16-я 'Литовская' стрелковая дивизия

  • 16th Lithuanian Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
  • Lietuviškoji 16-oji Raudonosios Armijos divizija
Type of Entity
Corporate Body


The 16th Rifle Division was a formation in the Red Army created during the Second World War. The division was formed twice, and was given the title 'Lithuanian' during its second formation. It was originally established at Novgorod in October 1939. In the end of 1941 reformed and given the title 'Lithuanian', the division participated in several battles against Nazi Germany, including Kursk, Belarus, and the Baltic. It was disbanded at the end of the war, although it was briefly revived in 1955 before being disbanded once more. When the 16th Division was reformed after its destruction, it was given the name 'Lithuanian' largely for political purposes. As Lithuania, along with Estonia and Latvia, had only been occupied by the USSR in 1940 (and then again later in 1944 after the Germans were forced to withdraw), there was a concern among the Soviet planners that the Lithuanians might choose to collaborate with the Germans rather than fight against them. However, it was hoped that since the division was officially labelled "Lithuanian", that citizens of the newly formed Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic would be inspired to enlist.

The decision regarding the re-formation of the division was made by the State Defense Committee on 18 December 1941. It was decided that it would be formed in the Moscow Military District, in the city of Balakhna, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast. Personnel were assembled from staff and remnants of the 184th Rifle Division (29th Rifle Corps) and any Lithuanian speaking refugees that had fled Lithuania after the German invasion. The officers of the division were by and large graduates from the Vilnius infantry academy, who had been evacuated after the invasion to Novokuznetsk, Kemerovo Oblast. Formation and training of the division came to an end by February 1943 and the division entered the war on 21 February 1943 at Alekseyevka, 50 km southeast of Oryol. This brought the division into the path of the Wehrmacht's "Operation Citadel", where it served with the 42nd Rifle Corps of the 48th Army, Soviet Central Front. In the first days of the battle, the 16th Rifle Division withstood the attack of the German 383rd Infantry and 18th Panzer Divisions, that were accompanied by 120 planes. After suffering serious losses, the Soviet armies eventually emerged victorious. Following the victory at Kursk, the division was assigned to the 1st Baltic Front. On 1 June 1944, the division was directly subordinate to the Front, along with 47th Rifle Division. Along with the three Belarussian Fronts they invaded Belarus and much of Lithuania. On 2 August 1944, division had arrived at the suburbs of Šiauliai. In mid-August the city of Šiauliai was hit by a German counter-attack. The Wehrmacht divisions were armed with 900 armoured vehicles and artillery pieces. For three days the 16th Division stood its ground, and in the end as the German attack ran out of steam the Division emerged victorious. On 31 October 1944 the Division was presented with the Order of the Red Banner for successful operations in clearing Žemaitija region (Samogitia). On 31 January 1945, the Lithuanian division received orders to join the fight against the Germans in the Courland Pocket. The German resistance was incredibly strong and elements of Army Group Courland did not surrender to the Soviets until 8 May and 9 at the end of World War II in Europe. The 16th Rifle Division was disbanded after the end of the war, but briefly reactivated in 1955 in the Volga-Urals Military District before being finally disbanded.

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