Skip to main content

Chkalov, Valery Pavlovich

CHKALOV, VALERY PAVLOVICH

(19041938), test pilot and polar aviator.

Born in the Volga town of Vasilevo (now Chkalovsk), Valery Pavlovich Chkalov went on to become the USSR's most famous aviator of the 1930s. Hailed as the "Greatest Pilot of Our Times" and named a Hero of the Soviet Union, Chkalov, often referred to as the "Russian Lindbergh," remains one of the Stalinist era's greatest and best-loved celebrities.

A teenaged Chkalov became an aviation mechanic during the Russian Civil War. He qualified as a pilot by the age of seventeen and joined the air force, where he gained a reputation as a skilled but overly daring flier. Chkalov's rashness caught up with him in 1929, when he caused an accident that killed another pilot. He was reprimanded and briefly discharged. Chkalov returned to the air force in 1930 but resigned in 1933 to work as a test pilot for designer Nikolai Polikarpov.

During the mid-1930s, Chkalov turned to long-distance flying and polar aviation, where he achieved his greatest renown. With Georgy Baidukov as copilot and Alexander Belyakov as navigator, Chkalov set an unofficial world record for distance flying in July 1936, by flying from Moscow to Udd Island, off the coast of Kamchatka. On June 18, 1937, the same team gained international fame by flying from Moscow to Vancouver, Washington, crossing over the North Pole along the way. This was an official world record, and even though it was broken the following month by Mikhail Gromov (who also flew to America over the North Pole), Chkalov's bluff, hearty charm made him the most admired of "Stalin's falcons," the hero-pilots featured so prominently in the propaganda of the 1930s.

Chkalov died on December 15, 1938, testing a prototype of the Polikarpov I-180. He was given a hero's funeral and buried in the Kremlin Wall. Rumors have persisted since Chkalov's death that he was somehow killed on Stalin's orders. Chkalov's family and several prominent journalists have come out in support of this theory, but no concrete proof has emerged to link Stalin with Chkalov's death.

See also: aviation

bibliography

Baidukov, Georgii F. (1991). Russian Lindbergh: The Life of Valery Baidukov, tr. Peter Belov. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Hardesty, Von. (19871988). "Soviets Blaze Sky Trail over Top of World." Air and Space/Smithsonian 2(5):4854.

McCannon, John. (1998). Red Arctic: Polar Exploration and the Myth of the North in the Soviet Union, 19321939. New York: Oxford University Press.

John McCannon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Chkalov, Valery Pavlovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Chkalov, Valery Pavlovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chkalov-valery-pavlovich

"Chkalov, Valery Pavlovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved October 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chkalov-valery-pavlovich

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.