Evacuation. Chelyabinsk Tractor becomes “Tankograd”

On the brink of disaster

The front’s need for a huge number of tanks made itself felt in the first days of the war. People’s Commissar Vyacheslav Aleksandrovich Malyshev at one of the meetings read out reports from the fronts:

“On June 29, a major tank battle unfolded in the Lutsk direction, in which up to 4 thousand tanks from both sides took part … The next day, large tank battles continued in the Lutsk direction, during which our aviation inflicted a series of crushing blows on enemy tanks. The results are being specified. “

In the book by D. S. Ibragimov “Confrontation” the emotional reaction of the People’s Commissar to the reports is given:

“This is a fight! 4000 tanks! And what are we fighting over? 200-300 T-34s a month at the head Kharkov plant! … We need to increase the production of up to 100 tanks a day! “

They had to act in the current situation quickly and not quite in accordance with the pre-war plans.

On September 12, 1941, a special People’s Commissariat of the Tank Industry was formed, which initially included the original “tank” enterprises. These are Kharkov plants # 183 (build T-34) and # 75 (diesel engines V-2), Leningrad Kirovsky plant (KV-1) and # 174 (T-26), Moscow plant # 37, engaged in the production of the floating tank T- 40, the Ilyich plant in Mariupol, which produces armored steel for the T-34, as well as the Ordzhonikidze plant (armored hull for the T-40 amphibian).

The rapid advancement of the Wehrmacht forced to look for new sites for these and other factories in the Urals. The car-building plant in Nizhny Tagil, in accordance with the evacuation plan, was supposed to take over the production of T-34 tanks from Kharkov. The Sverdlovsk Ural Heavy Machine Building Plant received many defense enterprises, including the Izhora Plant, and the diesel assembly capacities of the Kirov Plant were transferred to the Ural Turbine Plant. In October 1941, the Ural plant for the production of heavy tanks was formed, the backbone of which was the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant (the construction of which was discussed in the previous articles of the cycle) with the Kirov plant located on its premises. Uralmash was engaged in the supply of armored hulls and towers, and the turbine plant partially provided the plant with diesel engines. However, initially, in the plans of the Soviet leadership, everything was somewhat different.

An interesting story is the evacuated Leningrad State Plant No. 174 named after K. Ye. Voroshilov, which produced T-26 tanks and mastered the T-50. Initially, at the end of July 1941, Deputy People’s Commissar for Medium Machine Building S.A.Akopov proposed to split the enterprise into two parts: move one to Moscow to master the production of T-50, and transfer the second to Chelyabinsk and deploy the assembly of heavy tanks. But such a proposal was refused in favor of a complete evacuation of production to the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, and the Kirov Plant was supposed to go to the Nizhny Tagil Uralvagonzavod. After some time, the People’s Commissar Malyshev decided to move the plant No. 174 to a steam locomotive enterprise in Orenburg, or, as it was then called, in Chkalov. Then the Deputy People’s Commissar of Railways BN Arutyunov entered the dispute, who was categorically against – the location of a large tank production in Chkalov would paralyze part of the repair capacity for steam locomotives.

Such feverish decisions were explained quite simply: the mobilization doctrine of the Soviet Union did not assume that the enemy would be capable of such a rapid advance inland at all, and the mass evacuation of enterprises to the east was the last thing they thought about.

In modern historical science dedicated to the Great Patriotic War, there are two opposite opinions regarding the success of the evacuation of industry. In accordance with the traditional Soviet point of view, no one disputes the effectiveness of the evacuation: an entire industrial state was successfully moved far to the east in a short time. So, in the book “The Economic Foundation of Victory” it is directly indicated that

“Each organization immediately knew exactly where it was being evacuated, and there they knew who would come to them and in what quantity … All this was ensured thanks to clear and very detailed planning.”

In continuation we read:

“Thus, there was no confusion in the planning system. The entire development of the national economy, including its relocation to the east, was immediately put in a strict planning framework. The tasks of these plans … were detailed from top to bottom, reaching each performer in the field. Everyone knew what to do. “

Or you can find this myth:

“As historical documents testify, the evacuated enterprises from the western and central regions, industrial Donbass for 3-4 weeks produced products in new places. In open areas, tanks were assembled under a canopy, and then walls were built. “

Evacuation.  Chelyabinsk Tractor becomes

Evacuation routes of the USSR military industry in 1941

Modern historians who have gained access to the archives (for example, Nikita Melnikov, an employee of the Institute of History and Archeology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences) refute such claims. Along with the fact that historians agree with the inevitability of evacuation to the Urals, in the articles one can find evidence of confusion and an outright lag in the pace of evacuation from the required deadlines. The undeveloped transport network of the Urals became a huge problem, when there was an acute shortage of highways, and the existing railways were in poor condition. So, the Ural railway was only 1/5 double-tracked, which complicated the simultaneous transfer of reserves to the front and the evacuation of industry to the east. With regard to the “big three” tank factories being formed in Chelyabinsk, Nizhny Tagil and Sverdlovsk, there is a lot of evidence of an unsatisfactory evacuation in the fall of 1941. So, on October 25, the Molotov regional committee stated an unacceptable situation with the acceptance of trains at the Nizhny Tagil station of Goroblagodatskaya, where 18 trains were simply “abandoned”, and, in total, 1120 carriages were idle for a long time with equipment and people. Therefore, there is no need to talk about 3-4 weeks during which the evacuated factories were put into operation in the Urals.

But back to the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, which, in accordance with the decree of 08/19/1941, was to be accepted by the entire Leningrad Light Tank Plant No. 174. The first echelons with dismantled equipment left the northern capital for the Urals at the end of August. Also, part of the equipment from the Izhora plant, intended for the production of T-50 hulls, was sent to Chelyabinsk. Actually, everything was prepared for the creation at ChTZ of large-scale production of not heavy, but light tanks. By August 30, at the Kirov plant, he managed to transfer 440 wagons of equipment with workers and families to Nizhny Tagil to a carriage building enterprise. And if history had developed in accordance with these plans, Nizhny Tagil would have become the smithy of domestic heavy tanks of Victory. But the German offensive in Ukraine threatened the capture of the Kharkov plant №183 named. Comintern, which was required at all costs to be evacuated to the east of the country. And this, by the way, is not less than 85 thousand square meters. meters of area, which was very difficult to find: the Urals was already saturated almost to the limit. The only site capable of accommodating such a large production was Uralvagonzavod, where, I recall, the Kirov plant and the production of KV tanks were already deployed. At this moment, the fateful decision was made to move the Kirov plant to Chelyabinsk. And what to do with the trains with equipment from the Leningrad plant No. 174, which were already on the railroad to ChTZ? In Chkalov, as Malyshev had previously wanted, and the capacities of the Izhora plant were transferred to the Saratov car repair plant.

From Kharkov and Leningrad to Chelyabinsk

It is noteworthy that the only tank enterprise that was evacuated in accordance with the pre-war mobilization plans was the Kharkov Motor Plant No. 75. This is mentioned in the book by Nikita Melnikov “Tank industry of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War.” The Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant was originally a backup enterprise for the Kharkov engine-building plant, so it was logical in the event of evacuation to place the capacity on its base. On September 13, 1941, People’s Commissar Malyshev signed an order on the phased transfer of the entire plant from Kharkov to Chelyabinsk, for which 1,650 cars were allocated at once. First of all, employees and half of the equipment were evacuated (sets of dies for the production of B-2, test benches and about 70 engineers and workers) in order to accept the second wave of evacuation by October 25. On September 18, the first echelon from Kharkov left for Chelyabinsk. Part of the production equipment of the Mariupol Metallurgical Plant named after Ilyich was supposed to go there, but this evacuation ended in tragedy. The plant, engaged in the production of tank and ship armor, managed in September 1941 to send to Nizhny Tagil (the main part of the equipment went there) welding machines, welding shields, finished hulls, towers and blanks for them. And already on October 8, the Germans entered Mariupol, who got all the production equipment, wagons filled with equipment, and most of the factory workers.

Employees of the Kirov plant listen to the news about the beginning of the Great Patriotic War

On October 4, the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR ordered the evacuation of the tank production of the Kirov plant, along with personnel, to the base of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. The production of artillery pieces from the same plant was transferred to Sverdlovsk at the Ural Heavy Machine Building Plant, which also received armored hull production of KV tanks from the Izhora Plant. I must say that the leadership of the USSR frankly delayed the evacuation of the production of heavy tanks from Leningrad – everyone thought to the last that the Germans could be stopped. At the same time, the front constantly demanded new tanks and a break for evacuation for several months interrupted supplies. As a result, the railway line, along which it was possible to transfer the plant to the Urals in time, was cut by the Germans. Therefore, the equipment of the Kirov plant and workers were transported to the stations Ladoga Lake and Shlisselburg, reloaded on barges and across Lake Ladoga and the Volkhov River were transported to the Volkhovstroy railway station, from where they went inland by rail. Separately, 5000 of the most important engineers, qualified specialists and managers of the Kirov plant were transferred from besieged Leningrad to Tikhvin by aircraft.


Group shot of workers of the Kirov plant of the People’s Commissariat for Tank Industry in Chelyabinsk


A workshop for the assembly of tank engines at the Chelyabinsk Kirov plant. From left to right: Brigadier D.A. Kvasha and members of his team, fitters M.I. Ryzhkov and N.N. Terentyev

KV-1 tanks in the courtyard of the Chelyabinsk Kirov plant. Spring 1942

In total, the evacuation to Chelyabinsk ended only with the arrival of the last train in January 1942. To receive equipment from Leningrad, a new mechanical assembly building with an area of ​​12 thousand square meters was built. meters, a mechanical shop for processing individual parts and an assembly shop with an area of ​​15 thousand square meters. meters. Also in the second half of 1941, the mechanical shop was expanded by 15.6 thousand square meters. meters and built a hangar for assembling and testing motors with an area of ​​9 thousand square meters. meters. This is how a united enterprise appeared – the Kirov plant, which was the only one in the country to produce heavy KV-1s, and also became the largest center for tank diesel engine building – in its “portfolio” was the B-2 and for a short time the younger brother of the B-4 for the T-50. Isaak Moiseevich Zaltsman (he also held the post of Deputy People’s Commissar of the People’s Commissariat of the Tank Industry) became the head of “Tankograd”, a real “tank king”, whose biography requires separate consideration.

Hero of Socialist Labor, Major General of the Engineering Tank Service Isaak Moiseevich Zaltsman (1905-1988)

At the same time, ChTZ did not limit itself exclusively to tanks. On June 22, 1941, only one workshop of the plant was busy assembling the KV-1 and by the beginning of the war had produced 25 heavy tanks. The main products were the S-65, S-65G and S-2 tractors, the assembly of which was stopped only in November. In total, 511 KV-1 tanks were assembled by the end of 1941.

Three days after the start of the war, the plant’s managers received a cipher telegram with an order to start the production of ammunition, as required by the mobilization plan of June 10, 1941. These were 76-mm and 152-mm shells, as well as cylinders for 76-mm ammunition. In addition, in the fourth quarter of 1941, ChTZ produced ZAB-50-TG parts for M-13 rockets – a total of 39 thousand of them were made. 600 thousand belts for the Berezin machine gun were also manufactured at ChTZ in the first year of the war, along with 30 metal-cutting machines and 16 thousand tons of rolled steel.

To be continued…

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