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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aviation History Tidbits And Perception of U.S.

Many people have an image of pre-revolutionary Russia as a backward agricultural society. But that’s not necessarily so. Edward Phillips of Manchester, England, asked if Russia built airplanes before the revolution.

You must have heard the name Igor Sikorsky. Before World War I, he lived and worked in Russia. Sikorsky made the famous four-engine bomber, the Ilya Muromets, a plane that had no equal anywhere in the world. It could lift almost a ton of bombs and was armed with from three to seven machine guns and was piloted by a crew of eight. Russia held first place in the world in the number of its heavy planes. In 1910, Sikorsky designed the first Russian helicopter.

Speaking of Russian aviation, on Sept. 9, 1913, pilot Pyotr Nesterov was the first person to perform a loop in a plane. The first hydroplanes of that period were designed by Dmitry Grigorovich. In 1902, Moscow built its first aerodynamic wind tunnel. Before the revolution, planes were built at factories in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Odessa. So you see, Russia before the revolution was not just a land of illiterate peasants.

Frank Jur lived for six years in this country, where he taught English. Now he’s back home in San Francisco, California. He says he’s seen one Russian film in which the United States is portrayed. In general, how do our filmmakers view the United States?

You’re one step ahead of me, Frank; I don’t know any recent Russian films in which the United States is portrayed. You’ve seen one — maybe there are more. Our films today do not present typical portraits of America. As for our mass media, the United States is by and large portrayed realistically and truthfully — not the way it was during the totalitarian era. Before, America was shown as a war-mongering, aggressive nation that exploited its own people and other nations, a country where there is racial hatred, slums and everything negative. Today this is no more.

But as a person who has worked in the media all his life, let me say that if you want to find something negative about a person or an event, you’ll find it. The main thing is to present the positive and negative in the right proportions. There is no ideal society. I always remember what my former boss used to say: "Joe, if they want to prove you’re a camel, they’ll prove it." Of course, there are people with the old communist mentality, and they do pop up here and there with a negative portrayal of things American. Some are in the State Duma. But this is not typical. Although there is no ideal nation — the United States is no exception — and although we may not agree on this or that point in our foreign policies, this is only natural.

Joe Adamov hosts "Moscow Mailbag" on the Voice of Russia.