Object 704 self-propelled gun

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.

Name: Object 704

Type: Self Propelled Artillery [Artillery periscope Goerz / Hertz]

Origin: Soviet Union

Year: 1945

Length: 9.05 Meters

Width: 3.07 Meters

Height: 2.24 Meters

Weight: 47300 Kilograms

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 system.]

Transmission: 5-speed gearbox

Range: 220km road, 120km cross-country

Speed: 37 km/h (12 km/h off road)

Crew: 5

Communication: 10RK-26 radio and TPU-4Bis-F intercom system

Primary Armament:

-152 mm ML-20SM [telescopic sight TS-17K]

Secondary Armament:

-12.7 mm DSK

Gun Flexibility:

18° Elevation

1° Depression

11° Left

11° Right



100 mm Front

90 mm Side

60 mm Rear

30 mm Top

20 mm Bottom

-Upper Structure

120 mm Front (160 mm Gun Shield)

90 mm Side

60 mm Rear

30 mm Top


Memel Bridgehead 1944-45

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 Union.

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 to deploy.

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 firebreak clearly.

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 firework display.

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 or me’.

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 rounds.

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 special targets:

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 damage.

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 January 1945.

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 such opinions.

Kara-class cruisers

USSR Project 1134B Nikolayev 1972 Berkut B Kara class Cruiser

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 ASW.

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 seaworthy hulls.

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 2019

Units: Nikolayev, Ochakov, Kerch, Azov, Petropavlovsk, Tashkent, Tallin

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

Armor: None

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 horsepower.

Speed: 34 knots

Complement: 520


Battle for Baku I

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 as final.

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 vulnerable.

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 Transcaspia.

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 left behind.

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.

Tupolev Tu-12 & Tu-14


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 completed.

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.

Why the Bolsheviks’ Enemies Lost

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 Siberian Whites:

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 popular movement.

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 nationalism.

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 her to.

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 analysis.

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 wasteland).

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.

Early Soviet Jets I

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.

Early Soviet Jets II

Ilyushin Il-28

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 well-liked Yak-3.

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 aircraft.

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 flight range.

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 aerobatics.

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 production.

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 NS-23 cannons.

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 produced.

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).