|Map showing Soviet military positions in East Germany|
The Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (1949–88) (Группа советских войск в Германии, ГСВГ), also known as the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany (1945–49) and the Western Group of Forces (1988–94) were the troops of the Soviet Army in East Germany.
The Soviet armies permanently stationed in Germany were the predominant land-based military threat to NATO from the late 1940s until 1989, a primary factor in the military situation during the Cold War. The possibility of a Soviet invasion of West Germany and other Western European countries was however kept low due to the dangers of nuclear escalation.
The Group of Soviet Occupation Forces, Germany, was formed after the completion of the Second World War from formations of the First and 2nd Belorussian Fronts.
Withdrawals from East Germany in 1956 and 1957/58 comprised more than 70,000 Soviet army personnel, including 18th Army Staff.
GSFG had the task to ensure for the adherence to the regulations of the Potsdam Agreement. Furthermore, they represented the political and military interests of the Soviet Union. In 1957 an agreement between the governments of the Soviet Union and the GDR laid out the arrangements over the temporary stay of Soviet armed forces on the territory of the GDR, the numerical strength of the Soviet troops, and their assigned posts and exercise areas. It was specified that the Soviet armed forces were not to interfere into the internal affairs of the GDR, as they had done during the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany.
Following a resolution of the government of the USSR in 1979/80 20,000 army personnel, 1,000 tanks and much equipment was withdrawn from the territory of the GDR, among them 6th Guards Tank Division.
In the course of Perestroika the GSFG was realigned as a more defensive force regarding strength, structure and equipment. This entailed a clear reduction of the tank forces in 1989. The GSFG was renamed the Western Group of Forces on June 1, 1989. The withdrawal of the GSFG was one of the largest peacetime troop transfers in military history. Despite the difficulties, which resulted from the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the same period, the departure was carried out according to plan and punctually until August 1994.
The return of the troops and material took place particularly by the sea route by means of the ports in Rostock and the island of Rügen, as well as via Poland. The Russian Ground Forces abandoned Germany on 25 June 1994 with a military parade of the 6th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade in Berlin. The parting celebrations in Wünsdorf on 11 June 1994 and in the Treptow Park in Berlin on 31 August 1994 marked the end of Soviet military operational readiness on German soil.
In addition to German territories, Group of Soviet Forces in Germany operational territory also included the region of town of Szczecin, part of the territories transferred from Germany to Poland following the end of the Second World War. The rest of Poland fell under the Northern Group of Forces, while the southern regions (Austria, Czechoslovakia) were under the Central Group of Forces.
The Soviet troops occupied 777 barracks plants at 276 locations on the territory of the GDR. This also included 47 airfields and 116 exercise areas. At the beginning of 1991 there were still about 338,000 soldiers in 24 divisions, distributed among five land armies and an air army in what was by then the WGF. In addition there were still about 208,000 relatives of officers as well as civil employees came, among them were about 90,000 children. Most locations were in the area of today's Brandenburg.
In 1991 there were approximately:
8,200 armored vehicles
3,600 artillery pieces
106,000 other motor vehicles
180 rocket systems