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The History of the Engineers after 1917

The History of the Engineers after 1917

 

 

The room display opens with a stand whose exhibits reflect participation of the 1st Sapper Company (commander — Lieutenant P. Ermolaev) of the 6th Reserve Sapper Battalion in the storm of the Nikolaevski (now Moskovskii) railway station, the defence of Smolny and the printing house where The Pravda newspaper was published.

Armoured car. Austin type
Made in England in 1915.
In April 1917, V. I. Lenin was making a speech on the armoured car near the Finliandskii railway station

For a long time an Austin armored car was displayed nearby.  It was made in England in 1915. In Russia it was first armored at the Izhorskii Plant (Petrograd) and then 2 machine­guns and a 2nd steering gear were installed at armory division workshops. There is a legend that Vladimir Lenin made a speech from this car near the Finliandskii railway station on April 3 (16) 1917. The vehicle also took part in the operations of 1919. At present the car is placed in Room #4 to be a part of the display dedicated to Russian military history from 1917 to 1941.

On November 13, 1918, the Revolutionary Military Council of the Soviet Republic approved the united organization of engineer units and sub­units. After that, the formation of five pontoon battalions, two electro-technical ones, two individual camouflage companies and a military-­engineer firing ground in the city of Nakhabino started.

Non­-commissioned officers and other ranks of engineer troops of the Tsar’s army became the backbone of the Engineers in the Red Army. Training of the staff was undertaken in eleven military-­education institutions including the Military­-Engineer Academy in Leningrad.

Visitors will see photos of prominent scientists, commanders, and specialists in military engineering, such as K. Velichko, D. Karbyshev, F. Golenkin, K. Roze, P. Solodukhin, E. Reshin, P. Khoroshilov, B. Matov and others who supported Soviet power and defended it on the fronts of the Civil War.

Glass­-cases show samples of troops’ engineering equipment: mine­-demolition means (pyroxyline, the Bickford fuse, an exploder Model 1913), entrenching tools, pontoon­-crossing equipment. These included half-­pontoons designed by Tomilovskii and Blanshar, a Polianskii float, barrel and log rafts, as well as other means for getting over river barriers. There are also models of field fortification: a sub­machine blockhouse and a half­-caponier, a rifle squad trench, a usual trench section, and a machine­gun ‘nest.’ Schemes and models of Petrograd, Tula, Samara and other fortified districts give an idea about how necessary it was to equip them in the engineering respect in order to concentrate forces and means on individual sectors in conditions when military operations were organized not all front long, but for individual cities, bridges and settlements. The acquired experience of making such defensive lines and the placement of arms for assault operations was also successfully used during World War II.

The military reform of 1925 and the introduction of a System of Engineer Arms in 1930 ensured the prospective development of the Engineers. Thus, heavy pontoon park N2P designed by I. Popov was added to the armory of the Red Army in 1932. It consisted of open type metal half­-pontoons that allowed boat bridges and ferries to be made with a carrying capacity up to 60 t.  The display includes models of crossing equipment and a float from the set of equipment designed by N. Kasymov that is difficult to flood. Small floats and foot­bridges were assembled from such elements for river crossings by the infantry and light artillery. Their carrying capacity was up to 1.4 t.

Samples of electric and pneumatic tools for wood, concrete and metal works are exhibited on podiums. Among the exhibits are mine­-demolition means of the pre-­war period: delay-­action mines and fuses for them; chemical, mercurial mines, and a clockwork device — "alarm­-clock."   Visitors can see PM­1 and PM­2 exploders that ensured the action of 50 and 100 electric detonators. Next to them are anti­tank mines T­4 designed by N. Simonov and TM­35 (Sliunin mine), Egorov­-Zelinskii E3–1 fougasse, anti-­transport mines, tank-­disabling, anti-­bottom ones, etc. Anti­personnel mines are represented with the following samples: road­-personnel and ski mines, as well as home­made trip­-operated and pressure-­action ones. The glass­-case shows means for undertaking blasting operations and making explosive obstacles: trotyle slabs (trotyle replaced dynamite and pyroxyline, which was more dangerous in use), demolition cords, Bickford smoldering and other fuses, a stethoscope, an ohmmeter, electric detonators and other gears.

One of the photos displayed in the room gives an idea of the first Soviet mine detector: the induction sound designed by B. Kudymov. The sound located magnet cased mines at a depth of up to 10 cm. The display includes 10 mine detectors of various models. Among them is a mobile induction mine detector designed on the basis of the GAZ­69 truck.

There is a special outfit of copper wire Model 1930 for reconnaissance and overcoming electrifying wires, the AES­1 charge­-illumination station for lighting up command posts and charging accumulators.

Outfit for reconnaissance and overcoming electrifying wires

 Not far from them, in the center of the room is equipment from a diving station set: a pump for air feed, a helmet, a submarine knife, high overshoes and breast equipment for a diver to build engineering works under water. The first equipment for mechanical road works is on display as well. These are models of the Komsomolets excavator and a medium grader, as well as field water supply means (water reconnaissance, purification and storage), a cellular-­belt water-­lifting engine that ensures water lifting from depths up to 30 m with the output of 120 liters per minute. 

During the period between two wars (1921–1939) engineer troops took part in the construction of important objects in the state, including safeguarding and security, and thus made a considerable contribution to the public economy.

Visitors can see photo­-portraits of Lieutenant V. Vinevitin and Sergeant V. Rakov who were among the first sappers to be awarded with the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for their courage shown in the battle for the eminence of Zaozernaia during a conflict with Japan in the area of the Khasan Lake in 1939.

Sapper, pontoon, hydro-­technical units, water-­supply and camouflage sub­units were also engaged in the engineering support of military operations near the Halha River. They built 12 boat bridges and discovered 57 artesian wells.

An individual stand is dedicated to the engineering support of military operations during the war with Finland (November 1939 — March 1940). Overcoming the strong defence of the Mannerheim’s line was realized in conditions of severe winter. Storming emplacements was accompanied with peculiar difficulties. The enemy’s defence consisted of 899 pill­boxes spread out 120 km along the front. The exhibited photos allow visitors to follow a sequence of demolishing one of the pill­boxes with walls 3m thick.

At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, engineer troops had to construct defensive lines and make engineering obstacles. The stands display schemes of defensive lines from Moscow, Leningrad, Odessa, Kiev, Stalingrad, Sebastopol, Kursk and other Hero­-Cities. There are also models of four variations of anti­tank barriers made on the critical paths of tank approach, along with photos of commanders and warrior-­sappers who were engaged in demolition of bridges and other important objects.

The glass­-case shows fragments of rank and file arms of the 33rd Engineer Regiment, which defended the Brest fortress. On the stand nearby is a photo of Second Lieutenant S. Baikov, Hero of the Soviet Union, who blew up the railroad bridge across the Velikaia River near the settlement of Korytovo in the Pskov region together with tanks of the enemy. Another glass­-case displays documents and a photo of Colonel M. Ovchinnikov. The obstacles detachment under his command blew up 32 bridges on dirt roads and 3 railroad bridges on the approach to the capital. Also exhibited are documents, awards and personal belongings of General-­Major B. Bychevskii, chief of the Engineers of the Leningrad Front and author of the book The City­-Front, and I. Solomakhin, commander of the 106th Engineer­-Sapper Battalion. In addition, visitors can see awards of 15 participants of the war and information is provided on 109 Heroes of the Soviet Union.

The schemes, relief maps, models, photos and front drawings displayed in the room show various kinds of engineering obstacles and methods of camouflage. A displayed model of an oil base resembling a settlement; weapon emplacements and observation posts camouflaged as deserted houses, and a command post as country houses are examples of some of these methods. Exhibited also are models of the Luga defensive line, the Neva command post in the Shuvalovo­-Ozerki area, and an electrified model of the strong point near the Frunzenskii Department Store in Leningrad. The latter is an example of engineering support in the case of city street battles.

The Road of Life, the route on ice from Ladoga Lake is a special page in the history of the siege of Leningrad. 360,000 t of different loads were conveyed to the besieged city, 550 thousand residents of Leningrad and 350 thousand wounded people were evacuated by automobiles along this route during the winter of 1941/42. The display includes a stand with a map of the Way of Life. Glass-­cases in the room show samples of PMD­6 and TMD­B mines made in Leningrad during the 900‑day siege. Also exhibited are POM3–2 mines and mines used for covering artillery positions from enemy’s tanks.

Warriors from engineer troops actively participated in all battles of the Great Patriotic War. The engineering support at the battle for Stalingrad is represented in the room with a scheme of the defensive lines between the Don and the Volga Rivers, including a topographic map of obstacles made by the 16th engineer brigade for special purposes (commander — General-­Lieutenant M. Ioffe). A plan of engineer’s equipment called Pavlov’s House proves that battles were fought for virtually every house. The plan was worked out in such a way that 18 sappers under sergeant Ya. Pavlov kept the line for 58 days, not letting the enemy go out to the Volga. Storming groups were widely used by sappers in the battle near the Volga, as well as waging an underground­-mine war and, operations undertaken by mobile obstacle units. A number of documents reflect the participation of the Engineers in counter­attacks near Stalingrad.

In the room is a model of the bridge across the Volga near the settlement of Tatianka, which pontoon-­constructors built several times under constant fire. It conveyed more than 200 thousand soldiers, 2,300 t of ammunition, 87 tanks, and 350 guns to both sides for two months. During the Stalingrad battle, pontoon­-constructors all together built 39 bridges and repaired 27.     

These were just sappers of the 329th Engineer Battalion, who captured Field­-Marshal von Paulus, commander of the 6th German Army, together with warriors from the Motorized­-Rifle Division.

P. Sipin’s painting The Forced Crossing of the Dnieper by Troops of the 8th Guards Army in the Area of the Shevchenko-­Voiskovoe Village on September 23–24, 1943 is displayed on the wall in the room. Nearby are models of various crossing equipment from rafts to pontoon-­bridge and heavy pontoon parks.

An individual section is given on the display to exhibits dedicated to the engineer support of partisan operations. Mine­-surprises widely practised at the enemy’s rear are of a special interest. Among them are such samples as the mine-­cobble, the mine­-anthracite, the MZD­3 delay-­action mine and the Maliutka mine. A photo of Colonel I. Starinov, military engineer, is exhibited in this section, as well. He acted as assistant to the commander­-in-­chief of the partisan movement for diversions. The Concert and the Rails War operations were executed under his command, with more than 100 thousand partisans participating in each of them. I. Starinov, inventor and designer, is the author of books about mine war and a whole generation of controlled mines named after him.

In the room are also models of different locations where German sappers placed mines, carefully masking them upon retreat. The display includes a painting by front­line sapper artist V. Andreev — Let’s Study. It depicts mine clearance in a school after liberating a settlement. In the Leningrad region alone, 36 million explosive objects were disposed of, starting from the moment when the siege of Leningrad was raised until 1946. Clearing of the grave of great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in the Sviatogorskii Monastery is depicted in one of the photos.

Visitors can see photos of seven girls who were dog trainers at a mine­-detecting service, as well as documents and models of storage facilities where artful mine equipment were revealed with the help of dogs after the enemy’s retreat.

Dog – tank-destroyer

 Thanks to the dogs, explosive objects were found 5–6 times faster than could be done by means of mine-detectors. For example, a dog named Dick found 1,200 such objects in the Leningrad region during the period from 1944 to 1948. Stuffed dogs-­miners are on display as well. During the war dogs were trained to blast enemy tanks and trains. The animals were equipped with packs weighting 4.4 kg designed by Professor P. Kobeko and commander of the 34th Engineer Battalion of the Mine­-Reconnaissance Service Colonel P. Zavodchikov.

14 battle colors from the engineer units are placed along the perimeter of the room.

Upon the banishment of German troops from the territory of Eastern and Central Europe, the Engineers had to restore destroyed bridges across rivers. Four models of bridges restored by pontoon-­constructors are displayed in the room. Franz Joseph Bridge (The Bridge of Liberty) across the Danube in Budapest was restored by the project of Captain of Engineers Kazarin in 20 days. Upon restoring the bridge across the Danube near the city of Dunafeldvar, sappers rather originally used its 500 m long girders as supports for placing wooden constructions. The bridge was restored in 12 days. Engineer troops of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts built 182 boat bridges and low­-level ones during the Iaşi­-Kishinev operation.

During the Berlin operation engineer troops on three fronts ensured a secret concentration of fighting forces in the direction of the breach. They directly secured a forced crossing of the Oder, the Neisse, and the Spree and also participated in storming operations during the capture of strong points.

96 km of vertical camouflage nets and 420 thousand square meters of horizontal nets were mounted for the camouflage of troops on the 2nd Belorussian Front alone. 179 t of smoke composition were used, 540 minefield gaps were made and 72,000 mines were removed. The crossing equipment consisted of 69 pontoon parks, 7,000 various boats and 101 cutters. The river crossing was secured only for troops of the 1st Belorussian Front. During battles for Berlin 23 engineer battalions on this front made 1,500 breaches in walls and buildings, 1,000 passages in barricades, and destroyed 47 underground tunnels and manifolds in the city (which were used for the maneuvering of enemy troops). 

An individual section of the display is dedicated to Hero of the Soviet Union General-­Lieutenant of the Engineers Dmitrii Karbyshev. He was the author of more than a hundred scientific works on various spheres of the military-engineer art and military history. He was taken prisoner after being seriously shell-­shocked at the beginning of World War II and tortured to death by fascists in the concentration camp Mauthausen. The glass-­case in the room displays manuscripts of his research works. Next to it is a sculpture­-bust D. Karbyshev made by Yu. Ivanov. Visitors may also see a model of the anti­tank mine fuse invented by Karbyshev, his personal watch and the scheme of fascist transit concentration camps, one of which the scientist was placed in and perished.

There is a section in the room elucidating the post-­war activities of engineer troops. It includes exhibits telling about the participation of the Engineers in restoring the natural economy by clearing the territory from the ammunition and mines, as well as documents about the struggle with natural calamities. A special pedestal demonstrates an unexploded German bomb weighting 1,400 kg, one of thousands thrown down on Leningrad during the siege. Among the exhibits are mines produced in the states which fought against the USSR during World War II — German, Japanese, Italian, Hungarian and other ones (25 samples in total).

About 100 thousand pieces of ammunition from WWII have been rendered safe yearly on the territory of Russia until now. Every year engineer troops service more than 500 objects to defend from floating ice and freshets. They are engaged with fighting fires and liquidating the consequences of earthquakes.

The experience of World War II and creation of mass destruction weapons led to the necessity of revolutionary changes in engineers’ equipment. The engineering obstacle clearing vehicle was created to make passages in obstructions and to ensure security in conditions of high radiation. A model of it is on display. The display also includes models of the PTS­2 floating caterpillar transport, the caterpillar mine-­planter that installs 204 anti­tank mines in an hour, models of engineers’ equipment, the heavy and tracked mechanical bridges and the engineers’ small rope­-thrower, as well as models of constructions made of sheet steel (observation and command posts, shelters for people and arms). The displayed items are samples of machines for road-­earth works (BAT­M — for laying track-­ways; PZM­1 and BTM — for digging out trenches; the MDK­2 ditching machine — which makes shelters for combat materiel and personnel). Among the exhibits of the post-­war period are a significant number of objects of engineering reconnaissance: an electronic­-optical color­-vision periscope and a high-­power magnification periscope, a semi­-conducting mine detector, The Miner’s Bag set of tools, various kinds of mines (anti­tank mines, candle bombs, anti­personnel mines), shaped and special charges, as well as a trench charge. Models of the PRM­2 and PRM­3 trailer­-mounted mine­layers and photos on the stand give an idea about how the problem of installing anti­tank mines during a battle may be solved. Engineers’ light diving equipment was used for executing works on sea and river bottoms at a depth of up to 20 m.  Samples included are of anchor and anti-­amphibious bottom mines intended for mining coastal zones, riversides and areas near the other reservoirs.       

In the room is the UR­83P mobile mine clearance mount intended to make passages in anti­tank minefields using an explosive method. A charge weighting more than 800 kg is brought to the minefield for the explosion with the help of two rockets at a distance of up to 440 m.  The display also includes samples of the field dress, everyday uniform and full dress, awards of privates, officers, generals and marshals of the engineer troops. Visitors can see the personal arms, telephone set, service cap and greatcoat of General­-Colonel S. Seleznev, commander of the Leningrad Military District, who tragically perished in an air crash on December 19, 1996.  

On the left side of the room are portraits in oil of Red and Soviet Army chiefs of the engineer troops: A. Khrenov, L. Kotliar, M. Vorobiev, A. Proshliakov, V. Kharchenko and S. Aganov.

In the center, between the columns is a gallery of paintings. It is an individual art exhibition of masters of battle painting of the 19th — early 20th centuries. Among the exhibited works are two by A. Kotsebu — The Battle near Narva on November 19, 1700 and The Capture of the Kolberg Fortress on December 6, 1761. The former was made for the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace in 1845.

A. E. Kotsebu. Capture of the Kolberg Fortress on December 6, 1761. 1852

Picturesque canvases by Ya. Sukhodolskii (1797–1875) are dedicated to the storm of Ochakov (1788), the fortress of Kars (1828), and the Akhaltsykh fortress (1828). One of episodes of the Crimean War is depicted in V. Maksutov’s painting The Battle near Chetat. L. Lagorio’s painting shows a glorious page in the history of the Russian­Turkish War of 1877–1878, the 23‑day "Bayazet sitting," when the Russian garrison of the Bayazet fortress, consisting of 1,600 persons, withstood the siege of an 11‑thousand member Turkish army.

L. F. Lagorio. Beating off the Ыtorm of the Baiazet Fortress on June 8, 1877. 1891

Canvases by P. Vereshchagin, The Bombardment of the City of Rushchuk, by P. Sokolov, The Crossing of the Danube by Bulgarian Refugees, by A. Kivshenko, The Storm of Ardagan, and by P. Kovalevskii, The Battle near the Village of Ivano­-Chiflik, are dedicated to the main events in this war as well.

Artist N. Karazin (1842–1908), participant in campaigns of the Russian army to Middle Asia, pictures the crossing of the Amu­-Darja by the Turkestan detachment under General K. Kaufman in 1873.