Photo of the Malyshev Factory (Formerly known as the Kharkov Locomotive Factory) located in Kharkiv Ukraine.
Internet wargaming multi-media blogger Lexi Valkyrie embraces the written medium and examines the mysteries of “Soviet Green”.
I’ll just play soviets, there’s a lot but they’re just green, it can’t be that hardLexi, Circa 2020
*Que devious laughter* Oh my sweet sweet summer child, how foolish you were.
Before 1938 when the Red Army standardized their green to Protective Green 4BO (4BO) all armored vehicles were painted in a “dark olive green” designated Green 3B. 4BO became the standard “Soviet Green” used throughout the war. Standard being used very loosely.
In a manner similar to the debate surrounding the German Dunkelgelb, it’s difficult to manage an exact match to what 4BO actually was. External factors such as temperature, weather and sunlight all affect and fade a color. Photographs of T-34’s taken during operation Barbarossa are difficult to source concerning the coloration of the tanks due to the dusty conditions and wrecked tanks. Heat and smoke will warp and darken colors on a vehicle to extremes. Can you guess what the original color was in either of these next photos?
Some sort of green? Maybe brown? I know I’ll never be sure. But swinging back around to the Second World War another aspect of 4BO’s mystery is color degradation (which could be an entire article in and among itself) of photos.
Old photos can be colorized but the question of their accuracy will always be up in the air. There is a widely accepted industry standard, however it’s hard for me to accept the process for changing black and white to their exact original colors. Especially when trying to match colors for scale hobbyists.
The “printed standard” for 4BO in 1941 was a mixture of 40-60% yellow ochre, 15-20% zinc chromate, 10% ultramarine and 10-20% white. Following these instructions using modern equivalents one will end up with a surprisingly light green, with various tints of yellow present. The closest code in the FS system is 34257.
This color is close to the tone of the vehicles on display at the CAF museum in Moscow
It is important to note that the majority of the vehicles on display at this museum are painted with a post war mix, commonly referred to as “Warsaw Pact Green” however this tone is a close match from photographic evidence. Those photos being original color photos or recolored photos passing the standard for color correction techniques.
It is important to note that some sources (unfounded) have stated that the chemical composition of 4BO wasn’t stable and would darken over time in the elements. Contradicting sources refute this and argue the opposite, that standard fading occurred in the elements. Knowing this, if you’re wanting to paint a “Factory Fresh” army try to get your mix as close as possible to FS34257
In 1942 the US Army got their hands on a T-34-76 and KV-1. They put these vehicles through a series of tests at Aberdeen Proving grounds (A fascinating study, I’ll include a link below)
For our purposes of color the Army marked the vehicles as being FS24052
Which is clearly a darker green with more blue in it than the “Warsaw Pact Green”. The T-34 gifted to us is still on display at Aberdeen
4BO was supposed to be a standard, something that could be replicated. This was not the case, as Soviet Green covers a wide range of greens. This spread gets wider during the cold war as factory’s produced tanks and base coated them with whatever Greens they had on site. Then the vehicles were shipped out and the elements had their way with the vehicles. I’m going to finish this ramble with 5 photos I borrowed from Battlefront concerning this subject. (including their recommended colors).
These photos are from the old Kharkiv Tractor Factory in Ukraine.
An old friend of mine once posed a question to me concerning my conception of various ideas. Imagine we all sit around a table and take turns going around saying our favorite breed of dog. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of us would all have a different favorite dog. But, as my old friend told me, a dogs a dog. Thanks to the size of Soviet industry throughout the Cold War, green is green.
My best suggestion is to find a green you like and run with it. The elements, the history behind the factories, all of it points to suggest that different units in your army could even be different shades of green. If you want your whole army to match, that’s fine too! Pick whatever green catches your eye. The longer I look at the T-64s and BRDM’s in the Ukraine grounds the more extremes I see in the colors. It really is entirely up to you. Check out my youtube channel for more information!
My takes on Soviet Green
Links and Citations
Kolomiyets, Maksim, and Il’ya Moshchanskiy. Camouflage of the Tanks of the Red Army, 1930-1945. Moscow: Exprint Pub., 2000.
Davie, H.G.W. “Logistics of the Tank Army: The Uman–Botoșani Operation, 1944 – History of Military Logistics.” History of Military Logistics. June 22, 2021. https://www.hgwdavie.com/blog/2021/1/8/logistics-of-a-tank-army
Aberdeen Testing Grounds Report on the T-34: https://www.scribd.com/document/241820378/Preliminary-Report-No-20-Russian-T-34
Aberdeen Testing Grounds Report on the KV-1:
Further testing on “Russian Green”
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