Saturday 9 November 2013

Comrade Vovk and the Chamber of Secrets

Decades after the fact, documents on tank development are scattered throughout archives. You can't go into CAMD and open the IS-4 box to get everything and everything on the project. You'd think that it would be a lot easier to get information on the projects at the time of their creation, provided you had proper clearance. You'd be wrong.

"To the chief of the Red Army GBTU TU, Major-General of the Tank Forces, comrade Afonin

I send to you the report of the senior military representative at factory #100, Guards Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel colonel Vovk. I think that the facts of the matter violate the proper behaviour towards military representatives, especially senior military representatives, and require immediate action.

Without a concrete plan of experimental works, factory #100 performs discretionary research, which brings little benefit to producing new tanks or improving already existing ones.

Through a private means, I discovered that factory #100, led by comrade Kotin, is developing a new vehicle that is a counter to Object 701. When requested details on this project, comrades Kotin and Soloduhin officially stated that no such work is being performed at the factory.

When comrade Vovk was appointed as the senior military representative at factory #100, he happened upon a "mysterious room", to which he was not admitted, which is described in the attached report. At the same time, most work on subjects such as approval of IS blueprints and technical documentation have not been completed: steel plate radiator, planetary transmission, improvements of the gearbox, AA mount, driver's seat, final drive gears, V-2IS engine defects, etc.

I ask you to act on the leadership of factory #100 and restore firm control of the factory by military inspectors, especially regarding hiding experimental work. The leadership must be reminded of the role of the military inspectors in accordance to a Government Decree well known to you.

GBTU KA representative, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel  Markin
April 22nd, 1944
Attachment: report on 1 page

To the GBTU KA representative, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel comrade Markin

After my appointment to the role of senior military representative at factory #100, I encountered the following situation:

When familiarizing myself with the work of the design bureau, I discovered a room, which was guarded by factory staff. They denied me entry, stating that only a note from General Kotin can grant access. When I met comrade Kotin, I told him of the event, to which he answered "This is my personal office". In reality, this room is occupied by Schneidman, Shashmurin, Turchaninov and Mitskevich, who replied to my inquiry of what goes on in that room with "it is a smoking room".

It is evident that the factory is conducting work which are being hidden from me. On April 12th, 1944, an AA mount for Goryunov's machine gun arrived. It should take 3-4 days to figure out how to mount it on the tank. No work has been done by this point, and my demands are being ignored. Factory director comrade Kotin gave it to the chief engineer, comrade Belyakov, and told him "if it doesn't take too long and will not compromise the quota set by the People's Commissar, then do it".

I checked, and the factory does not have a quota for either the second quarter or the month of April set by the People's Commissariat of Tank Manufacturing; the factory is working to quotas it set itself.

As a result, the Goryunov AA mount is not ready. I consider the above abnormal, and ask for directions on what to do.

Senior Military Representative of the Red Army GBTU at factory #100, Guards Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel Vovk.
April 18th, 1944."
CAMD RF 38-11355-2214

The situation didn't improve one year later.

"To the Director of factory #100, Lieutenant-General of the Engineering-Tank Forces, comrade Kotin

The GBTU KA representative at the Kirov factory, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel comrade Markin and senior military representative at factory #100 comrade Vovk reported that the working conditions at factory #100 are such that he cannot fulfil his duties.

The impeding work conditions consist of employees hiding a portion of experimental work performed at the factory. This treatment of military inspections violate the Decree of the Committee of Defence of the USSR SNK from July 15th, 1939 #204, "On military representatives of the People's Commissariat of Defence in industry".

I ask you to take necessary measures to create proper working conditions for military inspections in accordance with the above Government Decree.

Deputy chief of the Red Army GBTU Lieutenant-General of the Engineering-Tank Forces Lebedev
Chief of the Red Army GBTU TU, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel Blagonravov

April 10th, 1945"
CAMD RF 38-11355-2805

Judging by the dates, the former secret project would have been the IS-6, and the latter one Object 260 (IS-7).


  1. Ahh, Soviet bureaucracy, it's a beautiful thing no? :D
    I guess Kotin (that name is familiar to me) had some powerful Party backers since he could basically work as he pleased, despite orders from the Red Army directorate to whom he was sort of subordinate.

    1. Kotin designed most of the major tanks and gun systems, so I wouldn't be surprised.

    2. Zhosef Kotin's father-in-law was Voroshilov. So yes, he had some pretty powerful connections.

    3. Kotin has always been a bit of a Prima Donna, especially after his success with the KV and IS series.

    4. Married into a family of an influential Party member AND actually competent at what he does, he probably was among the rare engineers that had basically carte blanche to pursue his dreams.