Altaya ALT0003 Soviet T-55 Heavy Tank - Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1968 (1:72 Scale)
"By powerful artillery fire, air strikes, and a wave of attacking tanks, we're supposed to swiftly crush the enemy."
- Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov
The T-54 and T-55 main battle tanks were the Soviet Union's replacements for the World War II era T-34 tank. The T-54/55 tank series is the most produced in the world, and very widely employed, especially by former client states of the Soviet Union.
The T-54 and T-55 tanks are very similar and difficult to distinguish visually. Many T-54s were updated to T-55 standards. Soviet tanks were factory-overhauled every 7,000 km, and often given minor technology updates. Many states have added or modified tank equipment (India affixed fake fume extractors to its T-54s and T-55s, so that Indian gunners wouldn't confuse them with Pakistani Type 59s).
T-54 can be distinguished by a dome-shaped ventilator on the turret front-right, and has a SGMT 7.62 mm machine gun in a fixed mount in the front of the hull, operated by the driver. Early T-54s lacked a gun fume extractor, had an undercut at the turret rear, and a distinctive "pig-snout" gun mantlet. The T-55's new turret has large D-shaped roof panels, visible from above.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a Soviet T-55 heavy tank that was deployed to Prague, Czechoslovakia, during 1968.
Length: 4 inches
Width: 1-1/2 inches
Historical Account: "The Brezhnev Doctrine" - On the night of August 20th - August 21st, 1968, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary and Poland invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Alexander Dubacek's Prague Spring political liberalization reforms.
In the operation, code named Danube, varying estimates of between 175,000 and 500,000 troops attacked Czechoslovakia; approximately 500 Czechoslovaks were wounded and 108 killed in the invasion. The invasion successfully stopped liberalization reforms and strengthened the authority of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
The foreign policy of the Soviet Union during this era would be known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.
At approximately 11 pm on August 20th, 1968, Eastern Bloc armies from five Warsaw Pact countries, Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and East Germany, invaded Czechoslovakia. That night, 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 2,000 tanks entered the country.
The invasion was well planned and coordinated, simultaneously with the border crossing by ground forces a Soviet airborne division (VDV) captured Prague's Ruzyne International Airport in the early hours of the invasion. It began with a special flight from Moscow which carried more than 100 plainclothes agents. They quickly secured the airport and prepared the way for the huge forthcoming airlift, in which An-12 transport aircraft started arriving and unloading Soviet airborne troops equipped with artillery and light tanks. As the operation at the airport continued, columns of tanks and motorized rifle troops headed toward Prague and other major centers, meeting no resistance. The bulk of invading forces were from Soviet Union supported by other countries from the communist bloc. Among them were 28,000 troops of the Polish 2nd Army from the Silesian Military District, commanded by general Florian Siwicki, and all invading Hungarian troops were withdrawn by October 31st. Romanian troops did not take part in the invasion, and neither did Albania, which withdrew from the Warsaw pact over the matter. The degree of participation of the East German Army is dubious, either they were withdrawn within a few days or barely crossed the border. During the attack of the Warsaw Pact armies, 72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed (19 of those in Slovakia) and hundreds were wounded. Alexander Dubacek called upon his people not to resist. He was arrested and taken to Moscow along with several of his colleagues. Dubacek and most of the reformers were returned to Prague on August 27th, and Dubacek retained his post as the party's first secretary until he was forced to resign in April 1969 following the Czechoslovak Hockey Riots.
The invasion was followed by a wave of emigration, unseen before and stopped shortly after (estimate: 70,000 immediately, 300,000 in total), typically of highly qualified people. Western countries allowed these people to immigrate without complications.