The rocket launcher BM-21 Grad was originally developed in 1960s in Soviet Union and during Cold war was exported to almost all countries of Warsaw Pact. In former Soviet states like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus or Georgia are these weapons still in service. This Grad was on June 13th,2014 seized by Ukrainian army in the Donetsk region. Due the Ukrainians, the vehicle contained Russian-made ammunition – this BM-21 belonged to Russian 18th Motorized Infantry Brigade attached to the 58th Southern District of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation based in Chechnya. As a prove of Russian presence in eastern Ukraine is this vehicle today exhibited in Kiev war museum. As I visited the museum during January, the majority of exhibits were under the snow.
Fear from nuclear attack was a reason for people from all around the world to build during Cold war different shelters which supposed to protect their lives in case of disaster. Shelter 10-Z was originally constructed in Brno by Nazis during ww2 against US and Soviet bombing. After the war, it was shortly closed and in 1959 rebuilt by Czechoslovak government to a nuclear shelter for communist eminent persons. In case of enemy attack, could in 10-Z survive 500 people for the duration of 3 days. The object was controlled by army until 1993.
Randomly looking objects in the Austrian, Czech and Polish countryside are remaining the huge project from the end of 1930s. In the autumn 1938 came the Nazi Germans with plan of the highway which would connect two important centers of Third Reich – Wien (today Austria) and Breslau (today Poland). The whole 320 kilometers should be under the control of Germany although about 83 km was located on the area of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovak citizens were allowed to use the highway just with passports. After the occupation of the country was this problem solved.
The building of the highway started in April 1939 by the Reichsautobahn company and due the plan should be main parts finished at the end of 1940. But because of huge war costs got the works slower than expected and in 1942 was the project stopped and postponed to afterwar era. As Germany lost the war, the highway was never finished and the already built parts fell into disrepair.
The Siege of Leningrad in years 1941–1943 costed hundreds of thousands of human lives, but not just humans suffered but also the animals had to share the horrific destiny of the city. During the blockade ruled in Leningrad huge lack of food and poor citizens had to eat not just their cats and dogs, but there are also proves of cannibalism.
Since 1865 had St. Petersburg – Leningrad also its ZOO. When the battlefront approached the city, about 80 of most rare species were evacuated, but the rest had to stay in sieged Leningrad. How to feed them, when even the people suffered by hunger? In first months of blockade collected the employees of ZOO dead horse bodies and feed carnivorous with them. When it was not possible anymore, the animals started to lose their weigh and the ZOO had to look for the new ways how to save them.
The most of species had no problem with eating vegetable food, but how to change for example the tigers into vegetarians? The big cats refused to eat the porridge made of grass, leaves and moss, with angry growl they destroyed the bowls with vegetables. The ZOO keepers tried to put the porridge into the empty skins of rabbits and it worked. This way learned not just tigers, but also foxes or polecats to eat the vegetables.
The predatory birds had to learn to eat the fish. Just the golden eagle refused to eat fish so the employees of ZOO hat to hunt mice for him. Tropical animals like monkeys had to eat acorns and beechnut instead of bananas or grapes. Big problem was also with heating and water inlet. So the suffering and weak citizens of Leningrad had to bring the water from river Neva, so the ZOO keepers can keep the hippo at least a little wet.
Through all effort most of the animals in Lenigrad ZOO died. Most of them by hunger and diseases, but for example the elephant Betty was killed by bomb. The end of the blockade survived just bears, monkeys, hippo, camels and donkeys.
Almost all European countries started at the end of 1920s or beginning 1930s with preparations for new war. The experience from WW1 showed, that building of huge fortifications on the boarder could be a good strategy. In 1929 France began to construct the famous Maginot line, one of the biggest fortifications in the world. Approximately in same time started with building of Stalin´s line also Soviet Union, s little bit later, in 1933 joined this trend also Poland and in 1935 Netherland.
Czechoslovak republic decided, after the long discussion, to build a huge fortification system in 1935 – alternative was to develop mobile and well motorized army instead, but this solution was found as too expensive and country had no sources of fuel (moreover ambitious project like building fortification allowed to help the problem with unemployment). That year travelled a group of army officers to France, to get an inspiration from Maginot line, later came French experts to Czechoslovakia to help with construction. The basic used pattern practically was practically copied from French Maginot line, but during the time some innovations were developed.
The problem of this plan was obvious – border of the country measured 4 120 km, 1529 km shared Czechoslovakia with Germany – after annexation of Austria even 2 117 km. But Poland nor Hungary weren´t good neighbors too, the only safe border was about 200 km with Romania. Securing of such a long boarder was for small state with big German minority quite a big challenge. Czechoslovak government planned to construct 15 463 light and 1276 heavy fortification objects in ten years long period. In year 1935 signed republic also alliance with France and Soviet Union.
The strategy of Czechoslovakia presumed, that army could hold this “Benes line” (named after the foreign minister and later president of state Edvard Beneš) until the French and Soviet army respond with attack against Germany. Because of later signification of Munich Agreement in 1938 and following occupation of country the fortification system was never finished – just about 20 % of bunkers and forts were really finished and prepared for war.
After the World war II. and communist takeover of the power in state, some of the forts and bunkers were reactivated against the “imperialistic” enemy from the west. Some new weapons (mostly soviet) were installed and the system served until late 90s.
Block MJ – S3 “Zahrada” in Šatov
Visited object called Infantry Block Šatov “Zahrada” is located on the Austrian border and it was built during the summer 1938. The block was designed for crew of 34 men, it had two floors with all necessary equipment, so the soldiers could stay inside for couple of weeks. Original weaponry represented two anti-tanks cannons vz. 36 with caliber 40 mm, and two heavy machine gun-twins vz. 37. The closest surrounding of the object should be defended with light machine guns vz. 26 and hand grenade holes. Two observatories allowed to watch the border and inform the heavy artillery about movements of enemy. They were also armed with light machine guns.
Till the beginning of the war it was not fully equipped and not really prepared for conflict. Nevertheless Šatov was used during the year 1938 in short fights with German paramilitary organisation Freikorps. After the occupation of border area by German army was the object deactivated and damaged.
The army finished the construction and reactivated the object in year 1946 for case of the World war III. Since 1960 used the object antitank cannon from soviet tank T-34/85 (used under the sign PvK vz. 44/59), which served here until 1999. After Czech admission to NATO was the object closed and rebuilt to museum.
The observatory armed with ligt machine gun
Around the main object there was situated a net of smaller bunkers which should in necessity support the main object
Interior of MJ-S 3:
Cannon PvK vz. 44/59 (originally cannon from soviet tank T-34/85)
This weapon was developed for Czechoslovak forts in 1950s, totally was made just 20 pieces of this cannons. The caliber is 85 mm, maximum firing range 13 500 m, effective firing range 1 500 m. The well-trained crew could shoot every 15 seconds. PVK vz. 44/59 served in Czech fortification system until year 1999.
Machine gun-twin vz. 37
Heavy machine gun vz. 37 represents basic anti-infantry weapon of the Czechoslovak fortification. It was developed in 1930s in Brno, cooled by air, and weighted about 19 kg. It had caliber 7.92 mm, the firing range was 2 500 m. The twin modification allowed to adjust weapon so it can injure the chest and legs in same time. For every weapon had the crew of the bunker 40 000 bullets. Empty cartridge cases fell through pipe under the weapon down to trench around the walls. Although was this weapon developed before WWII, it served until 1999.
Light machine gun vz. 26
Developed in 1924 in Brno, the predecessor of more famous BREN. Caliber 7.92 mm, fire range about 3 000m, weigh 8,8 kg, used cartridge with 20 bullets. The crew had for every of these weapons 5 000 bullets including 500 armor-piercing ones.
In case of gas attack could the crew use gas masks connected to pipes with oxygen.
Crew could observe the surrounding of the object with periscopes in the walls.
Armory – during cold war the basic weapon of Czechoslovak army was a rifle Sa 58, caliber 7.62.