25 January 2011

Belarusian Tractors

In Belarus, tractors are everywhere - they plow the streets of Minsk, they are employed by the police for towing illegally parked cars, they grace many driveways and are omnipresent on the highway. The Belarusians are proud of their machines, too - MTZ is a famed producer of tractors, attachments and other heavy machinery, and it is perhaps the defining company for this nation. Minsk Tractor Works likes to boast that it produces over ten percent of the world's tractors - but in this part of the world, the blue beasts account for nearly all of the off-pavement horsepower.
This tractor was in a small town in Lithuania. All through Poland, the Baltic and Russia we saw them - during soviet times, the MTZ was the main supplier of machinery to bloc countries, and many of the old machines are still around today. Interestingly, I had always known Belarus tractors (as they're branded in the west) to be red. Here, they all seem to be blue. In fact, blue seems to be the color that all Belarusian work vehicles - both tractors and trucks - are painted.
The MTZ models that are produced nowadays are a little more modern than their older workhorses, but they are still relatively cheap and simply designed. The older tractors were made as easy to fix as possible, so that they could be repaired by unskilled people on remote work collectives. Another interesting thing about them - because batteries were difficult to come by, and because many farms where they ended up were so cold, older Belarus models were equipped with diesel or kerosene starter engines.
There were armies of these little "sidewalk tractors" on the streets of Minsk. They plowed, sanded, scooped up snow and pulled it away. There were larger ones with police lights and insignia, some fitted with PTO lifts for towing cars, some pulling trailers of blockades for the inauguration. I was too frightened to take pictures of these, however, because it is illegal to photograph police or military personnel, buildings or vehicles.


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  3. Pictures #2 and #3 - are not belorussian MTZ tractors. Picture #2 - LTZ T-40, produced in Lipetsk city, Russia. Picture #3 - UMZ, produced in Ukraine.

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