major fighting in Poltava, Kharkiv and Vovchansk during the First Battle of Kharkov. In February 1942, the division advanced westward and was reassigned and integrated into the 21st Army. In May 1942, the Voroshilov Division was once more on the offensive and advanced toward the Donets River. where it confronted the entrenched German Army Group South. Despite suffering heavy casualties, the division was able to cross the riverbank, and retake a line of towns straddling the Russian-Ukrainian border: Grafovka, Nekhotevka, Shamino and Arkhangelskoye.
In June 1942, the 76th helped close a gap between the 21st and 38th Armies and halt German counter-offensives at Surkovo, Gavrilov-Yam and Pesyano. In July 1942, the division was sent to Stalingrad. After taking part in fighting there until October, it was ordered to weaken Army Group South's defensive lines near the Don River. It overran its lines at the railway terminus in Kletskaya, a feat which earned it the status of a Guards unit (November 23, 1942) and subsequent reorganization as the 51st Guards Rifle Division. The following year, the division took part in the encircling of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, an act which also earned it an Order of Lenin, and the Battle of Kursk (in Belgorod-Bohodukhiv).
With fresh victories at Stalingrad and Kursk, in 1944-45 the division was reassigned to the Baltic region, where it participated in the uprooting of German forces in Belorussia, Latvia and Lithuania. For its efforts in the Vitebsk-Polotsk area, the division earned yet another title, the Vitbeskaya, and the 93rd infantry regiment was decorated with the title Polotskaya (July 10, 1944). Its final battles were waged in May 1945 against German forces penned up in the Courland Pocket.
- (Armenian) Hakobyan, Arshavir M. and K. Harutyunyan, S. Sargsyan and N. Baloyan. «Հայկական դիվիզիաներ» [Armenian divisions]. Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1980, vol. vi, p. 174.
- Armenia and Armenians in World War II
- (Russian) 51-я Витебская Краснознаменная гвардейская стрелковая дивизия им. К.Е. Ворошилова.