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Was aviation a true Soviet success story or did it remain dependent on imported technology in order to advance? Aircraft and aviators were frequently occurring images in Soviet culture. What purpose did this significant social role serve, and how did it evolve over time? What was the relationship between the state of Soviet aviation technology and the message conveyed through its public representations? In this study, aviation serves as a thematic guide that enables the political objectives, material realities, and public perceptions of technological progress in the Soviet Union to be seen in a new light. Employing an innovative approach that blends a thoughtful examination of the development and structure of the Soviet aviation industry with analysis of the public representations of aviation as seen through Soviet cinema, this research reveals a dynamic story of the changing views on the role of technology in social progress. Under Stalin, new aircraft and the heroic pilots who had mastered the skies were heralded as beacons of progress and proof of the legitimacy of Soviet governance. In the early days of the Cold War, Soviet aviation technology made massive strides, achieving near parity with the west while beginning to make meaningful contributions to the state of the art in aerospace. However, Khrushchev's reorientation of industry toward rocketry depleted the resources available to Soviet aircraft designers. As aviation technology faded from preeminence, Soviet society reevaluated the cultural representations of the aviator. This once heroic figure was now constrained by an inescapable fate. Aviation and the promise of the aviator were brought down to Earth.
A Thesis submitted to the Program in Russian and East European Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Ronald E. Doel, Professor Directing Thesis; Jonathan A. Grant, Committee Member; Robert L. Romanchuk, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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