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Russian T-34 (T34) Battle Tanks of the World War II in action

Updated on July 20, 2016

The Russian T-34 Battle Tank of World War II

The T-34 was a formidable Russian medium tank that sought service in World War II. The T-34 weighed 26 tons. It initially had a crew of four, as well as an excellent top speed of 55kmh (34mph) with a battle a range of 268 miles. Described as one of the best tanks of the World War II the T-34 had excellent fighting capabilities. The battle tank was a direct evolution from other Russian light tanks. Its engine consisted of a hefty 500 horsepower V diesel engine making it extremely fast in consideration of other tanks of the World War II.

Design features of the Russian T-34 were significant. Low to the ground and with sloping fronts the armour made penetration form enemy tankor anti-tank fire extremely difficult. The Tanks low profile created a smaller target in battle allowing it to hide in available cover extremely easy. The Tanks main weapon was a 76.2mm cannon, which was upgraded to a longer higher velocity barrel 76.2mm version. The 85mm cannon seen on later T-34s helped match the battle tank against German armour and tank firepower of the time. The Russian T-34 had 65mm amour as is primary strength yet its angled shape added to the inability of enemy tank fire to penetrate the tank in battle.

Photographs of the Russian T-34 Tank

T-34 in battle operation during World War II
T-34 in battle operation during World War II
Russian T-34 with Infantry greatest Tank of the World
Russian T-34 with Infantry greatest Tank of the World

The T34 versus German Tiger Tank

A great book on the T34 in combat can be read - see the reviews for the book on the left. It was written by a Russian Tank Commander!

The T-34 proved to be a suitable adversary against the formidable German Tiger Tank or Panzerkampfwagen especially in close combat. One of the main advantages came from the number of T-34s against the formidable German Tank. The adaptation of the cannon to 85mm proved competitive against the 88mm cannon of the Tiger Tank in battle. Russian production of the T-34 at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa moved from the Western based Kharkiv Tractor factory in the Ukraine to factories deep within the Eastern Russian interior. Removing production from the battle areas allowed construction of the T-34 to continue without significant interruptions during World War II.

The sheer numbers of T-34’a produced helped the Russian army gain significant strength in battle, as they could afford what would seem like insurmountable losses, within negating its overall battle efficiency.

The total production figures for the T-34 by the end of 1945 amounted to an incredible 34,780 battle tanks making this one of the greatest produced tanks of the world. Production peaked in 1943 to an incredible 15,182 tanks for that year alone, far surpassing any other battle tank production. At this point in World War II Russia was beginning to show its dominance in contrast to the German Blitzkrieg success of 1941 and 1942.

The Simplicity of the T-34 Design

As with all Russian engineering the T-34 had simplicity at its heart, in similarity to the Russian Kalashnikov AK-47, its simplicity made repairs simple in comparison to other battle tanks. The water cooled four-stroke 12-cylinder diesel engine made engine fire insignificant in operation. Whilst the tanks light construction weight combined with its large area of operational capacity far exceeded other heavier tanks of World War II. Wide tracks made cross-country manoeuvring easier in the Russian countryside and battle areas.

Various versions and modifications continued on the T-34 during World War II, the most notable included:

  • T-34/76B had rolled-plate turret amour
  • T-34/76C had twin roof hatches instead of the one single large hatch on the original T-34
  • T-34/76D during the winter of 1942 and 1943 saw an introduction of a hexagonal turret, wider gun mantel and exterior fuel tanks that allowed jettison.
  • T-34/76E added a cupola on the turret for the commander consisting of welded construction.
  • T-34/76F modifications included a cast turret rather than a welded turret.
  • T-34/85 modifications used the battle turret of the KV-85 tank which included an 85-mm main and included an additional battle tank crew member allowing the tank commander to become free from the responsibility of firing the tank cannon.

Top 10 Tanks and T34 is Number 1

The T34 T76A specifications

The T-34 specifications including later modifications:

Specifications (T-34/76A version)

Crew: 4

Weight: 26,000 kg

Length: 5.92 m

Width: 3 m

Height: 2.44 m

Max speed: 55 km/h (on road)

Max range: 186 km (on road)

Engine: One V-2-34 V-12 diesel (373 kW)

Power-to-weight ratio: 14.35 kW/tonne

Vertical obstacle climb: 0.71 m

Gradient: 38.9 %

Trench crossing: 2.95 m

Fording Depth: 1.37 m

Main armament: 76.2-mm L/30 gun (Replaced by the more powerful 7.62-mm L/40)

Secondary armament: Two 7.62-mm machine guns

Amour: 18-60 mm

Specifications (T-34/85 version)

Crew: 5

Weight: 32,000 kg

Length: 8.15 m (including gun)

Width: 3 m

Height: 2.60 m

Max speed: 55 km/h (on road)

Max range: 360 km

Main armament: 85-mm gun

Armour: 20-90 mm


What remains surprising about the T-34 is that its featured in many battles in Africa during the 1980s. The battle tanks last recorded theatre of operation was during the Bosnian/Herzegovina conflict during the 1990s. This means the tank was still being used 50 years after its initial production of the 1940s. The tank was also used by Russian women when they became Tank Crews. As was normal, women fought with men in Russia.

T-34 Russian Battle Tanks

T-34 Battle Memorial in Russia
T-34 Battle Memorial in Russia
T-34 in Battle Exercise showing the public
T-34 in Battle Exercise showing the public

Did you find this information on the T-34 useful?

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    • johndwilliams profile image
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      johndwilliams 2 years ago from Essex England

      Thank you for your time in reading and contacting me

      Cheers

      John

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub. Very informative. I focus on the American soldiers who liberated the Nazi concentration camps and I know very little about American, much less Russian weaponry and equipment, but this was fascinating. Thanks!

    • johndwilliams profile image
      Author

      johndwilliams 6 years ago from Essex England

      Thanls Plastic Soldier - The Russians used any green paint (normally a factory or industrial green) they had to paint their T34s hence why its hard to find a matching color these days, well at least it allows for some improvisation! Thanks for the comments and vote - cheers John

    • Plastic Soldier profile image

      Plastic Soldier 6 years ago from Cheshire England

      Great Hub I paint plastic soldiers from the WW2 era this is great info vote up

    • johndwilliams profile image
      Author

      johndwilliams 6 years ago from Essex England

      Thanks Jaskar its always good to hear you've found my Hubs interesting - many thanks for the positive praise regarding the Russian T34 Tank - all the best John

    • jaskar profile image

      jaskar 6 years ago from England

      here's me thinking im abit of a WW2 weapons expert but a lot of stuff in their i had NO idea about. great hub and a good read. cheers.

    • johndwilliams profile image
      Author

      johndwilliams 6 years ago from Essex England

      Thanks Spirit - They certainly do, Soviet things still function today, they may look ugly but work as strong as an Ox. The AK-47 has only 7 moving parts as I heard making it extremely reliable - my wife nows how to strip and clean one, they taught her in School - Thanks again for the feedback

    • johndwilliams profile image
      Author

      johndwilliams 6 years ago from Essex England

      Thanks Rooskaya glad you like my Hub and thanks for the positive feedback - The Russia Army is formidable

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 6 years ago from Isle of Man

      The Russians build things to last, well at least they used to. There are Russian aeroplanes built after the war and in service today. In Vietnam what was the American soldiers' weapon of choice? Yes, the AK-47 why, because it was more reliable than their own. You certainly have a wide and interesting range of knowledge. Thank you.

    • Rooskaya profile image

      Rooskaya 6 years ago from Russia

      Thank you for sharing with us a great informative hub.I love Russian army and their creations.The king of all.