Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. Tanks and aliens

T-29 was supposed to be the first combat vehicle of ChTZ

T-28 or T-29

The main plans for mobilizing production capacities of ChTZ appeared from the first days of laying the buildings of the plant. At the same time, the specialists responsible for this actively attracted foreign experience in this area: in the archives one can find translations of Western open access journals, which describe the serial production of military equipment. In particular, at the beginning of the 30s, the magazine “Machinery” was subscribed to at ChTZ, in one of the issues of which there was an article about the production of aircraft in Blackburn. Also, specialized brochures about industrial mobilization in France and Poland came to the library of the plant.

S-60 – the firstborn of the plant

The ChTZ mobilization plan itself first appeared in 1929 and had the C-30 index. In this directive, among other things, there was information on the preservation of the required number of workers and production equipment in the event of war. Later, this plan was transformed into MV-10, which already provided for the production of T-28 tanks by the end of 1937. Later, the M-3 mobplan appeared, created in accordance with the requirements of the People’s Commissariat of Defense. The mobilization plans provided for the deployment of military production, primarily at the Experimental Plant, with subsequent expansion to all ChTZ corps. Responsible for monitoring the implementation of mobilization plans was either the plant’s technical director or the chief engineer. They had to monitor the fulfillment of the constantly changing requirements of the People’s Commissariat and, most importantly, maintain the technical equipment planned for mobilization in working order.

S-65: the first diesel tractor in the USSR

Lennart Samuelson in his work “Tankograd: Secrets of the Russian Home Front 1917-1953” mentions the preparation at the end of 1934 of the Pilot Plant for the production of the T-28 tank. It was planned to transport the drawings of the tank to Chelyabinsk from Leningrad and quickly equip the site for launching the tank into series. This is how the leadership from the People’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry saw it, and from there they urged the management of the plant to implement the idea in every possible way. At the beginning of 1935, an order came to launch a pilot batch of three T-28 tanks into production. Alexander Bruskin, the director of the plant, responded to the order:

“As you know, we are completely unprepared for the production of 3 pcs. tanks T-29, since work in this direction has not yet begun “


He demanded that the tank be sent to the factory as a sample and the blueprints be delivered. In addition, an order came to constantly inform the engineering headquarters of ChTZ about all changes in the design of the tank that are being introduced at the manufacturing plant. At the same time, the leadership of the People’s Commissariat did not finally decide what to produce in the event of mobilization: T-28 or T-29. During February 1935, these questions were in limbo. As a result, Sergo Ordzhonikidze signed on February 26, 1935 order No. 51-ss (top secret) on the deployment of the production of the wheeled-tracked T-29-5. Which is exactly what happened. The reasons were the complexity of the design of the vehicle itself, the unreliability of the chassis, the change in priorities of the leadership of the tank-building industry and the high price of the vehicle itself – up to half a million rubles. Expert Yuri Pasholok cites the cost of BT-7 at 120 thousand rubles as an example, and the price of T-28 ranged from 250 thousand to 380 thousand rubles. As a result, the T-29 program was closed.

The main products of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant all the pre-war period were the S-60 tractors, the production intensity of which had reached the planned 100 units per day by 1936. By 1937, the total volume of production fell from 29,059 tractors to 12,085, largely due to the development of the first serial diesel S-65. By the way, the index on the car meant that the tractor was replacing 65 horses in agriculture at once! This, incidentally, became one of the slogans for attracting labor from the countryside at the capacity of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. Personnel, as usual, decided everything in this case.

All to the Chelyabinsk Tractor!

Consideration of the issue of the pre-war readiness of the plant to turn into the legendary Tankograd is impossible without a separate narration about the people who raised the ChTZ with their own hands and worked in its shops. In the first part of the story, this has already been discussed, but it is worth dwelling on some points separately. Already in 1931, due to the chronic turnover of workers, the management of the unfinished plant was forced to appeal to the inhabitants of the villages of the Urals:

“The tractors that our plant will produce will change your life, make your work easier, and improve the state of the collective farm. To complete the construction of ChTZ on time, your help is needed “


It was also a kind of mobilization, only in peacetime. In 1932, more than 7,000 people came to work under an agreement with collective farms. Also, the management of the plant under construction was forced to deal with staff turnover in not the most traditional ways. Thus, the practice of self-securing the worker at the plant on the basis of his written statement, and many builders pledged to work at the plant after its construction, that is, in fact, for life.

Pages of the first gift album of ChTZ

No matter how it may seem like socialist propaganda, the Stakhanov movement played an important role in the construction of the plant and its work. So, the foremost worker of socialist competition Leonid Bykov, at a rate of 560, stamped 1,859 track links per change, and grinder Irina Zyryanova processed 2,800 piston wheels per shift at a rate of 2 thousand. But even with such an emergency pace of work, the plant reached the planned operating mode only once – in 1936. One of the reasons for this was the weak professional staff at the plant, who did not have experience in such a serious and large-scale production. I had to “buy brains” abroad – the peak of attracting them to ChTZ was in 1930-1934.

Two types of foreign citizens worked at the enterprises of the South Urals. The first ones came exclusively to earn money and received a salary in dollars or even gold. These were highly qualified specialists who occupied leading positions (they had young Soviet engineers as their deputies), or advised on equipment installation and adjustment. They received the equivalent of up to 1,500 rubles a month with an average salary in the enterprise of 300 rubles. Specialists from abroad received part of the money in rubles in cash, and part in foreign currency to bank accounts. It was expensive for the Soviet state, and after the expiration of two to three year contracts, they were usually not renewed. Thus, most of the most important specialists returned to their homeland by 1933. The second category included ideological volunteers, often communists, employed in jobs of an average level of complexity. Often they simply fled from unemployment that had flared up in the West. At the same time, ChTZ, with its 168 foreign workers, was far from being the leader of the region in this regard – 752 workers were immediately attracted to the Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Plant from abroad.

Pages of the first gift album of ChTZ

It is noteworthy that the most tense relations were between foreign engineers and their Soviet colleagues. This was largely the result of claims from foreign guests. The blame was placed on the desire of factory workers at all costs to fulfill the planned tasks, the unwillingness to borrow from the Western work ethic, the confidence of Soviet engineers in the fatal inevitability of losses, the low quality of work and unsatisfactory performance discipline. In response, foreigners were regularly accused of sabotage and espionage, and in 1931, 40 engineers from Europe were immediately removed from the ChTZ under construction. Another reason for strife could be the different level of living provided by the management of the plant to its workers and visitors from abroad. Foreigners, as is customary in our country, were given the most comfortable conditions: a separate room, free medicine, annual leave, food and non-food supplies. The just indignation on the part of Soviet specialists was caused by the fact that this was not enough for the guests. Living conditions were created for foreign workers that ordinary people from the Urals could not even dream of. But for the visitors themselves, in comparison with their homeland, this was nothing more than wretchedness.

Few ChTZ infrastructures

But what about our compatriots who were involved in the construction of ChTZ? At first, these were barracks with bunk beds for 30-40 families, fenced off with bales and sheets. Later, closely located villages were settled, the conditions in which were no better. The barracks were dilapidated, without running water, with broken glass, in dugouts with an area of ​​8-10 m2 lived for 10-12 people. A typical complaint of one of the workers:

“In the evening in our damned village by Kirsaroy there is no way to go anywhere, there is darkness all around. Going to a city or a club is far and dangerous, there are a lot of hooligans. “

In March 1937 (ChTZ was in full swing), the NKVD conducted an unofficial inspection of the state of affairs with the living conditions of the factory workers. It turned out that there are six villages near Chelyabinsk, where at least 50 thousand workers live! Most of them huddle in barracks and semi-dugouts.

To be continued…

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