In the autumn of 1943, the design bureau of the Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183, located in Nizhny Tagil, started working on a vehicle that would have improvement opportunities in the future, under a direct order from Stalin. Main requirements for the project: retain the high mobility of the T-34 and provide it with heavier armor protection against modern tank guns. In November of 1943, the chief designer, A. A. Morozov, presented the overall design and a model of the tank which received the designation Object 136. The first prototype was completed by January 1944, and two more were completed in February. The first two prototypes received the designation T-44-85 (as they were armed with 85 mm D-5T guns). The third prototype was armed with the 122mm D-25-44T tank gun and received the designation T-44-122. The D-25-44T tank gun was an analog to the basic D-25 field gun, but there were differences in some minor details; fixed single-piece ammunition to increase the rate of fire, and a double-baffle muzzle brake. The construction of the hull with an innovative placement of the engine allowed fitting such powerful armament in a medium tank weighing 30 tons. The engine of the T-44 was placed perpendicular to the axis of the tank. Armor plating: 75 mm on the front of the hull and 90 mm on the front of the turret. The side armor was 45 mm thick and could be reinforced by additional 30 mm thick armor plates. All three prototypes were powered by the V-2IS diesel engine which developed 500 hp (373 kW).
The T-44 was issued to three tank brigades mustered on September 15, 1944, for training purposes, but these formations were re-equipped with T-34-85 medium tanks prior to entering the Battle of Berlin and the Prague Offensive. These were the 6th Guards, 33rd Guards, and 63rd Guards Tank Brigades. The T-44A medium tank was not used operationally during WWII in Europe for several reasons, including the fact that the Red Army wasn't ready to accept a new tank due to lack of sufficient supplies and technical specialists who could repair and maintain the new tanks as well as many of the tank crews were inexperienced. However, three tanks were sent to the 100th Special Tank Company, which tested them on the Eastern Front. Many T-44A medium tanks were sent immediately after they were produced to the Far East regions of the Soviet Union. The first tanks arrived before the end of the war and were used operationally during the last three days of fighting. They continued to arrive after the war and eventually, around 600 T-44A medium tanks were stationed there.
Due to the Cold War, the USSR decided to keep the tank secret. It was never shown publicly during military parades and all pictures of it were never shown publicly until the coat of secrecy was dropped. Also, theres almost no photographic evidence of T-44s stationed in East Germany or during the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, although it is known that T-44s were sent there (theres only one photograph of T-44A medium tank in Hungary in existence).
Some T-44A medium tanks were later given to military museums, including one in Brest in today's Belarus. One of two T-44-100 prototypes is in the Kubinka Tank Museum.
- After the cloak of secrecy was lifted in 1960s and since the tank was already becoming obsolete, it was used in two Soviet war movies; Father of a Soldier and Act by situation. In the first one, for reasons which remain unknown, it was used to portray a T-34. In the second one, it was visually modified with additional plates to look like the Tiger I heavy tank.
- Some T-44 medium tanks along with some T-34 medium tanks were visually modified to represent German Panzerkampfwagen IV medium tanks. They were made for Soviet era film studios and were used in a number of movies about battles on the Eastern Front. They were also used during the 2004 Reenactment of the Battle of Moscow.