WW2 Soviet Light Tanks

Russian Renault

Soviet Union (1920)
Light Tank – 15 Built

On March 19, 1919, the young Soviet state acquired its first FT tanks. This acquisition followed the victory of General Grigoriyev Nikifor’s 2nd Ukrainian Soviet Army over the Interventionist White Forces in a battle near the German colony of Worms, now known as Vynohradne in the Berezivka district of Odessa. Faced with the lack of technical knowledge required to use the captured weapons against their former owners, three tanks were dispatched to Kharkov (Kharkiv), while one was presented as a gift to Lenin in Moscow. Lenin took a liking to this “French novelty” and ordered its participation in the upcoming May Day parade. However, upon arrival, the tank was incomplete and unable to move independently, prompting the swift dispatch of a replacement tank from Kharkov, which arrived in time for the celebration. As the sole captured tank paraded through the streets, few could foresee the genuine significance of these captured machines, which would come to serve as the cornerstone of the esteemed Soviet tank building school, influencing armored warfare for decades to come.

A meeting of the Special Purpose Armour Squadron, April 1919. This captured tank was chosen as a gift to Lenin. Source:
Captured tank during a parade, May 1, 1919.
The Onset of Civil War: March – June 1919

Tsarist Russia

Tsarist Russia’s entry into the First World War was accompanied by the significant challenge of its heavy and automotive industries being underdeveloped, making the production of essential weapons for its vast army a formidable task. With limited resources available, prioritizing the production of basic infantry equipment such as ammunition, rifles, and artillery was necessary, leaving little room for the development of expensive, untested machines, such as tanks. Despite these challenges, Imperial Russia was able to produce a fair number of armored cars and trains during the war. This was primarily achieved by retrofitting armor plates and weapons onto civilian vehicles obtained from abroad, utilizing small factories, shipyards, and artisan workshops. Despite the low priority and the lack of funding, several prototypes that can be considered precursors to tanks also managed to advance through various stages of development.

Some notable examples were the Rubinsk and Mendeleev tanks, both of which remained confined to blueprints and never materialized. Another example was the Vezdekhod, whose hull was manufactured prior to the war. Unfortunately, the army did not recognize its potential on time, resulting in the project being indefinitely postponed. Lastly, there was the “Tsar tank,” a monstrosity that by 1917 made it to the prototype stage, before being quite literally abandoned in a field.

Russian Revolution: October 1917 – February 1918

The First Tanks in Russia

Shortly before the February Revolution (March 1917), the Russian government, seeking a way to turn the tide on the Eastern Front, initiated negotiations with France and Great Britain to acquire tanks, at first ordering no less than 390 Schneider CA1s, before canceling the order in favor of the FT. Nevertheless, none of the deliveries took place before the revolutionaries seized control of the state. Following the October Revolution (November 1917), the Bolsheviks assumed power in Russia, and the uneasy peace with the Central Powers quickly gave way to a new conflict from within. In early 1918, the remnants of the Russian Imperial Army were reorganized into the Peasant and Workers’ Red Army, with the goal of defending the revolution against the coalition of anti-Bolshevik factions known as the White Army, as well as various other groups, including the independent ‘Green’ and ‘Black’ armies. The overthrow of a monarchy and the rise of a Communist state presented a clear threat to the interests, and perhaps the existence, of Western superpowers. In response, the White Army received substantial political, material, and at times direct military support from the Entente, including the provision of the latest weapons and military vehicles remaining from the First World War, among them tanks.

Red Army soldiers posing with the captured Mark V tank named ‘For Holy Russia’. Approximately 70 Mark V tanks were delivered to White Forces throughout the war.
German Occupation and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: March – May 1918

The British sent their Mark V and Whippet tanks, originally designed to break the stalemate of the positional trench warfare on the Western Front. Their shortcomings in speed and range became all too obvious in the vast Russian steppe, where the frontlines were sporadic and maneuver warfare the norm.

The French also sent in their FT tanks, the first 20 of which arrived in Odessa on December 12, 1918, in support of General Denikin’s White Army. These turned out to be better suited to the realities of warfare in the Russian theater, primarily due to their compact size and relatively light weight. As such, they could be loaded onto lorries and quickly driven to operational theaters, where they would be unloaded and sent into action. In addition to being considerably easier for deployment, FTs represented a major revolution in tank design. Compared to other tanks of the era, the FTs had smaller dimensions, were less mechanically complex, and more reliable. FTs were also lighter, more maneuverable and easier to crew since they required only two crew members and they featured a comparatively modern internal layout with a rotating turret. As such, it came as no surprise that eventually, this was the tank that the Soviet government decided to reverse engineer and put into production for the Red Army.

Considering the enormous territorial size of the Russian Empire, FTs being transportable atop truck beds proved to be a crucial advantage. Pictured are Spanish FTs during the Rif War.
Source: Marín Gutiérrez & Mata Duaso (2004), p. 21
Entente intervention: November 1918 – March 1919

Red Renault

Following the Battle of Worms, general Grigoriyev sent a satisfied telegram to the army headquarters:

”… The enemy – Greek and French volunteers – was driven out of forward positions and, in confusion, fled in complete disarray. Within a few minutes, we captured a lot of war material: about 100 machine guns, 4 artillery pieces, two of them long-range, seven locomotives and an armored train, four tanks and two headquarters, one Greek and one French …”.

Another telegram was also sent to the White military governor of Odessa, Grishin-Almazov, demanding the unconditional surrender of the city, or else the governor would be skinned alive and his skin fashioned into a drum.

Among the acquired spoils of war, four Renault FT tanks stood out, their presence a marvel to the peasant soldiers of the Red Army. There was an immediate temptation to turn these captured weapons against their former owners. However, operating such cutting-edge weaponry demanded proper training and expertise, skills that surpassed the immediate capabilities of surrounding soldiers. Thus, three of the tanks were dispatched to Kharkov (Kharkiv), then the capital of Ukraine, to be consolidated into the Special Purpose Armored Division (BADON) under the command of the Council of People’s Commissars of Ukraine, headed by A. Selyavkin. Meanwhile, one remaining tank was sent to Moscow as a gift to be presented to V. I. Lenin himself. The “gift” was accompanied by a letter written by “the Soldiers of the 2nd Ukrainian Soviet Army”:

“…even tanks, these modern monsters, generated by the last war, could not resist the revolutionary war, and today the 2nd Ukrainian Soviet Army has the good fortune to present you, dear teacher, one of those terrible weapons. We are sending you one of these tanks, which will be the best proof of the power of the proletarian revolution…”.

The captured tank arrived in Moscow towards the end of April. Upon its arrival, Lenin displayed a keen interest in his new acquisition and requested its inclusion in the Red Square parade on the Day of World Solidarity of Workers, May 1st. However, due to the tank’s incomplete state and inability to move independently, an urgent order was issued to Kharkov for a replacement tank. The second tank reached Moscow in the final week of April. Former aviator B. Rossinskiy was appointed as its mechanic and driver. He, along with two assistants, quickly familiarized themselves with the vehicle, managing to learn controls and get it running in time for the parade. Following the procession, Lenin continued to show great curiosity about the machine, engaging Rossinskiy with a barrage of questions. On May 2nd, Lenin sent a letter to the headquarters of the 2nd Ukrainian Front expressing his gratitude for the gift:

“To the headquarters of the 2nd Ukrainian Soviet Army and to all the comrades of this army.

I bring my deepest gratitude and appreciation to the comrades of the 2nd Ukrainian Soviet Army for the tank sent as a gift. This gift is dear to all of us, dear to the workers and peasants of Russia, as proof of the heroism of the Ukrainian brothers, dear also because it testifies to the complete collapse of the Entente, which earlier seemed so strong.

Best regards and warmest wishes for success to the workers and peasants of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Red Army.

– Chairman of the Defense Council
V. Ulyanov (Lenin)”

In the meantime, the two remaining Renault tanks were deployed as part of the Special Purpose Armored Division in the regions of Ekaterinoslav and Kremenchuk. Somewhat ironically, they fought against the forces of the same general Grigoriyev who initially captured them, but now stood in opposition to the Soviet regime. Both tanks were lost near Novomoskovsk on June 26, 1919. The parade tank was also sent back to the front as part of the Sverdlov armored detachment of the 8th Army before also being recaptured by the Whites. Despite these tactical failures, Red Army commanders, eager to do away with old Tsarist ways, still saw tanks as weapons of the future, prompting the Soviet government to initiate a domestic tank production program.

On August 10, 1919, a joint resolution by the Council of People’s Commissars and Council of Wartime Manufacturing designated the Krasnoye Sormovo plant in Nizhny Novgorod as the specialized tank producing establishment entrusted with the task of coordinating the production of an FT tank clone. Even though all the challenges stemming from the underdeveloped industry in Imperial Russia were not only carried over but also greatly magnified, optimism was high and the task was received with great enthusiasm. On the 22nd of August, the board of the plant agreed on the schedule that would allow them to produce the first “worker-peasant tank” in nine months, by summer 1920, and to complete the delivery of 5 combat units, each comprising of one cannon-armed tank and two machine gun armed tanks, by the end of the same year.

The relatively small weight and simple design of the hull and turret allowed factories that formerly dealt with armored cars to involve themselves with tank production. As such, the workload was split:

  • Moscow Automotive Enterprise – AMO (the future ZiL) – engine and suspension
  • Izhora plant – armored plates
  • Petrograd Putilov and Obukhov plants – armament
  • Krasnoye Sormovo – final assembly

On October 3, 1919, the Council of the Military Industry issued Order No. 2131 to the Izhora plant, instructing them to also undertake the production of 30 copies of the FT tank model. The plant board agreed and began making the necessary preparations for local tank production. However, their plans were disrupted by the FT tanks of General Yudenich’s White Army, which was at that time marching on Petrograd. While the prompt arrival of reinforcements saved the city, in light of this incident, it was decided that it would be impractical to burden a factory located on the frontline with tank production. Consequently, the focus was shifted entirely to the Krasnoye Sormovo plant, which would now bear the sole responsibility of tank manufacturing.

Denikin’s Moscow Campaign: June – October 1919

On September 29, 1919, the remaining immobile tank, most likely the same one originally gifted to Lenin, was dismantled and transported via rail car to be thoroughly examined by a special team consisting of engineers Krymov, Moskvin, Saltanov, and Spiridonov. Izhora contributed to the effort by dispatching a 4-man group for armor engineering under the leadership of engineer Artemiev. AMO factory also sent a 5-man team headed by engineers Pilounkovsky and Kalinin. Their job was to make sure the engines produced at the factory fit the new tank.

On November 1, 1919, the Council of the Military Industry organized the aforementioned engineers into a special commission. Joining them were two French ex-Renault employees, Dem and Rosier, who volunteered their services to the new Soviet government. The commission was tasked with creating technical documentation of all components. Upon the creation of each blueprint, a full-scale, metal model part would be immediately constructed and fitted into the reference tank to make sure everything fit.

Overall Design

Scan of the surviving blueprints of the ‘Russian Renault’ from the Museum of History of The Krasnoye Sormovo Plant. Source:

Russian Renaults closely mirrored the design principles of the original French FT. Most of the available parts were directly copied from the captured vehicles. Parts that could not be copied were replaced with domestic analogues where those could be found, leaving the copycat tank with nearly identical performance to the original. Unsurprisingly, the tank inherited the layout of its predecessor, with the driver occupying the front position, the gunner/commander operating from a fully rotating octagonal turret in the middle of the tank, and the rear housing the engine compartment. This same layout is, for the most part, in use to this day.

Running Gear

Many parts, including the entire engine, gearbox, and transmission, were missing and had to be replaced with domestic components, sometimes designed from scratch. I. I. Volkov, one of the engineers of the Sormovo plant who took part in the design of the first Soviet tank, later recalled:

“We had to start the tank production under extremely difficult conditions. The country was in ruins. There were no modern machine tools. Obviously, it was enough to make your head hurt. However, Lenin’s faith in the workers inspired the Sormovo employees …”

“…A light Renault tank, captured in battles on the Southern Front, was sent to our plant. Here is your reference sample, they said. Get to work. And this “sample” looked more like a pile of scrap metal than an actual tank. It was missing the most important parts. There was no motor, no gearbox, and many other valuable details were gone. Alas, there was no time to despair. We had to produce all the technical documentation in only two months…”

Due to the sorry state of the reference tank, on the orders of Lenin, two additional FT tanks were delivered to the Sormovo plant in late November. Given that the other 3 FTs that had been captured were lost, it is unclear which vehicles this order referenced.

The initial replacement gearbox produced at the Krasnoe Sormovo workshops proved to be problematic, leading to frequent gear jamming and breakage. In response, Engineer Kalinin successfully devised an improved four-speed gearbox that was claimed to be less noisy than the original French design. It featured lateral dry clutch friction discs and band brakes. Steering of the tank was achieved by a combination of braking and disengaging the lateral clutches.

An experimental “high speed” gearbox was also developed, and would later be fitted into tank number 7 for trials. Despite pushing the engine to its limits, the tank could only attain a maximum speed of 10 km/h, which offered only a marginal improvement over the standard gearbox. Due to the unacceptable strain on the engine, the development of the high-speed gearbox was discontinued.

The suspension system resembled that of the French Renault, utilizing leaf springs for the road wheels and a vertical spring to support the return roller and maintain track tension. The configuration of the road wheel assembly consisted of three bogies, each with two wheels, and one bogie with three wheels. The return roller mount was equipped with six wheels. The track itself comprised 32 linked sections per side.

Schematic representation of the first Soviet-built tank.


Despite the fact that the tank arrived without an engine, the AMO factory in Moscow was already producing FIAT 15 ter trucks and their four-stroke, four-cylinder water-cooled 34 hp petrol engines proved to be a suitable replacement, giving the Russian Renaults top speed of 7.5 km/h and a range of 60 km. However, the engine was larger than the one utilized in the original French tank design. To accommodate the larger engine, the rear portion of the new tank was widened, which distinguishes it from the original FT.

Truck production in the AMO factory.
Due to the different size of the AMO engine, the engine compartment of the Russian Renault (left) had to be changed compared to the original FT-17 (right).


The tank had a boxy hull and was assembled from rolled armor plates supplied by Izhora, which were riveted onto a frame. Sources do not universally agree on the armor thickness of these plates, which appears to have been between 16 and 18 mm all-round, with roof plates being 8 mm thick and underside 6.5 mm. The turret armor is sometimes listed as being up to 22 mm thick. Due to the artisan manufacturing process and lack of standardization, it is possible that the armor plates of some of the tanks exhibited significant deviations from these measurements. Combat mass of the vehicle was 7 tonnes. Various vision slits and non-revolving observation cupola on top of the turret were copied straight from the FT provided visibility to the crew, which was generally described as pretty good and with few blind spots.


As per the initial plan, the Russian Renault tanks were intended to be manufactured in two variants: cannon and machine gun versions, mirroring the armament composition of the original tanks. In British fashion, these were referred to as ‘male’ and ‘female’ tanks, respectively. To address the Red Army’s desire for versatility, this plan was dropped soon after production began in favor of the solution proposed by Soviet engineer Glazov. Thus, the majority of Russian Renaults were fitted with Hotchkiss machine guns on the right side of the turret. These machine guns were all salvaged from captured British Mark V tanks and, while there was no specific regulation regarding the number of carried machine gun ammunition belts, it was common to have at least 10 of them, amounting to a total 3,000 rounds. While perhaps a great idea on paper, the addition of a machine gun into the already cramped turret further diminished the limited space for the gunner/commander, making a seamless transition between the two weapons impossible. To operate the machine gun effectively, the breech of the 37 mm gun had to be pushed up to create room, whereas operating the cannon often necessitated the complete removal of the machine gun from its position. This is not to mention troubling the overburdened commander with another weapon system to operate.

Typical armament of the production version of Russian Renault.

The first tank was produced with the only available original 37 mm Puteaux SA18 short-barreled gun. The rest would mostly be armed with 37 mm Hotchkiss naval guns modified by the Putilov factory. These had originally been procured for the Russian Navy, but had been deemed inadequate and subsequently placed in storage. To enhance the gunner’s comfort and stability, a shoulder rest was provided. The ammunition for the 37 mm guns exclusively consisted of fragmentation shells with a theoretical maximum range of 2,000 m, although the effective range was no more than 400 m. The muzzle velocity of the shells reached 442 m/s, and the gun could reach an effective rate of fire of 10-12 rounds per minute.


The design and production of tanks were overseen by the Central Armored Directorate of the Main Military Engineering Directorate (GVIU), their representative in the field being Commissar of Tsentrobron (Soviet Armored Units) Ivan Khristianovich Gaugel, well-known among the factory workers for his ability to solve any problem with vulgar language and a Mauser handgun. As such, the plant board put him to good use, having him conduct negotiations with subcontractors, whom he would promptly lock up as saboteurs until they agreed to the desired terms of the plant. Because of or despite Gaugel, the first stage of the project was completed within months, and the production of “Russian Renault” tanks was ready to begin in December.

The initial stages of tank assembly were plagued by numerous challenges, including a shortage of skilled workers, raw materials, and, most importantly, food. The quality of armored plates provided by the Izhora plant was subpar, further hampering the progress. Consequently, the desired pace of work could not be attained, leading to multiple delays and a lot of pistol-swinging from commissar Gaugel. It was not until May that production commenced in earnest, with the first of the tanks rolling off the production line in August 1920. Upon competition, Gaugel presented the tank to Leon Trotsky, at the time head of the Red Army. This must have been Gaugel’s most expensive handshake in his career, as it almost cost him his life once Stalin rose to power.

It is perhaps symbolic that Mikhail Ilyich Koshkin, the future renowned designer of the legendary T-34 tank, was also involved in the construction of this first tank. In 1918, while serving in the Red Army, Koshkin took part in battles near Tsaritsyn and Arkhangelsk. He was wounded during these engagements and subsequently received treatment in Nizhny Novgorod. Upon learning that tanks would be manufactured at Krasnoe Sormovo, Koshkin joined the plant as a mechanic.

Commissar Gaugel on the left. In 1971, Pionersky Lane in the Sormovsky district of Gorky was renamed in his honor.


Upon the completion of the first tank, workers at the Sormovo plant went on to discuss what name it should be given. Various suggestions were put forward, including “Fighter”, “Comrade Lenin”, and “For Freedom.” Eventually, it was unanimously agreed to combine all three names into one and so the workers applied the “Freedom Fighter Comrade Lenin” inscription on both sides of the tank. Additionally, a star and the inscription “RSFSR” were painted on the front of the hull. Every other tank was also given a name within the context of revolutionary themes immediately upon completion.

The naming of the tank series as a whole remains a subject of disagreement among sources. No specific indexes or designations were officially assigned to the tank. In technical documentation, it was commonly referred to as a “tank of the Renault type” or “Renault system with the Fiat engine”. In Fatyanov’s book Tank Renault-Russian, published in 1927, which served as an operational and maintenance manual, the tank is simply designated as “Russian Renault”. Some sources mention designations such as the KS tank, derived from Krasnoe Sormovo, and the M tank, short for small.

“Freedom Fighter Comrade Lenin” – The first of the Russian Renaults.
The tank model is called “Reno-Russian” in Fatyanov’s book.


On August 31, 1920, field trials of the “Freedom Fighter Comrade Lenin” began. With metalworker I.A. Averin assigned as the driver, accompanied by commissar Gaugel in the turret, the tank embarked on its test run along the Kanavino-Kolosovo road. To everyone’s astonishment, the tank displayed remarkable maneuverability as it tackled challenging terrain, including a steep sandy hill. A practical structural strength assessment was conducted by demolishing a building. The tank successfully passed it after toppling a section of the wall.

On November 12th, a commission from the Council of Military Industry arrived at Sormovo, commencing a second series of mobility trials, during which the tank once again proved its capabilities after traversing a distance of 26.5 km. The average speed achieved was 7.65 km/h, with a top speed of 8.89 km/h. Trials persisted until the 20th, culminating in the disassembly of the tank to assess the wear and tear on its components. To elongate its profile for overcoming obstacles such as trenches and craters, a removable tail was installed at the rear. With the tail attached, the tank could surmount a trench up to 1.8 m wide and an escarp up to 0.6 m high. Moreover, the tank demonstrated fair stability by not toppling over to its side when tilted at angles of up to 28°. The tank exhibited a water-wading depth of 0.5 m, allowing it to traverse shallow fords with ease. Furthermore, the tank boasted an impressive turning radius which equaled the width of its tracks (1.41 m).

After the tests, a list of 22 necessary modifications was compiled based on the results. The factory committed to incorporating these changes into the tank’s design within a time frame of 1.5 to 2 weeks. Among the proposed modifications was the installation of additional hatches for engine access and above fuel tanks, although not all tanks were updated and their presence varied.

Plant construction workers posing with a production version of the Russian Renault. Commissar Gaugel (lower right) is also present.

As previously mentioned, the initial tank of the pilot series was delivered on December 15, 1920. Following this, the Sormovo factory maintained a production rate of roughly 4 tanks per month until the completion of the production cycle in March 1921, after which no new orders for Russian Renaults were placed. According to factory records, the production of the 16th “Souvenir” tank for Lenin also took place in spring 1921. This tank probably refers to the overhauled FT gift tank that Lenin initially received. Due to shortages, tanks number #1, #2, and possibly #3 and #15 were devoid of a side machine gun. Additionally, tanks number #11, #12, and #13 were produced without any armament at all but were most likely rearmed during an overhaul at a later date.

Captured FT (left) and Russian Renault (right) parading through Red Square in Moscow.

Further Development

While not particularly impressive on their own, the Russian Renaults proved the Soviet Union had the capability of designing and manufacturing tanks. Copying of the French FTs was a crucial first step towards development of indigenous armor. The next step was to be taken in September 1926, during a meeting between the RKKA command, Chief Directorate of Military Manufacturing, and Cannon Armament Group. On the agenda: the three-year tank building program. Taking into account doctrinal requirements issued by the representatives of the Red Army, experience from manufacturing Russian Renaults and newest foreign designs, it was decided to begin development of a new domestic tank, indexed T-16. This was to be the first indigenous Soviet tank, though still largely inspired by the FT.

T-16 tank prototype
Source: Wikipedia –

The T-16 would be further evolved into the T-18 tank, which would enter mass production, becoming the mainstay of Soviet armor forces during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Further evolutions of the T-18, the T-19, T-12 and T-24, would be canceled in favor of foreign adaptations of export models, such as the T-26.


Tanks had a negligible impact on the Russian Civil War. Their use by the White forces was sporadic and often ineffective, hampered by complexity of the machines, poor training of their crews, and a lack of supporting infrastructure for such heavy and unreliable vehicles. Soviet armored Auto-Tank detachments consisting of three tanks each with some supporting armored cars, infantry, mechanics, and engineers sustained themselves entirely on captured vehicles. Their job was limited to infantry support and destruction of enemy defensive positions and other obstacles. Tanks in the Red Army were considered a subset of the engineers branch until 1921, which was when the armor branch became a separate directorate for a brief time period. In 1924, doctrinal changes found them enrolled into the artillery directorate, as tanks were seen as infantry support units similar to artillery.

According to Alexander HIll, the Soviet Union fielded 33 FT tanks during the Interwar period, most of which were previously captured from the White forces.

The commencement of serial production of the “Russian Renault” occurred concurrently with the gradual conclusion of the Civil War, which culminated in the defeat of Baron Wrangel in November 1920. By this time, his stronghold in Crimea had fallen, and the resistance of the White forces in the European part of the country had largely ceased. By the end of 1921, all Russian Renault tanks had been officially accepted and incorporated into the Red Army. They were organized into their own armored detachments, with each detachment consisting of five tanks. These tanks would go on to peacefully serve on the Red Square parade grounds and for plowing agricultural fields as improvised tractors.

Fight against the ‘White’ Poles and Wrangel: April – November 1920

Years later, they would undergo an extensive refurbishment with parts cannibalized from other FT tanks until they were all finally decommissioned in 1930, replaced by the T-18 (MS-1). After their decommissioning, the Russian Renault tanks were distributed to tank schools and civilian universities for educational purposes. However, over time, all of the tanks were gradually dismantled and scrapped, with the last two FT-type tanks officially struck from records in 1938. By April 1, 1941, only an incomplete hull remained as the sole surviving relic of the entire batch.

Survivors and Replicas

Remarkably, this hull survived the war and became one of the oldest exhibits in the Kubinka Tank Museum, alongside the Mark V tank. In 1970, the hull was refurbished by NIIBT Polygon and placed on display at the Central Museum of Armored Vehicles and Equipment. While the vehicle is equipped with a non-original turret featuring a dummy cannon and running gear from a Renault FT tank, its distinctively wider aft section betrays its Krasnoe Sormovo origin.

Russian Renault Model, confusingly labeled “Tank Type M” at Kubinka Tank Museum.
Source: Wikipedia

A full-size mock-up of the first tank, “Freedom Fighter Comrade Lenin”, was created by Krasnoe Sormovo in 1980. This model, along with a T-34-85 manufactured at the plant in March 1945 which participated in the storming of Berlin, became part of the memorial complex located on Glory Square near the north gate of the Krasnoe Sormovo plant. The monument was unveiled on May 9, 1980, in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

Monument in Nizhny Novgorod depicting a Russian Renault.
Source: Wikipedia –


While the Russian Renault tanks never saw combat, their true value extended far beyond their physical presence on parade grounds and potato fields. Instead, it lay in their contribution made to the overall development of the Soviet Union’s tank industry and military capabilities.

Their design and production provided Soviet engineers with hands-on experience in constructing tanks. The factories that manufactured these tanks gained valuable experience in tank production, honing their skills and capabilities in the process. The practical experience gained through training and maneuvers with the Russian Renault tanks helped shape the Soviet military’s understanding of tank warfare and influenced the development of Soviet armored warfare tactics.

Moreover, their mere existence is a testament to the determination and ingenuity of Soviet engineers and workers who, despite the challenges they faced, managed to produce tank copies that not only matched but, in certain aspects, even allegedly surpassed the original FT.

Russian Renault (front right) parading through Moscow’s Red Square, 1929. This was the final parade featuring FTs and Russian Renaults.
“Freedom Fighter Comrade Lenin”
Illustration Modified by BrianGaydos.
Production Model, armed with the Putilov-modified 37 mm Hotchkiss naval gun, and a machine gun on the right side of the turret.
Illustration Modified by BrianGaydos
Preseries T-16, 1929, provided for comparison.
This was the first original Soviet tank, though still largely inspired by the Russian Renault.
Illustrated by David.
Russian Renault Specifications
Dimensions (l-w-h) 4.96 m ( with the tail ), 1.75 m, 2.25 m
Total weight 7 tonnes
Crew 2 ( Commander/gunner and a driver )
Propulsion four-cylinder water-cooled 34 hp petrol engine
Speed (road/off road) ~8.5 km/h, 7 km/h
Range 60 km
Armament 37 mm Hotchkiss Naval Gun (First one made with 37 mm Puteaux SA18)
Secondary Armament Hotchkiss M1909 Benét–Mercié machine gun, chambered in .303 British (not always present)
Maximum armor 22 mm
Power-to-weight ratio (in hp/tonne) 4.85


M. Fatyanov. Tank Renault-Russian. Higher Military Editorial Council, 1927

M. Svirin. The armor is strong. History of the Soviet tank. 1919-1937

M. Svirin, A. Beskurnikov. The first Soviet tanks 1995.

M. Kolomiets, I. Moshchansky, S. Romadin. Tanks of the Civil War.

M. Kolomiets, S. Fedoseev. Light tank Renault FT-17

2 replies on “Russian Renault”

It’s unambiguous that the US State Department was settled on regime change the moment the Tsar was ‘out of the way’. The US troops in the east under General Graves* had to constantly avoid exceeding their mandate of protecting stores and the train lines as the state department tried to manoeuvre them into acting as White Army shock troops. This was strongly resisted by the US Army as at the time Russian autocracy has hated by the US public and the troops had not been sent to restore it.

*ibid, Graves. S. “America’s Siberian Adventure, 1918-1921” 1941, New York.

appropriate that the tank was so closely identified with the start of the Soviet regime, seeing how they emphasized tanks for the rest of their history. and I like how even their very first tank has the same classy white painted wheel rims they still put onto and armor for parades.

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