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Kharkiv Locomotive Plant (KhPZ)
Malyshev Plant - Soviet Union

In the first years of its existence the USSR had no tank industry of its own. Tanks were occasionally manufactured and repaired at various Machine Building works of the country. At the same time, defence needs of the country required equipping the Red Army with fighting vehicles, including armoured ones.

An important event in the development of the country's tank building was the creation on May 6, 1924 in Moscow, in the system of the Central Administration of Defence Industry, a tank bureau called in 1926-1929 the Head Design Bureau of Ordnance-Arsenal Trust (GKB OAT). This bureau was charged with the tasks of designing combat tracked vehicles and helping plants in putting them into production. However, work of the GKB OAT was greatly hampered due to the fact that this organisation had no production facilities and necessary equipment of its own.

In this connection several Machine Building plants, including the Kharkiv Locomotive Plant, were charged with the task of organising tank development and production facilities, and later on with development of indigenous tanks. This decision was prompted by the availability of production facilities for powerful Kommunar track-laying tractors established at the Kharkiv Locomotive Plant in 1923, which was a good production basis for establishing tank production facilities at the plant.

The official document determining the beginning of tank production activities at the plant was the Resolution of Permanent Mobilisation Council of December 1, 1927, when the Central Administration of metal industry with its letter No. 1159/128 of January 7, 1928 ordered "... to urgently consider the issue of establishing tank and tractor production facilities at the KhPZ..." (from materials of the State Archives of the Kharkiv Region, File 93, Sheet 5).

The Kharkov plant already in those years was called the firstborn of the Soviet tank construction. The team had rich revolutionary and labor traditions, cadres of talented specialists and workers who have rich experience in creating wonderful machines. That is why the plant in the years of the first five-year plans was assigned to issue light BT tanks for the Red Army, and later - on the eve of World War II and the legendary T-34 tanks. The “Komintern” Kharkov Locomotive Works, or less dramatically, Factory No. 183, received a new director and a new chief of the design bureau to replace two individuals who had been purged and shot. The new factory director was Yu.Ye Maksarev, who was a busy man and key to making the tanks roll; but the real driver of Kharkov’s production was Mikhail I. Koshkin, the chief designer.

Mikhail Koshkin (1898-1940) was one of a rising group of star engineers. A Party member since 1919, he had performed well and impressed influential Party members on his way up. He studied at the Sverdlov Communist University and graduated from the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute in 1934. While there, he met and worked with Sergei M. Kirov, one of the major driving forces in the Leningrad Communist Party. At the Institute, he was also befriended by and came under the wing of a patron, Sergo Ordzhonikidze, one of the major early figures in the Communist Party. This ensured his getting a prime position at the best of the Leningrad factories.

Thus, upon graduation he went to Factory No. 185 to work as a designer. In January 1937, he was assigned as acting chief designer of the tank bureau at the KhPZ, replacing A.O. Firsov, who had been denounced. But his joy at receiving the new position was diminished when Sergo died in February 1937, essentially leaving him without support in the higher levels of the Party.

Zhosif Kotin (1908-79), on the other hand, was not the gifted designer and latent genius of Mikhail Koshkin. Kotin had simply attended the right schools with the right people at the right times. Kotin attended the Dzerzhinskiy Military Automotive Technology Institute in Leningrad, where he came under the eyes of Party luminaries such as Kirov, Voroshilov, Blyukher, and Tukhachevskiy, eventually even marrying Kliment Voroshilov’s daughter.

While it appears that Kotin was a competent, if not spectacular spectacular, engineer, his forte was political wrangling, and with the approval of the powerful, he advanced rapidly. On 7 May 1937, Ivanov, the chief of the SKB-2 design bureau at the Leningrad Kirov Factory, was denounced as a “Trotskyite” and taken out and shot. On 23 May, Zhosif Kotin took over the factory design bureau.

By 1938, the Soviet Union had essentially two production centers. Both had experienced a major turnover in staff the previous year. In Leningrad, the three factories were truncated and reorganized during the mid-1930s, and by 1937 had boiled down to one controlling design bureau which oversaw the activities of the three factories. Of the three factories — K.Ye, Voroshilov Factory No. 174; Bol’shevik Factory No. 100, or the Prototype Design for Special Machinery; and the Leningrad Kirov Factory No. 185 — the Kirov factory was the true power, and its new chief was Izaak M. Zal’tsman. The chief designer of all three plants was Zhosif Ya. Kotin.




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