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Ever Onwards, Ever Upwards?: Representing Aviation in Soviet Art’

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRussian Aviation, Space Flight and Visual Culture
EditorsVlad Strukov, Helena Goscilo
Publisher or commissioning bodyRoutledge
Number of pages18
DateAccepted/In press - 2016
DatePublished (current) - 22 Sep 2016

Publication series

NameContemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series


The article explores the relationship between aviation as a practice and its representation in Soviet visual culture in the early twentieth century. Building on the impact that scientific and industrial developments in powered flight had on pre-revolutionary Russia, and exploring the emphasis on the mechanical in early Soviet art, the article focuses principally on representations from the mid-to-late 1930s, widely recognized as the golden age of Soviet aviation. It explores three prominent themes within artistic responses to aviation. Firstly, it considers the representation of the individual pilot as a ‘positive hero’, with particular focus on both painted and sculptural portraits of Valerii Chkalov. Secondly, it analyses proposed, but never completed, projects to construct public monuments dedicated to heroic moments in Soviet aviation history, particularly long-distance flights and the rescue of the Cheliuskin mission. Finally, it explores two visual representations of what would become failures in Soviet aviation history, the crash of the colossal ANT-20 aircraft, popularly known as the Maksim Gor’kii, and the uncontrolled descent of the Osoaviakhim-1 stratospheric balloon. Ultimately, the article argues that these complex and diverse visual representations of Soviet aviation articulate ideas about the fluctuating political and cultural environment of early Stalinist aviation and art.


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