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The History of Artillery from 1918 up to July 1941

The History of Artillery from 1918 up to July 1941

Soon after the October Revolution, pockets of the White Army movement appeared.   Such centers of the anti-Soviet struggle were located in the Don River region, Siberia, Ural and the North­-West region of Russia. Simultaneously, Red Guard detachments were formed to oppose them. On January 15, 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic headed by V. Lenin issued the decree about creating a Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army — the Armed Forces of the Soviet state. A photo copy of the decree is on display.

Banner from the period of the February Revolution. 1917 г.

By the summer 1918, Russia appeared to be enveloped with a flame of fratricidal Civil War. Military operations stopped in the majority of the country only by the end of 1920. However, they continued in the Far East, the Primorye region up to the autumn of 1923. With the beginning of the war, both the Reds and the Whites paid special attention to the creation of artillery units. The Red Army was in a favorable situation, since the country’s general industrial regions and a large number of artillery store­houses and arsenals in internal military districts appeared to be under the control of Bolsheviks. The numerical superiority of its artillery was overwhelming due to this reason..

The first section of the display is dedicated to the operations of the Soviet artillery during the period of the Civil War. The exhibited photos show one of the first batteries of the Red Army formed in Petrograd in spring of 1918, as well as Red commander-­artillerists who were the first graduates from the Second Soviet Petrograd Artillery Courses held in 1918.

I. G. Drozdov. First Red Army officers in 1918. 1924.

 Visitors can see personal belongings of active participants of the Civil War — a revolver, Nagant type, presented by Tula armorists to the legendary V. Chapaev, Commander of the 25th Rifle Division, a Caucasus saber which belonged to A. Furmanova, political worker in the division. The latter was the spouse of Dmitrii Furmanov, Commissar of the same 25th Division, a well known Soviet writer who distinguished himself by his novels about the Civil War.   Among the exhibits is another revolver, Nagant type which belonged to an outstanding Soviet artillerist, N. Voronov (later on Chief Marshal of the Artillery), as well as a dagger which belonged to G. Kotovskii, Commander of one of the Cavalry Divisions of the Red Army.

The first Soviet Order, the Order of the Red Banner, is also displayed in the room. It was instituted according to a decree of the All­-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic dated September 16, 1918. Also displayed are portraits of Soviet commanders who were awarded with four Orders of the Red Banner during the Civil War — V. Bliukher, S. Vostretsov, Ya. Fabritsius and I. Fedko.

Among the exhibits is a rather interesting one; a home­made 50‑mm smooth­bore cannon which was used by partisans in the Ural region in battles with White Guards. This muzzle­-loading percussion cannon with hammer action fired stone balls or drob from a range of up to 250 m.

Troops and the techniques from foreign states, England, France, USA, Germany, Japan, Czech and Slovak Republic, China, Latvia and others, participated in the Civil War in Russia both on the side of the Whites and on the side of the Reds. The English 18‑pounder (85‑mm) field cannon Model 1903 is evidence of it. It was taken by Red army troops in battles against the English­-American interventionists near Shenkursk in January 1919.

A large­-scale military reform was realized in the USSR after the war of 1924–1928. It caused a numerical reduction of the Red Army. At the same time, special attention was paid to the development of special arms for the service, in particular the artillery and the armored forces. Visitors can see a photo copy of the decree Concerning the Compulsory Military Service dated September 28, 1925. This includes regulations and instructions for the Red Army of the 1920’s, photos showing fighter training of men and commanders of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army, including artillerists.

Helmet for the commanders of rifle units of the Workers-Peasants Red Army. 1930.

The experience of World War I and the Civil War proved a necessity to improve the artillery armament. Because of the ruined industry after the war, and the shortage of raw materials and qualified personnel, putting in order and further modernizing available pieces of ordnance became the primary tasks of the Soviet artillery. Original samples and photos of artillery systems, ammunition and devices which were adopted in the Soviet artillery in the 1920’s are exhibited in the room. Samples of small-­arms from the Red Army of that period are on display as well.

Leaders of the country, including the military commanders, understood that modernization alone would not solve the problems of improving the armament. As early as December 17, 1918, during the Civil War, a Commission for Special Artillery Experiments was organized in Petrograd. It was a part of the Main Artillery Administration and existed until 1926. The commission was entrusted with the tasks of developing scientific, research and experimental works in the sphere of artillery. Members of the commission worked out projects of new guns, mortars, ammunition, devices and other artillery armament. Photo portraits of V. Trofimov, Chairman of the Commission, and its constant members N. Drozdov, F. Lender, V. Rdultovskii and M. Rosenberg are on display. Not far from them there are experimental samples of pieces of ordnance made by Soviet designers, members of the Commission for Special Artillery Experiments, in the 2nd half of the 1920’s. These are a 37‑mm cannon designed by M. Rosenberg, a 45‑mm cannon designed by A. Sokolov, a 65‑mm howitzer designed by R. Durliakhov, and others.

Due to the considerably increasing volume of artillery research works, a number of design offices and scientific research institutes were organized on the basis of the Commission in 1926. They worked following the instructions of the Main Artillery Administration.

The first gun created by Soviet designers and produced by the Soviet industry, the 76‑mm regimental cannon, was added to the armory in 1927.

76-mm regimental cannon. Model 1927.

 An example is displayed in the room. The staff of designers at the Putilov works that made this gun was headed by F. Lender. The 45‑mm howitzer Model 1929 designed by him is on display as well. It was recognized by the Artillery Committee of the Main Artillery Administration as fit for arming rifle sub­units. Its distinguished feature was spreading trails, the use of which increased the mobility of fire. Near the howitzer there are pieces of ordnance updated in 1929–1930. As a result of modernization the firing range was much increased (for cannons, almost 50 % and for howitzers, 30 %). The mobility of guns was increased by replacing wooden wheels with metal ones, which had tires filled with spongy rubber. It allowed guns to be put on mechanical traction instead of horses.

In the 1920’s, intensive work was carried out for the creation of new samples of automatic weapons. An outstanding school of Soviet armorists appeared at that time. Its prominent representatives were V. Fedorov, V. Degtiarev, F. Tokarev, G. Shpagin and S. Simonov. Special cases show personal belongings, awards and samples of arms made by them. Samples of machine­guns designed by V. Degtiarev and added to the armory of the Red Army in the late 1920’s are of special interest. These are the Degtiarev aviation machine­guns (the twin-barelled DA­2 Model 1928 and PV­1), Degtiarev infantry machine­gun Model 1927 (DP­27) and Degtiarev tank machine­gun Model 1929 (DT­29). Two cases display a collection of the first samples of automatic weapons created by V. Fedorov, V. Degtiarev and G. Shpagin in 1921–1927. It contains automatic rifles designed by F. Tokarev (Model 1932), S. Simonov (Models 1931 and 1936) and submachine guns designed by F. Tokarev, S. Simonov, and S. Korovin.

During the period of the first "five-­year plan" (which was actually for four years, from 1929 to 1932) the development of aviation led to the creation of new samples of guns for anti­aircraft artillery, and distance-measuring equipment as well as gun directors.

Visitors can see the 76‑mm anti­aircraft cannon Model 1931 and the ammunition for it. Near the gun there are PUAZO­1 and PUAZO­2 gun directors, a range­finder, a synchronous communication cable, a commander’s plotting board Model 1927, a sound ranger, and an anti­aircraft searchlight station.

An individual section is dedicated in the display to the conception and development of an absolutely new type of artillery arms, recoilless cannons, offered by prominent designer L. Kurchevskii in 1923. During the gunnery, a part of the powder gases went through the nozzle in the direction opposite to the moving projectile. As a result, a reactive force equal to the force of pressure of the powder gases appeared at the bottom of the projectile. It enabled achieving the practical recoillessness of the barrel. In the early 1930’s, recoilless guns of various types were adopted in the land troops, aviation and navy. Among the exhibits are the 37‑mm anti­tank rifle (RK) and the 76‑mm battalion cannon (BPK) designed by Kurchevskii, the 76‑mm recoilless cannon (DRP­4) and the 76‑mm Kurchevskii aviation cannon (APK­4). L. Kurchevskii was one of the first Soviet citizens to be awarded with the Order of the Red Banner (#116) for his merits in the sphere of creating new types of artillery arms. Unfortunately, the designer was repressed in 1937, and then died in prison in 1939.

The period between 1933 and 1940 was marked with a new qualitative stage in the development of Soviet artillery. Updating guns of old types did not meet the requirements of that time. So the main goal before the Soviet designers was to create new materiel for the artillery. The Council for Labor and Defence in the Council of Soviet Commissars of the USSR issued a decree Concerning the System of Artillery Arming the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army for the Period of the Second Five­-Year Plan. This system envisaged re­arming the Red Army with new samples of up­-to-­date artillery equipment during the period of the second five­-year plan (1933–1937). Special attention was paid to the development of anti­aircraft and anti­tank artillery, improving old kinds of ammunition and developing new ones, standardizing and unifying samples of armament.

The 45‑mm anti­tank cannon Model 1932 started being added to the armory in mid­1932. However, in spite of high ballistic showing, it had a number of shortcomings. In particular, it did not have wheel-­springing. So, as a result of the modernization a new cannon was created. It was called the 45‑mm anti­tank cannon Model 1937. A semi­automatic breech mechanism was created especially for this gun. An elevating hand­-wheel was supplied with a push­button release that increased the firing rate and firing accuracy. The wheel­-springing provided increased mobility for the gun. In addition, the cannon had a spring­-actuated limber for 50 projectiles, with wheels of the same type as the gun’s. Visitors can see the new cannon of that time, with the limber for it and samples of ammunition.

The 76‑mm mountain cannon Model 1909 that was adopted by the mountain artillery was replaced with the new 76‑mm mountain cannon Model 1938. It was created by the design office at the M. Frunze factory. The cannon was light and noiseless on the move, had good mountain traffic ability and was not inferior to foreign samples in its fighting characteristics. The glass-­case displays a model of this gun taken apart and drawings showing the horse-packed method of carrying the gun.

In 1936, V. Grabin created the 76‑mm semi­-universal cannon. Its main feature was the fact that it had a large angle of elevation (up to 75°) and a special sight for anti­aircraft gunnery. However, it reduced the combat characteristics of the gun.  Thus it was remade into a battalion gun and added to the armory under the name of the 76‑mm cannon Model 1936 (F­22). Nothing in its unit was borrowed from other systems. The firing rate was driven to 20 rounds/minute and the firing range to 14 km. However, the complexity of the device and its weight reduced its combat capabilities. The 76‑mm updated cannon Model 1939 therefore furthered development of the F­22 cannon which is on display, as well. The modernized gun was much lighter than the original F­22 and had a better firing rate.

An individual section in the display is dedicated to the development of Soviet mortar arms. A group of designers headed by B. Shavyrin was busy with their elaboration. In the second half of the 1930’s, a whole "family" of mortars was created. Samples of all of them are displayed in the room. The 50th company mortar Model 1938, for example, was notable for the simplicity of its design, pin­point accuracy and splinter effect. In addition the light weight of the mortar made for the possibility to carry it in one pack as a mobile weapon. In the course of modernizing, the weight of the mortar was reduced by 2 kg and it became easier to produce. The dead space was made 100 m less and the new mortar acquired the name of the 50‑mm company mortar Model 1940.

In 1937, an 82‑mm mortar was created. It was notable for its ballistic characteristics; it had a base plate with a more rational design and its practicable firing rate was comparatively high (15 rounds/minute). The 107‑mm mountain-­pack mortar Model 1938 became a powerful and mobile weapon to accompany mountain-­rifle units. It was possible to dismantle it into several parts and carry in nine horse packs. The fact that Germans copied the design of the 120‑mm regimental mortar Model 1938 proves its advantages. All Soviet mortars distinguished themselves by their small sizes and were successfully used during World War II. Near the mortars are samples of ammunition. Visitors can also see glass­-cases with common fuses and time fuses for artillery ammunition, along with rocket shells and finned bombs.

The Soviet 122‑mm howitzer Model 1909/1930 was still in use in the army at that time, but was already inferior in its combat characteristics to alternate samples used in foreign armies. So a howitzer of the same caliber called M­30 was designed by a group headed by F. Petrov to replace the outdated one. The spreading sidepieces of its carriages allowed considerable increase in the elevation angle and traversing range, which in turn increased the possibilities of maneuvering fire. The wheel-­springing improved the mobility of the howitzer. Parts from other artillery systems were used in order to make its production easier and less expensive.

The success of Soviet scientists in such spheres of artillery science as exterior and interior artillery ballistics favored the best use of artillery in a battle. The research works of scientist-­artillerists D. Venttsel, P. Gelvikh, I. Grave, V. Grendal, N. Drozdov, V. Diakonov, D. Kozlovskii, V. Mechnikov and Ya. Shapiro allowed the creation of new artillery range tables, regimental and anti­aircraft gunnery regulations, updated instructions for artillery preparation and gunnery courses, as well as other manuals.

The glass­-cases display portraits of outstanding Soviet designers of artillery guns V. Grabin, F. Petrov and I. Ivanov, as well as M. Krupchatnikov, who created ammunition. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred to them for their activities.

Along with manufacturing new guns, Soviet designers worked out new ammunition for them as well. The activities of such prominent Soviet specialists in this sphere as D. Vishnevskii, A. Gartz and M. Vasiliev, are reflected in documents, photos, and published works exhibited in the room. Samples of projectiles they invented, including usual and time fuses are also on display.

Great work was done by Soviet gun designers during this time. In 1938, the 12.7‑mm large-caliber machine­gun, Degtiarev­-Shpagin type, on the universal Kolesnikov carrier (DShK) was built and added to the armory. It gave the possibility of delivering ground and vertical fire. Visitors can see this machine­gun. Next to it there is a 7.62‑mm large-­caliber machine­gun Model 1939, Degtiarev type (DS­39) on a carrier. There are also samples of automatic weapons designed by G. Shpagin, V. Degtiarev, B. Shpitalnyi, I. Komaritskii, M. Berezin and S. Vladimirov in the second half of the 1930’s.

Special attention was paid to the production of arms for aviation. In 1936, Soviet designers Shpitalnyi and Komaritskii worked out a super quick-­firing aviation machine­gun (ShKAS) which was capable of firing 1,800 rounds/minute. In 1939, the super­-ShKAS machine­gun was added to the armory. Its firing rate reached 3,600 rounds/minute. This machine­gun is displayed near the universal Berezin machine­gun (UB), which was one of the main kinds of aviation arms used during World War II. Next to it is a large-­caliber aviation machine­gun designed by B. Shpitalnyi and S. Vladimirov (ShVAK). Visitors can also see the twin anti­aircraft mount for Shpitalnyi and Komaritskii machine­guns (ShKAS) and a 20‑mm aviation Shpitalnyi-­Vladimirov cannon on a tripod mount for aerial gunnery.

The creation of submachine­-guns by V. Degtiarev and G. Shpagin became a significant contribution to the development of automatic weapons. Degtiarev submachine-­guns and Shpagin submachine-­guns are displayed in the glass­-case.

Personal military ranks were introduced in the Red Army in September 1935. One of the glass­-cases displays portraits of the first five Marshals of the Soviet Union — K. Voroshilov, S. Budennyi, M. Tukhachevskii, V. Bliukher and A. Egorov.

In the second half of the 1930’s, considerable changes took place in the development of educational military institutions. Their number increased and the education programs were revised. Military schools were called military colleges. Documents dedicated to artillery colleges are on display, as well.

A wave of the political repression, however, fell upon the Red Army at that time. About 40 thousand commanders and political workers, including M. Tukhachevskii, V. Bliukher and A. Egorov were repressed; many were also shot. The deaths of many experienced commanders and arms designers seriously undermined the fighting efficiency of the Soviet armed forces.

The military equipment developed by Soviet designers showed its high combat characteristics in battles with Japanese militarists, who suddenly invaded the Soviet Union near the Lake Khasan in the Primorye Region and near the Mongolian Halha River (also known as Halhin Gol or in Russian Khalkhin Gol) on July 29, 1938. Japanese troops succeeded in capturing the main hills called Zaozernaia (Chinese name: Changkufeng) and Bezymiannaia (Chinese name: Shachaofeng). The offensive of Soviet troops was scheduled on August 6.  Its final goal was to dislodge the Japanese from Soviet territory. Units of the 40th Division of the Red Army came out to the Eastern slopes of the Zaozernaia Hill. Lieutenant I. Lazarev, Commander of the platoon of 45‑mm cannons in the 118th Rifle Regiment of the 40th Rifle Division, acted heroically in these battles. Attacking the Eastern slopes of the hill the Red Army men had to lie down under the heavy fire of the enemy. Then artillerists under Lieutenant Lazarev who were moving towards the combat formations of the infantry opened direct fire on the enemy. Lazarev himself acted as a layer for one of the guns. In spite of heavy fire from the Japanese and after being wounded, Lazarev went on with the gunnery. Three guns of the enemy were destroyed and the machine­gun fire was subdued. On August 9, the enemy was hurled back outside the territory of the state border. Two days later military operations ceased. Senior Lieutenant Lazarev, Hero of the Soviet Union, perished in a battle against fascist aggressors in autumn 1941. One of the glass­-cases displays his winter helmet, as well as the Gold Star medal of a Hero of the Soviet Union and the Lenin Order.

During an operation conducted by Soviet-­Mongolian troops under G. Zhukov, Commander of the Corps, in July-August 1939 the 6th Japanese army suffered a destructive defeat in the area of the Halhin Gol. The Japanese sustained great losses from the fire of the Soviet artillery. In the glass­-case dedicated to the battle near the Halhin Gol there is a photo and awards given to Captain A. Rybkin, Commander of the Artillery Battalion. He foiled attacks of the enemy’s infantry more than once due to his efficient actions and precision fire. Rybkin neutralized several artillery batteries and distinguished himself while breaching the enemy’s defence. On November 17, 1939, the title of a Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred to A. Rybkin for his bravery and courage shown in battles with the Japanese near the Halhin Gol.

M. Avilov’s painting Eleven Frontier Guards on the Zaozernaia Hill is dedicated to events in the Far East. Visitors may also see two trophy cannons and small­-arms captured from the Japanese.

The increased role of aviation revealed a necessity to seriously improve the quality of anti­aircraft artillery. The anti­aircraft cannons first adopted into the army were quickly out of date, so a new 85‑mm anti­aircraft cannon was created in 1939. The increased power of the cannon required the introduction of a muzzle brake. The availability of sighting systems and effective time and armor-­piercing grenades gave the possibility of using cannons for fighting with ground targets, as well as for strengthening the anti­tank defence. Small-­caliber automatic anti­aircraft guns were produced for combat with aircrafts flying at small heights. 37‑mm and 25‑mm automatic cannons were added to the armory in 1939 and 1940. They had a high firing rate and were a powerful means of attack, not only against enemy aviation, but also for ground targets, tanks, armored vehicles, etc. The ammunition for these guns is displayed along with the cannons. These pieces were an effective mean of struggle with German low­-flying attack aircrafts and dive-­bombers during World War II.

The display includes PUAZO­3 gun directors, a vertical tracking telescope, a 4‑m distance stereoscopic range­finder and a 1‑m distance anti­aircraft range­finder. The stand displays illustrations used for anti­aircraft gunnery training. The displayed first samples of radar stations (RUS­2 and P­2M) are of a particular interest.

Blouse for the commanders (senior lieutenant) of the Red Army artillery. 1940.

Exhibits in the room also reflect events of the Soviet­-Finnish War (or Winter War) of 1939–1940. The fortified zone of casemate emplacements, so­-called Mannergeim’s line was a main obstacle for attacking units of the Red Army. Flanks of the line rested on Ladozhskoe Lake and the Gulf of Finland, and they could not be turned. The Line of Mannergeim was a dense chain of pill­boxes and dug­outs, strengthened with anti­tank ditches and obstacles, including wire entanglements that were skillfully fitted to the location. Fragments of Finnish reinforced fortifications and a granite anti­tank obstacle displayed in the room give an idea about how menacing the Finnish defence was. In addition one of the exhibited photos shows a sector of the main line of resistance in the strengthened Finnish area of 1939. The artillery acquired a special importance in such a situation. It destroyed specially located weapon emplacements of the enemy, clearing the way for the infantry and tanks. The display includes concrete­-piercing shells of different calibers and a 45‑mm cannon Model 1937 #2243. I. Egorov, Commander of the 45‑mm anti­tank cannon, wheeled out the gun to an open location and started gunnery at ports of the pill­box with armor­-piercing shells and neutralized it. After disabling the gun he participated in the attack of the infantry together with his team. The title of a Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred to him for his courage shown in the battle.

M. Avilov’s painting The Pill­-Box Has Fallen Silent Forever and A. Blinkov’s canvas The Capture of Vyborg by Soviet Troops on March 12, 1940 are dedicated to events of that war. The flag of the 27th Rifle Regiment hoisted over Vyborg on March 13, 1940, is displayed in the room. An individual glass-­case shows small-­arms captured from the Finnish army.

In addition to samples of artillery materiel the display includes uniforms of the 1920’s­1930’s. Full-­dress uniforms, soldier’s shirts and head coverings for men and officers of the Red Army are exhibited in glass-­cases placed along the central gallery in the room.