Military Review

Portrait of the Special Technical Bureau for Archival Documents

Portrait of the Special Technical Bureau for Archival Documents

The creation of sharashkas in the USSR in 1938 – 1953 was essentially a manifestation of a primitive search for ways to modernize the national military-industrial complex. The government was looking for an optimal R & D and production management structure, looking for a way out of the problem associated with the speedy equipping of the Red Army with modern military equipment and weapons. Understanding the whole burden of this problem, the government is doing everything possible to ensure that designers and scientists respond to the current level of science and technology. The most modern machine equipment and scientific instruments are being purchased. Specialists in large groups are sent on business trips and internships in advanced countries (USA, Germany, France).

However, these measures contributed little to the implementation of the plans. In addition, the campaign to combat anti-Soviet terrorist subversion in organizations and enterprises of the defense industry has also done its job. A large number of leading engineers and specialists were arrested at the enterprises, which naturally affected production. Here, for example, is an excerpt from the report on the implementation of the military production plan for 1937 – 1938:

- guns of all calibers - in 1937, 84,8% of the approved plan was manufactured, and in 1938 - 91,8%;

- mortars - in 1937, the plan was executed on 105,8%, and in 1938, in 25,1% (the entire 377 mortar was manufactured against 1500 according to the plan);

- shells - 1937% of the approved plan was released in 55,6, and 1938% in 77,3;

- mines - in 1937, the plan was completed at 70,5%, and in 1938, at all, only in 20,1% (603 mines were released against plan 3000);

- bombs - in 1937, the bombs were released on 98,5% from the original plan, and in 1938, already 81,7%;

- rifles - in 1937, the plan for their release was fulfilled by 87,2%, but next year the plan was exceeded (101,3%);

- airplanes - 1937 airplanes were released in 4435, which accounted for 90,6% of the approved plan, and in 1938, the plan was executed only on 72,9% (5469 airplanes were released instead of 7500 planned);

- Tanks - In 1937, the plan for the production of tanks was implemented at 76,8%, and in 1938 - already at 95,6%.

It should be noted that at that time in the USSR there were 74 aviation plant, including 28 aircraft, 14 engine and 32 instrument-making.


The author’s earlier publications on this topic were mainly based on the memoir literature of participants and eyewitnesses of these events, and only recently, thanks to the initiative of my voluntary assistant, Svetlana B., who gave the numbers of funds in the State Archives of the Russian Federation, I was able to find and familiarize myself with some original sources. The opening of archival funds, the publication of documentary materials and reference books allow to draw some, albeit fragmentary, conclusions. For example, история creation of Special Technical Bureau (OTB).

The first materials on the creation of special technical offices in the Central Office of the NKVD refer to August 1938. They were not given the task of replacing the existing design bureaus. They did not have a project initiative of their own production; they were called upon to supplement with their activity industrial design bureaus and factories of a corresponding profile.

The organization of the work unit with the use of imprisoned specialists was entrusted in 1938 to Mikhail Arkadyevich Davydov - a qualified engineer and experienced production manager at a number of leading enterprises in the country who worked as director of the Kirovsky plant in Leningrad, then Deputy Commissar of Mechanical Engineering of the USSR, from October 21 1938 - temporarily Acting Head of the 4-th Special Department of the NKVD of the USSR. From January 15 1939 he is already Deputy Head of the Special Technical Bureau of the NKVD of the USSR, from April 20 1939 onwards - First Deputy Head of the NKVD OTB of the USSR, and from September 4 on the NKVD of the USSR. The military rank from 1939 February 25 of the year is a major of state security. However, on October 1939 of 8 of the year he was arrested, on July 1939 of 7 of the year convicted and sentenced to death and 1941 of August 27 of the year was shot. He was rehabilitated only 1941 January 16 of the year.

In August and September of 1938, under the leadership of Mikhail Davydov, lists of convicts and specialists under investigation were compiled. With the leadership of the NKVD discussed topics of future work. The structure of the department, the principles of its functioning were developed, a draft Regulation on the department was developed, premises for the accommodation of people were looked for, a long-term plan of work was drawn up. All this is reflected in the sequential output of a number of orders.

Note that the 4 Special Branch of the Special Design Bureau (OKB) was formed specifically for the use of labor by imprisoned engineering specialists and scientists, by order No. 00641 from 29 September 1938. In October, 1938 was canceled due to the reorganization (Order No. 00698 of October 21 of 1938 of the year). In accordance with the ciphering of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) of 07.01.1939, No. 47 / b, the Council of People’s Commissars decided to restore the 4-th special department, and 10 of January 1939, by order of the NKVD of the USSR No. 0021, instead of a department, the OTB of the USSR People's Commissar of Internal Affairs was created to use prisoners with special technical knowledge. The number of Special Technical Bureau - 72 person.

Valentin Aleksandrovich Kravchenko was appointed the head of the bureau, about which I would like to say a few words. He was a well-educated, capable engineer and communications specialist. In the NKVD, he was sent to the party mobilization (the so-called party call) to work in the laboratory of radio transmitting devices engineering-technical Academy. Podbelskogo. Kravchenko was born in the town of Kryukov, Kremenchug district, Poltava province. He graduated from the Odessa Telecommunications Institute in 1933, after which he entered the graduate school and until the 1935, he was the dean of the radio faculty of the Odessa Institute. In October 1937, he was seconded to the NKVD of the USSR and in 1939, he became the chief engineer of the 6 section of the 2 10th special department of the NKVD of the USSR. From 14 in November 1939 of the year - Head of the Special Technical Bureau of the NKVD / Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR, from 31 July 1941 of the year - Head of the 4-th Special Department of the NKVD / Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR. In April 1947, he is appointed deputy chairman of the Committee for Inventions and Discoveries at the USSR Council of Ministers. From January 1948, he is already the head of the group of control and special orders at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR, from May 1949 of the year - head of the 4, and since March 1953 - the head of the 5 of the special department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR. In November, 1953 of the Year - Head of the Construction Department No. 304 and correctional labor camps of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs. Military ranks - State Security Commissioner, then Major General.


In July 1941, the OTB was given the code name 4 of the NKVD / Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR, and under this name the organization existed until its dissolution in the 1953 year. Interestingly, as early as January 20 of 1939, order No. 0098 announced a list of prisons subordinated to the NKVD General Prison Administration: Butyrskaya, Lefortovo, Inner, Spetstyurma (4 of the special department), Solovetsky, Vladimirskaya, Vologodskaya, Dmitrovskaya, Kazanskaya, and they will be in charge of the prison department, Solovetskaya, Vladimirskaya, Vologodskaya, Dmitrovskaya, Kazanskaya, and they will be in charge of the prison department, Solovetskaya, Vladimirskaya, Vologodskaya, Dmitrovskaya, Kazanskaya, and they will be in charge of the prison department of the NKVD. As you can see, a special prison in the 4 special department already existed!

The creation of the OTB was preceded by a memorandum by L.P. Beria in the Central Committee of the CPSU (b), to comrade I.V. Stalin, to whom the Provision on the Special Technical Bureau attached to the People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR was attached, the structure of the future OTB, the staff and the draft Order of the People's Commissariat on the creation of a Special Technical Meeting.

The memo noted the following:

“Up to now, it has been a matter of using imprisoned specialists for the design of army weapons and fleet was hastily organized by the 4th Special Department of the NKVD of the USSR, which was not provided with personnel of the appropriate qualifications, nor with the necessary conditions for the successful implementation of this work.

For a serious improvement in the work on the use of imprisoned specialists, I have taken the following measures: the staff of the bureau has been established in such quantity that the material maintenance, technical supply and technical consultation of the design teams are fully provided; measures have been taken to improve the domestic services for prisoners working in design groups; the staff of the bureau has been replenished with young professionals. Young specialists with experience in design and production work, from among the mobilized by the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) for NKVD workers, are assigned to work in the OTB. In order to attach great importance to the work on the use of imprisoned specialists, the Special Bureau will be headed by the People’s Commissar. I ask your instructions. People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR, L.P. Beria.

The archive also managed to find the very Regulation on the Special Technical Bureau at the People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR. It is very interesting and, in essence, sets as its goal to preserve and increase the scientific and technical potential of the country, which suffered during the mass repressions in previous years. I can not cite some interesting excerpts from it:

“2. The task of the Special Technical Bureau is the organization, design and introduction into production of new weapons of the army and navy.

3. The Bureau has the following groups by specialties:

a) a group of aircraft and aircraft propellers;

b) a group of aircraft engines and diesel engines;

c) a group of naval shipbuilding;

d) a group of powders;

e) a group of artillery, shells and detonators;

e) group of armor steels;

g) a group of chemical warfare agents and chemical protection;

h) the group for the introduction of AN-1 aviation diesel series (with factory number 82).

As required, new groups can be created both by dividing existing groups and by organizing groups into specialties not provided for above.

4. A special technical bureau is headed by the People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR.

5. Groups on specialties are headed by assistants to the head of the Special Bureau. The duties of the assistant to the head of the bureau include: the organization of the workplace for the group, the material and everyday services for the group; organization of technical consultations for the workers of the groups and preparation for the production of experimental models and samples.

Chief AHU - Commissioner of State Security 3-rank comrade. Within a month, Sumbatov will provide Special Office with the necessary office space, as well as provide M-6 cars for the Special Bureau of 1. ”


Above, I gave a brief biographical note about Mikhail Davydov for a reason. After all, this is the first organizer and creator of the R & D management system at the state level. Only in the second half of the 40-s in the United States began to appear similar developments - nuclear project, program planning, and others that were created in the image and likeness of the Soviet OTB. Mikhail Davydov, head of the OTB, in fact, a nugget, himself a major production organizer, at that harsh time created on the basis of corrective labor institutions a highly efficient economic system that had no analogues in the world.

The design and engineering activities of the OTB (sharashkas) became the basis for the breakthrough of Soviet science and industry, and, above all, in the defense industries. And the victory in the Great Patriotic War actually confirmed the correctness and viability of the adopted management model. Isolation of scientists and engineers in prisons to work for the defense of the country, perhaps, was the most necessary condition of the time. As in the song - "blinded from what was." There was no other material and conditions at that time, and there was no time itself. Unfortunately, Davydov himself did not pass the bitter cup of that time, he, too, was shot, like thousands of others before and after him!

We now turn to the prisoners themselves experts. Surprisingly, everything was done quickly! If the head of the department was approved in September 1939, then in June, namely 4, June 1939, L.P. Beria reports I.V. To Stalin with a completely secret message No. 2561 / 6 “On Specialized Prisoners Used in a Special Technical Bureau under the NKVD of the USSR”:

“Organized in 1938 by the NKVD of the USSR, the Special Technical Bureau currently consists of seven main production groups: 1) aircraft manufacturing, 2) aircraft engineering, 3) shipbuilding, 4) artillery, 5) gunpowders, 6) poisonous substances, 7) X-guns, XNUMX) X-guns, XNUMX), XNUMX) shipbuilding, XNUMX) guns, XNUMX) .

In these groups, there are 316 specialists who were arrested by the NKVD during the 1937 – 1938 period. for participation in anti-Soviet, sabotage, espionage, sabotage and other counter-revolutionary organizations. The investigation of the cases of those arrested was suspended in the 1938 year, and they are being held in custody as investigative without sentence. Resuming the investigation of these cases and transferring them to court in the usual way is inexpedient, since, firstly, it will distract the arrested specialists for a long time from the work on designing the most important objects and actually disrupt the work of the Special Technical Bureau, and, secondly, the investigation It will not give, in essence, positive results due to the fact that the arrested, being in mutual communication for a long time while working, agreed among themselves on the nature of the testimony given by them during the preliminary investigation. Meanwhile, the guilt of the arrested was confirmed during the preliminary investigation by personal confessions of the arrested, by the testimony of accomplices (many of whom were already convicted) and by witnesses. On this basis, the NKVD of the USSR considers it necessary:

1) arrested specialists in the number of 316 people (according to other data, 425 people. - V.M.) used at work in the Special Technical Bureau of the NKVD of the USSR, without resuming the investigation, to be put on trial by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR;

2), depending on the severity of the crime committed, those arrested are divided into three categories to be convicted for periods up to 10 years, up to 15 years and up to 20 years,

4) in order to encourage the work of arrested specialists in the Special Technical Bureau, fix them on this work and create an incentive for further work on the design of the most important defense objects, grant the right of the NKVD of the USSR to apply to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet to apply to convicted specialists himself at work in the Special Technical Bureau, as a complete release on parole, and reducing the term of punishment.

I ask for your directions. "

Unfortunately, the list of these specialists, which is referred to in the document, was not attached to it. But, reading the memoirs and memoirs of the arrested specialists, I wrote down the names that were mentioned in the text, as a result of this, I had a card file of 105 names, that is, almost a third of all those arrested. The surnames of people are completely unknown, with the exception of the OTB management, who worked directly on the staff of the Special Technical Bureau, and they were also 72 people!


Let us now see how the activity was organized in the Special Technical Bureau.

First, this event was preceded by a huge preliminary work. In August and September, under the leadership of Davydov, a large number of questionnaires for convicts and specialists under investigation were studied, in order to compile a list of those engineering and technical workers who could form the backbone of future groups, whose specialization would allow solving certain technical issues without prior training. The structure of the future bureau, the principle of its functioning was determined in a short time. An approximate long-term work plan was drawn up, and some work was already carried out by groups. At the head of such groups was appointed an employee of the NKVD with the rank of assistant bureau chief. Such assistants had to organize a workplace for the arrested specialists, and not just a table, a chair, but the opportunity to carry out technical consultations, prepare experimental models and samples for production, and, of course, material and domestic supplies.

Since all the specialists were prisoners, their domestic provision was associated with a prison-type protected room. It was also necessary to place security, escort of prisoners, medical observation, food. The groups were 8, and for each group it was impractical to make their own prison room, apparently, it was decided to use the already existing room. Such a room was urgently sought, and it was found near the village of Bolshevo (Kurakino). It was probably the old “zone” consisting of three barracks, which met all the requirements, and most importantly, it was not so far from Moscow, from the central office of the OTB. So, apparently, there appeared a “Spetsturm” (4-th special department) in Bolshevo, which in the best way allowed combining the requirements of the regime and the labor use of the imprisoned specialists. Thus, in the shortest possible time the process of forming teams of specialists was completed, which were already able to work on the implementation of the most important design and engineering work.

The themes of the work performed were determined by the plan, which was compiled on the basis of the applications of the military departments-customers and the proposals of the prisoners themselves. To review and discuss the work plans of teams of specialists and technical projects, a permanent meeting is created with the head of the ETS, which included the head of the ETS (chairman), his deputies and the secretary. Considered by such a composition, the Thematic Plan of Work of the OTB was submitted for approval by the Defense Committee. Ready-made technical projects for obtaining permission to produce prototypes were also submitted for approval by the Defense Committee. After prototyping, tests were conducted in which arrested experts from the respective groups were directly involved. The transfer of prototypes to mass production was carried out only after the approval of the test results of these samples by the Committee of Defense.

How exactly the arrested specialists worked was written a lot in the memoir literature. Organizational groups were built according to the brigade principle. Each project was developed by a separate team, headed by a prominent specialist among the convicts. To discuss current technical issues and promptly resolve emerging technical problems, a technical meeting was held in each such group. For work that could not be entrusted to prisoners under the terms of the regime, hired specialists were involved.

As the design work was completed and prototyping began, the relevant team of specialists was transferred to the defense plant, where they created their own, factory, special bureau as an independent organization subordinate to the OTB in accordance with the maintenance regime and the convoy. That was how the Tupolev "sharashka" (TsKB-29 NKVD) was created, when the entire aviation group of prisoners was transferred to Moscow. In the same way, powder “sharashka” was created - OTB-512 headed by Alexander Semenovich Bakayev - the creator of ballistic powders for “Katyush”.
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  1. Reptiloid
    Reptiloid 22 October 2015 15: 21
    Thank you very much for the article.
    Scientists. Science. Prison. Burdens and trials. Science. Achievements. Development of the country. Secret archives.
    Such a story. From those living now only the memory of those people. Will their names be known? Will their loved ones learn about the fate of their relatives.
  2. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 22 October 2015 16: 21
    Slavery was once invented for good reason. It is simple and effective.

    Simple: put the scientists and engineers in jail, and they
    under the threat of depriving a piece of bread and a bowl of soup will work hard for free
    seven days a week. As many hours as they say. Why do they need families, children, joys?

    Satisfied overseers will be returned home after the shift after the shift ...
    1. vladimir_krm
      vladimir_krm 22 October 2015 22: 01
      Google "Tupolev Sharaga". I recommend.
  3. miv110
    miv110 22 October 2015 17: 38
    None of them were slaves. All of them were convicted on specific charges and far from always unfounded. Would you like them to perish at the logging? They did not work slavishly, with interest and a certain stimulus, did not starve. Most of them subsequently received not only freedom, but also government awards, military and academic ranks, etc.!
    1. Bersaglieri
      Bersaglieri 22 October 2015 21: 31
      Is the Queen's jaw broken during interrogation also a "reward"? As well as the health lost in MagadanLag (and, as a result, a sudden death, in the prime of life, at the peak of achievements ...)
      1. miv110
        miv110 23 October 2015 08: 35
        No need to distort what was said - once again I repeat slaves they were not. It is clear that getting into a prison or camp is not a resort. This is not about that. And for Korolyov, a broken jaw turned into a world triumph, however strange it sounds! And health in such a position with such responsibility in the space race will never be iron. Korolev died due to circumstances not known to us (known to one god), to attribute them only to the fact that he was the Gulag is in no way possible. Thousands of people who visited the Gulag survived, nevertheless, to advanced years.
        1. Bersaglieri
          Bersaglieri 23 October 2015 20: 30
          Dear Soforum citizen, how old are you?
  4. moskowit
    moskowit 22 October 2015 19: 04
    But the Tu-2 is so handsome ... Pe-2, Stal-Bartini, the FD steam locomotive. Unique samples ... Great motivation, FREEDOM! NOT money, awards, titles, positions, but FREEDOM !!! And without any bickering and prying.
  5. Bersaglieri
    Bersaglieri 22 October 2015 21: 28
    I wonder: are the current ones, who admire the desired system of work, ready to work in the "sharaga"? With the same "motivation from moskowit"
    1. strannik1985
      strannik1985 23 October 2015 07: 49
      This was preceded by the activities of Bekauri and Ostekhbyuro, Kurchevsky, experiments in 1919-1939 with sub-caliber and non-intrusive shells. They played enough with the relative independence of the designers, began to look for other ways of motivation (everyone knew perfectly well about the proximity of the great war).
      This is not the best solution, but in time trouble ...
      1. Bersaglieri
        Bersaglieri 24 October 2015 09: 33
        Bekauri, Kurchevsky, Dyrenkov ... "from the plow - to the designer." Hence the logical finale of careers. "Against the wall" - for the waste of folk remedies.