Front (military formation)

A front (Russian: фронт, front) is a type of military formation that originated in the Russian Empire, and has been used by the Polish Army, the Red Army, the Soviet Army, and 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.

Russian Empire

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.

In August 1915, Northwestern Front was split into Northern Front and Western Front.

At the end of 1916 Romanian Front was established, which also included remnants of the Romanian army.

In April 1917, Caucasus Front was established by the reorganization of the Caucasus Army.

Soviet fronts in the Russian Civil War

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. Fronts were also formed during the Polish-Soviet War of 1920.

The main fronts during the Russian Civil War and Polish-Soviet War were :

Soviet fronts in World War II

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 reason for that is in the Soviet military doctrine. With the reform of 1935 it was established that in case of a war the peacetime military districts on the border would split upon mobilisation each into a Front Command (taking control of the district's peacetime military formations) and a Military District Command (which stayed behind with the mission to mobilise the reserve formations and put them at the disposal of the Fronts as replacement troops). In that sense the Air Armies were under Air Force command in peacetime, but under the command of the Frontal HQs in wartime and the Fronts were commanded by Ground Forces generals. The entire front might report either to the Stavka or to a theatre of military operations (TVD). A Front was mobilised for a specific operation, after which it could be reformed and tasked with another operation (including a change of the Front's designation) or it could be disbanded with its formations dispersed among the other active Fronts and its HQ reintegrated into its original Military District HQ.

The Soviet and Russian military doctrine calls the different levels in the command chain (including the Fronts) Organs of Military Control (Russian: Органы военного управления).

Organs of Military Control
Level Peacetime Peacetime and wartime Function Examples
Highest political control Main Military Council (Russian: Главный военный совет РККА) Stavka of the Supreme Main Command (Russian: Ставка верховного главнокомандования) Exercises supreme party control over the armed forces. It could best be considered as the office for military matters of the head of state. During World War I this was the Stavka of the Supreme Commander (Russian: Ставка Верховного Главнокомандующего) aiding Tsar Nicholas II. During World War II this was the Stavka of the Supreme Main Command (Russian: Ставка верховного главного командования) aiding Joseph Stalin, who took precedence over it after the launch of the German invasion into the Soviet Union.
Highest military control General Staff (Russian: Генеральный штаб РККА) In wartime the General Staff became a department of the Stavka.
Strategical Main Command of the Troops of a Strategic Direction (Russian: Главное командование войск направления) The Main Command of the Troops of a Strategic Direction were organised in wartime in 1941 - 42, each to take control over several Fronts, Fleets, Separate Armies and / or Flotillas.

In 1979 in the years of high confrontation between the countries of the Western liberal democracies and those of the Socialist Bloc the Main Commands of the Troops of a Strategic Directions were reinstated covertly:

  • Main Command of the Troops of the Western Direction (Russian: Главное командование войск Западного направления) in Legnica (Poland)
  • Main Command of the Troops of the South-Western Direction (Russian: Главное командование войск Юго-Западного направления) in Chișinău
  • Main Command of the Troops of the Southern Direction (Russian: Главное командование войск Южного направления) in Baku and the
  • Main Command of the Troops in the Far East (Russian: Главное командование войск Дальнего Востока) in Ulan-Ude.
Main Command of the Troops of the North-Western Direction

(Russian: Главное командование войск Северо-Западного направления). Existed between July 10 and August 27, 1941 under the command of Marshal of the Soviet Union Kliment Voroshilov. It commanded the:

Main Command of the Troops of the Western Direction

(Russian: Главное командование войск Западного направления). Existed between July 10 and September 10, 1941 under the command of Marshal of the Soviet Union Semyon Timoshenko. It commanded the:

Main Command of the Troops of the South-Western Direction

(Russian: Главное командование войск Юго-Западного направления). Existed between July 10, 1941 and June 21, 1942 under the command of initially Marshal of the Soviet Union Semyon Budyonny, since September 1941 of Marshal of the Soviet Union Semyon Timoshenko. It commanded the:

Main Command of the Troops of the North Caucasus Direction

(Russian: Главное командование войск Северо-Кавказского направления). Existed between April 21 and May 19, 1942 under the command of Marshal of the Soviet Union Semyon Budyonny. It commanded the:

Main Command of the Soviet Troops in the Far East

(Russian: Главное командование советских войск на Дальнем Востоке). Existed between July 30 and December 17, 1945 under the command of Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky. It commanded the:

Operational-Strategical Military district (Russian: Военный округ) FRONT (Russian: Фронт) The Military Districts were high military commands in charge of the combat readiness of troops, training centers and schools, support to the security services in cases of insurrections and to the population in case of disasters. Initially a distinction was made between border and internal (Russian: "приграничные" и "внутренние") MDs. With a decree of the People's Commissariat for Defence dated May 17, 1935 the border districts were further divided between first line and second line (Russian: "лобовые" и "тыловые", literally "head" and "rear") MDs. A provision was put in force, grouping a first-line district with two second-line districts, according to which in wartime the first-line MD would form a Frontal HQ and the rear districts would prepare replacements for it. This grouping was called a "Strategic Direction". Another decree of the PCD from August 13, 1940 introduced further changes in the war plans. The distinction between first and second line border districts was abolished. The 16 Military Districts were divided between 8 districts bordering potential enemy states, which would in case of a war form Frontal HQs and 8 internal MD, which would form Separate Army commands.
Operational-Strategical None in peacetime Separate Army (Russian: Отдельная армия)
Operational Army (Russian: Армия)
Operational-Tactical Separate Corps (Russian: Отдельный корпус)
Operational-Tactical Corps Corps (Russian: Корпус)
Tactical Separate Division Separate Division (Russian: Отдельная дивизия)
Tactical Division Division (Russian: Дивизия)
Tactical (Separate) Brigade (Separate) Brigade (Russian: (Отдельная) Бригада)

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:

Formed from FRONT

(time period)

Commanders Reformed into
Baltic Special Military District Northwestern Front

(22.6.41. - 20.11.43.)

Fyodor Kuznetsov,

Pyotr Sobennikov,

Pavel Kurochkin,

Semyon Timoshenko, Ivan Konev

Western Special Military District Western Front

(22.6.41. - 15.4.44.)

Dmitry Pavlov,

Andrey Yeryomenko,

Semyon Timoshenko,

Ivan Konev,

Georgy Zhukov,

Vasily Sokolovsky,

Ivan Chernyakhovsky

3rd Belorussian Front
Kiev Special Military District Southwestern Front (I)

(22.6.41. - 12.7.42.)

Mikhail Kirponos,

Semyon Timoshenko,

Fyodor Kostenko

split between the

Southern Front and the Stalingrad Front

Leningrad Military District Northern Front

(24.6.41. - 26.8.41.)

Markian Popov split between the Leningrad Front and the Karelian Front
mobilised peacetime formations of the

Moscow Military District

Southern Front (I)

(25.6.41. - 28.7.41.)

Ivan Tyulenev,

Dmitry Ryabyshev,

Yakov Cherevichenko,

Rodion Malinovsky

North Caucasian Front
NKVD troops transferred to the Army (the STAVKA Reserve Armies Group) Reserve Armies Front

(14.7.41. - 29.7.41.)

Ivan Bogdanov


split between the Western Front and the newly formed Reserve Front
Moscow Military District Mozhaysk Line of Defence Front

(18 - 30.7.41.)

Pavel Artemyev


Reserve Front
Headquarters of the 4th Army & Right wing of Western Front Central Front (I)

(26.7.41. - 25.8.41.)

Fyodor Kuznetsov,

Mikhail Yefremov

heavy casualties inflicted by the main German spearhead, disbanded, what was left of the Central Front was absorbed into the Bryansk Front (I)
Reserve Armies Front Reserve Front (I)

(30.7.41. - 12.10.41.)

Georgy Zhukov,

Semyon Budyonny

merged with the Western Front
20th Rifle Corps and

25th Mechanized Corps

Bryansk Front (I)

(16.8.41. - 10.11.41.)

Andrey Yeryomenko,

Mikhail Petrov,

Georgiy Zakharov

Transcaucasian Military District and Sevastopol Defensive Area Transcaucasian Front (I)

(23.8.41. - 30.12.41.)

Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov Caucasian Front
Northern Front Leningrad Front

(27.8.41. - 24.7.45.)

Markian Popov,

Kliment Voroshilov,

Georgy Zhukov,

Ivan Fedyuninski ,

Mikhail Khozin,

Leonid Govorov

Leningrad Military District
Northern Front Karelian Front

(1.9.41. - 15.11.44.)

Valerian Frolov,

Kirill Meretskov

disbanded after Finland exited the war, Front HQ used for the formation of the Primorsky Army Group Field Command which ater became the 1st Far Eastern Front for the liberation of Manchuria
Mozhaysk Line of Defence Front Moscow Reserve Front

(9.10.41. - 12.10.41.)

Pavel Artemyev


absorbed into the Western Front
22, 29, 30 and 31st Armies of the Western Front Kalinin Front

(19.10.41. - 20.10.43.)

Ivan Konev,

Maksim Purkayev,

Andrey Yeryomenko

1st Baltic Front
mobilised reserves of the Moscow Military District Moscow Defence Zone

(3.12.41. - 1.10.43.)

Pavel Artemyev


after the German advance was stopped and the threat to Moscow was evaded, it became a training command for conscripts, its HQ was used to reestablish the Belarussian Military District in October 1943
left flank of the Leningrad Front and STAVKA Reserve formations Volkhov Front (I)

(17.12.41. - 23.4.42.)

Kirill Meretskov reintegrated into the Leningrad Front as its Volkhov Direction Army Group
Lt.-Gen. Kostenko's Task Group Bryansk Front (II)

(24.12.41. - 12.3.43.)

Yakov Cherevichenko,

Filipp Golikov,

Nikandr Chibisov,

Konstantin Rokossovsky,

Max Reyter

Reserve Front (II.)
Transcaucasian Front Caucasian Front

(30.12.41. - 28.1.42.)

Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov Crimean Front and Transcaucasian Military District
Caucasian Front Crimean Front

(28.1.42 - 19.5.42.)

Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov after its destruction its remnants absorbed into the North Caucasian Front
Transcaucasian Military District re-mobilised after the destruction of the Crimean Front Transcaucasian Front (II)

(15.5.42. - 25.8.45.)

Ivan Tyulenev Tbilisi Military District
remnants of the Crimean Front and the Southern Front North Caucasian Front (I)

(20.5.42. - 3.9.42.)

Semyon Budyonny Black Sea Army Group
Volkhov Direction Army Group of the Leningrad Front Volkhov Front (II)

(8.6.42. - 15.2.44.)

Kirill Meretskov disbanded
part of the Bryansk Front (II) Voronezh Front

(9.7.42. - 20.10.43.)

Filipp Golikov,

Nikolai Vatutin

1st Ukrainian Front
part of the Southwestern Front (I) Stalingrad Front (I)

(12.7.42. - 30.9.42.)

Semyon Timoshenko,

Vasiliy Gordov,

Andrey Yeryomenko

Don Front
part of the Stalingrad Front (I) Southeastern Front

(7.8.42. - 30.9.42.)

Andrey Yeryomenko Stalingrad Front (II)
Stalingrad Front (I) Don Front

(30.9.42. - 15.2.43.)

Konstantin Rokossovsky Central Front (II)
Southeastern Front Stalingrad Front (II)

(30.9.42. - 31.12.42.)

Andrey Yeryomenko Southern Front (II)
reserve formations Southwestern Front (II)

(25.10.42. - 20.10.43.)

Nikolai Vatutin 3rd Ukrainian Front
Stalingrad Front (II) Southern Front (II)

(1.1.43. - 20.10.43.)

Andrey Yeryomenko,

Rodion Malinovsky,

Fyodor Tolbukhin

4th Ukrainian Front (I)
reserve formations North Caucasian Front (II)

(24.1.43. - 20.11.43.)

Ivan Maslennikov,

Ivan Yefimovich Petrov

Separate Coastal Army
Don Front Central Front (II)

(15.2.43. - 20.10.43.)

Konstantin Rokossovsky Belarussian Front (I)
Bryansk Front (II) Reserve Front (II)

(12.3.43. - 23.3.43.)

Max Reyter Kursk Front
Reserve Front (II) Kursk Front

(23.3.43. - 27.3.43.)

Max Reyter Oryol Front
Kursk Front Oryol Front

(27.3.43 - 28.3.43.)

Max Reyter Bryansk Front (III)
Oryol Front Bryansk Front (III)

(28.3.43. - 10.10.43.)

Max Reyter,

Markian Popov

Baltic Front
41st Army Reserve Front (III)

(10.4.43. - 15.4.43.)

Markian Popov Steppe Military District
Steppe Military District Steppe Front

(9.7.43. - 20.10.43.)

Ivan Konev 2nd Ukrainian Front
Bryansk Front (III) Baltic Front

(15.10.43. - 20.10.43)

Markian Popov 2nd Baltic Front
Kalinin Front 1st Baltic Front

(20.10.43. - 24.2.45.)

Andrey Yeryomenko,

Ivan Bagramyan

Zemland Army Group under the 3rd Baltic Front
Baltic Front 2nd Baltic Front

(20.10.43. - 9.2.45.)

Markian Popov,

Andrey Yeryomenko,

Leonid Govorov

absorbed into the Leningrad Front
Central Front (II) Belorussian Front (I)

(20.10.43. - 23.2.44.)

Konstantin Rokossovsky 1st Belorussian Front (I)
Voronezh Front 1st Ukrainian Front

(20.10.43. - 10.6.45.)

Nikolai Vatutin,

Georgy Zhukov,

Ivan Konev

Central Group of Forces
Steppe Front 2nd Ukrainian Front

(20.10.43. - 10.6.45.)

Ivan Konev,

Rodion Malinovsky

Odessa Military District
Southwestern Front (II) 3rd Ukrainian Front

(20.10.43. - 15.6.45.)

Rodion Malinovsky,

Fyodor Tolbukhin

Southern Group of Forces
Southern Front 4th Ukrainian Front (I)

(20.10.43. - 15.5.44.)

Fyodor Tolbukhin disbanded, formations transferred to STAVKA Reserve
Belorussian Front (I) 1st Belorussian Front (I)

(24.2.44. - 5.4.44.)

Konstantin Rokossovsky Belorussian Front (II)
Northwestern Front 2nd Belorussian Front (I)

(24.2.44. - 5.4.44.)

Pavel Kurochkin absorbed into Belorussian Front (II)
1st Belorussian Front (I) Belorussian Front (II)

(6.4.44. - 16.4.44.)

Konstantin Rokossovsky 1st Belorussian Front (II)
Belorussian Front (II) 1st Belorussian Front (II)

(16.4.44. - 10.6.45.)

Konstantin Rokossovsky,

Georgy Zhukov

Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany
left flank of the Leningrad Front 3rd Baltic Front

(21.4.44. - 16.10.44.)

Ivan Maslennikov, disbanded, formations split between STAVKA Reserve, Leningrad Front, 1st Baltic Front and 2nd Baltic Front
10th Army 2nd Belorussian Front (II)

(24.4.44. - 10.6.45.)

Ivan Yefimovich Petrov,

Georgiy Zakharov,

Konstantin Rokossovsky

Northern Group of Forces
Western Front 3rd Belorussian Front

(24.4.44. - 15.8.45.)

Ivan Chernyakhovsky,

Aleksandr Vasilevsky,

Ivan Bagramyan

Baranovichy Military District
formations from STAVKA Reserve 4th Ukrainian Front (II)

(5.8.44. - 31.7.45.)

Fyodor Tolbukhin,

Ivan Yefimovich Petrov,

Andrey Yeryomenko

Carpathian Military District
Notes: (I), (II) and (III) represents the time the designation was used.

For constituent armies see List of Soviet armies.

Soviet fronts after World War II

The Soviet Army maintained contingencies for establishing fronts in the event of war. During the Cold War, fronts and their staffs became groups of Soviet forces in the Warsaw Pact organization. The front was to be the highest operational command during wartime. Though there was no front ever established during peacetime 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]


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 mobilization-only organization.

Citations and notes

  1. FM 100-2-3, The Soviet Army: Troops, Organizations, and Equipment, June 1991
  2. Viktor Suvorov, Inside the Soviet Army: Fronts, Hamish Hamilton, 198x
  3. Erickson 1975
  4. Glantz, 2005, p.495
  5. US Army FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organization, and Equipment


  • 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

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