The 4th Guards Rifle Division was formed on Sept. 18, 1941 from the 161st Rifle Division as one of the original Guards formations of the Red Army, in recognition of that division's participation in the successful counter-offensive that drove German forces out of their positions at Yelnya. The division then moved northwards to serve in the defense of Leningrad, as well as the early attempts to break that city's siege, but later was sent to the deep southern part of the front, where it continued to serve for the duration, ending the war at Vienna. The division was disbanded in 1946.
The 4th Guards was one of several Guards rifle divisions created in the aftermath of the fighting for Yelnya. Unlike later Guards divisions, its regiments and battalions retained their previous numbers with "Guards" added, as, for example: "477th Guards Rifle Regiment". On Feb. 9, 1942 these were all re-designated, and its order of battle became as follows:3rd Guards Rifle Regiment from 477th Rifle Regiment
8th Guards Rifle Regiment from 542nd Rifle Regiment
11th Guards Rifle Regiment from 603rd Rifle Regiment
23rd Guards Artillery Regiment from 632nd Howitzer Regiment
9th Guards Antitank Battalion from 135th Antitank Battalion
14th Guards Sapper Battalion from 154th Sapper Battalion
7th Guards Reconnaissance Battalion from 245th Reconnaissance Battalion
17th Guards Antiaircraft Battery from 475th Antiaircraft Battalion
5th Guards Signal Battalion from 422nd Signal Battalion
At around the same date, the division also received the 16th Guards Mortar Battalion (82mm and 120mm mortars).
After a short period for rebuilding the 4th Guards was railed, along with its "sister" 3rd Guards Rifle Division, northwards to join the recently formed 54th Army in October, holding positions to the east of Leningrad. German forces had cut off and isolated that city on Sept. 8. The 4th Guards was earmarked to take part in the First Sinyavino Offensive beginning on Oct. 20, but this was preempted by the German offensive on Tikhvin. The division was quickly shifted to 4th Army; beginning on Oct. 27 and again on Nov. 4 - 6 it launched attacks which slowed but did not stop the German advance. By Nov. 8 Tikhvin had fallen, but the German XXXIX Motorized Corps was vastly overextended with a tenuous line of supply. 4th Guards was made part of the Southern Operational Group of 4th Army, and commenced its counter-attack on the 19th. Progress was slow, but on Dec. 8 the weakened German forces evacuated the town, and the division took part in the pursuit to the Volkhov River.
4th Guards would spend the next eight months in fighting along the Volkhov. In late January, 1942, it was transferred to 59th Army and took a supporting role in the opening stages of the ambitious Lyuban Offensive Operation, attempting to expand the penetration of 2nd Shock Army across the river with an attack alongside 65th, 327th and 372nd Rifle Divisions on Jan. 27, but made little progress. In late March, while still under 59th Army, the division joined 372nd and 24th Guards Rifle Divisions, plus two rifle and one tank brigades, to form an operational group under Mjr. Gen. I.T. Korovnikov intended to attack northwards to link with 52nd Army and clear the supply routes to 2nd Shock; by Mar. 30 a tenuous gap 3 – 5 km wide had been cleared. On Apr. 1 the operational group's headquarters was used to form 6th Guards Rifle Corps, and 4th Guards was drawn into reserve in the village of Selishchenskii for replenishing and refitting.
By the beginning of May, 2nd Shock was once more effectively cut off, and Lt. Gen. M.S. Khozin of Leningrad Front was proposing that 6th Guards Corps be refitted and break through to the encircled army to make it possible to complete the advance on Lyuban. Yet another narrow corridor was forced through the German cordon, but on May 16 the 4th Guards, along with the 24th Guards and most of the rest of their corps were obliged to withdraw eastwards again. The division was moved, with its corps, to Volkhov Front in July, then left the corps and was dispatched south to join, briefly, 1st Guards Army, and shortly thereafter 21st Army in Stalingrad Front in August.
This formation of Stalingrad Front was renamed Don Front on Sept. 30. In October, 4th Guards was transferred, this time to 65th Army, still in Don Front. In this army it took part in Operation Uranus as part of the northern pincer that broke through Romanian Third Army and helped encircle the German forces at Stalingrad. Before the end of November the division was removed from 65th Army to Don Front reserves, then in December was reassigned to 5th Shock Army in Southwestern Front. It followed 5th Shock to South Front in January and would remain in that army until the end of 1943. By Feb. 21, 4th Guards was in second echelon of its army as it moved up to the Mius River line. On Mar. 3, 5th Shock was fortifying the scant bridgeheads it had taken on the west bank of the river, and the advance halted for the coming months. In April, the division became part of the 31st Guards Rifle Corps, and it would remain in that formation for the duration of the war.
In the summer of 1943 German Sixth Army was defeated on the Mius River line, and began to fall back to the Dniepr with South Front in pursuit. This front became 4th Ukrainian Front in October, and 4th Guards remained with it until nearly the end of the year, when it was reassigned, along with its corps, to 69th Army in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command. In January, 1944, the corps was moved again, to 46th Army in 3rd Ukrainian Front. During the Nikopol–Krivoi Rog Offensive the division was credited with the liberation of the Ukrainian town of Apostolovo on Feb. 4, and was later given its name as an honorific.
In early April, 4th Guards was approaching the lower reaches of the Dniestr River in second echelon of its corps, with orders to clear German forces from the town of Glinoe on the east bank, assault across the river at and to the south of Chebruchi, capture a German strong point and prepare to expand its bridgehead to the west. The east bank was cleared by late on Apr. 11 and on the 13th elements of 40th Guards Rifle Division managed to secure a small bridgehead south of Chebruchi, later reinforced by 34th Guards Rifle Division, but they were stymied in their attempts to take the town. On Apr. 20, 4th Guards, along with its two running-mates, made another attack on Chebruchi, but this collapsed immediately after it commenced. In the first week of May, all three divisions went over to the defense.
In August the division went back to the attack in the second Iasi-Kishinev Offensive, which destroyed the German Sixth Army (for the second time) and caused Romania to change sides. In September and October, 31st Guards Rifle Corps served in 2nd Ukrainian Front, still in 46th Army, but in November the corps went back to 3rd Ukrainian Front, now in 4th Guards Army. 4th Guards Rifle Division and its corps would serve under those commands for the duration. After participating in the Siege of Budapest, in the spring of 1945 the division advanced across the Hungarian plain and gained another honorific for the capture of Vienna. At the end of the war, the official title of the division was 4th Guards Rifle Apostolovo-Vienna Order of the Red Banner Division. (Russian: 4-я гвардейская стрелковая Апостоловско-Венская Краснознамённая дивизия.)
The division became part of the 25th Guards Rifle Corps and moved to the Tauric Military District during the spring of 1946. The division was stationed at Melitopol and disbanded in the fall of 1946.