Review of the 6th Soviet Guards Vitebsk-Novgorod Mechanised Division, Northern Group of Forces, in Borne Sulinowo
The Northern Group of Forces (Russian: Северная группа войск; Polish: Północna grupa wojsk) was the military formation of the Soviet Army stationed in Poland from the end of Second World War in 1945 until 1993 when they were withdrawn in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union. Although officially considered Polish allies under the Warsaw Pact treaty, they were seen by some Poles as a Soviet occupation force.
Former Soviet nuclear weapons warehouse Granit 2
Soviet forces entered Poland as they were advancing towards Nazi Germany in the course of the Red Army's Operation Bagration in the summer of 1944. Following the Vistula-Oder Offensive in early 1945, all of Poland was liberated from Nazi occupation by Soviet forces. While formal Polish sovereignty was almost immediately restored, the territory of Poland fell under de facto Soviet control as the Soviet military and security forces acted to ensure that Poland would be ruled by the Soviet-installed communist puppet government of Poland.
As the war ended, the structure of the Soviet military was reorganized from a war-time to a peace-time mode. Directive No. 11097 of 10 June 1945 created several new formations, known as Groups of Forces, equivalent to military districts, but used for command and administration of Soviet forces outside the Soviet Union itself. One of those new formations, at that time 300,000-400,000 strong, was to be stationed in Poland. It was mostly based on the 2nd Belorussian Front of General Konstantin Rokossovsky (formerly stationed around Mecklenburg and Brandenburg). With the exception of Szczecin (Stettin), which fell under the operational territory of the Western Group of Forces, the Northern Group of Forces was located entirely within the territory of Poland.
The Polish communist government, which largely owed its existence to the Soviets (see Polish Committee of National Liberation, 1946 Polish people's referendum, 1947 Polish legislative election), signed several agreements with the Soviet Union regulating the status and purpose of the Soviet troops.
In the early years, the Soviet forces aided the Polish communists in establishing their government and combating anti-communist resistance, such as the Polish cursed soldiers or the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (see Operation Vistula). Another major task of the Northern Group was to organize and transport war reparations from the former eastern territories of Germany attached to Poland after World War II (the so-called Recovered Territories) to the Soviet Union. These actions, often involving the complete stripping down of industrial facilities, sometimes also took place in traditionally Polish territories. This caused tensions between the Soviets and the Polish government, which intended to use the resources of those territories to rebuild Poland.
By 1949 the Soviet Union had concluded twenty-year bilateral treaties of friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance with Poland and several other countries, which usually granted the Soviet Union rights to a continued military presence on their territory. The Polish government, however, had no operational control over the Soviet forces. On December 17, 1956, as one of the agreements of the Polish October period, the Polish and Soviet governments signed the dedicated treaty that would finally fully regulate the Soviet military presence in Poland, the "Agreement on Legal Status of Soviet Troops Temporarily Stationed in Poland". According to the 1956 treaty (which was further developed by later, more specific amendments), the Soviet military in Poland was limited to 66,000 troops, although the Soviets never fully disclosed the actual number of personnel of the Northern Group to the Polish government, and the Polish government had no right to inspect the Soviet bases. The treaty also limited the number of Soviet bases in Poland to 39, while the actual number of bases reached 79. The Soviets also installed nuclear weapons in Poland, without informing the Polish government of that fact. The treaty's name declared the Soviet military presence to be temporary, while in fact the treaty did not contain any limitations to the duration of their stay, nor any provisions on their withdrawal. Until the 1956 agreement, the Soviet troops stationed in Poland were seen by some Poles as occupying Polish territory; even afterwards they were de facto exempt from any Polish oversight and their role of an 'allied force' stationed in the territory was viewed by many as a mere propaganda claim. The issue of Polish-Soviet military cooperation was further regulated the next year, and in the 1965 Polish-Soviet friendship treaty that reflected the Soviet domination of Polish military policy.
The Northern Group of Forces had several objectives. With the beginning of the Cold War, it was to act, together with other Groups of Forces, as a counterpart to the Western Allies (particularly the United States) forces in Europe. Later, in that regard it represented part of the Warsaw Pact forces, countering the NATO troops. Its second objective was much less stressed in public Soviet sources, but nonetheless crucial: it was to ensure the loyalty of the Polish communist government, and its Polish People's Army; a policy consistent with that of the Brezhnev Doctrine, and enforced during events such as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 or the Prague Spring of 1968. Soviet forces were mobilized and actually advanced on Warsaw during Polish October in 1956, and there were threats that they could be similarly used before the martial law in Poland was introduced to stem the progress of the Solidarity movement in 1980. All of the objectives of the Northern Group were shared with the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany in the German Democratic Republic and to a lesser extent with the two Groups with a shorter history: the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia (from 1968 on) and the Southern Group of Forces in Hungary and (only until 1958) Romania.
The presence of Soviet forces on Polish territory caused several problems, in addition to the war reparations issue. Although not supported by the Soviet High Command, excesses by individual soldiers of the Red Army led to mounting tensions between Soviet forces and the Polish population. Contemporary archives contained many reports of mugging, burglary, rape and murder attributed to Soviet soldiers in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War; even Polish Communists were uneasy, as in 1945 the future Chairman of the Polish Council of State, Aleksander Zawadzki, worried that "raping and looting of the Soviet army would provoke a civil war". In the early years, the Red Army appropriated any resources it needed from the Polish government with no thought of compensation, or treating Poles as their allies. For example, when the Northern Group commander, Konstantin Rokossovsky, decided that it should be headquartered in Legnica, he ordered all Poles, including communist officials who were organizing the city and provincial government, to vacate one third of the city within 24 hours, later requisitioning any of their private belongings (like furniture) left behind. This incident was perceived by contemporaries as a particularly brutal action, and rumors circulated exaggerating its severity. Later, Polish settlements in which Soviet garrisons were placed were inconvenienced in other ways, for example by being removed from all official maps or by the low flying Soviet jets, training at night. Approximately 600 Polish citizens died over the years 1945–1993 in crimes or accidents for which the Soviet soldiers were responsible. The Soviet army, which was subject to many financial privileges (reduced taxation, import tariffs, etc.), often refused to pay for municipal resources it consumed, particularly water, gas or electricity. On the other hand, Soviet units did also aid the locals with infrastructure projects, harvests, or during environmental disasters.
After the fall of communism in Poland in 1989, and with the signs of the fall of the Soviet Union, the new Polish government wanted the Soviet troops to leave Poland. By that time the Northern Group had already shrunk to 58,000 troops, but its military installations were still spread over about 700 square kilometres of Polish territory. After a new treaty in late 1991 and May 1992, and Poland's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet agreed to withdraw military units by 1992 and support units by 1993. Soviet troops had already begun leaving Poland, with the first group exiting in 1991. All troops left Poland by the end of 1993, the last leaving on 18 September. Symbolically, Polish President Lech Wałęsa saw them off on 17 September, the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939.
The Group was headquartered in Legnica, Lower Silesia, where Soviet military took over a third of the city as their extraterritorial enclave (although for six years the operational headquarters was in Świdnica). Other major Soviet military bases were located in Bagicz, Białogard, Brzeg, Borne Sulinowo (one of the two largest), Burzykowo, Chojna, Dębice, Kęszyca Leśna, Kluczewo, Kłomino, Nowa Sól, Oława, Przemków-Trzebień (may refer to the same base as Strachów/Pstrąże), Strachów (now - deserted town shown as Pstrąże on maps), Świdnica, Świętoszów, Świnoujście (military harbor), Szprotawa, Wschowa, Żagań. Those bases included 15 airfields, 1 large and 11 smaller ports,
In the late 1940s the NGF's forces included:
Altogether the Northern Group of Forces had three ground and one air army, four tank corps (from July 1945 reorganized into tank divisions), 30 rifle divisions, 12 air divisions, one cavalry corps and 10 artillery divisions. The formation had a strength of around 300,000-400,000 soldiers stationed in Poland.
This large number of formations was quickly reduced as the post war demobilisation took place.
By 1955 the force had been reduced to the 18th, 26th, and 27th Rifle Divisions, the 20th Tank Division, and the 26th Mechanised Division - probably numbering no more than 100,000 troops.
1980s and Early 1990s
Northern Group of Forces as of 1988
The 83rd Separate Air Assault Brigade was formed at Białogard in 1986.
The 6th Guards Motor Rifle Division (1982-) and 20th Tank Division were the principal Soviet formations stationed in the Group in the 1980s and early 1990s. Air support was provided by the 4th Air Army.
In the 1990s, when the Group was preparing to leave Poland, it had the strength of approximately 56,000 soldiers, with 600 tanks, 400 artillery pieces and 200 planes.
The Northern Group had its own newspaper, the Znamia Pobiedy (Flag of Victory).
The Northern Group had nuclear weapons deployed in at least three bases in Poland with some 178 nuclear assets, growing to 250 in the late 1980s.
- Commanders of Northern Group of Forces
- Representative of Polish Council of Ministers
- Delegates of Economical Committee of Council of Ministers
- December 1946 - July 1947: colonel Julian Tokarski
- July 1947 - May 1949: colonel Wojciech Wilkoński
- May 1949 - 1952: colonel Teodor Kusznierek
- 1952 - 1957: colonel Jan Kogut
- Representatives of the Polish People's Army in the matter of stay of Soviet forces in Poland
The Soviet Army was stationed in Poland for 48 years; it is estimated that its stay cost the Polish state 62.6 billion złoty (in 1993 prices, approx. 3.5 billion US dollars, not counting items removed from Polish territory after World War II); however, the Polish government decided to waive any claims to ensure a quicker evacuation of Soviet troops. The Soviets also claimed that any costs Poland incurred were balanced by the various aid (ex. infrastructure construction) provided over the years by the Soviet troops, as well as by the liberation from the Nazi occupation and later security.
In 1994 the Polish government passed legislation covering the use of the territories formerly used by the Soviet forces. Most of those territories have been put on sale by the Polish government. Some of the Soviet administered areas were subject to ecological contamination and pollution (by oil products, heavy metals, unexploded ordnance). They were also damaged by years of disrepair and poor maintenance.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k (in Polish) Mirosław Golon, Północna Grupa Wojsk Armii Radzieckiej w Polsce w latach 1945-1956. Okupant w roli sojusznika Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine (Northern Group of Soviet Army Forces in Poland in the years 1945-1956. Occupant in the role of an ally), 2004, Historicus - Portal Historyczny (Historical Portal). An online initiative of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and Polskie Towarzystwo Historyczne. Last accessed on 30 May 2007.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i (in Polish) Wyjście Sowietów, Polityka, 'Rok 1993', 27 stycznia 2007
- ^ Craig Crofoot, in a manuscript available at www.microarmormayhem.com, says that the NGF was established by Order No. 11096 dated 29 May 1945 issued by the Headquarters of the Supreme High Command (Stavka VGK), and took effect on 10 June 1945
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Jerzy Domagała, Bratnia straż, Rzeczpospolita, 28.04.04 Nr 100. Retrieved on 15 June 2008
- ^ a b c d e f g (in Polish)Drodzy towarzysze. Koszty pobytu Armii Radzieckiej w PRL Polityka. Pomocnik historyczny. Nr 1(6) - nr 4 (2589) z dnia 27-01-2007; s. 15
- ^ "MIĘDZY MODERNIZACJĄ A MARNOTRAWSTWEM" (in Polish). Institute of National Remembrance. Archived from the original on 2005-03-21.
- ^ "ARMIA CZERWONA NA DOLNYM ŚLĄSKU" (in Polish). Institute of National Remembrance. Archived from the original on 2001-07-25.
- ^ a b APPENDIX C: THE WARSAW PACT -- Soviet Union. US Library of Congress study.
- ^ "The Polish-Soviet Treaty of December 17, 1956 formalized for the first time a situation which had existed in fact since World War II.".
Nish Jamgotch,Soviet-East European Dialogue: International Relations of a New Type?, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, Google Print, p.64
- ^ David B. Michaels, International Privileges And Immunities: A Case for a Universal Statute, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1971, ISBN 90-247-5126-8, Google Print, p.144
- ^ a b c d e f (in Polish) Borne Sulinowo - historia Archived 2011-12-27 at the Wayback Machine (history). Official municipal website of the town.
- ^ Jaromír Navrátil, The Prague Spring 1968: a national security archive documents reader, Central European University Press, 1998, ISBN 963-9116-15-7, Google Print, p.533
- ^ a b c Group of Soviet Forces in Poland Northern Group of Forces (NGF) at globalsecurity.org
- ^ Norman Davies, God's Playground, a History of Poland, Columbia University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-231-12819-3, Google Print, p.359
- ^ Richard C. Raack, Stalin's Drive to the West, 1938-1945: the origins of the Cold War, Stanford University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-8047-2415-6, Google Print, p.90
- ^ Padraic Kenney, Rebuilding Poland: Workers and Communists, 1945-1950, Cornell University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8014-3287-1, Google Print, p.155
- ^ Norman Davies, God's Playground, a History of Poland, Columbia University Press, 1982, ISBN 0-231-05352-5, Google Print, p.558
- ^ Paweł Piotrowski of the Institute of National Remembrance, Wrocław, writes that the report of Polish Secret Police notes that "in certain aspects" the resettlement brought about the associations with the Nazis' forced resettlement of Jews into ghettos; and for a time a rumour spread through Poland that the Soviets were massacring Polish population around Legnica; though no evidence of anyone being killed in the course of it has come to light. See cited article.
- ^ a b c d THE CATALOGUE OF ESTATES LEFT BY THE ARMY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION - The investment offer Archived 2009-11-24 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 15 June 2008
- ^ Holm, Michael. "18th Rifle Corps". www.ww2.dk. Retrieved 2016-03-17.
- ^ Holm, Michael. "4th Red Banner Air Army VGK ON". ww2.dk. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
- ^ Komunikat po Radzie Ministrow - 24.01.1995 Archived 2004-10-16 at the Wayback Machine (official Polish government estimate from 1995)
- ^ International Experience and Expertise in Registration Investigation, Assessment, and Clean-Up of Contaminated Military Sites: Poland by Karl Wolfram Schäfer a.o. Retrieved on 15 June 2008