Soviet Southern Group of Forces

Soviet troops stationed in Hungary, known as the Southern Group of Forces (SGF), were reported to consist of approximately 65,000 personnel.
Since April 1945, following the successful expulsion of the German army from Hungary, Soviet troops have maintained a stationed presence in the country. Their continued presence was initially necessitated by the need to safeguard communication channels with the Soviet forces occupying Austria, following Hungary’s signing of a peace treaty with the Allies in 1947.

Despite the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Austria in May 1955, the High Command of the newly-formed Warsaw Treaty Organization, which coincided with the signing of the Austrian treaty, requested the Soviet troops to remain stationed in Hungary (and East Germany, of course).

Installation of Soviet troops in Hungary Soviet Southern Group Forces

In May 1957, the Soviet-installed government under Kadar formally recognized the presence of Soviet forces in Hungary, a result of their occupation in 1956 (see Revolution of 1956, chapter 1). This agreement, known as Decree Having the Force of Law No. 54 of 1957, provided a legal basis for justifying the continued presence of Soviet troops. The rationale presented in the decree emphasized the defense against perceived NATO “aggression” and the rearmament of West Germany.

Notably, the agreement did not provide explicit details such as the exact number of Soviet troops, their specific deployment locations within Hungary, or the facilities provided to them. Such information may have been documented in a confidential annex. The publicly available version of the agreement stated that the Soviet troops would remain stationed “indefinitely” and that both parties needed mutual agreement for any modifications to the arrangement.


According to NATO estimates from November 1988, the Soviet troops stationed in Hungary, known as the Southern Group of Forces (SGF), were reported to consist of approximately 65,000 personnel. Under the leadership of Lieutenant General Aleksei A. Demidov, these forces were strategically aligned with the Group of Soviet Forces deployed in East Germany, the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, and the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia. Soviet Southern Group Forces

Southern Group Forces Headquarters Soviet Southern Group Forces

The SGF, with its headquarters based in Budapest, held command over several divisions strategically positioned throughout Hungary. These included the 13th Guards Tank Division located in Veszprem, the 2nd Tank Division stationed in Esztergom, the 253rd Motor Rifle Division situated in Szekesfehervar, and the 93rd Guards Motor Rifle Division positioned in Kecskemet.

These ground forces were further bolstered by an air assault brigade, five fighter regiments, two fighter-ground attack regiments, as well as various combat helicopter units and reconnaissance aircraft. In the event of a conflict with NATO, the SGF, along with Hungarian forces, would be integrated into the Southwestern Theater of Military Operations (known as TVD, or teatr voennykh deistvii).

Reduction of Soviet military presence Soviet Southern Group Forces

In December 1988, Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev made an announcement outlining a unilateral initiative by the Soviet Union to reduce its military presence in Eastern Europe. This reduction plan, which commenced in April 1989, was scheduled to be implemented over a two-year timeframe. As part of this process, specific units were earmarked for withdrawal.

These included the tank division stationed in Veszprem and its surrounding area, an armored training regiment, a paratroop battalion, an interceptor squadron stationed at Tokol airport in Pest County, a chemical defense battalion, and the SGF training school for non-commissioned officers (NCOs) located in Szolnok.

The planned partial withdrawal aimed to remove a substantial number of military assets from Hungary. This included 450 tanks, 200 artillery pieces, trench mortars, mine throwers, and 3,000 vehicles. Moreover, approximately 10,400 Soviet troops out of the total 65,000 stationed in Hungary were to be withdrawn. In April 1989, Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn expressed the possibility of removing all Soviet soldiers from the country by the first half of the 1990s.

On 19th of June 1991, the last Soviet soldier left Hungary, marking the end of the the country’s half-a-century-long foreign occupation that started by the German invasion on 19th of March 1944.

Soviet soldiers and the Hungarian society

The presence of Soviet troops in Hungary was characterized by a noticeable detachment from Hungarian society. They maintained a policy of non-interference in Hungarian affairs and, when they did appear in public, it was typically in limited numbers and restricted locations. The relationship between the Hungarian population and the Soviet soldiers was generally marked by a lack of affinity. The Hungarians, as a whole, held a disposition of disfavor towards the Soviet troops and refrained from social interaction with them. Soviet Southern Group Forces 


The presence of this Soviet officer, frequently making trips to Hungary with numerous permissions granted by the Consular Section of the Soviet Embassy, can only be attributed to his role in escorting the Soviet soldiers across the Soviet-Hungary border to their designated military service location.

A fantastic document of cold war passport history. I also have a Soviet passport from an officer once stationed in East Germany (GDR). Such documents are very rare to find nowadays.



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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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