Barnaul Cartridge Plant is a Russian cartridge manufacturer dating back to Emperor Alexander II, and opened one of its first plants in St. Petersburg in the 19th century. It was here that Barnaul produced arms during WWI for the Russian Army. Today, it's known for many quality lines of ammo – including Brown Bear ammunition.
In its long and storied history, Barnaul produced 7.62mm, 12.7mm, and 14.5mm with armor-piercing bullets during the Great Patriotic War. They even received the Soviet Union’s highest decoration for outstanding services rendered to the State, known as the Order of Lenin. Barnaul went on to specialize in sport, hunting and military ammo, and continues to be known for its wide variety of production to this day.
Brown Bear Ammunition’s Roots in War
When this Brown Bear factory initially opened in the 19th century, it was known as “Arsenal P” under the Tsarist regime of the time. After the Bolshevik Revolution, during the Russian Civil War, the factory was evacuated. By 1920, production continued again, this time under the jurisdiction of the Communist regime. The factory was now called “Factory P.” In 1928, the factory was renamed once again, this time as “Factory 17.”
World War II saw the factory evacuated for a second time in 1941. The Soviets sought to prevent the factory from capture at the hands of Nazi Germany. In post-Soviet countries, World War II is called “the Great Patriotic War.” This is true everywhere except the Ukraine, due to a 2015 statute directing the country to call the war “World War II” or “the Second World War” as part of their de-Sovietization process.
During the Second World War, the plant produced some heavy-duty, armor-piercing rounds for the war effort – including 7.62mm, 12.7mm, and 14.5mm. During peacetime, the plant became known for its array of sporting and hunting rounds. This is still their niche to this day, though they continue to produce military ammunition as well.
The Siege of Leningrad and Brown Bear
The Siege of Leningrad is known in Russia as “the 900-day siege.” In fact, it’s one of the longest sieges in all of human history and quite possibly the most destructive. Contemporaneous sources frame the Siege of Leningrad as far more significant than the atomic bombs that landed on Japan. All told, 642,000 Soviets died throughout the siege, and an additional 400,000 died throughout various evacuations of the cities.
Hitler instructed his army thusly: "Leningrad first, Donetsk Basin second, Moscow third.” Lines of communication were cut off as the Wehrmacht passed through some of the most northern regions of the Soviet Union. While the capital of the Soviet Union was Moscow, the Revolution began in St. Petersburg, making it an emotionally significant city for the Soviets.
Beyond the emotional impact of losing the city, there was a simple question of survival for the citizens of Leningrad. Some believe Hitler planned to take the city and rename it “Adolfsburg,” but this appears to be Soviet propaganda. Internal documents make Hitler’s plan crystal clear: Starve the city to death, raze it to the ground, and pass the surrounding area off to Finnish allies. Hitler’s words in this communication to his military couldn’t be any clearer: "St. Petersburg must be erased from the face of the Earth… We have no interest in saving lives of the civilian population.”
Germany’s goal did not involve any conquest or occupation of Leningrad as it is commonly understood. On the contrary, they were explicitly instructed to refuse any surrender. Germany did not want to deal with the large civilian population of the Soviet Union’s second-largest city. So confident was Hitler of the Wehrmacht’s victory in Leningrad, he printed up invitations for a victor’s party in Leningrad’s Hotel Astoria.
Nominally neutral, Finnish politics made Finland bounce back and forth between the Axis and the Allies throughout the war. This is due to the history of Finland in relation to both Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Finland was a part of the Russian Empire, but not a part of the Soviet Union. However, as the Soviet Union entered its expansionist phase, it sought to integrate this former Russian territory during the Winter War. It succeeded in conquering significant portions of Finnish territory, which the Finns then sought to win back through a tactical alliance with the Axis.
While mortars and other more traditional weapons were used, Germany planned to starve the city to its knees. It was simple: The Wehrmacht would surround the city, seal it off from the rest of the world, and wait for everyone inside to starve to death. This plan, however, did not come to fruition, leading to the extended siege, ultimately failing to conquer the city.
Finland and Operation Barbarossa
With Leningrad as the first target of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the USSR began. The Germans sought to conquer Leningrad, raze it, then meet up with their Finnish allies of convenience north of the city.
Again, Finland’s aim was to reconquer territories in Karelia lost to the Soviet Union during the Winter War. Finland only ever fought the Soviets during the Second World War. In fact, it was the only democracy to fight in alliance with the Axis powers, though it was never actually a signatory to any of the Axis treaties.
Still, Germany would not have even had the limited success it did without the aid of Finnish intelligence. They made significant inroads to breaking Soviet codes used in low-level communications. For their part, the Germans didn’t even mind if the Finns were the ones to enter the city first, because occupation was the furthest thing from their minds.
By the end of the war, however, Finland had ceded 10 percent of its total territory as well as the second-largest Finnish city to the USSR. Nearly the entire Finnish and Karelian population of the Soviet Union fled at the end of the war.
Life in Leningrad Under the Siege
A total of 1.4 million Soviets were systematically evacuated from the city. Most of these were children and women and a large proportion of them died. Inside the city, there was tight food rationing. At one point, most civilians inside Leningrad received only 300 grams of bread daily as their ration. In the late summer and early fall of 1941, intense German shelling obliterated every food warehouse in the city.
The remaining citizens of Leningrad went to desperate measures to eat. Wallpaper was pulled off of the walls to make soup out of the potato starch used to make it stick. Old leather goods were boiled up for dinner. The first reports of cannibalism appeared in the winter of 1941 and 1942, with ground human flesh sold in the city’s markets. Soviet authorities stepped in to ban all sales of ground meat. By 1942, a good portion of the city was covered in vegetable gardens, taking some of the pressure off.
The city’s service industry and education went offline for the entirety of the siege. And every winter, bombardment would destroy the city’s water supply. People went outside to search in the frigid cold for water, collecting ice and snow for this purpose, causing casualties to skyrocket. Factories and public transportation shuttered as electricity was unable to meet the demands of this massive metropolis.
The transportation issues caused a whopping three million people to be trapped inside. Barnaul Cartridge Plant and 86 other strategic industries were evacuated alongside the 1.4 million citizens of Leningrad.
The memory of the siege looms large in St. Petersburg even to this day. The people of the city share a deep pride of their city’s resistance. “Troy fell, Rome fell, Leningrad did not fall” is a phrase often heard in the city.
Brown Bear Ammo Review
The history of Brown Bear in relation to the Great Patriotic War may be enthralling, but is the ammunition any good? Absolutely.
Brown Bear specializes in shotgun and rifle rounds for hunting and sporting. Its reasonable cost makes it a popular bulk ammunition purchase, alongside the entire BEAR series (Brown Bear, Silver Bear, and Golden Bear). Each prong in this line is specialized in its own way, with a different protective cartridge coating. Brown Bear cartridges feature a lacquer coating on the steel case – while each brand features lead-cored FMJ, soft point, or hollow point bullets, steel cases with Berdan primers, and non-corrosive propellant.