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The legend itself - T-34 in Soviet-Afghan war

T-34 is, possibly, the most famous tank in the world. After rolling through the battles of the Second World War in Europe and Asia, the number of tanks left in the Soviet Army remained significant. After all the major battles, the total number left was in the tens of thousands.

In this article, we will discover the T-34 tanks that were supplied to Afghanistan and their impact on that country's history.

Destroyed T-34 at Panjshir valley

How T-34 got into Afghanistan

After the end of the Second World War, the Soviets had thousands and thousands of tanks in their possession. It was not that the Soviets planned to disarm or shrink the army, quite on the contrary - they developed and produced newer tanks, which replaced the T-34.

Storing tens of thousands of tanks in working order requires serious effort and defense spending. So the Soviet Union decided on the practice, which would later become traditional - to replace tanks in the regular units while selling or giving away the ones which are completely obsolete.

With Afghanistan, this was not exactly the case, as the first T-34-85 tanks were sold to the country in 1957. In the 1950s, the T-34 was still on active duty in the Soviet Army, and a lot of regiments had it as their main tank. However, the numbers were still extraordinarily big and the new T-54 tank was getting up and running in production.

The Soviet Union has provided military-technical assistance to this country since the 1920s, but only after the war, cooperation in this area was seriously expanded. In particular, in 1957, a batch of weapons was sold to the Afghan side, which included 7 MiG-17s, 2 Il-28s, 6 MiG-15s, and 25 T-34 tanks.

Soviet and Afghan soldiers with T-34 tank

These machines served well to the Royal Afghan Army, the army of the Amin government, and the socialist government of Afghanistan. In 1975, when the civil war began, the "thirty-fours" no longer formed the basis of the armored forces, since by that time the Afghans had received a significant number of more modern T-55 tanks. Nevertheless, with the support of Soviet specialists, the technical condition of the old tanks was at an acceptable level.

T-34 in battle

In 1975 several government T-34-85s took part in the suppression of the first rebellion of Ahmad Shah Massoud in Pandshere. Subsequently, some of the "thirty-fours" were captured by the Mujahideen, the rest were used by the Afghan National Army as armored firing points or as fire support vehicles, and not only by the Afghans.

Soviet officer at Afghan Army tank regiment

An example is the 395th Motorized Rifle Regiment, which in 1980 used the T-34-85 along with the standard T-55. There are also references (unofficial) that in 1979-1980. Several more echelons with tanks were sent to Afghanistan, which were stored by the tank units of the Western Group of Forces stationed in the GDR. It is difficult to say how reliable this information is now, but the fact that more than three dozen T-34-85 tanks fought on Afghan soil is hardly in doubt.

T-34 during Afghan civil War of the 90s

During the war of 1979-1989. combat losses among the T-34-85 were small. IEDs and land mines accounted for the largest number of casualties, although at least one tank burned down after being hit by an RPG. However, as expected, the bulk of the T-34-85 of the Afghan army fell into disrepair due to poor maintenance, which was sometimes completely absent. Now there is not a single combat-ready T-34 tank left in Afghanistan, although as of 1996 it was claimed that several more tanks remained in service. We can say for sure that by 2000 all the “thirty-fours” were dismantled and brought into complete disrepair.

US Soldiers with abandoned T-34 tank

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