Palmer, Scott W. 1967–

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Palmer, Scott W. 1967–


Born August 9, 1967. Education: University of Kansas, B.A., 1989; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, M.A., 1991, Ph.D., 1997.


Office—Department of History, 438 Morgan Hall, 1 University Cir., Macomb, IL 61455-1390. E-mail—[email protected].


Western Illinois University, Macomb, adjunct assistant professor, 1997-98, assistant professor, 1998, became associate professor.


American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies; Historical Society.


Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Fellowship, National Air and Space Museum; fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, Library of Congress, Fulbright-Hays Program, International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Dictatorship of the Air: Aviation Culture and the Fate of Modern Russia (nonfiction), Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of the Scott W. Palmer blog.


Historian Scott W. Palmer, whose special field of interest is modern Russian culture and technology, has frequently traveled to the Russian Federation in pursuit of his research and has made eight extended visits to study Russian archives. Palmer's book, Dictatorship of the Air: Aviation Culture and the Fate of Modern Russia, takes a look at how Russian aviation symbolizes modernity in recent Soviet and Russian history and its importance in warfare and as a mode of transportation. In addition to chronicling the history of aviation in Russia, the author also discusses the Soviet attitude about air power using information drawn from a wide variety of sources. "The result is an interesting book that provides important insights into the development of Soviet aviation as well as the fate of modern Russia," remarked Andrew Jenks in a review for the Canadian Journal of History.

Palmer's book begins by discussing the Russian version of the myth of Icarus, who made wings of wax, only to fly too close to the sun and have them melt. In Russian culture, the story was used to bolster the idea of the Russians producing the best intellectual leaders in Europe. Mastering flight was seen as an important way to measure Russian progress in science and technology, areas where it had traditionally lagged behind the European nations. Following the Bolshevik revolution, it seemed that catching up in the area of air and space flight would emphasize the fact that Russia, in spite of its widespread poverty and underdeveloped industrial and technical capabilities, deserved to be included among the most advanced nations of the Western world. Beyond the symbolic value of flight, it also served as a practical measure, modernizing Soviet life.

Palmer's book explains how the Communist regime attempted to use aviation as a substitute for religion in the lives of its people. Traditional holy icons were replaced with images and stories of fantastic feats in air and space flight, and pilots were even sent to small villages to demonstrate planes and take some of the local villagers for a trial flight. The hope was that this experience would suddenly transform peasants into modern Soviet citizens. The author comments on the ways the government's obsession with flight caused it to neglect many other vital areas of modernization. Equating flight with the nation's worth also led to an unfortunate inability to acknowledge or learn from mistakes made in flight programs. Dictatorship of the Air "teases out the connections between culture, politics, and the development of the technology. In the process, [Palmer] illustrates that no history of modern Russia can be considered complete without an account of the history of Russian aviation," Jenks added. John W. Steinberg, a reviewer for History: Review of New Books, called Dictatorship of the Air a "well-written book" and added that Palmer "has undoubtedly written an important contribution to the historiography of imperial and Soviet history."



Dictionary of American Scholars, 10th edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.


American Historical Review, June 1, 2007, Robert Wohl, review of Dictatorship of the Air: Aviation Culture and the Fate of Modern Russia, p. 956.

Aviation History, May 1, 2007, "Soviet Aviation Culture," p. 69.

Canadian Journal of History, March 22, 2007, Andrew Jenks, review of Dictatorship of the Air.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February 1, 2007, M. Levinson, review of Dictatorship of the Air, p. 1006.

History: Review of New Books, June 22, 2007, John W. Steinberg, review of Dictatorship of the Air, p. 144.

International History Review, September 1, 2007, Evan Mawdsley, review of Dictatorship of the Air, p. 646.


Dictatorship of the Air Home Page, (June 13, 2008).

Western Illinois University Web site, (June 13, 2008), biographical information about Scott W. Palmer.

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Palmer, Scott W. 1967–

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