ARM: Book Review - Tank Power of the USSR by Mikhail Svirin

Book Review: Tankovaya Moshch=92 SSSR: Pervaya Polnaya Ehntsiklopediya
(Tank Power of the USSR: First Full Encyclopedia) by Mikhail Svirin;
=93Yauza=94 and =93Ehksmo=94 Publishers, Moscow, 2009; 640 pp., photos, pla=
illustrations and charts; Western price around US$65; ISBN
Advantages: complete coverage of Soviet tanks from 1917 to the late
1940s; plans of many tanks in 1/35 scale; charts covering production
and users; photocopies of original source documents
Disadvantages: no English text
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: For Soviet armor fans
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 =93popular=94 historians who produce less weighty tomes but more
frequently and more importantly, more accessible to those of us in the
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 =93hack=94, 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
=93encyclopedia=94 it is arranged in more or less date order, starting
with the pre-World War I proposals of vehicles such as Mendeleyev=92s
tank (essentially a self-propelled British 5 inch Naval gun) and the
famous tricycle =93Tsar Tank=94 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=92ginov, 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=92s not that hard to sort out the plans
and photos!)
Cookie Sewell
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