Monday, 12 August 2013

I have been to ... the Artillery Museum, St Petersburg: The Great Patriotic War

On the day after German invasion of Russia in June 1941 the Soviet newspaper Pravda used the term 'Great Patriotic War' to describe the war that the people of Russia were going to have to fight. It is thought that the phrase – which makes reference to the Patriotic War of 1812 – was intended to motivate all of the population (both Communist and non-Communist) to defend the rodina (Motherland) and to expel the invaders.

M1937 (53-K) 45mm anti-tank gun

M1942 (ZiS-3) 76.2mm divisional/field gun

M1936 (F-22) 76.2mm divisional/field gun

M1943 (ZiS-2) 57mm anti-tank gun

A 150mm multi-barrelled rocket launcher (possibly German in origin)

M1939 (61-K) 37mm anti-aircraft gun

BM-13 Katyusha rocket launcher

Examples of different Katyusha rockets

BM-8 Katyusha rocket launcher

BM-31 Katyusha rocket launcher

M1931 (B-4) 203mm heavy howitzer

M1935 (Br-2) 152mm heavy gun

SU-100 self-propelled gun/tank destroyer

ISU-152 self-propelled gun/tank destroyer

ISU-122 self-propelled gun/tank destroyer


  1. Absolutely wonderful photography at the museum. It show off the Soviet interest in rocket artillery as well as their greatly numerous and powerful traditional ballistic artillery.

    As far as it goes, let’s also keep in mind that the Soviet Union invaded Poland prior to the German invasion (Aka Great Patriotic War). So war didn’t exactly come out of the blue a peaceful and ready Red Army. Poland was a bone of contention for decades as the Bolsheviks made a grab for parts of Poland in 1918 and got repulsed. They got a second bite at the apple when Hitler grabbed one part of Poland 1 Sept 39 and the USSR got the other part starting on 17 Sept 39, all according to plan. Both sides got what they want and they split the Polish wishbone after the feast and made a wish … for more war. It was just not exactly what they expected.

    Popular history (TV history, coffee table book history) sniffs at Polish resistance, but such sources fail to note that the Poles were attacked on two fronts nearly simultaneously by two of the largest armies in Eastern Europe. Isolated politically and logistically, they held out for six weeks throwing everything they had into the battle for survival. Their powerful fortifications held back the cream of the Germany army until eventually they were destroyed. With the recent postings here about forts and artillery, it would make an interesting wargame study to see how and why the forts did hold out so long.

    Germany had a slice of Poland before WWII also, check out the history of Silesia and Danzig and how important the coal and metal reserves to Germany. For wargame purposes, the three Silesian uprisings of 1919-1921 would be a good proving ground for small unit tactics. Imagine a depleted Germany in 1920 getting into a scenario where the Silesian uprisings are bolstered by Polish troops as Germany also sends in more troops. It would be a sort of coda for WWI.

    Political purges of the military and industrial/economic sectors had left the USSR wide open for an attack by a Germany who knew how to gather intelligence, plan logistics, work out war plans with a highly competent general staff and were masters at “lightening warfare”. Winter however, was an inconvenient truth when messing with Mother Russia, regardless of who was in the driver’s seat of its government. Napoleon found it out, just as Hitler found it out. Initially the Soviets were so disoriented that even the Finns could hold out against them … with a little help from their friends. Sorry for the long post, I tend to rattle on since my own blog doesn’t really cover classic wargames.

  2. CoastConFan,

    I suspect that the decision to use the term 'Great Patriotic War' was made in an attempt to bring some cohesion to the population of Soviet Russia at a time when it was reeling from the impact of the purges.

    I totally agree with your analysis of the situation Poland found herself in in September 1939. The fact that her armed forces managed to fight a two-front war against the German and the Russians for so long is testament to their training, weaponry, and tenacity.

    Interestingly I have never seen a wargame that featured an attack on a modern (i.e. post-1900) fortress, and yet there are plenty examples of such actions taking place during the twentieth century.

    All the best,


    PS. Please feel free to 'rattle on' again if you are going to write such interesting comments.

  3. Excellent photographs. The artillery museum looks excellent. I noticed on TMP today that Paul Sawyer said that Warlord would be releasing a Katyusha lorry model soon. Not quite sure how that would work in Bolt Action!

    When my sister worked with the army she got the opportunity to fire a lot of semi-automatic weapons at a range and said that the AK47 was easily the most satisfactory to handle and shoot.

    Didn't Kalashnikov launch a range of vodka a few years ago? He must be well into his nineties now...

    Excellent post (again).

  4. Legatus Hedlius,

    I am very pleased to read that you are enjoying seeing my photographs of the Artillery Museum ... and are still some more to come.

    I would have thought that the Katyusha would have had too long a range for use with the BOLT ACTION rules ... but no doubt it will sell well.

    The AK47 is a very simple weapon to use. For example, the fire selector goes from Safe to Fully Automatic to Single Shot ... whereas western assault rifles go from Safe to Single Shot to Fully Automatic. This means that the Russian soldier only had to click the fire selector one notch to fire at fully automatic whereas the NATO soldier had to click his round twice.

    I don't know anything about Kalashnikov vodka ... but the old boy was still alive recently, although he was in hospital in Moscow.

    All the best,


  5. Stunning pics, Bob- very jealous.



  6. Pete,

    It is a great place to visit ... and I only wish that I could have spent more time there.

    All the best,



Thank you for leaving a comment. Please note that any comments that are spam or contain phishing messages or that come from Google Accounts that are 'Unknown' will be deleted.