The largest convertibles ever

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Iron Soldiers in Single File Line Up in Chelyabinsk before Russia's Biggest Tractor Factory

The belief that the Soviet industry could quickly convert its tractor production lines to military use was somewhat exaggerated - although it had great symbolic value in nationalistic campaigns during the Second World War.

There were some examples of such conversions in the 1930s, such as a legendary Stalingrad plant that produced parts for the (even more legendary) T-34 tank, but tank manufacturing was generally a separate industry. What had served as a patriotic legend for the Soviet Union during the war had a downside afterward. They provided the underpinning for US policymakers during the Cold War, to legitimate embargoes and bans imposed on trade with the USSR.

The fear of providing 'dual-use' technologies to the Soviet Union by selling production lines or tractors themselves, survived well in the 1970s, when Russians sought to buy more sophisticated equipment than farm tractors. At the hearings of US Senate committees, one Senator remarked that 'the reason why the Soviets want to buy American pipelayers instead of building their own is because their tractor plants are all pretty much full up - building tanks'

How to cite this page


Slawomir Lotysz, 'The largest convertibles ever', Inventing Europe,


  1. Austin, Richard Cartwright. Building Utopia: Erecting Russia's First Modern City, 1930. Kent: Kent State University Press, 2004.
  2. Dunn, Walter S. The Soviet Economy and the Red Army, 1930-1945. Westport: Greenwood, 1995.
  3. Scott, John. “’Magnetic City.’ Core of Valiant Russia’s Industrial Might.” National Geographic 83, no. 5 (May 1943).

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The Iron Curtain and the politics of the humble tractor

Somewhat surprisingly, tractors were an important part of international relations in twentieth century. Sufficient tractor supplies meant ample harvests, but pressure to meet demand has often made it necessary to look across borders. Countries with extra tractors could use them to help the needy or to exert political pressure. The history of European tractors is also full of symbolism - from an icon of progress and equality to a tool of war.

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