Front (military formation)
A front (Russian: фронт, front) is a military formation in some countries. Originating in the Russian Empire, it has been used by the Polish Army, the Red Army and Soviet Army, and by Turkey. It is roughly equivalent to an army group in the military of most other countries. It varies in size but in general contains three to five armies.1 It should not be confused with the more general usage of military front, describing a geographic area in wartime.
After the outbreak of the First World War, the Russian General Headquarters set up two Fronts: Northwestern Front uniting forces deployed against German Empire and Southwestern Front, uniting forces deployed against Austria-Hungary.
At the end of 1916 Romanian Front was established, which also included remnants of the Romanian army.
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The Soviet fronts were first raised during the Russian Civil War. They were wartime organizations only, in the peacetime the fronts were normally disbanded and their armies organized back into military districts. Usually a single district formed a single front at the start of the hostilities, or when hostilities were anticipated. Some military districts could not form a front. The occasions when one or more fronts were activated were: the Russian Civil War, the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939, the Invasion of Poland in 1939, and the Second World War.
The fronts created during the Russian Civil War were later known as the 1st formation fronts.
- Northern Front
- Eastern Front
- Turkestan Front
- Caucasian Front (Soviet Union)
- Southeastern Front
- Southern Front
- Ukrainian Front
- Southwestern Front
- Western Front
A number of fronts were created by the Second Polish Republic from 1918 to 1939, among them being the Polish Southern Front. See pl:Kategoria:Fronty polskie. In addition, the creation of a Polish Front was considered to group the First and Second Armies of the Polish Armed Forces in the East in 1944, and during the Warsaw Pact period, a Polish Front was created, seemingly as a mobilisation-only organisation.
An interesting and important distinction between army groups and fronts is that a Soviet front typically had its own army-sized tactical fixed-wing air organization.2 This air army was directly subordinated to the front commander (typically a ground commander). The entire front might report either to the Stavka or to a theatre of military operations (TVD). During the Cold War, fronts and their staffs became groups of Soviet forces in the Warsaw Pact organisation.
The degree of change in the structure and performance of individual fronts can only be understood when seen in the context of the strategic operations of the Red Army in World War II.
Soviet fronts in the European Theatre during the Second World War from 1941 to 1945:
- Baltic Fronts
- Bryansk Front - Created 18 December 1941, to take sector between the Western and Southwestern Fronts. Disbanded 11/12 March 1943. Reformed from Orel Front 28 March 1943.
- Belorussian Fronts (alternative spellings are Byelorussian Front and Belarusian Front)
- Caucasus Front
- Central Front
- Crimean Front - formed January 1942 to reconquer the Crimea, incorporating 44th, 47th, and 51st Armies
- Don Front
- Far East Front
- Kalinin Front - the Kalinin Front was formally established by Stavka directive on 17 October 1941, and allocated three armies - 22nd, 29th and 30th.3 Renamed 1st Baltic Front Oct-Dec 1943.4
- Karelian Front - formed from Northern Front, along with Leningrad Front, on 23 August 1941.
- Kursk Front
- Leningrad Front - formed from Northern Front, along with Karelian Front, on 23 August 1941.
- Moscow Zone of Defense
- Moscow Reserve Front
- Mozhaysk Line of Defense
- North Caucasus Front - redesignated TC Front's Black Sea Group of Forces, 1 September 1942
- Northern Front - formed from Leningrad Military District on 24 June 1941
- Northwestern Front - formed from Baltic Special Military District on 22 June 1941
- Orel Front - created 24 March 1943 to defend opposite the tip of the German salient east of Orel. Composed of Western Front's 61st Army, Central Front's 3rd Army, and 15th Air Army. Redesignated Bryansk Front 28 March 1943.
- Army Group of Primorye
- Reserve Front - Front of Reserve Armies formed 14 July 1941
- Southeastern Front - formed from armies on Stalingrad Front's left wing, 7 August 1942. Redesignated Stalingrad Front 28 September 1942.
- Southern Front - renamed 4th Ukrainian Front 20 October 1943.
- Southwestern Front - Formed initially on 22 June 1941. Reestablished 22 October 1942 between Don and Voronezh Fronts. Renamed 3rd Ukrainian Front 20 October 1943.
- Stalingrad Front - Along with Voronezh Front, formed from remnants of Southwestern Front July 1942. Became Don Front 28 September 1942.
- Steppe Front - renamed 2nd Ukrainian Front 20 October 1943.
- Transbaikal Front
- Transcaucasian Front - formed 23 August 1941
- Ukrainian Fronts
- Volkhov Front - formed 17 December 1941
- Voronezh Front - renamed 1st Ukrainian Front 20 October 1943.
- Western Front - formed from Western Special Military District on 22 June 1941
For constituent armies see List of Soviet armies.
The Soviet Army maintained contingencies for establishing fronts in the event of war. The front was to be the highest operational command during wartime. Though there was no front ever established during peace time the basic building blocks were maintained the established Military Districts. A front generally comprised 3-4 Combined Arms Armies and 1-2 Tank Armies though there was no set organization.5
- John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin's War with Germany, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1975
- David Glantz, Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War 1941-43, University Press of Kansas, 2005