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Czechoslovakia: Soviet Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Armed Forces: Historical and Political Setting > Soviet Influence > Soviet Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia


Soviet influence within the armed forces became even stronger after 1968 because of the units left behind after the withdrawal of the main invasion forces. Resignations and purges eliminated the officers and NCOs who would have objected to the Soviet occupation, whereas those who remained on active duty and those recruited to replace losses were inclined to favor strong Soviet ties. In late 1987, nearly two decades after the invasion, five Soviet divisions were still stationed in Czechoslovakia and, to all outward appearances, Soviet influence was undiminished.

Soviet military units deployed outside the borders of the Soviet Union after World War II have been organized in groups rather than in fronts, which was the wartime designation of these major formations. Throughout the postwar era, the largest deployment of Soviet forces outside its borders has been the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany located in East Germany. Other groups were the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, the Southern Group of Forces in Hungary, and the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia. The Central Group of forces comprised two tank divisions, three mechanized infantry divisions, three missle brigades, an artillery brigade, and an airborne assault brigade. Total strength was about 85,000. Group headquarters was located in the town of Milovice, northwest of Prague. In October 1984, Colonel General Viktor Yermakov was named by Moscow to command the Central Group of Forces, replacing Lieutenant General Grigoriy Borisov, who had assumed command in January 1981.

Four of the five Soviet ground divisions in Czechoslovakia were stationed in the Czech lands (Milovice, Mlada Boleslav, Vysoke Myto, and Bruntal), while one was headquartered in Slovakia (Zvolen). Armaments in early 1987 included 1,500 main battle tanks, 650 artillery pieces, 90 multipurpose rocket launchers, and 300 front-line aircraft, including 120 helicopters. The aircraft inventory also included Su-25 ground attack airplanes. The Central Group of Forces also possessed fifty operational and operational-tactical nuclear missiles consisting of SS-21s, SS-22s, and SS-23s. The SS-21 sites included Zvolen, Topolcany, and Vysoke Myto in Slovakia, and at Plzen, Ceske-Budejovice, Mlada Boleslav, Susice, Milovice, Brod nad Dyji, Havlickuv Brod, Bruntal, and Tabor in the Czech lands. In 1983 the Czechoslovak government attempted to muster public support for the decision to install these missiles. The Czechoslovak citizenry, however, realizing that their country had now become a primary target in a future war, did not support the installation.

The Central Group of Forces is a legacy of the 1968 invasion; until that event, Czechoslovakia had had no Soviet troops stationed permanently within its borders. The degree of permanence of the Central Group of Forces has in the past appeared to be a matter of semantics. For several years after the invasion, the deployment was referred to officially as "temporary," and a commission for the Temporary Stationing of Soviet Forces on Czechoslovak Territory existed for at least the first ten years. The Soviet purpose in maintaining troop units of the magnitude of the Central Group of Forces is undoubtedly twofold: first, to avoid any future Dubcek-like deviations and, second, to increase substantially the strength of the Warsaw Pact on its westernmost frontier.

Data as of August 1987

Last Updated: August 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Czechoslovakia was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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