21st Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

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21st Rifle Division
Active 1918–45
Country Soviet Union
Branch Red Army
Type Infantry

Polish-Soviet War

Sino-Soviet conflict (1929)
Soviet–Japanese border conflicts
World War II

Decorations Order of the Red Banner Order of the Red Banner
Battle honours Perm
Mendel Khatayevich

The 21st Rifle Division (Russian: 21-я стрелковая дивизия; Military Unit Number 17752)[1] was an infantry division of Bolshevist Russia and then the USSR, active between 1918 and 1945. After the end of World War II it became the 20th Mechanized Division, which was disbanded in 1947.

Russian Civil War and Polish-Soviet War[edit]

Organised during the Russian Civil War on September 3, 1918, out of several smaller partisan detachment of Perm Governorate. Soon it was reinforced with a single artillery battery from Sankt Petersburg and two Workers' Brigades from the Arkhangelsk Front. Initially known as the 5th Ural Infantry Division, it was renamed on March 19, 1919.

Commanded by Ivan Smolin, the division took part in the ill-fated Russian summer offensive of 1920, which ended with the Battle of Warsaw. Despite initial successes, the division was ultimately defeated in the Battle of Radzymin and annihilated in the following days.

World War II[edit]

Reformed in Russia, it was activated on June 22, 1941, at Spassk-Dalny in the Far East. It was part of 26th Rifle Corps, 1st Red Banner Army.[2] Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union and a string of Soviet defeats early in the war, on September 11, 1941, the division was transported to Ivanovo, where it received its heavy equipment and assumed defensive positions along Svir River. Not attacked directly by German forces, the division remained in the area until March 1944, when it was moved to the Arctic theatre of operations, to Kandalaksha. As part of the 19th Army it took part in defeating a group of German forces in the area of Alakurtti and reached the pre-war Soviet-Finnish border.

In January 1945 it was transferred to Hungary, to defend against a German attack across the Leitha. Surrounded on January 20 in the vicinity of Aba and Jakabszállás, the following day it broke through and reached friendly lines. On January 28 it received reinforcements and took part in the Soviet counter-offensive between Leithe and Danube.

It later took part in defence against the Balaton Offensive and then the Vienna Offensive, operating from the town of Nagykanizsa.


Postwar, the division became the 20th Mechanized Division at Timișoara with the 57th Army. It soon moved to Arad. The division was originally intended to disband in the Southern Group of Forces. The order was changed and the 151st Rifle Division was disbanded instead.[1] It later moved to Uryupinsk and became part of the 10th Mechanized Army. It disbanded on 14 April 1947.[3] The division's 35th and 38th Tank Regiments became part of the 59th and 28th Guards Rifle Divisions, respectively.[4]


  1. ^ a b Feskov et al 2013, pp. 421–422
  2. ^ Niehorster, Dr. Leo. "1st Army, Far East Front, Red Army, 22.06.41". niehorster.org. Retrieved 2016-08-18. 
  3. ^ Feskov et al 2013, p. 204
  4. ^ Feskov et al 2013, p. 206
  • Feskov, V.I.; Golikov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Slugin, S.A. (2013). Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской [The Armed Forces of the USSR after World War II: From the Red Army to the Soviet: Part 1 Land Forces] (in Russian). Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306. 
  • (Russian) Various authors, S.S. Khromov (ed.), "Гражданская война и военная интервенция в СССР" in: Советская Энциклопедия. Moscow, 1983. p. 704
  • (Polish) Grzegorz Łukomski, Bogusław Polak, Mieczysław Wrzosek, Wojna polsko-bolszewicka 1919-1920. Koszalin, 1990