Kubinka Tank Museum Guide & Virtual Tour

The history of the tank museum in Kubinka from its foundation to its transformation into a just technical repair site of the Patriot Park. For a long time before the certain events in Ukraine, the Saumur tank museum in the Loire Valley was the “brother and friend” of the tank museum in Kubinka. The collection of the Museum in Saumur contains not only the most famous samples of Soviet tanks, but also the uniform of Soviet tankmen of the 4th Guards Kantimirovsky and 2nd Taman divisions. The Museum of the Army of the Invalides in Paris has samples of the uniform of the 45th regiment of the special forces of the Kubinka Airborne Forces. Below is a guide to the museum and the history of military units in the Kubinka region, as well as a description of the uniforms available in the collection of the Saumur Tank Museum (Loire Valley) and the Invalides Army (Paris).

Kubinka tank museum history

In 1931, a tank test site was founded a few kilometers south of the Kubinka railway station and the M1 Moscow-Berlin highway. On the western side, near the road to Naro-Fominsk, residential buildings were built for the families of officers, as well as a club. To the east and south there was a reservoir, a tank track, including ditches and hills, as well as a shooting range. To the west of the military camp, barracks and an archive were built (it is also a library and a secret part with documentation). Near the barracks, on the outskirts of the training ground, from its northern part, from the side of the Moscow-Minsk-Berlin highway, there was a special place for storing military equipment, right under the open sky. The first units of storage of military equipment were small, medium and heavy tanks of the company “Carden-Loyd-Vickers” purchased from Great Britain in 1930. The first Soviet tanks built on the basis of the French Renault FT 17 and samples purchased in the UK were also stored here. The tanks were tested at the range, and then remained in storage at this outskirts of the range. In 1938, an official decision was made that all obsolete tanks would remain at the training ground and form a museum collection. For this purpose, the trophies of the Red Army from the period of the Civil War were sent from the troops to Kubinka, one large Mk 5 Rhombus tank (Great Britain) and one Renault FT-17 small tank (France). The remaining obsolete tanks Mk 5 in the amount of 15 pieces were installed for propaganda purposes in the cities of Arkhangelsk, Smolensk, Lugansk, Kharkov. After the capture of these cities by German troops, some of the tanks were taken to Germany as trophies and their fate is unknown.
The local wars with Japan at the Far East replenished the museum’s collection with the captured trucks, the cars and the tanks, the fate of which is also unknown. Of the particular interest is one of the two American Christie chassis purchased in the USA and on the basis of which the Soviet high-speed tank BT (Bystrokhodny) was produced. It was this tank, which without tracks could reach an ithe ncredible speed of up to 140 km / h, was tested on the highway near Kubinka. From the very beginning, the technical characteristics of the tank had to be such as to reach Berlin. To overcome the Buk River on the Soviet-German border, a light amphibious T-40 tank was manufactured by the Stalin Moscow Automobile Plant (ZIS). The capture of the Baltic States by Stalin replenished the museum’s collection with British tanks, which were in service with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. By the beginning of the Soviet-Finnish (“winter”) war, a heavy self-propelled unit was made on the basis of a British tank to break through the Mannerheim Fortification Line. The undercarriage, the very complex, the British tank proved to be very bad in the winter conditions of Russia and Finland. A new, the simpler heavy self-propelled heavy installation with a ship gun was made. Both of these large monsters from the museum’s collection were used in the battle for Moscow during the Second World War. When the front approached Kubinka, the testing site and the part of the “exhibits” of the museum were temporarily evacuated to the rear. The fate of the remaining exhibits is unknown, including one of the two Christie chassis. In Soviet times, the entire adjacent territory was a regime zone, where it was forbidden to walk and carry out search work. In this regard, there is little hope that over time, in these forests where the battles took place, there may be some fragments of the collection lost before the war.

World War II famous battles and the collection replenishment

The Second World War gave the Kubinka training ground several tasks, the main of which was to study how to destroy enemy tanks. Find vulnerabilities, from what distance and with what caliber you can destroy and issue small paper instructions for soldiers. The first captured heavy German tank Tigr Pz-VI was captured by the Red Army at the end of 1942 in the battle for Leningrad. This made it possible to study a new one and issue a special instruction for destruction before the start of Operation Citadel. For the same purpose, a special team of engineers from Kubinka was sent to the Battle of Stalingrad, and then to the Kursk Bulge. Detailed reports were drawn up on how, from what distance and with what caliber the new heavy German Tiger tanks and Ferdinand self-propelled guns were destroyed. The tanks, which remained in good condition, were sent to Kubinka to study individual structural elements, measure armor, speed, and traditional shooting from different sides. A large exhibition of trophies was arranged in Moscow, in Gorky Park, opposite the Headquarters of the Ground Forces (including the GABTU, the main armored department). Now this complex of buildings is the National Defense Control Center.
A huge role in the victory of the USSR over Nazi Germany was played by the supply of equipment to Lend-Lease, especially in the initial difficult period of the war. Even during the famous Battle of Kursk, the Red Army had T-60 and T-70 light tanks (called “locust” or “walnut”) and T-34 medium tanks against the German heavy Tiger tanks. Soviet heavy tanks KV-1 and KV-2 were mostly captured or destroyed during the initial period of World War II. Only a few copies have survived to this day, one of which is presented in excellent condition in the Tank Museum of the city of Saumur (Loire Valley). Significant assistance to the Red Army during the famous Battle of Prokhorovka (Kursk Bulge, southern front) was made up of heavy British Churchill tanks supplied by Lend-Lease. The task of the Kubinka test site was not only to study the test copies of the equipment, to approve or reject them, but also to translate the operating instructions from English into Russian. Serial and trial copies of equipment from Great Britain and the USA also replenished the museum’s collection. I would also like to especially note the Canadian snowmobiles, which are very important for the harsh winter in Russia and the Far North.
In addition to German tanks and automated control systems, many equipment from other countries was captured, including France, the Czech Republic, Italy and Hungary. As a result of this, Kubinka museum now has the largest collection of Hungarian tanks in the world. When the Red Army captured Berlin and the German Kumensdorf training ground at the end of the war, the unique experimental tanks were also delivered to Kubinka. Of the two broken super-heavy tanks Maus (Mouse), one almost complete was assembled. The transportation of such a super-heavy tank by the rail was very dangerous because any bridge could collapse, for which the head of the transportation would be shot. Mouse was delivered to Kubinka, slowly and without damage, and the head of the echelon received a medal for this serious non-combat operation.

Cold War, local conflicts and collection expansion

According to an agreement with the Allies, after the defeat of Hitler’s Germany, the Red Army attacked and defeated Japan and its puppet state in Manchuria. As military trophies, the Cuban Museum received a dozen Japanese tanks of various modifications. Japan is an island country and travel by water is very important. At the opening of the “Second Front” and the landing on D-Day in Normandy, the Allies lost a large number of armored vehicles on the water. Soviet engineers began to study very carefully the various elements of Japanese floating tanks, especially those with folding pontoons. The USSR has a long railway for thousands of kilometers in Siberia. This also aroused great interest in Japanese tanks with additional wheels for rail travel. The Cuban Museum has become the owner of the world’s largest collection of Japanese tanks from the Second World War period, while Japan itself has only one surviving original tank.
The USSR has always supported financially and military equipment the Arab and African countries “developing” along the socialist path, fighting against the “damned capitalists” and “Zionists”. In the local wars of the Arab states against Israel, the USSR supplied not only financial assistance, but also military equipment and specialists. One of the guides of the tank museum personally participated in such wars and, as part of a tank crew, knocked out 4 Israeli Centurions in a few days. The museum’s collection was replenished with British tanks and their Israeli modification Merkava.
When France was losing its colonies in North Africa, as well as during the war in Angola, the USSR received several units of wheeled tanks for study. Traditionally, France produces excellent cannons on a wheeled chassis, which greatly interested Soviet specialists. Any attempts by Soviet engineers to put the gun on a wheeled chassis were unsuccessful due to the high recoil when fired.
One American tank was stolen by Cuban and Soviet comrades during the war in the Bay of Pigs and smuggled to Kubinka in the hold of a ship, covered with sugar. The Soviets received a lot of British and American military equipment during the war in Indochina and Vietnam.
After Stalin’s death, relations between the USSR and China were spoiled to such an extent that local conflicts occurred on Damansky Island. Before that, the USSR supplied samples of tanks to China for its own production, while the armor was “Made in China”. Soviet specialists were interested in the characteristics of Chinese tanks and they received such a sample during the India-Pakistan conflict.

The second opening of the museum or only for specialists

Gradually, the structure of the test site and the 38 research institute acquired a certain structure. The polygon had a shooting range for the guns, rockets and the light small arms, the special tracks and a pond, a design bureau in the form of a testing institute, and a tank regiment. One battalion of the regiment was engaged in testing the Soviet heavy and main tanks, the other light airborne. The development of the Soviet Airborne troops (VDV) under General Margelov led to the creation of the special light tanks and self-propelled guns delivered by the planes and helicopters. After the Battle of Kursk and the appearance of the heavy German tanks such as Pz VI Tigers, the light Soviet T-40, T-60, T-70 were forgotten, but not forever. The designer of these tanks, Astrov, after the Second World War, began to produce the first Soviet self-propelled artillery mounts practically on old chassis. The importance of the Airborne Forces increased more and more and the USSR began to produce and develop airborne combat vehicles (BMD). In the event of the outbreak of the Third World War, the 350th Airborne Regiment took off on the IL-76 from Belarus and was supposed to destroy the missile systems and strategic facilities in France. At the same time, the losses at each stage were planned to be very large and the surviving single paratroopers had to go to the French forests, to the partisans, completely without knowledge of the language. Thus, a close connection between the tank regiment and the Airborne Forces was formed. Another battalion of the tank regiment at the training ground was the enemy captured British and American armored vehicles. Under the leadership of the KGB and the GRU, the officers studied and tested all this “potential enemy” AV. The regiment also had a special repair unit. Before the formation of the independence in 2012, the museum staff were in full-time positions of the tank regiment, and the soldiers served all life activities.
In 1972, the second opening of the museum and a major reorganization took place. Since the Second World War, all the exhibits have stood in the open air in the terrible Russian weather conditions of the rain, winter and snow, which led to a lot of the corrosion of the metal outside and inside. Note that the Soviets never showed concern for the preservation of the cultural and historical values, and especially in the military museums. All the exhibits served the same purpose – to educate the KGB, GRU and design engineers about the past, present and future weapons. In the case of the war, the unique exhibits were to be used as the combat units for the army. In addition to corrosion by the rain and snow, unique exhibits lost some parts for the domestic reasons. The officers removed the lanterns from the vehicles in the order to put them in their dacha (summer small holiday houses with a garden, an old Soviet tradition). The regiment’s conscripts took the trafemark labels, and sometimes the parts of the motors and the hulls. The last third of the military service of 2 years, the soldier thinks only about the demobilization and prepares his uniform and the photo album for this. In the Soviet Union, a whole trend of the “Military decorative art” appeared, which included decorating uniforms with the violation of all the orders and creating a special DMB photo album about his service with the humorous cartoons and the artwork for the album itself. For this purpose, the trademark label from an engine or a tank, some metal elements and leather from the driver’s seat were great for decorating an album. The tradition of skinning the seat of Lend-Lease tanks dates back to World War II to make good boots and other household items. The soldiers only continued the tradition of the officers, veterans of the war.

Kubinka tank museum tour guide

Kubinka Tank Museum before the construction of hangars

The original coloring with the tactical identification marks on the armored vehicles was severely damaged by 1972 and no one cared about its preservation. For the grand opening of the museum on Tankman’s Day in 1972, the following work was done:
– A central alley with the stones along the perimeter was laid, the trees were planted.
– The administrative house was built with the first two Soviet tanks at the entrance.
– All tanks, German, Soviet and others, have “Made in the USSR” headlights of the same size of a motorcycle type.
– All armored vehicles of all countries are painted in a single Soviet protective green color.
– Standard military AV covered hangars with concrete floors were built.
All armored vehicles are divided into the groups according to their purpose. One half of the museum (eastern) has the Soviet armored vehicles, the other (western) the foreign. The groups were created as follows, one half:
Pavilion N 1 – Soviet heavy tanks and self-propelled guns from the pre-war period to the present time.
N 2 – Soviet medium tanks from the legendary T-34 to various post-war modifications.
N3 – Soviet light tanks before World War II, World War II and post-war airborne AV.
N4 – Soviet armored personnel carriers, BTR of all modifications.
The other half of the museum:
N5 Hangar N5 – AV of the UK, USA and Canada, including Lend-Lease.
N6 – Nazi Germany, Third Reich, from “Goliath” to “Maus”.
N7 – All countries of the world, including France, Japan, Hungary, China, Czech Republic and Poland.
N8 – Secret hangar with the working samples not for display.
In each pavilion, the samples went in chronological order to show the development of the technology step by step with all the modifications. As you know, some structural elements from the past can be successfully used in the wars of the future. During street battles in the city of Washington or London, some elements of the armored vehicles of the Battle of Stalingrad can be used. The entire museum served for one purpose – to show, educate and inspire the KGB, GRU and design bureaus to create the armored vehicles for the future wars. Of interest is the history of covered the hangars. How can the super-heavy German tank Maus be rolled into the hangar when it is not in the working condition? The technical solution to this issue was purely in the Soviet military style. In winter time, using the slide as a sled, the heavy tanks were set into the position, and after that the hangars were built. As mentioned above, only specialists from the relevant law enforcement agencies were allowed into the Museum. So the tank museum existed before the collapse of the USSR.
This structure of the Museum and the arrangement of exhibits, formed in 1972, practically remained in this form until 2012, when major transformations took place. Read more:

Kubinka Tank Museum Guide and Virtual Tour 1972-2012

Since the opening of the Museum in 1972, the entrance was carried out from the territory of the secret research institute and the military camp. Immediately after the entrance, there was an administrative building, the main alley and pavilions with armored vehicles on the left and right sides. The alley with trees was lined with stones. In front of the administrative building were two of the first Soviet tanks, assembled for the opening at the plant, partly from original parts. The first tank is an illegal copy of the French Renault FT-17 “Fighter for Freedom Comrade Lenin” and a similar MS-1. The building housed the head of the museum, the employees, a small showroom, a cafe, and a toilet for generals and important guests.

Hangar N 1 – Soviet heavy tanks and self-propelled guns.

A small photo gallery of archival views of the pavilion and interesting exhibits from the late 90s – early 00s. Twilight, the concrete floor, the cold all year round, the dirt and the smell of the engine oil like everywhere else in the Soviet army.

  • Hangar H1 armored vehicles catalog and the detailed description

Hangar N 2 – Soviet medium tanks and self-propelled guns.

The legendary T-34 and post-war tanks of the Cold War period in the process of technical development: T-44, T-54, T-62, T-64, T-72 and much more.

  • Hangar 2 medium tanks catalog and description official list

Hangar N 3 – Soviet light tanks and assault guns, airborne troops and amphibians.

Light amphibious tanks before the Second World War, T-60 and T-70 “locusts” of the battle for Stalingrad, armored vehicles of the Airborne Forces during the Cold War. As well as Soviet amphibious tanks, made according to the sad experience of the Allied D-Day landing in Normandy.

Hangar N 4 – Soviet armored vehicles, armored personnel carriers (BTR) and infantry fighting vehicles (BMP).

The first Soviet pre-war armored vehicles were made on the basis of GAZ trucks (licensed Ford). American armored personnel carriers supplied to the USSR during the Second World War under Lend-Lease served as the prototype for the first Soviet BTR-152. The pavilion also presents infantry fighting vehicles of the period of the war in Afghanistan in the process of modernization, serial and the experimental models.

Hangar N 5 – armored vehicles of Great Britain, the USA and Canada.

Trophy of the Civil War in Russia WW1 type Mk V “Rhombus”. British Cardin-Loyd copy samples bought by the Soviets in 1930. Trophies of the Red Army during the capture of the Baltic countries before WW2. Technique for the USSR according to Len-Lease, serial and samples for testing. Samples captured by friends of the USSR during local wars and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Trophies of the Arab-Israeli wars of samples of British armored vehicles and its Israeli modernization. A gift from a great friend of Russia, Saddam Hussein, of NATO weapons.

Hangar N 6 – the armored vehicles of Nazi Germany, Third Reich

The most complete collection of the tanks, the self-propelled guns and the artillery tractors of the Third Reich, many examples of which have been preserved in a single copy. From the first Pz T-I light tanks to the heavy Pz T-VI Tiger and the super-heavy Mouse, including self-propelled guns based on the  Pz T-III, T-IV and T-V chassis.

Tank museum the official catalog of Hall N6 “WW2 German tanks, AG, automobiles and other equipment”. Prepared by M. Blinov: the catalog number, Soviet name (not always correct), year of manufacture, AV type and class.
1. T-1A (Sd.Kfz. 101), 1934, light tank, serial.
2. T-IIB (PzKpwg II Ausf. F or Sd.Kfz. 121), 1938, light tank, serial.
3. SU-75 (Sd.Kfz. 131) light AG Pak 40/2 “Mercedes II” on T-II chassis, 1940, serial (anti-tank AG Marder II).
4. SU – 105 FH 18/2 “Wespe” (Sd.Kfz.124) on Т-II chassis, 1940, light assault gun, serial.
5. Т-III j (Sd.Kfz. 141/1), 1940, the medium tank, serial.
6. SU-75 “Art Sturm” (StuG III Ausf. F Sd.Kfz 142/1), 1941, AG on the T-III chassis, serial
7. SU-75 “Art Sturm”, 1943, AG on the T-III chassis, serial.
8. SU- 105  “Art Sturm”, 1942,  the Assault Howitzer on T-III base, serial.
9. SU-150, 1943, assault howitzer on T-III base, serial (StuIG 33B).
10. Т-IV, 1940,  the medium tank, serial.
11. SU-75, 1942, Jagdpanzer IV/70 AG on T-IV base, serial.
12. SU- 150, 1943,  the AG howitzer on T-IV base, “Brummbär”, serial.
13. SU- 88 Nashorn, 1943, the tank destroyer on T-IV, serial.
14. SU- 88 “Jagdpanther”, 1944, the AG on chassy Т-IV V, serial.
15. T-V “Panther” (PzKpwg V), 1943, the heavy tank, serial.
16. SU- 600 “Tor”  “Adam”, 1940, the heavy self-propelled mortar, small serie.
17. Maus Panzer VIII, 1944, the super-heavy tank, small serie.
18. B- 4 “Borward”, 1942, the tele controlled torpedo, serial.
19. Small carrier “KettenKrad” NK- 101, 1941, the tracked bike, serial.
20. B1a “Goliath”, 1943, the tracked torpedo electrical control, smal serie.
21. B1b “Goliath“, 1943,the tracked land torpedo electrical control, small serie.
22. Ball-tank, 1938, the self-propelled armored observation artillery post, single sample.
23. T-1f (VK1801) “Bear”, 1941, lthe ight tank, serial.
24. Т-VIH “Tiger” I, 1942, the heavy tank, serial.
25. SU-380 “Sturm Tiger”, 1944, the covered heavy self-propelled rocket launcher, serial.
26. Т-VIB “Tiger II” (or “King Tiger”), 1944, the heavy tank, serial.
27. SU-128 “Jagdtiger” B, 1944, the heavy assault gun, serial.
28. SU-88, 1944, the light opened self-propelled gun, serial.
29. SU-128, 1942, the half-closed self-propelled gun, small serie.
30. SU-88 “Ferdinand”, “Elefant“, 1943, the heavy closed AG, serial.
31. “Horch”-B, 1939, light armored car, ***
32. BTRD7r “Adler-Berk”, 1938, the light armored carrier on base “Bussing-Nag”, ***
33. BTRD7 r  “Bussing” 250/9, 1938, the light carrier with 20 mm. cannon on the base “Bussing-Nag”, serial.
34. Carrier, 1939, the scout carrier with 75 mm. cannon on a tractor “Krauss-Maffei” base.
35. “Nebelwerfer”, 1942, 10 x Channel mortar on the chassy “Maultier” (?).
36. “Krauss-Maffei”, 1934, the medium carrier.
37. “Daimler-Benz” DV-10″ ДВ-10, 1934, the heavy carrier.
38. Mine Sweeper NK – 101, 1942, the mine clearing vehicle,  a small serie
* – there are some the inaccuracies in this Catalog, the corrections and the clarifications in the possibility are  given too.

Part 2, Russian Federation, the reorganization, the commercialization and the final.

  • Tank museum in 1992- 2014 after the collapse of the USSR
  • Patriot Park and the current location of the exhibits
  • Search on the WW2 battlefield and the restoration of armored vehicles
  • Festivals, parades, holidays, reenactment of battles, cinema

Reference materials on the subject:

  • Soviet uniform and insignia of tank crew and the motorized infantry.
  • History of the Airborne Forces,the  uniforms and parachute equipment.
  • Photo archive of the Cold War, the armored vehicles and DMB album
  • Kursk Bulge, the famous tank battle on Prokhorovka
  • Battle for Stalingrad and the square in Pariss
  • Allied D-Day landings in Normandy, the WW2 battlefields & museums
  • Automobile Museum in Reims, Champagne. WW1 – WW2 cars and trucks