1903, Poltava — 1976, Leningrad

Osoaviakhim Stratosphere Balloon


  • oil on canvas. 238 x 156
  • ЖБ-1887

  • Received in 1936–1940 via the Leningrad City Council from the First Exhibition of Leningrad Artists (1935)

The Osoaviakhim-1 stratosphere balloon was launched on January 30, 1934. The balloon reached a height of 22 km, beating a world record. But in a few hours the flight ended in terrible tragedy. The cables attaching the basket broke, causing it to fall from a height of 2 km. All three crew members were killed. Flying to such a high altitude was foolhardy, as it significantly exceeded the device’s technical capabilities. The launch took place on the opening day of the 17th Congress of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks). The deputies at the congress were read a radio telegram from the crew sending greetings to the party and a report on the height reached. The tragic ending was only announced the following day. The stratonauts were declared heroes. Their ashes were interred in the Kremlin wall, with the heads of the party and the state taking part in the interment ceremony. After an investigation of the reason for the catastrophe, many experts who had taken part in the preparations for the expedition were shot. Osoaviakhim, or the Society for Assistance to Defence and Aeronautic-Chemical Construction, was a mass social volunteer organisation of Soviet Union citizens that existed from 1927 to 1948. All across the country, the organisation oversaw the founding of clubs and training facilities to prepare the population to defend the USSR. By 1928 the society already had 2 million members. Special pins, stamps, and posters were made to publicise Osoaviakim’s activities.

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