Otechesvennye Bronirovannye Mashiny XX Vek Book Review
|Date of Review
|Otechesvennye Bronirovannye Mashiny XX Vek
|A. G. Solyankin, I. G. Zheltov, and K. N. Kurdyashov
|60 pages, softbound
|$150 plus $45-50 shipping and handling
The Soviets (and now the Russians) divide things up into periods – based on the rise of the Soviet Union, not the demise of Imperial Russia – for their own use in reference or analysis, and armored vehicles are one of their prime subjects. They cut them up into five separate periods: pre-war (1930 to 1941); the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945); the first postwar period (1945-1965); the second postwar period (1965-1990); and the third postwar period or first Russian period (1990 to the present). This book examines events and vehicles designed and built during what they refer to as the first postwar period.
While it is one of the truly great reference books for Soviet and Russian armored vehicles going today, this book requires a bit of background explanation as to why it is so significant.
In the late 1990s four Russian friends sat down to write the most comprehensive and inclusive history of Soviet and Russian armor ever done, as at that time the Soviet (now Russian) state archives were opened to Russian researchers and a wealth of material was now accessible for the first time. The four men were: M. V. Pavlov and I. V. Pavlov, brothers, sons of VNIITransmash design V. S. Pavlov and armored vehicle designers in their own right; A. G. Solyankin; and I. G. Zheltov. They proposed to produce a four volume scientific work covering the following eras: Volume 1 (1905-1941); Volume 2 (1941-1945); Volume 3 (1945-1965); and Volume 4 (1965-2000).
The first volume, Otechesvennye Bronirovannye Mashiny XX Vek Tom 1 (1905-1941) ((ISBN 5-94038-030-1)) was published by Exprint Publishing in 2002. This book was a 343 page compendium of all of the pre-WWI and post 1930 Soviet design efforts. A run of 2000 copies was produced, and anyone who was “into” Russian and Soviet armor immediately began to seek these books out for reference.
The second volume, Otechesvennye Bronirovannye Mashiny XX Vek Tom 2 (1941-1945) ((ISBN 5-94038-074-3)), was larger at 447 pages and came out in early 2005. Building on the earlier volume, this one covered the Great Patriotic War and all of the most famous designs of that war – the T-34, KV series, IS series, and T-60/T-70 light tanks. Once again only 2000 copies were printed, and they were snapped up as fast as historians and modelers could find them.
But even with increased prices to Western audiences, the rising costs of production in Russia and other economic woes suddenly hit the authors very hard. There also appears to have been a falling out among them, with the Pavlovs going one direction and Solyankin and Zheltov another. At that time the authors apologized on blogs, newsgroups and in magazines that Volumes 3 and 4 would not be forthcoming.
But suddenly in May 2008 the Pavlov brothers began to serialize their version of Volume 3 in the magazine “Tekhnika I Vooruzheniya” under the sobriquet “ Otechesvennye Bronirovannye Mashiny XX Vek 1945-1965". Since then, and on an average of 12 pages a month, they have been publishing their version of the third volume via the magazine (and now also available on the “Otvaga” website ( http://www.otvaga2004.narod.ru).
Needless to say, sometime later a bit of a shock hit the Russian armor fan world when the other two authors, Solyankin and Zheltov, joined by a third author, Kurdyashov, and published a hard back version of Volume 3 on their own. Now designated as “1946-1965) to separate it from the Pavlov brothers, the only thing these two works share is the subject matter and the first paragraph.
This book covers the whirlwind Soviet armor development made between the end of the Second World War and the appearance of the first production model T-64 tanks (the first second generation tank by Soviet estimation). It follows the same precise format at the first two volumes. This covers: a overall description of the development of tanks and armored vehicles in that time frame; component layouts; firepower; protection; mobility; tank means of communications; and markings and conditional numbers used on armored vehicles. The next sections of the book cover groups or families of vehicles by first an overview, then series production vehicles followed by prototype designs and then upgraded variants of previously built vehicles. The groups cover light tanks, medium tanks, heavy tanks, flamethrower tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, airborne fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers; SP missile launchers; SP artillery mounts; SP tank destroyers; SP AA guns; SP SAM launchers; command and staff vehicles; armored patrol and reconnaissance vehicles; special vehicles; engineer vehicles; tank engineer fittings and accessories; and finally tank retrievers and repair vehicles. It finishes up with short biographies of famous designers of the period and a short listing of vehicles covered in the text.
The coverage includes all models of the most famous Soviet tanks of the period – PT-76, T-54, T-55, T-62, IS-3 and T-10 – as well as all of the prototypes and modifications of those tanks, production numbers, general information on each one. Prototypes which never made it into service such as Article 430 (the progenitor of the T-64), Articles 140 and 167 (the ancestors of the T-72) and the bizarre Article 279 (the “Flying Saucer” tank with four sets of tracks) are all here and covered in great detail.
For example, take one of my personal favorites, the T-10 heavy tank. Begun in 1948 as the IS-5, it morphed into the IS-8 by 1953 and was then renamed T-10 after Stalin died. Long credited by US intelligence sources as having more than 8,000 built, this books breaks down its production by not only model but factory (Leningrad and Chelyabinsk were producing “dueling versions” of the tank with differences to each one). EIGHT different versions were built from 1950 to 1965 but the total of all variants was only 1,544.
The book also presents the best picture so far of the famous BMP infantry combat vehicle. For the first time coverage shows that there were four different tracked prototypes from four different factories and three different wheeled prototypes competing for selection as the standard “nuclear war” combat vehicle for motorized rifle units. While the book does not continue with their development past 1965 (the vehicle did not enter full scale production until 1966) it provides very clear information on how the selection was made and why the variant seen came to be.
It also shows how one of the failed prototypes was redesigned and morphed into the BMD airborne fighting vehicle.
Right now there are three great drawbacks to this book. One is that it is only available in Russian, and thus is of limited value to non-Russian speakers. Two is that it has an even shorter print run than the first two - 1000 copies. And three is that all five authors seem to concur that Volume 4 (1965-2000, which would have covered T-64, T-72, and T-80 among others) will probably never be completed. While the information contained in this book will probably eventually come out from the Pavlov brothers, it will not be in one concise format nor a single source (and again will only be in Russian).
Overall, however, for anyone who can read the language or at least the designators in the text or margin this book is a gold mine.