The 106th Guards Tula Red Banner Twice Order of Kutuzov Airborne Division, more generally referred to as the Tula Division, is one of the four airborne divisions that make up the bulk of the Russian Airborne Troops, the VDV (Russian: Воздушно-десантные войска, Vozdushno-desantnye voyska). Based in the city of Tula, to the south of Moscow, it is located within the Moscow Military District but does not fall within any of its command structures, as the VDV constitutes a separate branch (Rod) of the Russian armed forces (roughly comparable, for example, to the United States Marine Corps). As of 2005[update], its commanding officer is Major-General Andrey Serdyukov.
The Division was founded in January 1944 as the 16th Guards Airborne Division, and from then until the end of the Second World War fought in Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia (including in Prague), mostly with 38th Guards Rifle Corps of 9th Guards Army. It became the 106th Guards Rifle Division in December 1944, as all the original VDV divisions and brigades were being reconstituted as Guards Rifle formations. The Division's apparent honorifics are 'Red Banner, Order of Kutuzov', (Feskov et al 2004, p.74) though an early Western writer reported them as 'Dneipr-Transbaikal' at one point in its history.
As the attention of the Soviet leadership began to shift towards their ability to project force overseas, the need for a rapidly deployable force to spearhead large-scale operations became apparent and the VDV was once again built up as such an air assault force. The Tula Division, from that point until the present day, was to be one of the most frequently-used elements of it. Two of its regiments took part in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. As nationalist unrest grew in the southern republics of the USSR throughout the end of the 1980s, the division was deployed to Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1988 and to Fergana, Uzbekistan, in 1990. Throughout this time the division was commanded by General Alexander Lebed.
In 1991, an attempted coup against the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev took place in Moscow. As the coup faltered, and the plotters lost the initiative while support for Boris Yeltsin, the President of the Russian SFSR, grew, the plotters called in reinforcements from the Tula Division, in the form of a battalion from the 137th Parachute Landing Regiment. When they arrived, Lebed stated that he had orders to secure the Parliament building, where Yeltsin's supporters were barricaded. He did not, however, give the order for his men, equipped with BMD armoured vehicles, to launch an attack. This may have been because at that point in the coup, the Tamanskaya Division was in the process of switching its own allegiance from the plotters to the parliamentarians, but whatever Lebed's rationale, the episode helped to boost his own public profile immensely. Following the failure of the coup and the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1992, he was appointed commander of the Russian 14th Army in Moldova.