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Tankovaya Moshch' SSSR: Pervaya Polnaya Ehntsiklopediya

Tankovaya Moshch' SSSR: Pervaya Polnaya Ehntsiklopediya (Tank Power of the USSR: First Full Encyclopedia) Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review July 2011 Title Tank Power of the USSR: First Full Encyclopedia
Author Mikhail Svirin Publisher YaUZA Publishing (in Russian)
Published 2011 ISBN 978-5-699-31700-4
Format 640 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) around US$65


Over the last ten years a number of Russian authors and historians have published histories of Soviet era tank design, development and production. Some of the best have come from the Pavlov brothers and their co-authors in the form of three long and detailed histories, but these are expensive and hard to find. However, there are also a number of “popular” historians who produce less weighty tomes but more frequently and more importantly, more accessible to those of us in the West.

Three of the best-known armor historians in Russia who publish more frequently than others are Maksim Kolomiyets, Mikhail Baryatinskiy, and Mikhail Svirin. Of the three, Kolomiyets is very thorough in his coverage of vehicles but does not have complete access to all of the archives; Baryatinskiy has become something of a “hack”, grinding out one rehash of previous books after another; and Svirin publishes all too infrequently, but has a huge private archive to draw upon.

This book by Svirin came out two years ago and it was only this week I located a copy. Here Mr. Svirin has dug into his archives and has published what amounts to a very nicely done one-volume history of Soviet tank design covering the period from 1917, when the Soviets first found out about the tank in foreign service, and 1947, when the first T-54s began to enter production. While he calls it an “encyclopedia” it is arranged in more or less date order, starting with the pre-World War I proposals of vehicles such as Mendeleyev’s tank (essentially a self-propelled British 5 inch Naval gun) and the famous tricycle “Tsar Tank” through the Civil War, the 1930s and the Purchasing Commission, and into the development of the T-34, KV series and IS tanks in World War II.

There are a wealth of obscure vehicles in this book, such as either prototypes or wooden proposal models of tanks that never made it, such as the first proposed T-30 medium tank and the T-39 medium tank, and one of my favorites, the KV-3 with its 107mm gun. Plans are either in 1/35 or 1/48 (based on the size of the vehicle) and are either drawn by the author or V. Mal’ginov, and are all excellent.

One thing for those who speak Russian is that all of the historians seem to have access to different parts of the former Soviet state archives, with the result that you need to read all of their books on a subject to get as close as possible to the actual history of a vehicle. For those not so inclined (or not reading the language) a single volume such as this one solves many problems and permits obtaining a great deal of reference material in a single book.

Overall this book is one which I can heartily recommend to Russian readers, and suggest strongly that it is of great use to any Russian armor fans that do not speak the language (T in Russian is the same as T in English when printed, so it’s not that hard to sort out the plans and photos!)