The Object 704 self-propelled gun was a prototype tank
utilising elements both the IS-2 and IS-3 tanks. It was designed to carry the
152.4 mm ML-20SM model 1944 gun-howitzer, with a barrel length of over 4.5
metres (29.6 calibers) and no muzzle brake. It had a maximum range of 13,000
metres. The self-propelled gun carried 20 rounds of two piece (shell and
charge) armour-piercing and high explosive ammunition. The armour-piercing
round, weighing 48.78 kg, had a muzzle velocity of 655 m/s. The rate of fire was
1-2 round/min. The secondary armament of the fighting vehicle consisted of two
12.7 x 108 mm DShK machine guns, one anti-aircraft and one co-axial. The
vehicle was well armoured, up to 320mm in places, which would have made it one
of the most impregnable vehicles of its type, the project was cancelled.
The tests of ISU-152 began in the spring of 1945 and did not
bring the desired results. Because of the large angles of the installation of
armor plates, the combat compartment was cramped. The lack of a muzzle brake
led to the recoil being increased by 900 mm, because of this the driver had to
be moved to the left upper part of the combat compartment. In addition, the
self-propelled gun with the ML-20SM gun could not carry troops on board. All
these shortcomings, as well as a number of other design flaws, led to the Object
704 model of 1945 being not accepted for service.
Only one was completed and this prototype is now preserved
in Kubinka Tank Museum.
Engine: 12-cylinder 4-stroke B-2IS engine of 520 hp [electric
starter ST-700] [The self-propelled gun was also equipped with two external
additional fuel tanks (each of 90 liters), not connected with the engine fuel
Transmission: 5-speed gearbox
Range: 220km road, 120km cross-country
Speed: 37 km/h (12 km/h off road)
Communication: 10RK-26 radio and TPU-4Bis-F intercom
During the remaining months of the war, Stalin referred
disparagingly to the German presence in Courland as ‘the largest prison camp in
the world’. But the Red Army wasn’t content to leave the Germans in peace, and
launched six major assaults on the bridgehead. If the Soviet leadership was
genuinely happy to tie down German divisions in this increasingly irrelevant
area, why was so much effort and blood spent in attempts to destroy Army Group
North? The answer probably lies in the fact that the Courland bridgehead formed
the last remaining piece of territory, occupied by the Germans, that Stalin
regarded as Soviet terrain. When he reassured Churchill and Roosevelt with
comments about wanting to restore pre-war borders, he meant the borders of
1941, not 1939 – and by that date, the Baltic states were part of the Soviet
By the end of 1944, the Red Army had launched three major
assaults on the southern flank of the Courland bridgehead. All of these attacks
– and three similar assaults in 1945 – were repulsed, with major losses on both
sides. Slowly, the Germans were driven back into their bridgehead, and as the
perimeter of the bridgehead shrank, German divisions were extracted and sent
back to Germany. But this trickle of soldiers could achieve little; most of
them disappeared into the inferno of the frontline. If the entire pocket had
been evacuated en masse, sufficient troops might have been made available to
intervene decisively, but Hitler would never have agreed to such a move.
Meanwhile, as the Red Army completed its encirclement of
Memel, three German divisions – 58th Infantry Division, 7th Panzer Division and
Grossdeutschland- scrambled to take up positions around the besieged city.
Rittmeister Kühn was commander of a Panzergrenadier battalion, and was ordered
on 10 October to secure Grossdeutschland`s left wing. When he reached his
assigned sector, he found none of the prepared positions he was expecting, and
ordered his men to improvise as best they could:
Scouting further north of the church I met a brave old
rural police sergeant who was standing in front of his pretty white cottage in
full war paint. He asked me rather timidly where our fighting troops were. When
I told him that was us, he asked if he might now be allowed to withdraw to
Memel, as he had received orders to fall back when the combat troops arrived. I
felt sorry for the old man, and I couldn’t help thinking about the fairy tale
about the steadfast tin soldier.
Kühn gave the old man permission to head for Memel. He then
came across some border guards, whom he promptly incorporated into his
battalion, much to their alarm. He needed every man he could get – even with
this small additional force, he could barely manage a two-man rifle pit or
machine-gun nest every 100m. He made contact with a coastal naval battery,
armed with eight 128mm guns, and arrangements were made for fire support. A
group of 60 Luftwaffe personnel appeared from the north, and were also
incorporated into the battalion.
The Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army and 43rd Army, which had
pursued the Germans to the city, launched their first assault, starting with a
heavy artillery bombardment on the southern and eastern defences at dawn on 10
October. Many local civilians – invalids, the elderly and the Hitler Youth –
had been mobilized in the ranks of the Volkssturm, and these inexperienced
soldiers, occupying reserve positions behind those held by the regular army,
endured the bombardment with varying degrees of stoicism. As daylight grew
stronger, bombers also joined the assault. In the meantime, the last refugee
columns from the Krottingen area struggled into Memel, picking their way
through the rubble-strewn streets. The city was engulfed in a dense cloud of
smoke, lit by the flashes of fresh explosions. For the refugees, it must have
seemed like a vision of hell.
When the assault began, the Wehrmacht units were ready for
it. As a result of the various formations that retreated into the city, there
were plentiful weapons and ammunition, and despite the limited time, good
preparations had been made for a coordinated defence. On Grossdeutschland`s
left flank, Kühn and his battalion came under attack during the day.
Late in the morning the half-tracks in Dargussen reported
enemy tanks approaching from the northeast. The observers in the church spire
also saw about 15 tanks moving west from the direction of Grabben. At first
everything remained quiet opposite the battalions front. In the afternoon …
enemy tanks attacked 1 Company’s position at the church from the north. The
spire was holed by shells and the artillery observers and the timberwork in
which they had positioned themselves began to give way. The valiant commander
of the 18-man-strong 1 Company, Feldwebel Zwillus, was almost killed by a
falling rafter. He sprinted into the rectory and, standing at the window, described
to me by telephone the course of the battle. He was interrupted when the tanks
began firing into the house and he had to lie down on the floor. An anti-tank
gun, which went into position at the last moment, knocked out the leading tank
right in front of the church. The rest remained beyond the stream that ran
north of the church. The only way across the stream for the tanks was a small
bridge at the policeman’s house, and consequently they had little opportunity
Three German assault guns arrived shortly afterwards, and
the position stabilized. Elsewhere in the Panzergrenadier regiment’s sector,
the first wave of ‘Soviet’ attackers turned out to be Lithuanian civilians,
collected together by the advancing Soviet forces and now ordered to charge
into the German lines. Behind them were tanks, which were swiftly knocked out
by naval gunners and Grossdeutschland’s remaining Tigers.
The Soviet infantry, with tanks in close support, repeatedly
achieved penetrations into the German lines, only to be thrown back by
determined counter-attacks. Off the coast, the Kriegsmarine intervened in the
shape of the pocket battleship Lützow and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen: ‘[They]
delivered astonishingly rapid salvoes from their enormous turrets with clearly visible
effect. The physical destruction and damage to morale had as much effect on the
Russian soldiers as the strength of the frontline soldiers’ defensive fire.’
Almost without exception, German first-hand accounts of the fighting in the
closing phases of the war in the east give high praise to the fire support
provided by the Kriegsmarine. The accuracy and range of the warships’ guns were
phenomenal, as was their striking power. The effect on morale of these ships
lying off the coast was enormous. They had sufficient anti-aircraft guns to
make attacks on them by Soviet planes a tough prospect, particularly as, unlike
their British, German, American and Japanese counterparts, the Soviet Air Force
had few formations that specialized in anti-warship operations. The failure of
the Soviet Red Banner Fleet, based near Leningrad, to intervene in any way
other than limited submarine operations is curious. At this stage of the war it
possessed a battleship, two cruisers and 17 destroyers and torpedo boats; had
the Soviet fleet made a serious attempt to disrupt German shipping, the entire
course of the campaign would have been different. Although there is little hard
evidence to support the hypothesis, one can speculate that this restraint was a
deliberate policy – Stalin wished to drive the Germans, soldiers and civilians
alike, out of East Prussia, and therefore saw no point in closing their one
escape route. Furthermore, many Soviet naval personnel had been re-assigned to
land-based units during the long fighting around Leningrad, and it is unlikely
that all of these warships would have been operational.
The assault raged for three days. Positions changed hands
several times – the estate at Paugen, just outside Memel, was lost and retaken
by the Germans three times before they finally had to concede it to the Red
Army. Eventually, on 12 October, the fighting died down, and the exhausted
soldiers on both sides could take stock. The frontline had hardly moved.
Bagramian must have hoped that a swift, powerful attack coming hard on the
heels of the often chaotic German retreat to the coast would secure the city
quickly; instead, the defenders made his assault formations pay a heavy price
for minimal gains.
Both armies strove to resupply their frontline formations.
Freighters continued to arrive at the bombed-out Memel docks, unloading
precious ammunition and other supplies. The next great assault began on 14
October. The preparatory bombardment was even heavier than before, and lasted
for two hours, before the infantry, supported by tanks and assault guns, moved
forward. They were greeted by a tremendous tornado of fire from the defenders –
artillery, tanks, coastal guns, anti-aircraft guns and the Kriegsmarine’s warships
all contributed. Again and again, the attackers penetrated deep into the German
defences, only to face furious counter-attacks. To the north of Memel, at
Karkelbeck, 58th Infantry Division faced the Soviet 179th and 235th Rifle
Divisions, and was forced to concede some ground, but everywhere else, the
German front held firm.
The 7th Panzer Division was involved in hard fighting to
restore the frontline where Soviet forces had made deep penetrations. Willi
Hegen was in one of the division’s few remaining Panthers:
We set off – our tank group was led by Leutnant Müller –
to the designated preparation area and waited for our deployment. At daybreak,
the damned Il-2s were also constantly aloft again. Meanwhile, there were ever
more attacks by enemy bombers, which dropped their loads on us. Our tank shook
on its springs from the heavy artillery fire. Smoke and dirt was hurled into
the air. Suddenly, the fire moved to our rear, and we knew that our foremost
lines had been overrun. There soon came an order to counter-attack and, knowing
the frontline positions in the Löllen-Paugen-Klausmühlen sector well from the
fighting of the last few days, we ran into Russian assault guns and tanks after
a few hundred metres. We were the lead vehicle and were able to deal with two
assault guns in the moment of surprise. The vehicles of our battlegroup that
were following were also successful, shooting up several Russian tanks. …
Slowly, guarding to either side, we rolled forward over
an open meadow, of the sort that you often find in this terrain of dunes. This
meadow was about a kilometre wide, bordered by a small wood. We advanced slowly
over the open ground and drove the enemy from our former positions. Just before
the wood, they mounted greater resistance and we drove into a firebreak. Our
battlegroup still had four or five tanks, which came under increasing tank fire
from the left flank. Unteroffizier Behren’s tank, which was on our left flank
during the attack, reported a hit, as a result of which the viewport (which was
made of armoured glass in the Pz. IV) shattered into the driver’s face. We were
at the firebreak, under fire from the Russians, and we could not see into the
We therefore withdrew a little to one side and tried with
our collective fire to pin down the enemy who was firing on us. After a while,
our second tank was set ablaze. Suddenly, at about 2 o’clock to our right, next
to the wood, we saw a Stalin organ that had been brought forward, firing its
projectiles. The turret was swiftly turned – which was easily done with the
hydraulic traverse of the Panther, and we fired a couple of high-explosive
rounds at about 1,600 metres. This resulted in the rockets flying off like at a
When we turned our turret back towards the enemy who was
firing at us, we saw a Pz. IV of the Waffen-SS ablaze; it had accompanied our
battlegroup in our counter-attack. But we still couldn’t make out the enemy
tank that was firing on us from a well-camouflaged position, let alone engage
it. At that moment, Leutnant Müller cried: ‘Quick, there – a T-34 in the
firebreak.’ It was moving very carefully and slowly out of the firebreak, in
order to bring its gun to bear on us. The turret was turned – and the Russian
tank was barely 50 metres from us. We fired, and missed – in my haste, I had
forgotten to take my foot off the turret traverse pedal. But quick as a flash,
the loader inserted another round, I fired, and the T-34 exploded.
We had never before seen so clearly the law of war: ‘you
There was no time for celebration. There was smoke
everywhere. In front and around us were the impacts of tank rounds. We were the
last tank from the counter-attack in an advanced position in this sector and
our driver, Jackl Schneeberger, turned and drove away in zigzags. The turret
was swiftly turned to 6 o’clock, and then there was a dreadful impact and the
fighting compartment filled with flames. Our driver, radio operator and loader
bailed out immediately. Leutnant Müller didn’t stir, and the gunner, for whom there
was no hatch in a Panther, could only get out through the commander’s cupola.
So I had to shove the commander, Leutnant Müller, out until I could exit
myself. As I came out of the cupola, I saw Leutnant Müller, who had partly
recovered from his daze and confusion, running away from the tank. I leapt from
the tank in one bound and ran away from it; I had gone barely 30 metres before
it exploded behind me. The cloud of debris hurled us to the ground. We found
ourselves in no-man’s land and sought out a little cover. Here, we found that
apart from singed hair and a few small burns, none of us was wounded.
Everywhere, Soviet infantry with heavy tank support pressed
home its attacks. The few remaining German tanks were sent back and forth to
stiffen the defensive line. Willi Friele was the driver of another of 7th
Panzer Division’s Panthers, and by the afternoon his tank, commanded by a
Leutnant Hopfe, had already accounted for nine enemy tanks, including a Josef
Stalin, which sustained no fewer than eight hits before its crew bailed out.
The Panther was now assigned a new task: At the end of this defensive
action, we received an order from Hauptmann Brandes: ‘324 (our turret number),
drive left and take up a position. There’s an infantry platoon amongst the
ruined houses, expecting a new armoured attack.’
We set off and came across a Feldwebel and the remnant of
his platoon there. They were delighted that we were taking up position with
them, as they could hear constant Russian tank engines and track noises from
enemy tanks driving around. The infantry’s fear of a new Russian tank attack
didn’t please us, though, as we had fired off almost all our armour-piercing
Late in the afternoon came the desperately awaited
supplies of ammunition and fuel. When Leutnant Hopfe told the infantrymen that
we had to drive off in order to refuel and take on ammunition, there was
near-chaos. They were fearful that we were withdrawing and going to leave them
alone. All our explanations achieved nothing, and some even threatened to lie
down in front of our tracks if we tried to drive away. We stayed with the poor
Landsers rather than leave them. Overjoyed, they fetched us fuel and ammunition
from the supply vehicles. We remained overnight with our new friends, on guard,
and the next morning, when everything remained quiet, we pulled back to our
start-line at the Klemmenhof estate and then back to the Bachmann estate.
The defenders reported they had destroyed a total of 66
Soviet tanks and assault guns during this latest assault, bringing the total of
claimed ‘kills’ since the siege began to 150. As darkness fell over the ruins,
the Red Army called off its attack. The toll on both armies was heavy. Swiftly,
the opposing sides repaired the damage to their lines, and prepared for more
fighting. The next – and last – attempt to storm Memel came on 23 October. It
was the least powerful attack, and once more it was beaten off.
The fighting had exhausted the defending formations. The 7th
Panzer Division was reduced to barely more than a regiment in strength, while
the other two divisions, Grossdeutschland and 58th Infantry Division, could
only field 40 per cent of their paper strength. Both sides went over to
positional warfare. The Germans constructed extensive bunker positions, and
improvised additional artillery from 7th Panzer Division’s Panther tanks; there
was a shortage of armour-piercing ammunition, but plentiful supplies of
high-explosive rounds. Four tanks were positioned on a reverse slope, and fired
into the Soviet-held hinterland. Sceptical artillery observers were asked to
look out for the fall of shot, and were astonished by the range and accuracy of
the 75mm guns. The Soviet forces came to dread them, as their muzzle velocity,
far higher than that of conventional artillery, meant that there was no warning
whistle of an incoming shell. This gave opportunities to use them against
From intercepted radio signals, it was possible a week
later to learn that an award ceremony for decorated [Soviet] frontline soldiers
had been ordered, to be held in a warehouse in front of our sector. Even the
time of the ceremony was included in the message.
During the next day, the batteries fired without
particularly targeting this location. The warehouse was plastered with a
concentrated bombardment at the last moment. The award ceremony was ended
before it even began. This example showed the results of the enemy’s
carelessness with radio communications.
The Courland armies were entirely dependent on their
maritime connection with the Reich for supplies. The loss of the Baltic islands
close to Riga had effectively broken the German anti-submarine barriers that
held back the Red Banner Fleet’s submarines, but most attacks on German
shipping were by Soviet aircraft. The pressure on German shipping, which had
been minimal for much of the year, grew steadily. In the first eight months of
1944, total German shipping losses in the eastern Baltic amounted to 17 ships,
totalling about 31,000 tonnes. In the remaining four months 53 ships with a
total displacement of over 122,000 tonnes were sunk, mainly by air attacks.
The Füsilier was a transport ship that relayed elements of
58th Infantry Division to Memel from Riga, and subsequently shuttled up and
down the coast, bringing supplies into Memel and taking away wounded. On 19
November, the ship set off from Pillau with about 250 soldiers aboard, mainly
personnel returning to the front from leave. With a single escort, the Füsilier
made the run to Memel at night, but in poor visibility the following morning
was unable to make out the entrance to the port. A soldier from Memel who
happened to be aboard went to the bridge to say that, based on his knowledge
and what he could see of the coast, they had already passed Memel. The captain
ordered the ship to turn towards the open sea, to avoid Soviet artillery
batteries that were known to be on the coast north of Memel. At almost the same
moment the coast was lit up by muzzle flashes as Soviet gunners opened fire on
the Füsilier. The steamer was rapidly left powerless, and drifted slowly north
along the coast, under constant bombardment. The ship’s three lifeboats took
off as many men as they could, and as the remainder attempted to find lifebelts
and other means of escape, Soviet aircraft attacked and inflicted further
The ship swiftly sank, at which point the Soviet fighters
turned their attentions to the lifeboats. One had already disappeared, and a
second was now shot up and destroyed. The third survived repeated attacks, and
led by the soldier from Memel its occupants sailed it through the day and
following night to Libau. The ordeal of the exhausted men and two women in the
lifeboat wasn’t over; high waves smashed it against the pier, capsizing it. Ten
perished in the freezing water, and only 13 made it to safety.
Both sides began to run down their forces in and around the
Memel bridgehead. The 7th Panzer Division was ordered to leave at the end of
October, followed by Grossdeutschland, which was to be reorganized as a Panzer
corps. They were replaced by 95th Infantry Division, which had fought at the
southern edge of the Soviet assault in early October and had been driven back
through Ragnit. After the briefest of pauses for recuperation, the weary
soldiers of the division were dispatched to the devastated city on the coast,
taking over the northern section of the city defences, with 58th Infantry
Division holding the southern perimeter. Despite fears that the Red Army would
take advantage of the winter to cross the frozen waterways around the city,
there was little major fighting around Memel until it was finally evacuated in
From the Soviet point of view, the offensive on Memel gained
its main objective, of isolating Army Group North. Inadequate reserves,
however, prevented opportunities on both flanks from being effectively
exploited; in the north, the ‘aggressive defence’ of Betzel’s 4th Panzer
Division also contributed to the rapid German stabilization. The assault on
Memel itself, too, was a failure, resulting in considerable Soviet casualties.
From the Soviet point of view, though, given the German setbacks during 1944,
there must have been a belief that German defences would be unable to withstand
a series of strong blows. The determined defence of Memel rapidly dispelled any
USSR Project 1134B Nikolayev 1972 Berkut B Kara class
USSR Project 1134BF Berkut B Azov Kara-class Cruiser
Being the Cold War opponent of the United States, the
Soviets continued to construct cruisers that could function as antiaircraft,
ASW, and as surface combatants to destroy NATO aircraft carriers. Between 1970
and 1978, 10 Kresta II-class cruisers, essentially a variant of the preceding
class that emphasized ASW, were completed. Another seven vessels of the
Kara-class were completed between 1973 and 1980, also designed primarily for
The Karas are enlarged gas-turbine powered versions of the
Kresta IIs. The extra size has been used to mount two retractable SA-N-4 SAM
twin launchers, and the heavy anti-aircraft armament has been increased in
calibre. The Karas could be distinguished from the Kresta IIs by their longer
hull and the large separate funnel necessitated by the use of gas turbines.
Compared with their contemporary American cruisers, the Soviet ships are much
more heavily-armed, but the long-range American ships have large and very
The Kara measured 570 feet by 60 feet, displaced 8,200 tons,
and could achieve a maximum speed of 34 knots through the use of its
gasoline-fueled turbine engines. The Kara and the other ships of the class were
the first cruisers in the world to use this type of propulsion. The need for
boilers to produce steam is obviated, as engines consume gasoline that was fed
directly into the engine. In addition to this propulsion, radar, sonar, and
missile systems were much improved. The Kresta II- and Kara-classes owed their
existence to the extreme threat that the Soviets attached to Western ballistic
missile submarines, which could launch nuclear weapons into the heartland of
the Soviet Union. The Kresta II Class, Soviet Designation Project 1134A, Berkut
A (golden eagle) were Soviet guided missile cruisers of the Cold War. The ships
entered service in the late 1960s and were rapidly decommissioned after the end
of the Cold War
Kerch was laid down in the Soviet Union on 30 April 1971,
launched on 21 July 1972 and was commissioned in the Soviet Black Sea Fleet on
25 December 1974. The ship was constructed in the 61 Kommunar Shipyard at
Nikolayev (Mykolaiv) on the Black Sea. She was in service with the Soviet Fleet
until 1991, and then joined its successor, Russian Navy. As of 2011 she is the
last active Kara-class cruiser. The ship is slated to remain in service till
Units: Nikolayev, Ochakov, Kerch, Azov, Petropavlovsk,
Type and Significance: Large Anti-Submarine Ships. These
were some of the more successful cruisers of the Soviet Navy.
Dates of Construction: The units were laid down between 1969
and 1976, with the last one being completed in 1980.
Hull Dimensions: 570′ x 60′ x 20′ 4″
Displacement: 8,200 tons
Armament: Two SS-N-14 ASW launchers, two SA-N-3 SAM
launchers, two SA-N-4 SAM launchers, four 3-inch guns, four 30mm Gatling guns,
10 20.8-inch torpedo tubes, two RBU-6000 ASW systems, two RBU-1000 ASW systems,
and one helicopter.
Machinery: Four gas turbines that generated 12,000
Troops of D Company, North Staffordshire Regiment, at the Mud Volcano.
Bolstered by 10,000 Armenians, Russians, Cossacks and Tartars of wildly
inconsistent reliability, the British at Baku found themselves defending a
shrinking perimeter against Nuri Pasha’s larger expeditionary force.
Britain’s main interest in the Baku region was the oil fields, such as
this complex at Binagadi.
On the plains of Central Asia, the men of ‘Dunsterforce’
fought Germans, Turks, Bolsheviks and Persian warlords with equal verve.
All had been quiet until about 10:30 a. m., when the British
defenders spotted a long line of about 1,000 Turkish infantry and cavalry
marching slowly at first, then more quickly toward their positions. Suddenly
the enemy struck the line with light and heavy artillery. Then all along the
ridge British machine guns began sputtering in response. Five times the Turks
lunged at the defenders, taking heavy casualties. At last, outflanked on the
north side of the volcano and coming under machine gun fire from the reverse
slope, the “Staffords” were forced to retreat to a secondary’
position among the oil derricks northeast of Baku. The final battle for the
city had begun-or so it seemed. In the confused seesaw situation in
Transcaucasia following the collapse of tsarist Russia, nothing could be taken
Although World War l’s principal area of conflict was in
Europe, the armies of Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Turkey and Japan also
fought in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Among the least known of those
scattered battlegrounds was what at that time was called Transcaucasia and
Transcaspia, an area occupied by the newly independent nations of Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia. There, secret agents from half a dozen powers prowled
the streets of such legendary cities as Samarkand, Kabul and Bukhara, seeking
allies and stirring up the native populations.
The Allies had suffered a major disaster when revolution
overtook Russia’s creaking empire. Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne on
March 15, 1917. At first the new government was determined to continue the war
against Germany, but then, almost in a flash, it was replaced by the more
radical Bolshevik faction. With the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk by
the Bolsheviks in March 1918, the Allies’ worst nightmare came true. Freed from
the Russian threat in the east, Germany was able to transfer the bulk of its
divisions to the Western Front.
Even worse, with the situation in revolutionary Russia still
unsettled, anarchy reigned throughout much of the country. In the Ukraine,
Georgia and Armenia, the Germans held sway, draining those lands of their
natural resources for shipment west. Soon they were eyeing the oil fields
around the city of Baku on the Caspian Sea.
Shortly before World War I broke out, London had ordered
India to station troops in the Persian Gulf to protect its oil fields and the
refinery at Abadan at the head of the gulf, in what is now Iran. When
hostilities began, the troops went ashore. After a long and arduous campaign,
the British finally occupied Baghdad on March 11, 1917. All their gains were
placed in jeopardy when the Bolsheviks took Russia out of the conflict, rendering
the vast landmass that stretched from the Black Sea to the Indian frontier
British spies throughout Central Asia began sending back
disturbing signals. German agents were at work in Afghanistan and Turkestan.
Turkey was seeking to take advantage of the civil chaos in the Turkic-speaking
lands bordering their empire to invade Transcaspia. Furthermore, London was
under the false impression that the Germans were on good terms with the new
regime in St. Petersburg, making Bolshevik agitation in Central Asia and the
German presence in Georgia and Armenia appear ominously coordinated.
Then in the spring of 1918 Enver Pasha, war minister,
commander in chief-and de facto ruler-of Turkey, began planning an offensive to
seize Baku and unite the Turkic-speaking peoples of Central Asia under Ottoman
rule. Enver Pasha had cannily bided his time after the revolution until the
demoralized Russian army stationed in northeastern Turkey simply melted away,
leaving the way to Baku invitingly open. Enver’s scheme did not sit well with
his German allies, however. When he ignored their request that he cancel the
invasion, the Germans turned to the Russians and offered to stop the Turks in
return for guaranteed unlimited access to Baku’s oil.
Some months before the Turkish invasion, the British,
fearing a Russian withdrawal from Transcaucasia, decided to send a mission to
the Georgian city of Tiflis, to help stiffen local resistance to the Germans.
By the time that expeditionary’ force, called “Dunsterforce” after
its commander, Maj. Gen. Lionel C. Dunsterville, reached the area, Tiflis and
most of Transcaucasia was in German hands. The mission’s parameters were
changed to fit the new scenario: Now Dunsterforce would seek an accommodation
with local revolutionary elements at Baku in an effort to deny it to the Turks,
and do what it could to aid a second mission operating farther west in
Dunsterville, a boyhood friend of Rudyard Kipling and the
inspiration for the character Stalky in Stalky and Co., Kipling’s novel about
their schooldays together, was fluent in Russian and had commanded the 1st
Infantry Brigade on India’s Northwest Frontier until he received secret orders
to report lo Delhi. There, he learned the details of his new assignment. Together
with a handful of 200 officers and NCOs and a small train of armored vehicles with
supplies, he was to proceed north from Baghdad to the Caspian Sea. From there,
his force would go to Tiflis and form the nucleus of a reorganized Russian
force meant to restore the Allied line facing the Turks.
Dunsterville arrived in Baghdad on January 6, 1918, to find
orders, maps and intelligence reports awaiting him-but no army. Three weeks
later only 12 officers, a number of Ford vans and a single armored ear had
joined him, but Dunsterville decided to carry out the first part of his orders
and clear the road to Enzeli, on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, hoping
the rest of his modest force would follow him in good time.
Although Dunsterville’s orders seemed clear-cut, no one knew
much about the military situation in the Transcaucasus. In fact, a Turkish
military mission, headed by Enver Pasha’s brother, Nuri Pasha, had arrived al
Tabriz, in what is now northern Iran, in May 1917 and was organizing a Caucasus-Islam
army, sometimes referred to by Enver as his “Army of Islam,” to bring
Azerbaijan under Ottoman rule. Soon afterward, an advance column of 12,000 men,
commanded by Mursal Pasha, was making its ponderous way toward Baku. Germans
and Turks controlled most of the local railways, and Persian revolutionaries
called Jangalis, led by warlord Mirza Kuchik Khan, terrorized the Enzeli road.
Meanwhile, in Baku, the revolutionary central committee had reached an impasse,
split between factions loyal to the Russian government at Petrograd, those
eager to join with the Turks, and Armenians sympathetic to the British.
Not all the news was bad for Dunsterville, however. When the
Russian army was ordered back north, Colonel Lazar Bicherakov decided to remain
behind with several hundred of his Cossacks. They eventually attached
themselves to Dunsterforce, which had spent the three weeks since its departure
from Baghdad crossing the jungles of Gilan province and plowing its way through
mountain passes filled with 12-foot snowdrifts and stray Jangalis. At last the
force arrived in Enzeii, where the local Soviets insisted that Russia was out
of the war and did not want anything to do with the British, including helping
them to reach Baku.
That initially cool reception soon turned dangerous for
Dunsterville. The local Persian population surrounded and threatened to
massacre his small force. With only a single armored car to impress 2,000
Bolshevik soldiers and 5,000 rowdy Persians, Dunsterforce slipped away one
night and made its way back south to the town of Hamadan, about halfway from
Enzeli to Baghdad.
At Hamadan the British established temporary headquarters
and a defensive line that consisted mostly of bluff until it was joined by
Bicherakov’s Cossacks, who were disappointed to discover just how weak
Dunsterforce really was. As winter gave way to spring and summer, however, the
rest of Dunsterville’s men began to arrive, including two Martinsyde G. I00
Elephant bombers of No. 72 Squadron, flown by Lieutenants M. C. McKay and R. P.
Pope, which went a long way to improve morale and impress Dunsterforces local
allies. At last, with the force’s assigned complement of officers and the
addition of a mobile force of 1,000 rifles of the 1/4 Hampshire Regiment and
the 1/2 Gurkhas with two mountain guns, Dunstewille felt strong enough to move
forward to clear the Enzeli road once and for all of Kuchik Khan’s guerrillas,
who had seized the Menjil Bridge, a vital position on the way north.
Bicherakov had been agitating to attack the Turkish
sympathizers for weeks, but Dunsterville had hesitated, fearing Kuchik Khan
might be too much for the intemperate Cossacks. Finally he could put off the
impatient Bicherakov no longer, and after talks with Kuchik Khan failed, plans
were made to attack his positions at Menjil.
On June 11, Bicherakov left Dunsterville’s forward position
at Qazvin, Iran, at the head of his Cossacks and elements of the 14th Hussars.
At first light on June 12, the Cossacks started for the bridge expecting a hard
fight, but as the Martinsydes flew over the enemy positions, their pilots
discovered that the Jangalis had failed to occupy a key ridge commanding their
lines. Bicherakov quickly took the ridge and sited his artillery. A German adviser
with Kuchik Khan, realizing the importance of that move, called a truce and tried
to bluff a victory from certain defeat, but Bicherakov refused his advances and
pressed the attack. Almost immediately the Jangalis broke and ran, leaving
scores of dead and wounded behind.
With the bridge secured, Bicherakov, supported by mobile
units from Dunsterforce, continued northward to the provincial capital at
Resht, just south of Enzeli, where on July 20 he routed the remnants of Kuchik
Khan’s Jangalis in a final battle. Meanwhile, Dunsterville had established his
headquarters at Qazvin, about midway between Enzeli and Hamadan.
More reinforcements reached Qazvin in July, including a
group from the Royal Navy under Royal Naw Commodore David Norris, who brought
with him several 4-inch guns. That happy event was dulled, however, by news of
Bicherakov’s defeat east of Baku by the Turks, who had run off the newly formed
Red Army and captured an armored car and its British crew, which had been on loan
from Dunsterforce. By the end of the month. Mureal Pasha’s force was outside
Baku. Then the Turks suddenly departed. The reason was never made clear, but
the alerted German occupation forces may have posed a threat to their
flanks-though that threat proved to be nothing more than a rumor. At almost the
same time, the Baku Soviet was deposed and the new regime decided to make
contact at Qazvin with the British, who in the meantime had received permission
from London to occupy Baku.
After stressing to Baku’s new rulers, who somewhat
grandiosely called themselves the Central-Caspian Dictatorship, that the
British could only provide help on a small scale, Dunsterville sent Colonel C.
B. Stokes to Baku with 44 men of the 4th Hampshires. They arrived just in time
to help repel a desultory attack by elements of the Turkish army that had been
Two days later, Colonel R. Keyworth arrived with the 7th
North Staffordshires to organize the city’s defense. He found only a few
defenses there, all sited improperly. Nobody knew what supplies were available
or where they were located. There was little food, fodder or oil. Worst of all,
the local soldiery was little better than a disorganized mob.
Receiving this disheartening news back at Enzeli,
Dunsterville was moved to commandeer three local ships, President Krüger, Abo
and Kursk, and arm them with heavy guns, thus providing the means to evacuate
his men from Baku if the need arose. Dunsterville himself landed on August 16,
along with a battalion each of the understrength 9th Warwickshire and 9th
Worcestershire regiments, which were immediately sent into the thin defensive
line around the city. Dunstenville then met with the town’s new rulers to
impress upon them the fact that although every effort would be made to prepare
their men for battle, they could not depend solely on Dunsterforces 1,000 or so
men to defend Baku.
Ten days later, Nuri Pasha, learning that the Germans had no
men to spare in trying to stop him-even if they contemplated so extreme a move
against their ally-once again ordered advance elements of his 60,000-man army
to move on Baku. The British had used every day following their arrival to
assemble the city’s stocks of weapons and ammunition and organize an army of
10,000 men. With all they had accomplished in the short time at their disposal,
however, the British knew that Baku could not withstand a determined attack.
Their 7,000 Armenian conscripts were unreliable, the 3,000 Russian troops would
break and run at a moment’s notice and the Tartar population only waited for a
Turkish victory to rise up and slaughter the defenders.
The Tu-12 was the last derivative of the Tu-2, but this was
not just another variant of a well-tried theme. It was also, better perhaps,
known as the Tu-77, really as a follow-on of the ANT numbering sequence. The
VVS gave it the designation Tu-12.
The Tu-12 was the Soviet Union’s first jet bomber. Tupolev
intended it as an interim measure to develop later aircraft and to train crews
in the handling of larger jet aircraft. Sergei Yeger, working under Tupolev’s
supervision, led the programme. He took the basic Tu-2 fuselage, wings and
tailplane, and adapted them only for the higher speeds of a jet. It was one of
very few jets of the 1940s to feature a twin tail. The undercarriage was
changed from a tailwheeler to a tricycle, and under the wings were fitted
Rolls-Royce Derwent engines; for several years after the war, the British
government allowed engines, and some other aviation components, to be sold to
the USSR. Although Soviet designers were hurriedly developing jet engines, by
the time of the Tu-12 in 1947 even MiG-15s were using either Rolls-Royce
engines or licence-built copies of them. Only Lyulka’s jet engines were of Soviet
design and manufacture, and these at that time had hardly half the power of the
Nenes fitted on the Tu-12, which gave a static thrust of 2,270kp/5,0041b. The
first Tu-12 was built at factory N156, the new title for the former KOSOS TsAGI
works attached to the design offices. It was completed in May 1947, and after
transfer to Zhukovski and reassembly, Aleksei Pereliot flew it on its first
flight on 27 June. There were no major difficulties found in the test
programme. For an interim aircraft its performance was reasonable: maximum
speed was 783kph/487mph, range was 2,200km/1,367 miles, and its service ceiling
was 11,300m/37,075feet. The VVS accepted the prototype Tu-12, and production
began at factory N23 in Moscow with an order for five. However, only three were
These were completed by 1950, and were used by the Air Force
in a training role for a short while. One was used as a flight test aircraft by
the LII for experimental work with rocket engines, which were mounted on a
pylon above the centre fuselage.
The work done on the Tu-72, -73, -74, -78 and -79 projects
were all stages in the development of Soviet jet bombers. Next step was the
Tu-81, which would later enter service with the VMS (Voenno Morskie Sili =
Navy) as the Tu-14.
Sergei Yeger was again programme leader, but the Tu-81 went
back to the twin-engined Tu-72 rather than stay with the three-engined designs
of the Tu-73, -74, -78 and -79. This came about because of Klimov’s improved
Nene/RD-45, the VK-1, which offered an increase in power from the 2,270kp/5,004lb
static thrust of the Rolls-Royce Nene and the RD-45 to 2,740kp/6,040lb, which,
combined with a lower empty weight, allowed the third engine to be omitted.
Work on the design and construction began in July 1944.
Tupolev and Yeger aimed to keep the aircraft as light as possible, so an
uncomplicated result was achieved. Still showing some considerable resemblances
to the Tu-72, the Tu-81 was a mid-winged twin-jet bomber still without wing
sweep. It was completed in factory N156 in 1948, and its first flight was made
on 13 October 1949. State tests were completed by autumn 1950, and the aircraft
was approved for production under the military designation Tu-14T for a VMS
role as a torpedo carrier.
Test results showed the Tu-14T as having a performance of
860kph/534mph, a range of 3,000km/1,864 miles, and a service ceiling of 11,200m/36,747
feet. Some eighty-seven aircraft were built in Irkutsk between 1950 and 1952,
and the first examples entered service in 1951. They were armed with two
fixed-fire NK23 cannons and two machine-guns mounted on a tail turret. It
served in a patrol role, with the ability to bomb naval targets.
Soldiers of the Don Army in 1919; a White infantry division in March 1920; soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Army; Leon Trotsky in 1918; hanging of workers in Yekaterinoslav (Dnipro) by the Austro-Hungarian Army, April 1918.
The Bolsheviks’ victory in the Russian Civil War, was also made possible by the weakness of their enemies. The parties of the Right had never commanded many followers, and the centre-right Kadet party was hardly in a better state. The educated minority who opposed the revolution became more and more aware of their isolation as time went by. Gorn, an official active in the Baltic, was probably typical:
It would be a mistake
to think that Bolshevism was an alien element in Russia. Multi-million
illiterate Russia nurtured it, she bore it and belched it forth from inside
herself. The Russian intelligentsia was the thinnest film on the surface of the
Russian muzhik [peasant] ocean.
G. K. Gins wrote something similar after the disaster of the
Our culture was a
frail boat in the midst of a raging sea but we, the representatives of the
intelligentsia, argued among ourselves on the boat and did not notice the
elemental force coming at us. The ocean swallowed the boat, and us with it.
Paradoxically, the moderate agrarian socialists who tried to
swim in the ‘muzhik ocean’ also drowned. This was partly a failure of will and
organization, but it also came from a kind of peasant passivity, a passivity
that was a key to the outcome of the Civil War. The secret Soviet Tambov report
is useful here too. Even the kulaks, it noted,
the most cultured, the
most politically developed stratum . . . do not, in general, show any capacity
for raising their sights to thinking in terms of the state as a whole; their
economic [mental outlook] has not carried them . . . very far beyond the
outskirts of their villages or rural districts . . . without the guidance of
the parties of the industrial bourgeoisie this movement can lead only to
anarchical rioting and to bandit destruction.
The SRs were never able to mobilize peasant support, to
defend the Constituent Assembly, to oppose the ‘commissarocracy,’ or to counter
the pressure of the White generals.
Given the weakness of the anti-Bolshevik civilians, it is
not surprising that the soldiers took over. They alone had effective force.
‘Kto palku vzial, tot i kapral,’ ‘He who has the stick is the corporal,’ summed
up the power relationships in anti-Bolshevik Russia.
The Whites are sometimes said to have lost because petty
rivalries blocked a common military strategy. It is true that their attacks
were not coordinated, but this could not have been avoided. The difficulties of
communication were immense. The four White fronts – south Russia, western
Siberia, north Russia, the Baltic – were all far distant from one another; the
two main fronts, Denikin’s and Kolchak’s, were separated by a 10,500-mile
voyage around the Middle East and Asia, and then a 4000-mile rail trip across
Siberia. The fate of General Grishin-Almazov, captured and executed while trying
to take the ‘short’ route to Omsk across the Caspian Sea, showed the danger.
Denikin and Kolchak never met one another and could not have done so during the
Civil War. The various White armies simply launched their attacks as soon as
they were ready. There were sound reasons for this. With each month the Red
army became larger. The Allies would only give support if there were successful
White advances. Civil War armies did better on the offensive. The one serious
mistake of grand strategy was the failure of the Siberian and South Russian
armies to link up – either in the summer of 1918 or the summer of 1919, and at
the time there seemed good reasons for advancing in other directions. The
failure of the Poles to march in 1919 was also critical, although this was
outside White control.
The anti-Bolshevik democrats had a popular programme but few
military resources. The White generals and colonels had better armies but made
few promises to the population of their base territories and of the large
captured regions. This was partly because the Whites’ social foundation was the
property-owning minority (the tsenzovoe society). But it also came from their
very dislike of politics. The White leaders were narrow conservative
nationalists. Sakharov, one of Kolchak’s generals, summed up the White outlook
in his 1919 appeal to the Urals population: ‘Our party is Holy Russia, our
class is the whole Russian people.’ The Whites ignored parties and classes;
they thought, moreover, in terms not of revolution or even of civil war, but of
the likholet’e or smuta (time of troubles); the great smuta dated from the
early 1600s. Denikin entitled his massive memoirs Sketches of the Russian Time
of Troubles. One anti-Bolshevik Cossack politican, defending demands for
autonomy against the disapproval of the White generals, had to insist, ‘This is
not a smuta but a popular movement.’ But the Whites were even afraid of a
The Whites feared the people; paradoxically, they counted on
some vague popular upsurge to bring them victory. Sakharov again, talking about
the late autumn of 1919, was typical. If the rear would give his poorly
equipped army some support he would pursue the Reds back beyond the Urals.
And then the road to Moscow would be clear, then the whole people
would come over to us and stand openly under the Admiral’s banner. The
Bolsheviks and the other socialist filth would be destroyed – from the roots up
– by the burning rage of the popular masses.
But the Whites, unlike the Reds, made little effort to
mobilize the population in a political way, and their social and political
programme was not one that bred spontaneous popular support. Sakharov proudly
wrote that ‘the White movement was in essence the first manifestation of
fascism’ (he was writing in Munich, nine months after Mussolini’s March on
Rome). But this was distorted hindsight; the Whites lacked the mobilization
skills and relatively wide social base of the Italian or German radical Right.
Linked to narrow political horizons was another vital
drawback of White rule: arbitrary conduct by White authorities and a general
lack of order. The source of this was the crude nature of White ‘politics’ and
the lack of vital resources; civilian administrators, an enthusiastic
population, and time. The Whites also failed properly to organize their armies.
This may seem odd, given that the movement was dominated by military officers.
But they actually lacked properly trained military specialists, especially in
Siberia. The Cossacks gave them a major advantage in south Russia, but the Cossacks
were jealous of their own autonomy and fought best within their ‘host
territories.’ The Whites had only a small base of manpower and material
compared to Sovdepia. And, as was the case with general administration, they had
less time than the Reds to organize their forces.
The Whites, as Great Russian nationalists, were also opposed
to any concessions to the minorities. They had no tolerance for ‘the sweet
poisonous dreams of complete independence’ (Denikin’s words) of people such as
the Ukrainians, the Belorussians, the Baltic and Transcaucasian minorities.
Denikin was right when he said that his officers, Russian nationalists, would
not have fought for the ‘Federated Republic.’ Although the Whites were prepared
to accept some form of independence for Poland and possibility for Finland,
they could not agree to all the territorial claims of the Warsaw and Helsinki
governments. Polish action on the western border in 1919 might have made
possible the capture of Moscow, while Finnish support would certainly have made
Red Petrograd indefensible.
The Whites had little chance of winning. Certainly by 1920
Vrangel could only have won if there had been a catastrophic internal collapse
on the Soviet side. But even Kolchak and Denikin faced, from the winter of
1918–1919, a struggle against great odds. The Bolsheviks had had a year to
consolidate their position, they controlled most of the military resources of
old Russia, they had more popular support, and their forces outnumbered those
of the Whites by ten to one.
The ‘Russian’ Civil War was a three-cornered struggle.
Russian revolutionaries fought Russian counterrevolutionaries, but the national
minorities resisted both. The Civil War was about what would become of all the
peoples of the Empire. (And it was an internal affair; the only fighting
outside the old Empire was the 1920 Lvov campaign – in what had been Austrian
Galicia – and the 1921 Mongolian expedition.) Those regions that broke away
were among the ‘winners’ of the Civil War. They succeeded for various reasons.
Finland and Poland won their own independence. Bessarabia, five
Belorussian–Ukrainian provinces, and Kars Province had the pull of neighbouring
states (Rumania, Poland, and Turkey). Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were
helped by German and Allied forces. All benefited from the Red Army’s
preoccupation with other fronts. But more than 80 per cent of the former
subjects of the Tsar became citizens of the Soviet federation. Half of these
people were not Great Russians. The multinational Russian Empire, the famous
‘prison of peoples,’ did not break up, a remarkable development in an age of
Demographic, geographical, and cultural factors were
involved. The Great Russians outnumbered each individual minority by fifteen to
one or more (except in the case of the Ukrainians). Alliances that might have
countered this – the Transcaucasian Federation, the cossacks and their
southeastern allies, the Poles with the Ukrainians and Belorussians,
Pan-Turkism – remained only theoretical projects. The central provinces, the
Sovdepia heartland, were Russian-dominated. Even in the minority areas Russians
often controlled the towns and transport. The trained military leaders were
Russian, and the nature of Tsarism predetermined the minorities’ weakness, just
as it predetermined the weakness of Russian political parties. The
Petersburg-centreed Romanov autocracy had allowed little political or national
activity. Even in areas where the minorities came to see themselves as distinct
nations – and 1917 was a great awakener – they lacked the experience and the
time to create an effective administration.
Bolshevik Moscow’s social revolution attracted the
intelligentsia, workers, and peasants of the outlying regions. Bolshevik
national policy, too, seemed better than the ‘Russia, One and Indivisible’ of
the Whites, for whom cooperation with the ‘separatists’ was ruled out from the
start. It is hard to understand Richard Pipes’s view that the Bolsheviks were
‘the least qualified of all the Russian parties (save for those of the extreme
right) to solve the national problem.’ The Cossack politician who spoke of
‘Trotsky’s dreams of a Sovdepia, one, great, and indivisible’ was making a
crude oversimplification. Bolshevik policy rejected Russian chauvinism, and the
most enthusiastic ‘internationalists’ were reined in; the Bolsheviks granted
self-government, however imperfect, to a number of peoples, and to the Ukraine,
Belorussia, and other regions they even granted a form of independence. Moscow
allowed wide cultural autonomy and encouraged a national awakening that would
cause problems for itself in the 1920s. And it combined this with the
maintenance of centralized institutions such as the party and the army and with
the unifying idea of social revolution. This was just the right – possibly the
only – formula for holding multinational ‘Russia’ together.
It was important that the Russian Bolsheviks had strong
motives for holding the Empire together. Their leaders saw the nationalists as
just a form of bourgeois rule. Their spetsy military commanders had simpler
nationalist motives. For both, the defeat of ‘Russian’ counterrevolutionaries
and Allied intervention demanded an advance into the borderlands. And there
were broad continuities. Denikin put it as follows:
The state link of
Russia with her borderlands was preordained by history, economics, markets, the
railway system, the need for defendable frontiers, the psychology of Russian
society, and the whole totality of the cultural-economic development of both
sides and of mutual interests. The link would be restored, sooner or later,
voluntarily – by treaty – or through compulsion – economic (tariff) war or an
army offensive. And that would have been done by any Russia – ‘Red,’ ‘Pink,’
‘White,’ or ‘Black’ – which did not want to suffocate inside the limits of
those artificial boundaries which the World War and internal chaos had confined
The link was something that the newly conscious, newly
organized minorities could not tear apart.
Defeated with the Whites was foreign intervention. Bolshevik
Civil War propaganda stressed Allied intervention, and later Soviet historians,
following Stalin, reduced the Civil War to three ‘Entente Campaigns.’ An
imperialist conspiracy fitted in with the Bolshevik world outlook; a foreign
threat mobilized nationalist feeling; and the ‘Entente cannibals’ (Stalin’s
phrase) gave a reason why the Civil War lasted so long. But Lenin had predicted
on the eve of October 1917 that the Allies would not be a serious problem: ‘a
combination of English, Japanese, and American imperialism against us is
extremely difficult to realize, and is not at all dangerous to us, if only
because of Russia’s geographical position’; there is much to be said for this
Contrary to what is often thought, the most important
‘intervention’ was not by the Allies but by the Central Powers. Up until
November 1918 they held much of western and southern Russia. The
‘fourteen-power’ anti-Bolshevik Allied alliance that was featured in Soviet
propaganda was a myth. The Americans were cool about intervention; the Japanese
stayed on the Pacific coast. The French gave up an active role after the spring
of 1919 Odessa shambles and concentrated on a cordon sanitaire of the border
states. (Even then, neither the French nor the British did much to help the
border state of Poland in 1920.) Few Allied troops were sent; none fought in
the main battles. The western Allies neither created the Czechoslovak Corps nor
planned its uprising. The Czechoslovaks did clear a rallying area, but they
were few in number and fought only for six months. Their success was a symptom
not of Allied manipulation but of Soviet impotence and unpopularity. It is true
that Allied munitions and supplies made possible the furthest White advance,
but this material only arrived in quantity in the summer of 1919; Kolchak’s
spring offensive and Denikin’s conquest of a south Russian base area came
earlier. Even the Allied blockade had little effect. Bolshevik Russia’s foreign
trade possibilities were limited anyway (especially after the renunciation of
foreign debts), and for most of 1919 Whites or nationalists held the major
ports (Petrograd was the exception, but it had already become an economic
Intervention was not a disaster for the Allies, if only
because they committed so few resources to it. True, it did not defeat the
Central Powers, save the anti-Bolsheviks, or deflect a Soviet onslaught on
Central Europe (something the Red Army was hardly up to). The Reds were
distracted from some of the border regions. Some White leaders resented the
intrusions of the ‘dress-circle internatsional’, but Allied support was a major
part of White propaganda. There is little evidence that intervention helped the
Bolsheviks by making their cause a nationalist one. And if intervention
lengthened the Russian crisis it did not create dictatorship and terror; they
had deep enough roots in the soil of Imperial Russia.
The outcome of the Civil War has much to do with Russian
history. Tsarist Russia contained elements of both backwardness and modernity.
Russia’s peculiar state-sponsored modernization meant that there was a
considerable working class (although small in per capita terms) and only a
small middle class. The victory of extreme radicals during the Civil War had
much to do with the very strength of the autocracy before 1917. Until less than
ten years before the start of the World War there had been no legal political
parties. The Tsarist state had never tolerated rival forces in the form of
political parties or the national minorities, or even in the form of the army
or the church. As a result there were no strong forces on hand to take over the
country when the autocracy disappeared in February 1917.
The Bolsheviks were able to take over, in the October 1917
Revolution and the ‘Triumphal March of Soviet Power,’ because they followed the
popular movement. The workers and Tsarist soldiers, with their particular
discontents, helped carry the Bolsheviks to power – and then economic collapse
and demobilization largely ended their political role. The Right was still
shattered by the impact of the World War, the fall of the autocracy, and the
impact of social revolution. After that there was no one to challenge the ‘dictatorship
of the proletariat.’ The reason the country did not just slide into anarchy
with the October Revolution was, ironically, because of the state tradition
that had been created under the autocracy. Modernization had progressed far
enough to give a railway network that enabled the centre to regain control of
the periphery, and meanwhile the Bolsheviks were able and willing to make use
of much of the apolitical debris of the Tsarist state, including the army
officer-corps and the civil service.
On 2nd April 1946 I. V. Stalin, Chairman of the Council of
People’s Commissars, held a briefing on the prospects of Soviet aviation,
including jet aircraft development. One of the items on the agenda was the
possibility of copying the Messerschmitt Me 262A-1 a fighter, an example of
which had been evaluated by GK Nil WS in August-November 1945, and putting it
into production at one of the Soviet aircraft factories. In its day the Me 262
had an impressive top speed of 850 km/h (459 kts) , heavy armament comprising
four 30-mm (1.18 calibre) cannons and was generally well designed. However, the
idea was rejected for various reasons.
By then several Soviet design bureau had a number of
high-speed aircraft projects in the making; many of them fell for the ‘German’
layout with two turbojet engines under or on the wings ala Me 262 (which,
incidentally, was also employed by the British Gloster Meteor). For instance,
Pavel O. Sukhoi’s OKB used it for the izdeliye K fighter, the Mikoyan OKB
developed a Me 262 look-alike designated 1-260, while the Lavochkin OKB came up
with the ‘160’ fighter (the first fighter to have this designation) and the
Alekseyev OKB with the 1-21 designed along similar lines. A notable exception
was the Yakovlev OKB because A. S. Yakovlev cordially disliked heavy fighters,
preferring lightweight single-engined machines. (Later Yakovlev did resort to
the twin-engined layout, but that was in the early 1950s when the Yakovlev OKB
brought out the Yak-120 (Yak-25) twinjet interceptor which lies outside the
scope of this book.)
As an insurance policy in case one OKB failed to achieve the
desired results, the Soviet government usually issued a general operational
requirement (GOR) for a new aircraft to several design bureau at once in a
single Council of People’s Commissars (or Council of Ministers) directive. This
was followed by an NKAP (or MAP, Ministerstvo aviatsionnoy promyshlennosti –
Ministry of Aircraft Industry) order to the same effect. This was also the case
with the new jet fighters. Initially all the abovementioned OKBs designed their
fighters around Soviet copies of the Jumo 004B or BMW 003A engines; later the
more promising indigenous TR-1 came into the picture.
It should be noted that in the early postwar years the
Soviet defence industry enterprises continued to operate pretty much in wartime
conditions, working like scalded cats. In particular, the Powers That Be
imposed extremely tight development and production schedules on the design bureau
and production factories tasked with developing and manufacturing new military
hardware. The schedules were closely monitored not only by the ministry to
which the respective OKB or factory belonged but also by the notorious KGB.
‘Missing the train’ could mean swift and severe reprisal not only for the OKB
head and actual project leaders but also for high-ranking statesmen who had
responsibility for the programme. Nevertheless, even though the commencement of
large-scale R&D on jet aircraft had been ordered as far back as May 1944,
no breakthrough had been achieved by early 1946. For instance, the aircraft
industry failed to comply with the orders to build pre-production batches of
jet fighters in time for the traditional August fly-past held at Moscow’s
Tushino airfield; only two jets, the MiG-9 and Yak-15, participated in the fly-past
on that occasion. This was all the more aggravating because jet fighters had
been in production in Great Britain since 1944 and in the USA since early 1945.
Unfortunately the Soviet aero-engine factories encountered major difficulties
when mastering production of jet engines; hence in early 1946 jet engines were
produced in extremely limited numbers, suffering from low reliability and
having a time between overhauls (TBO) of only 25 hours.
As was customary in the Soviet Union in those days, someone
had to pay for this, and scapegoats were quickly found. In February-March 1946
People’s Commissar of Aircraft Industry A. I. Shakhoorin, Soviet Air Force
C-in-C Air Marshal A. A. Novikov, the Air Force’s Chief Engineer A. K. Repin
and Main Acquisitions Department chief N. P. Seleznyov and many others were
removed from office, arrested and mostly executed.
The early post-war years presaged the Cold War era, and the
Soviet leaders attached considerable importance not only to promoting the
nation’s scientific, technological and military achievements but also to flexing
the Soviet Union’s military muscles for the world to see. This explains why the
government was so eager to see new types displayed at Tushino, regardless of
the fact that some of the aircraft had not yet completed their trials – or,
worse, did not meet the Air Force’s requirements. Thus, the grand show at
Tushino on 3rd August 1947 featured a whole formation of jet fighter
prototypes: the Yak-19, the Yak- 15U, the Yak-23, three Lavochkin designs – the
‘150’, the ‘156’ and the ‘160’, plus the MiG- 9, the Su-9 and the Su-11 .
Sometimes the initial production aircraft selected for the fly-past
lacked armament or important equipment items. This was not considered
important; the world had to see the new aircraft at all costs. Behold the
achievements of socialism! Feel the power of the Soviet war machine! Fear ye!
Still, despite this air of ostentation, the achievements and the power were
there beyond all doubt; the Soviet Union’s progress in aircraft and aero engine
technologies was indeed impressive, especially considering the ravages of the
four-year war. It just happened that, because of urgent need, some things which
could not be developed in-country quickly enough had to be copied; and copied
they were – and with reasonably high quality at that.
Thus by the end of the 1940s the Soviet Union had not only
caught up with the West as far as jet aviation was concerned but gained a lead
in certain areas. The first Soviet jet fighters dealt with in this book were
instrumental in reaching this goal.
Even before the end of World War 2 it was clear that the
future of combat aircraft lay with jet engine power. German designs, although
limited in their application, had shown to many the shape of things to come and
the British and Americans were moving quickly to develop their jet fighters.
The Soviets were at first slow to catch up mainly due to the
fact that they had no domestic turbojet engine which was effective enough to
base a fighter upon. The Soviet designer Arkhip Lyul’ka had been working on
axial turbojets during the war but they weren’t as effective as the German
engines, while the Americans and British, seen now as the main rivals to the
Soviet Union, were far advanced with good coaxial engines and some centrifugal
jet engines. The leading jet engine of the time was the British Rolls-Royce
Nene, which with nearly 5,000lbs of thrust had double the power of any German
engine as well as other advantages.
The Russians had decided at the end of the war to loot what
they could of German industry and talent to rebuild their economy and this
attitude continued in their approach to jet fighter development. The Soviet design bureaus (OKBs) responded to
Stalin’s order to quickly develop jet fighters by using former German
specialists in gas turbines, aerodynamics and other technologies to catch
up with the Western powers’ technological advantage. The three main Soviet aircraft designers
Mikoyan and Gurevich (MiG), Yakovlev (Yak) and Lavochin (La) were tasked to
build jet fighters based on soviet air frames but using German engines.
The first of these two hybrids were the MiG-9 which had
engines based on BMW 003A engines and the Yak-15. The MiG-9 had been on the drawing board
before the German surrender and was to use the weaker Lyul’ka engines. A fourth
designer (Sukhoi) had also been developing a jet fighter – the Su-9 – which
apart from having straight rather than swept wings looked remarkably like a
Me262. It was this similarity which was to doom the aircraft when in 1946
Alexander Yakovlev went to see Stalin and told him that the Su-9 was just a
Me262 copy and outdated and dangerous. It was cancelled and Yakovlev had
effectively put a rival out of the race. Yakovlev’s design was based on his
successful Yak-3 design (variants of which would continue to serve into the Korean
War). The design drawings were finished in just 3 days and three months later
in May 1945 detailed plans were complete for what was to become the Yak-15
‘Feather’. The Yak-15 was short ranged but agile and well-armed with two 23mm
cannon. Despite his political and design skill Yakovlev was to loose the race
to have the first Soviet jet fighter to fly.
Ready to fly at the end of 1945 a waterlogged runway at the Moscow test
site and internal politics meant that the Yak-15 was made to wait till the
MiG-9 ‘Fargo’ prototype was also ready.
On 24th April 1946 both were ready. Apparently a coin was tossed to see
which plane flew first and the MiG team won, so the MiG-9 flew first followed
by the Yak-15 a few minutes later.
Both of these fighters were simple but gave Soviet pilots
valuable experience of jets. The MiG-9 was used mainly as a ground attack
fighter while the Yak-15 developed into the Yak-17 which had wingtip fuel
tanks, tricycle landing gear and a more powerful engine. Over 400 were built
and some exported. Meanwhile Yakovlev’s old rival, Lavochkin was having little
success. In September 1946 the La-150 flew but was outdated in its design and
performed poorly compared to the Yaks.
On 24th June 1947 the La-160 flew the world’s first swept
wing fighter but Lavochkin had fallen from favour and was destined to create
‘also rans’ for the rest of the early Soviet jet fighter race. He was aided by
some strange good fortune when the Soviets were given some of the best British
jet engines by the Labour government of Prime Minister Attlee. Lavochkin
quickly produced the La-168, 174D, 176 and 180 all using engines based on the
Rolls-Royce engines the Soviets had been given. The La-176 was the first
aircraft in the world to have wings swept back at 45 degrees and with the help
of its engine based on the Rolls-Royce Nene it was the first European fighter
to break the sound barrier (Mach 1) in a shallow dive on 26th December 1948.
About 500 of Lavochkin’s fighters were produced but handling problems dogged
them and they were soon over shadowed by the success of MiG.
Meanwhile MiG whose OKB had been founded in 1939 began to
dominate Soviet combat aircraft design – a dominance that continues to this day
to a large extent. MiG also benefited from the British engines as some of their
best designs were hampered by the lack of a good engine. This problem now
solved, their aircraft S was to become the legendary MiG-15 ‘Fagot’, which flew
on 30th December 1947. The Nene engine fitted it perfectly and the combination
of a great design and a great engine was to be a world beater. The impact of
the MiG-15 on the Korea war was drastic; facing the US F-86 Sabres it could
match them for speed but had longer range and longer ranged more powerful guns
in the shape of its one 37mm cannon and twin 23mm cannons compared to the
Sabre’s six 12.7mm machine guns. This meant that although the Sabre pilots
could hit more often the MiG pilots could open fire at far greater range. The
MiG-15 was produced in huge numbers and some were still being used more 40
years after the first one flew.
After a slow start the Soviets had by 1953 caught up on
Western jet fighters mainly due to the copying of British Rolls-Royce engines.
MiG had now become the dominant aircraft designer and its fighters would see
service round the world for more than 40 years. This lead in aircraft design
would not last and by the end of the Cold War western aircraft design and
technology would once more be more than a match for the Soviets.
Its development started at the end of World War II, when the
Soviet Union captured numerous German components, including Junkers Jumo-004
jet engines. This engine was studied in the USSR, and the Klimov OKB created a
domestic counterpart under the designation RD-10. In turn, the Yakovlev OKB
used the design to produce a jet fighter based on the latest version of the
The designers decided in favor of the pod-and-boom layout. A
turbojet engine with 900 kg thrust was mounted instead of the old VK-107A
piston engine. The engine was inclined so that the jet stream exited underneath
the fuselage and wing. The rest of the airframe was left almost unchanged,
except for an additional heat shield, made of refractory steel, located in the
exhaust section. The aircraft’s armament included two Nudelman-Suranov NS-23KM
cannons with 60 rounds each. The cannons were housed in the forward fuselage
above the engine. The new Yakovlev fighter was originally called the Yak-Jumo
but later obtained the designation Yak-15.
The first flight of the Yak-15 was on April 24, 1946, and
the plane was launched into full-scale production in the autumn of the same
year. Production Yak-15 planes had a different engine, the RD-10, manufactured
in the USSR. The service life of the earliest engines was officially claimed to
be 25 hours, but in reality it was 17 hours at best. Nevertheless, the Yak-15
was very easy to pilot, and its steering was similar to that of the Yak-3, which
had been the basis of its development. As a result, it was decided that
although the Yak-15 did not meet the requirements of the Air Force for a modern
combat fighter, it was perfectly suitable as a transition from prop to jet
In addition to its engine’s limited service life, the Yak-15
had a number of distinctive disadvantages. The most commonly encountered
defects during its operation included hydraulic fluid leaks (through the
sealing rings of the landing gear shock struts), the rupturing of rudder
control cable threads, and the deterioration of tail wheel springs (probably
caused by overheating). But the Yak-15’s main disadvantage was its very short
Nevertheless, the significance of the Yak-15 in the history
of Soviet aviation should not be underestimated. Hundreds of pilots underwent
training on planes of this type, and it was the Yak-15 that became the first
Soviet jet aircraft officially accepted for service in the Air Force as well as
the first jet fighter that enabled military pilots to master advanced
Production of the Yak-15 was discontinued in 1947. In all,
280 planes were constructed.
An all-metal, single-seat cantilever monoplane with two
turbojet engines, mid-mounted wings, and retractable tricycle landing gear. It
was clear by the end of World War II that the piston-engine-and-propeller combo
had reached the limit of its potential. Soon it would be necessary to switch to
new engine types.
Jet aviation in the USSR changed for the better at the very
end of the war when captured German turbojet engines, particularly the BMW-003,
arrived in the Soviet Union. The aforementioned engine was studied in the
shortest time possible, and a Soviet copy, the RD-20, was launched into mass
In the end of 1945, the Mikoyan Design Bureau began the
development of a jet fighter with two BMW-003 engines (producing 800 kg of
thrust). On 24 April 1946, test pilot A.N. Grinchik first flew the prototype
I-300 (F-1), the first Soviet fighter with a turbojet engine. The plane reached
a speed of 920 km/h and had powerful armament: a 57mm N-57 cannon and two 23mm
In 1946, the I-300 began full-scale production and was
accepted for service with the Air Force under the designation of MiG-9 (Product
FS). Before producing it on a full-scale basis, the designers of the Mikoyan
Design Bureau reworked the fighter’s construction (particularly its fuselage)
from scratch to adapt it to production in large quantities.
The power unit of production MiG-9s consisted of two RD-20
turbojet engines producing 800 kg of thrust apiece. At first, planes of this
model had RD-20A-1 engines, with a service life of 10 hours. Actually, these
engines were captured BMW-003s, reassembled in the USSR. Subsequently, MiG-9s
featured only Soviet-produced turbojet engines: the RD-20A-2, with a service
life of 25 and 50 hours, and later the RD-20B, with a service life of 75 hours.
The armament of the production planes differed from that of
the prototypes. The MiG-9 (Product FS) had one 37mm Nudelman N-37 cannon with
40 rounds and two 23mm Nudelman-Suranov NS-23K cannons with 80 rounds each.
In 1947, it was decided to equip the MiG-9 with RD-21
uprated engines producing 1,000 kg of thrust. The engine was uprated due to
increased gas temperature and turbine revolutions.
A prototype I-307 (Product FF) aircraft was built and tested
with these engines in 1947. The testing showed that the I-307 had higher flight
characteristics than production MiG-9s. The I-307 remained a prototype, since
in March 1948 a decision was made to start the full-scale production of the
more advanced MiG-15.
The last production aircraft were handed over to the Air
Force in December 1948, and in factories they were supplanted by a new plane
from the Mikoyan Design Bureau, the MiG-15. A total of 602 MiG-9 fighters were
The MiG-9 was the beginning of the jet MiG’s history. The
success of the MiG-15 fighter all over the world would have been impossible
without the experience gained in the processes of design, building, testing,
mass production, and operation of the first Soviet jet fighter, the MiG-9.
As new fighters were received by the Air Force, some MiG-9s
would be delivered to China. These planes became the first jet fighters of the
People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China.
In 1948, Soviet high command issued a requirement for a two
man, all-weather, twin -engined jet interceptor that would be capable of
carrying a new type of radar system called “Toriy” (Thorium). All three Soviet
design bureaus (Lavochkin, MiG, and Sukhoi) developed a prototype for testing.
Lavochkin’s design, the La-200, had a long fuselage to
accommodate its two turbojet engines, swept wings, and a large cockpit for two
men. The La-200 took its maiden flight on September 9th, 1949. It was the only
aircraft of the three designs to pass initial trials.
By the early 1950s, the La-200 was ready to enter production
under the official designation La-17. However, due to the appearance of the
Yak-120 (later known as Yak-25), which surpassed the La-200’s performance in
testing, the La-200 order was cancelled in favor of the Yakovlev design.
Only a single prototype of the La-200 was ever built, and it
was modified several times during development to improve performance, correct
flaws, and test other radar systems.
The IL-28 was created to meet a requirement for a bomber to
carry a 3,000-kilogram payload at 800 kph (500 mph). Although there were
several previous attempts to create such an aircraft the IL-28 was the first
successful design. It incorporated the new Rolls-Royce Nene engines, produced
as the unlicensed “RD-45”. After the completion of testing in 1949,
the aircraft was ordered into production on 14 May 1949, with the new Klimov
VK-1, an improved version of the previous RD-45. The IL-28 was widely exported
and was utilized by almost all of the Warsaw Pact nations along with various
Middle Eastern and African nations. It was license-built in China as the Harbin
H-5 and in Czechoslovakia as the Avia B-228. It is known to still be in service
today in the Korean People’s Air Force (KPAF). Although few in number, they
provide North Korea with a means of strategically bombing targets.
An all-metal cantilever monoplane with a crew of three.
Created at OKB S.V. Ilyushin.
S.V. Ilyushin put forward his preliminary design for the
Il-28 on 12 January 1948. By 8 July 1948, the test pilot V.K. Kokkinaki took
the Il-28 out for its maiden flight. It was equipped with two turbojet
Rolls-Royce Nene engines. On 30 December 1948, the Il-28 underwent in-plant
tests with the Russian series-produced RD-45F engine – a licensed version of
the English engine.
But the decision on the aircraft’s fate was delayed until 14
May 1949, when the Council of Ministers decided to increase the Il-28’s speed
to 900 km/h by installing more powerful VK-1 engines with a maximum thrust of
2,700 kgf. In only three months, on 8 August 1949, the Il-28 took its maiden
flight with the VK-1 engines.
The turbojet VK-1 engines were located under the wing in
streamlined engine nacelles.
The Il-28’s armament included two turrets – one to the fore
and one to the rear. Two frontal 23 mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons with 100
shells each were mounted in a fixed position in side compartments in the front
fuselage. The pilot acted as gunner for the frontal cannons.
The movable Il-K6 tail turret also contained two 23 mm
Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons, these with 225 shells each.
The aircraft could carry bombs of various calibers
internally, up to and including the FAB-3000. Its bomb compartment could
contain 12 FAB-100 bombs or eight FAB-250s, or between two and four FAB-500s,
or a single FAB-1500 or FAB-3000.
The Il-28 became the most mass-produced jet-powered bomber.
The aircraft was easy to manufacture and reliable in use. It was in series
production between the years of 1950 and 1956. The Il-28 reached peak production
during the Korean War: in 1953, six plants were building them at once. In
total, 4,405 Il-28 bombers were produced. In the 50s, the Il-28 was the main
front-line bomber in the Soviet Air Forces.
The Il-28 was widely distributed beyond the borders of the
USSR. It served in the air forces or air-defense forces of: Algeria,
Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Hungary, Vietnam, East Germany, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq,
Yemen, China, North Korea, Morocco, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Syria, Somalia,
Finland and Czechoslovakia. The People’s Republic of China and Czechoslovakia
produced them under license (with the designation B-228).