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Dictatorship of the Air: Aviation Culture and the Fate of Modern Russia (Cambridge Centennial of Flight) Reprint Edition

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521130431
ISBN-10: 0521130433
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Editorial Reviews


"Scott Palmer has given us a remarkably original survey of Russia's aeronautical development between 1909 and 1989 that artfully combines political, technological, military, and above all cultural history into a rich mosaic that yields surprising insights into Russia's attempt to match and overtake its Western rivals."
Robert Wohl, University of California, Los Angeles

"Palmer's interesting ,well-illustrated book is a cultural history of aviation in Russia from late czarist days through the horrors of Stalin and WWII."

"Palmer's book is beautifully illustarted and provides the reader with much to think about regarding the place of the airplane in Russian and Soviet culture, society and politics. He does a fine job of fleshing out the continuities between the imperial and Soviet aviation industries." - Steven Maddox, University of Toronto

"Palmer is to be commended for integrating aviation into a wider cultural and political context. In contrast to more traditional aviation histories, Palmer's account teases out the connections between culture, politics, and the development of the technology. In the process, he illustrates that no history of modern Russia can be considered complete without an account of the history of Russian aviation." - Andrew Jenks, California State University, Long Beach

"[a] welcome book...Palmer provides an impressively detailed account of Russia's aviation history up to the end of World War II." - Drew Whitelegg, Emory University, The Journal of Transport History

"In a masterful book, Scott Palmer weaves the rhetoric and reality of Russian aviation from its tsarist start through its Communist rise and collapse. [He] has both provided an excellent study and opened another revealing window into a modernizing Russia." -Jonathan Coopersmith, Journal of Modern History

Book Description

Focusing on one of the last untold chapters in the history of human flight, Dictatorship of the Air is the first book to explain the true story behind twentieth-century Russia's quest for aviation prominence. Based on nearly a decade of scholarly research, but written with general readers in mind, this is the only account to answer the question "What is 'Russian' about Russian aviation?"

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Centennial of Flight
  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (April 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521130433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521130431
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #850,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Scott W. Palmer is a graduate of the University of Kansas (B.A., 1989) and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (M.A., 1991; Ph.D., 1997). A historian of modern Russian culture and technology and a frequent traveler to the Russian Federation, he has conducted eight extended visits to Russian archives since 1994.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Novice Aviator on September 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Palmer's book isn't another treatise about the design of Russain

aircraft or WWII military air campaigns. Instead readers will find a sophisticated treatment of original Russian sources, including newspapers, propaganda, poetry, and insitutional state directives that provides a myriad of perspectives on a single, but monumental, event in the history of mankind: human flight. The story of flight in Russia is more compelling and offers a greater understanding of Russian-Soviet life than similar histories of European and American aviation because it

coincided with another unprecendent and no less monumental event: the establishment of the Soviet Union.

Palmer argues that state officials in both Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union latched on to aviation as symbol and tool of their nation's progress and as proof of their standing in the modern world. Importantly, while the Russian autocracy failed to successfuly create a nation of fliers through voluntary associations (as was acheived in Western Europe and the United States), the Soviet Union also failed to do so, and rather spectacularly. As in many other endeavors, Soviet officials refused to face the difficulties inherent in their undertaking. They sought to create both a modern state and a modern aviation culture by fiat. Palmer rather dramatically explains how the

tragic story of the Soviets' failed attempt unfolded to the detriment of their citizens.

The book's numerous photographs, prints, and propaganda posters as well as Palmer's original translations of poetry, literature, and state archival material make this a book that stands out from its scholarly peers. Between these fascinating materials and Palmer's elegant prose one almost forgets that this is a work from an academic press.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael L. Shakespeare VINE VOICE on March 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Imperial Russia was visited by early aviators and was instantly fascinated by airplanes. Because Russia was the most backward of the great nations, its leaders, beginning with Peter the Great, sought to modernize the country to compete with other Western European nations. Could aviation give Russian leaders the right tool to spark modernization?

Airplanes were sent into rural areas for the first time to be inspected by villagers. Pilots answered questions, passed out literature and gave free flights to amazed peasants.

Dr. Scott W. Palmer explains how "rural believers were taken into the air by pilots in order to prove that there was no God, angels or other celestial spirits in the heavens. Anti-religious flights proved so successful that they quickly became standard practice."

Dr. Palmer describes aviation's powerful propaganda value. "The mastery of the airplane would make possible backward Russia's rapid transformation into the world's most advanced and powerful nation."

Russia's leaders were in a hurry to gain legitimacy from mastering aviation. Russia set about acquiring airplanes and manufacturing methods from other countries in her haste to build legitimacy in the world's eyes.

For years, the Russian aviation industry struggled to do more than make poor copies of airplanes from other nations.

Dr. Palmer relates, "They embellished actual accomplishments, exaggerating, and at times inventing, Russian achievements when, in fact, much less progress had been made."

Record setting flights were carried out to bring world attention to Russian aviation through goodwill. Soviet leaders deliberately insisted on developing the largest airplanes in the world, even if the had no practical value other than propaganda.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Heller on December 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dictatorship of the Air is an innovative, thoroughly researched and very well-written book on a fascinating subject: the meaning and influence of aviation in Russian history. The author, Scott Palmer, uses an impressive number of archival materials and contemporary sources to build the case that the Russian approach to aeronautical modernization (combining state initiative, crash campaigns, and the acquisition of foreign technology) ultimately achieved far less than Imperial and Soviet leaders claimed. The book's treatment of technology transfer is particularly effective. Palmer does an terrific job explaining the internal economic and ideological factors that forced Russian officials to use espionage to keep up with competitors in Western Europe and the US. The book also contains (among other things) a fascinating discussion of the various "prestige" flights of the 1930s, insightful analysis of the religious foundations of Soviet-era aviation propaganda, and more than four dozen photographs and illustrations that readers will find nowhere else. This is certain to become the point of departure for future work on the history of Russian aviation. ***Highly recommended***
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