Ukraine has filled the streets with Czech hedgehogs, modern anti-tank barriers inspired by Friesian horses. Here’s how they work and why they’re called that.
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Ever since the war broke out in Ukraine, following the Russian invasion, the streets of Kyiv and other cities have been filled with defensive systems already widely used during World War II: Czech hedgehogs. These are simple but very effective anti-tank barriers capable of slowing down and blocking the advance of enemy vehicles. In fact, tanks and other vehicles attempting to climb on them can get stuck or seriously damaged due to their peculiar tripod shape. These are modern versions of the Chevaux de Frize, obstacles made of wood, metal, iron wire and other interwoven elements designed to counter cavalry (in antiquity) and more recently vehicles. Given the large number of ground vehicles sent from Moscow to attack Ukraine, it is not surprising that Czech hedgehogs are widely used in cities, as can be seen in the following images posted on Twitter.
How Czech curls are made and how they work
Czech loops are obstacles consisting of two metal beams (such as steel) solidly welded together, to which a third is added to act as an axle. They can be reinforced with plates, rivets and bolts. The result is a strong and heavy structure with six legs, three of which always rest on the ground. Though rudimentary, these defensive systems are also extremely effective because they always return to position, even after being thrown out by an explosion. To let the cars through, the soldiers are forced to remove them manually, thereby exposing themselves to enemy fire. A tank stuck or damaged by a Czech hedgehog is also easy prey for the defenders. It is no coincidence that stations are deployed around these structures to strike at the invaders who find themselves in a difficult situation. To understand their importance, it is enough to imagine that in Ukraine a company specializing in the construction of railways has converted its production to the production of Czech sea urchins. In a statement in early March, Ukrzaliznytsia (UZ) announced the production of 831 pieces, of which 517 have already been shipped.
Why are they called Czech hedgehogs?
The Czech name comes from the fact that the first country to use them was Czechoslovakia to defend itself against the advancing Nazi army. However, the first examples built in the 1930s were made of reinforced concrete, an easily destructible material that could also provide cover for enemy forces. Therefore, it was decided to build them from metal (during the Great Patriotic War, they were also made from wood and other improvised materials, such as railway tracks). It was during World War II that these devices played a fundamental role, so much so that Russia has a monument with three giant Czech hedgehogs in Moscow. It was built in 1966 along the M-10 highway and marks the spot where German troops entered Soviet territory. The Normandy landings were also heavily influenced by Czech sea urchins, which made it difficult to deploy amphibious vehicles. Today they are a valuable resource in the defense of Ukrainian cities.
Monument in Russia. Credit: Wikipedia