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Yerevan 1990: The Strange Disappearance of the Mayr Hayastan T-34 Tank

By Anna Babajanyan

Visitors to Yerevan’s Haghtanak (Victory) Park have probably seen the old WWII tank on display beneath the Mayr Hayastan (Mother Armenia) monument.

Many probably don’t know that one day, back in 1990, the T-34 tank, weighing several tons, suddenly went missing.

You can imagine the shock felt by staffers at the Mayr Hayastan Military Museum as they went to work early that morning to see that the tank had disappeared.

Now here’s what happened. Remember that in 1990, the Artsakh War had heated up and Armenian volunteer units were in short supply of weapons of any kind. They had to improvise to get needed equipment to the front.

Lilia Antonyan, who works at the museum, told Hetq that at the time volunteers would approach them asking for weapons.

“In addition, we were a good source of information about our national heroes and military generals. People were imbued by patriotic fervor and were writing letters to Gorbachev telling him that we were a powerful nation with many heroes to our name,” Antonyan told Hetq.

The museum staff explained to the volunteers that the equipment on display at the museum had been taken out of service and inoperable.

Evidently, the volunteers weren’t convinced for one night they rigged the tank to a tractor or some other heavy vehicle and towed it away.

“We had a night watchman but he didn’t interfere. At the time, everyone wanted to do help the volunteers in any way they could,” Antonyan said.

The museum staff immediately contacted the police. According to Antonyan, the missing tank was found one month later on the road to Etchmiadzin.

“The tank was returned to the museum. We fixed it up a bit and placed it back on its pedestal. We later found out that the tank had been taken to the front merely to scare the enemy,” Antonyan said.

Rumors at the time said that the tank had been outfitted with a bulldozer engine to get it to the front. There was also a story that a rocket had been ‘stolen’ from the museum as well, and that it was never returned.

While the theft of museum pieces is a criminal violation, no one was ever charged with taking the T-34 tank. People seemed to turn a blind eye to the incident.

The tank that temporarily went missing 24 years ago now sits in its former place of pride, overlooking Yerevan with the gaze of a combatant that has seen two wars.

P.S. During the Great Patriotic War (WWII), the T-34 was the tank of choice for the Red Army. After the war, a T-34 was brought from Tiflis and installed at the Mayr Hayastan Military Museum. It’s the same tank one sees there today.

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