No one thinks of aviation when thinking of Russia. But in the 1930s, flying was all the rage, with explorers adventuring out into the great white north. Each pilot set out to make a name for himself, and including one by the name of Valerii Chkalov.
Chkalov entered the Soviet Air Force in 1921, but was shortly grounded for flying under a bridge in Leningrad. The young pilot was obviously a daredevil that wanted to show his skill. The Soviets eventually let him fly again as a test pilot in 1930, and from there he became one of Russia’s most famous pilots. His most infamous flight was that from Moscow to Vancouver, where the daredevil flew straight over the North Pole. The Soviet regime was proud of his accomplishments, but had an alternative motive for publicizing him so much: propaganda.
In a 1937 article written in the famous Russian newspaper, Pravda, the author gives the details of Chkalov’s famous flight. Several times he mentions the greatness of Stalin and the Soviet government. In one such instance, Chkalov is speaking of Stalin’s great love for the people, “…’in Stalin’s eyes people are always the most important thing.'” The author was using this national icon as a way to get the people to support Stalin’s regime.
And it worked.
In a letter from a 14-year-old boy to Chkalov, he speaks about how his hands are shaking as he writes because he is so nervous/excited. In another part, the boy writes, “I’ve been saving up for a bicycle and I’ve got 35 rubles in the bank already, so if you need anything I’ll take them out at once.” This kid is willing to give all his money to his hero. Maybe he just loved the pilot that much, but it sounds like brainwashing to me…