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  • Dictatorship of the Air » Conference Call (or, Revisiting Debates about Soviet History)
    at these things My contribution was titled Reassessing the History of Soviet Aviation Technology The short presentation summarized some of my major findings from DotA As a backdrop I argued that current Russian aviation policies reflect assumptions about modernization and state directed development nearly identical to those that shaped both Soviet and Imperial era policies In short I discussed the sorts of things that regular readers of this blog would have expected What I did not expect was the audience s reaction The gist of the post presentation comments was that I appeared not to appreciate the unique character of the Soviet period More than one individual objected that I was flattening the differences between the Soviet and Imperial eras by failing to account for the role of Communist ideology in shaping society culture and politics The result one senior colleague suggested was that I seemed to be rationalizing Stalin s policies I was gob smacked As I mentioned above I ve been presenting at conferences for more than a decade For most of that time my talks have focused on my Soviet era research Never not once have I ever been faulted for downplaying the significance of ideology in Soviet history or rationalizing Stalin s policies If anything colleagues in Russian history have argued the opposite that I devote too much attention to ideology while being too critical of Stalinist excesses I disagree but that s another post Damned if you do damned if you don t As the post presentation discussion unfolded two things occurred to me The first was that I had not summarized my views as effectively as I had hoped To ensure that there would be plenty of time for Q A I had to condense the longer paper I had written to right around twenty minutes So I announced the argument hit the broader points and worked backward from present to past unraveling the origins of contemporary aviation policies by highlighting past precedents As it was I rushed through the last quarter or so of my presentation on the Imperial era to avoid exceeding my time limit Later during the exchange with the audience I defended my apparent short shrifting of Stalinist politics by filling in the gaps I also noted that I devote considerable space in DotA to discussing ideology s role in shaping Soviet aviation I urged folks to suspend final judgment until they ve had a chance to read the book Fair enough The second thing that occurred to me though I didn t mention it at the time is the extent to which the nature and direction of that Q A period suggests how differently scholars in separate historical sub fields conceive and approach essential questions Until rather recently discussions of politics and ideology or that i word as I once heard it called were highly unfashionable among professional Russian historians Again a topic for another post Even today the mere mention of the word totalitarianism is all but certain

    Original URL path: http://www.dictatorshipoftheair.com/2007/10/23/conference-call-or-revisiting-debates-about-soviet-history/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Dictatorship of the Air » The Shapes of Things to Come
    The Douglas DC 3 was more than just a technically advanced and cost effective aircraft It was and is also strikingly beautiful Characterized by sleek flowing lines and its highly polished aluminum surfaces the DC 3 even seven decades after its debut evokes sensations of power speed and dynamism The design features that made the DC 3 the most aerodynamically efficient aircraft produced to date were a near perfect union of form and function The result was not merely an economic and profitable aircraft but one that managed to capture and epitomize an emerging new aesthetic that quickly became synonymous with the look of the modern As Donald J Bush described in his study of industrial design The Streamlined Decade this new aesthetic was indebted to principles that had emerged from the science of aerodynamics Attracted to the simple beauty of sleek forms that offered the least resistance while in motion and eager to be associated with the most powerful symbols of industrial modernity artists architects and designers of the 1930s turned to transportation technologies in search of inspiration They found that inspiration in the flowing lines clean surfaces and polished metals used to improve the aerodynamic performance of trains automobiles and of course airplanes That the aerodynamic aesthetic increasingly favored by leading designers ultimately influenced popular tastes came as a result of the economic realities facing business and industry Seeking any and every advantage they could find to entice consumers in the midst of America s ongoing economic Depression manufacturers turned to artists and industrial designers to update the packaging of their products Very quickly streamliners like Norman Bel Geddes Walter Dorwin Teague and Robert Heller began encasing ordinary items within contoured shells notionally based on the principle of minimum drag These forms lent themselves to mechanized mass production processes and new materials such as plastics Meanwhile streamlining lent style and glamor to the most mundane domestic products It transformed everyday items like telephones fans and pencil sharpeners into objects of futuristic beauty Of course streamlined design had little to do with improving performance The outward appearance of these implements had no effect on how efficiently they performed their duties Less wind resistant toasters didn t make faster toast nor did stylized cocktail sets make more aerodynamic martinis The streamlined aesthetic was intended for symbolic and decorative purposes It aimed to stimulate consumption rather than enhance function The connection between aviation and industrial design soon came full circle as the era s most celebrated streamliners began applying their air minded visions to airplanes as well Although best known for his fanciful Air Liner 4 1929 a plane of the future that he hoped would begin carrying passengers on transatlantic flights by the 1940s Bel Geddes also transformed existing airplanes as one of the first designers hired to refashion commercial aircraft cabins Following the end of WWII Teague was likewise called upon to design the open spacious and clean lined interior of the Boeing 377 Stratocrusier These efforts ensured that

    Original URL path: http://www.dictatorshipoftheair.com/2007/10/16/the-shapes-of-things-to-come/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Dictatorship of the Air » Q: Who invented the airplane?
    even baseball Western historians have been prone to dismiss the Mozhaiskii story as just another example of strident Soviet chauvinism 1 In actuality the Mozhaiskii claim pre dates Stalin s rise to power by almost two decades The story was advanced as early as 1910 in an article titled The First Aviators published in the most prominent tsarist era newspaper Novoe vremia The New Times Viewed in the broader perspective such nationalistic claims are not as unusual or outlandish as one might think The origins of the airplane were contested for decades before and after the Wrights first flight at Kitty Hawk As late as the 1920s some Frenchmen continued to insist that Clément Ader s bat shaped Éole 1890 was actually the world s first airplane Meanwhile to this day many Brazilians insist that one of their native sons Alberto Santos Dumont should be recognized as the pioneer of controlled heavy than air flight Even in the United States the Wrights triumph long went unrecognized by folks who should have known better It wasn t until 1914 that officials at the Smithsonian Institution finally acknowledged that the Wright Flyer and not former Smithsonian head Samuel P Langley s Great Aerodrome was the first airplane to take to the air 2 So while the answer to the question Who invented the airplane may now be obvious It hasn t always been so See for example the excerpt on Aviation in Richard Stites and James von Geldern eds Mass Culture in Soviet Russia Tales Poems Songs movies Plays and Folklore 1917 1953 Bloomington IN Indiana University Press 1995 pp 479 486 The best discussion of the early controversies involving the Wrights Ader and Langley can be found in Richard P Hallion Taking Flight Inventing the Aerial Age from Antiquity through the

    Original URL path: http://www.dictatorshipoftheair.com/2007/09/26/q-who-invented-the-airplane/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Dictatorship of the Air » Fly the Soviet Skies
    first Western citizen to make the Havana Moscow run described his experience One struggles up a ramp that is like a staircase leading to the fourth floor of a building the Tu 114 is around 40 ft high when standing on the ground Inside the hatch cabin follows cabin a crew compartment a large compartment empty of everything but a few suitcases food hampers and cases of soft drinks a

    Original URL path: http://www.dictatorshipoftheair.com/2007/09/05/fly-the-soviet-skies/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Dictatorship of the Air » MAKS-2007 (or, Russian Aviation: What’s New is Old)
    aircraft notwithstanding the Russian military s current aviation inventory hardly garners the full respect of aerospace observers Moscow based defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer dismissed the Sukhoi and MiG aircraft appearing at the Salon as flying toys that have not been launched for production Commenting on Moscow s decision last week to resume long range bomber patrols US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack brushed off the development stating that If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again that s their decision Meanwhile in separate editorials published Wednesday in The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph Max Hastings and David Blair dismissed out of hand Russia s pretensions at once again becoming a major military power citing among other things the country s underlying poverty economic inequality and industrial backwardness While Hastings may be correct that Russians cannot make toasters or microwaves washing machines or cookers that could find an export market anywhere outside Cuba he and other Western observers would be well advised not to underestimate the abilities of Russian aerospace engineers Likewise they should not underestimate the value that the Russian state places on air power It is not happenstance that Putin has presided over the opening ceremony at every MAKS event held during his presidency He is keenly interested in aviation And he has repeatedly expressed his goal of re establishing Russia as a key player in the international market His administration has undertaken concrete steps to realize that goal Chief among these has been the formation of the United Aircraft Corporation UAC an umbrella organization that has brought previously independent Russian aircraft firms like Suhkoi MiG and Tupolev under a single administrative entity controlled by the state This too has clear parallels in Russia s Soviet and Imperial pasts Throughout the course of the twentieth century it was the state not private enterprise that controlled promoted and sustained domestic aviation It appears that the same may be set to happen in the twenty first century Having survived very difficult times in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union Russian aviation is currently experiencing a renaissance And once again the Russian state is serving as mid wife Flush with cash thanks to the revenues generated from the sale of oil gas and other natural resources the Putin administration is sinking billions into the refurbishment of aviation infrastructure the design and construction of new aircraft and the creation of international partnerships with companies like Boeing and Airbus These partnerships will provide Russia access to the advanced technology it needs later to compete independently against American and European manufacturers In mid August UAC President Aleksei Fyodorov proclaimed that the Russian Federation will surpass Soviet era production levels by building 4 500 civilian aircraft over the next 18 years If the government is to make good on this audacious target it will have to find buyers for these new planes Recent announcements regarding the pending sale

    Original URL path: http://www.dictatorshipoftheair.com/2007/08/25/maks-2007-or-russian-aviation-whats-new-is-old/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Dictatorship of the Air » Avia-Corner
    They ve just published a very good article concerning the current state of Russia s commercial airline industry According to author Alexey Komarov Effectively the industry is entering a third phase in its post Soviet existence At first the issue was merely staying afloat then the focus turned to serving the large domestic market and shoring up the sector s financial wherewithal Now airlines and manufacturers have ambitions beyond the confines of Russia and its immediate neighbors For the rest of the run down on recent developments click here Discussion 0 The Russian Air Force Museum at Monino pt 6 August 2 2007 5 44 pm Filed in Avia Corner Great Patriotic War Military Monino Museums Sikorsky Tupolev Note For previous posts in this series click here 1 2 3 4 5 My apologies for the long delay in posting the last segment of my series on the VVS Museum After uploading Part Five I took a week off to visit family and friends Since then I ve been hard at work with some colleagues developing what we think is going to be an exciting new web resource I ll have more to say about that in a few weeks In the meantime here at last is my last word on The Russian Air Force Museum at Monino As I first mentioned in the second part of this series two of the displays housed at the VVS Museum are currently closed to visitors The Museum s hangar containing Unique Flying Apparatuses is unavailable while repairs are being undertaken to its roof It is expected to re open early this fall Meanwhile the exhibition devoted to the history of Russian aviation has been closed since a fire gutted much of the Museum s main building in 2005 Despite the fact that you cannot currently view these displays we ll conclude our field guide with a description of what you can expect to see once these parts of the Museum re open Continue Reading Discussion 4 The Russian Air Force Museum at Monino pt 5 July 15 2007 5 54 pm Filed in Antonov Avia Corner Mikoyan Gurevich Monino Museums Yakovlev Note For previous posts in this series click here 1 2 3 4 Alas all good things must come to an end Since posting Part IV of my series on the Russian Air Force Museum at Monino I have returned home from Moscow My nearly month and a half long stay was by any measure a success I gathered a great deal of material on my next long term research project caught up with old friends made some new ones and had a great time I ll be spending the upcoming months reading and writing about the materials I gathered in the archives In the meantime however I want to wrap up the field guide to the Monino museum that I began at the end of last month In this the penultimate post in the series we take a look at

    Original URL path: http://www.dictatorshipoftheair.com/browse/avia-corner/page/7/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Dictatorship of the Air » The Russian Front
    Russian Front is intended to serve as a resource depot for documents teaching materials original translations and the like relating to Russian military and diplomatic history Right now you ll find a word of welcome and a few never before available translations of important Soviet documents We ll have much more in the days and weeks to come as new resources are stockpiled and as my fellow frontoviki being adding

    Original URL path: http://www.dictatorshipoftheair.com/2007/08/17/the-russian-front/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Dictatorship of the Air » Russia’s Airline Industry: An Update
    are on the ball They ve just published a very good article concerning the current state of Russia s commercial airline industry According to author Alexey Komarov Effectively the industry is entering a third phase in its post Soviet existence At first the issue was merely staying afloat then the focus turned to serving the large domestic market and shoring up the sector s financial wherewithal Now airlines and manufacturers

    Original URL path: http://www.dictatorshipoftheair.com/2007/08/15/russias-airline-industry-an-update/ (2016-04-26)
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