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Trans-Siberian Railroad and the wars of 20th century
November 26, 2009 12:12


Icebreaking ferry-boat Baikal

The longest railway on the earth, going through the Europe and Asia, connecting the Far East with central Russia and European countries is in an important thing from the economical point of view and strategically as well. Trans-Siberian Railroad figures in all the main military conflicts have taken place on the Russian territory from the first years it’s functioning.

Trans-Siberian Railroad begun functioning regularly by 1903, although the district of Baikal Lake, The Circum-Baikal Railway was not ready and the trains were transported over the lake by the icebreaking ferry-boat Baikal. In winter temporary rail tracks were laid directly on the ice. Anyway, trains with passengers and goods were running from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok and Dalniy, having given an impulse for economic upturn in the regions it went through.

It this happy time the Russian monarchy decided that it needed a small victorious war, and undertook the war with Japan for the control upon Northern Korea and Manchuria (1905 – 1907), and lost. The military operations were taking place on these territories. The transportation of the solders and military cargo was being carried out with the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Frankly speaking, it was the only one way to do it, because the second one was from the Europe via Indian Ocean, i.e. eventually through the enemy. Another difficulty was that the portion of line between Chita and Vladivostok was going through Manchuria, the Chinese territory. Now it is KVZhD, Chinese Eastern Railway.

The failed outcome of the war made two things clear. Firstly, the working capacity (13 trains a day) of Trans-Siberian Railroad leaves something to be desired, because the traffic during the war was too much for it. Secondly, the eastern part of the road must go through the Russian territory no matter how good are diplomatic ties with China. The problems with traffic were solved with construction of more fundamental bridges and elevated structures and certainly The Circum-Baikal Railway. The railroad groundwork was also improved. The problem with the road on the Chinese territory was solved by the construction of one more way. One of the most complicated engineer missions in this field was a bridge over Amur River. Construction of the 3-kilometers bridge, begun in 1913, was finished only in 1916, because of the First World War.

 

Speaking about the Trans-Siberian Railroad in the First World War I should say that it was seriously destroyed, because the military operations of the Civil War were closely tied with this it. Some works were not even finished, for example the bridge over Amur. The problem is that the metal details for it were produced in Warsaw, and then transported to Odessa (Russian port of the Black Sea, now Ukraine). From Odessa the frame works were transported by sea through the Indian Ocean to the Russian shore of Pacific Ocean. A German man-of-war took down the ship transporting two very last frameworks in the Indian Ocean in 1914. This confusion delayed the finish of the works.

The Czechoslovak corps and the Civil war
Trans-Siberian Railroad figures in the historical episode, which is often considered as the beginning of the Civil war in Russia. I mean the revolt of the Czechoslovak corps. The Czechoslovak corps consisted of the war prisoners from the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s army. They were being transported to the Europe, but via Vladivostok, not directly, the Soviet government insisted on this way. On the May, 14, 1918 a conflict took place when the train was staying in Chelyabinsk. The nationality conflict between Czechs and Slovaks from the Czechoslovak corps and Hungarians, also the war prisoners but dismissed by the Soviets according to the Brest treaty of peace lead to something curious. The forces of Red Army were sent to solve the problem, but the Czechs and Slovaks captured the ammunition depot and overcame them all. After that they began taking off the Soviets in the towns and settlements around. All they needed was to evacuate. What made them to carry out some real military operations in the circumstances of the severe frosts? The incident on the station provoked multiple armed conflicts, and many of them had Anti-Soviet trend. So they had to do in a such way. The opinion that they were directed with some forces in Europe looks anecdotic, because initially they didn’t have any weapons as war prisoners. After they heard about declaration of independence of Czechoslovakia, they decided to return home immediately and succeeded. The Civil war didn’t need any catalysts since that moment…

Second World War
During the Second World War the Trans-Siberian Railroad was the only way to evoke everything valuable from the regions occupied by the fascists. Hundreds of the works, factories and plants, museums and universities were evacuated to the East and saved because of that. 2593 Soviet production facilities were evacuated by rail, and 70 per cent were disposed in the Urals, Western Siberia, Central Asia and Kazakhstan. It means that a considerable part of their journey was the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

Conflict with China and retro machines
After the Second World War the Soviet troops were mainly withdrawn from the Far East because Maoist China seemed to be apparently friendly. But by the end of 50-s the situation altered for a worse. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (1955 – 1964) set a course for liberalization of the life in the Soviet Union and rapprochement with the western countries. His absolutely new political course and condemnation of Stalinism caused deterioration in relations of China and USSR, then the aggressive politic of Soviets in 1968 (already under Brezhnev) leaded to that the former ally turned into the potential enemy with an absolutely real nuclear bomb. The government began pulling troops in.

The border conflict took place later, in 1969 on the Damansky peninsula. It was tied with the territorial claims of China.

 

The trains with troops and weapons moved eastwards along Trans-Siberian Railroad. It was still the only one trunk tying the central Russia with the Far East, lying very close to the Chinese frontier. The trains, passenger and military as well moved day in and day out. It was rather dangerous. The only one diversion could paralyze all the traffic. Dislocating the military posts all along the way was impossible, firstly, because of the length of the way should be protected and secondly because of the lack of time. The conflict on the Damansky peninsula was eliminated successfully, but the problem of the Trans-Siberian Railroad was to be solved.

The solution was simple as ever. It was the armored trains and their mobile modifications. The armored trains, firstly appeared in the Boer War, were being actively exploited during the Civil War in Russia and in both World Wars. Because the trains on their own were being utilized long ago and most of them were simply recycled for the metal, so they should be re-created on the new technical level. The armored trains were hybridized with tanks as well.

Organization of new military units began in the Zabaikalsky and Far Eastern military districts in the early 70-s. They were called separate armored trains. Each train included properly the armored train, five armored maintenance vans, and following separate troops: motorized rifle platoon, anti-missile, engineer general service regiment, communications platoon and traction department. It took on board 12 tanks, two of them – amphibian ones, eight armored troop-carriers, seven different vehicles and one motorcycle. The possibility to use some parts of the train without rail-track was also provided. These monsters could protect the railway and keep fighting. Happily, there was no need to put them to good use Trans-Siberian Railroad. In 80-s the relations with China improved, and the armored trains were placed on inactive status. They became acute later, in other region and on the other railway, but that is already quite a different story.

 

Read more artikles about Russian Raiway...

 

 

Yulia Buzykina

Sources:
    www.transsib.ru
    wikipedia


Tags: Russian Railways     

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