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Cult of the Constructors

Aviation Chief Designers

AntonovOleg Konstantinovich
Bartini Robert Ludvigovich
Beriev Georgy Mikhailovich
Kamov Nikolay Ilyich
LavochkinSemyon Alekseyevich
Mikoyan Artyom
Mil Mikhail Leontyevich
MyasistchevVladimir Mikhailovich
SukhoiPavel Osipovich
Tsybin Pavel Vladimirovich
Tupolev Andrey Nikolayevich
YakovlevAlexandr Sergeevich

Aero Engine Chief Designers

Ivchenko Alexander Georgiyevich
Kolesov Petr Alekseevich
Kuznetsov Nikolay Dmitrievich
LotarevVladimir Alekseevich
Lulka Arkhip Mikhailovich
Mikulin Alexander Alexandrovich
Shvetsov Arkady Dmitrievich
Soloviev Pavel Aleksandrovich
Tumanski Sergei Konstantinovich
KlimovVladimir Yakovlevich

Shipbuilding Chief Designers

AfrikantovIgor Ivanovich
Aleksandrov Anatolii Petrovich
BaranovIgor Leonidovich
Isanin Nikolay Nikitich
KovalevSergey Nikitich
KvashaNikolay Iosifovich
MutikhinValentin Ivanovich
PeregudovVladimir Nikolayevich
ProsyankinGrigory Lazarevich
Spassky Igor Dmitrievich
TerentyevAlexander Alexandrovich

Land Combat Chief Designers

DegtyarevVasiliy Alekseevich
GorlitskyLev Izrailevich
KoshkinMikhail Ilyich
KotinJoseph Yakovlevich
MorozovAlexander Alexandrovich
PetrovFyodor Fedorovich
Shavyrin Boris Ivanovich
ShipunovArkady Georgievich
TomashovYury Vasilievich

Tactical Missile Chief Designers

AlexanderIvanovich Tizyakov
Denezhkin Gennady Alekseevich
Nepobedimy Sergei Pavlovich
ShavyrinBoris Ivanovich

Rockets and Space

KorolevSergey Pavlovich
BarminVladimir Pavlovich
Baryshev Vladimir Mikhailovich
ChelomeiVladimir Nikolaevich
EfremovGerbert Aleksandrovich
GlushkoValentin Petrovich
MakeyevViktor Petrovich
Mishin Vasili Pavlovich
MozhororinYuri Alexandrovich
NadiradzeAlexander Davidovich
NovikovLev Dmitrievich
Reshetnev Mikhail Fedorovich
Sagdeev Roald Zinnurovich
Savin Anatoly Ivanovich
UtkinVladimir Fyodorovich
YangelMikhail Kuzmich

Nuclear Weapons

Alexandrov Anatoly Petrovich
Kapitsa Peter Leonidovich
KeldyshMstislav Vsevolodovich
Khariton Yury Borisovich
Kurchatov Igor Vasilyevich
Sakharov Andrey Dmitrievich
ShchelkinKirill Ivanovich
TammIgor Evgenievich
VelikhovEvgeny Pavlovich
ZeldovichYakov Borisovich


During the 20th Century, dozens of construction bureaux developed Soviet tanks, warships, aircraft, rockets and the other armamentaria of victory over the forces of Hitlerite Fascism and the long twilight struggle of the Cold War. During their lifetimes some were famous, and others remain a cypher even today. In the aviation industry, chief designers became famous as their names were associated with their creations - Tupolev, Sukhoi, Antonov and many others. For the most part, however, these organizers of Soviet power remained in the shadows, their identities revealed only after their death, notably Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, the General Designer of the early Soviet space triumphs.

The years after Khrushchev were notable for the "stability of cadres" in the party and state apparatus. By introducing the slogan "Trust in Cadres" in 1965, Brezhnev won the support of many bureaucrats wary of the constant reorganizations of the Khrushchev era and eager for security in established hierarchies. During this period, it is nearly impossible to write a history of any major enterprise, bureau or institute in the Soviet defense industrial complex without writing a biography of the leading figure of that entity. Tenures of leadership stretched into decades, and the trajectory of the enterprise was intimately linked with that of the leader himself. Some hold the view that men make history, that it was important who ruled in the Soviet Union, that institutions, as strong as they were in totalitarian countries, were inevitably been overcome by the leaders.

When it came to success, the emphasis was on the individual. The general or chief designer determined a lot, but his talent was to create a capable team, one that, when faced with real difficulties (and no development can do without them), will not crumble, will not be afraid, but will end up bringing the idea to fruition.

But if a large number of specialists in various fields of engineering are engaged in developinga very complex technical system, such as a space project or a power generation system, which consists of diverse units, the coordination of engineering becomes a very difficult engineering and scientific task. It takes special, interdisciplinary experts to carry it through. Such are, for instance, a chief designer, or research coordinator, and the like. Such an expert must have both a general idea of the whole system under development as well as an in-depth specialized knowledge. His primary function is to coordinate and direct the execution of all the tasks involved in the project. Alexander Raspletin (Chief Designer of KB-1 and Developer of the Air defence system near Moscow and anti-aircraft missiles, later a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences) provided a striking example of organizational engineering activity.

Academician O.M. Belotserkovsky (Soviet mathematician, expert in theoretical and applied aerodynamics and computational mathematics) said of the Chief Designer of the large-scale missile and spacecraft systems Sergei Korolev: “Hundreds of thousands of people took part directly in the development of Soviet cosmonautics, and among them were many deep thinkers, penetrating theoreticians, excellent designers, bold experimenters, strong-willed organizers, and diligent workers. All of them made their contribution, and all these efforts were directed to their common goal by Korolev, the chief designer of missile and spacecraft systems, who worked in close cooperation withleading scientists from the USSR Academy of Sciences... with members of the council of chief designers heading the ‘various space and missile systems’ development projects, and with major production managers... His organizational talent enabled him to unite and channel the activities of numerous research and development institutions regardless of their departmental subordination. Owing to his purposefulness, he was able to inspire the participants in the project and win them over to his ideas. He in person could secure a quick decision at all levels, convince his colleagues, and find jointly acceptable solutions”.

With the end of the Cold War, the curtain of secrecy began to lift. Today, some of the chief designers are the subject of one or more books describing their life and work. Some remain little more than a one page resume of their career, suitable perhaps for a job application, but little more. One biography of Lieutenant-General Vladimir Ivanovich MARKOV, who was active in the Ministery of Radio Industry, consists almost entirely of an acccount of his heroic exploits during the Great Patriotic War, giving only a sentence to his work on the Moscow ABM system. And some have simply vanished without a trace [notably Alexander Alexandrovich Terentyev]. The brief biographies tend to provide little to no texture to the lives and labors of their subject. Others with a more voluminous treatment are obscured by a nimbus of adulation more properly called hagiography than biography, with some acquiring implausible thaumaturgical details [did Grushin's dog really die on the same day as Grushin himself??].

The cult of veneration of Christian saints was an integral part of the “symphony” of church and state — a term of sixth-century Byzantine origin - that characterized Imperial Russia. Immediately after coming to power, the Bolsheviks began to fight religious cults, but not only destroyed the symbols and rituals that existed before them, but created new, Soviet ones in their place. The most important event for the Soviet culture of the 1920s was the death of Vladimir Lenin, after which in a matter of weeks his full-scale cult arose. In the mid-1920s, cults of various strengths and scales arose around the other prominent Bolsheviks.

The phrase "personality cult" has been used since the 1950s to characterize the regime established in the USSR and the CPSU I. Stalin. "The cult of personality" was an element of the totalitarian regime. The praise of Stalin’s personality and the “cult” of his personality began as early as the 1920s. There was an almost religious-ecstatic reaction to the performances or the appearance of Stalin in public was a typical phenomenon for the Soviet society of the 1930s.

Stalin was only one of many - both in his own country and in the world. In addition to him, the late revolutionaries-communists Marx, Engels and their successor, the founder of the Soviet state, Lenin, were considered the “leaders of progressive humanity” in the USSR. There were “living gods”, a rank lower - party and state leaders of the USSR Vyacheslav Molotov, Clement Voroshilov, Lazar Kaganovich and others. The “cult of personality” extended to local communist leaders, although it was inferior in scope to Stalin.

In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev made a report in which he exposed the personality cult of Stalin. But under Brezhnev, the “cult of personality” took on comic forms when the aging General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU was awarded all the new top awards that could barely be placed on the chest.

In the world of high technology, there was a cult of chief and general designers. And this approach allowed achieving goals in the shortest possible time. The protagonist triumphantly and stately marches from scene to scene, and the rest of the characters are only extras, designed to emphasize his greatness. But according to the Marxist doctrine, the individual person had no fundamental significance, the classes that entered the struggle played the main roles at the forefront of history.

Hagiography vs Biography

It had been customary from ancient times to classify the Old Testament in three divisions, called the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiography. The Law and the Prophets contain the historical books, as well as those that are distinctly legal or didactic. The name Hagiography means simply Holy Writings, and, in its use in reference to these portions of the Bible, indicates those books which are to be regarded as sacred, though they do not reveal either the commandments or the messages given by the prophets. They have one feature in common; each one of them sets forth some one phase of applied religion, one special virtue or peculiar moral excellence. Taken together they give a complete and harmonious scheme of righteous conduct, an ideal character.

Hagiography is to-day the province of the historian, who must, even more carefully in the history of the saints than in other historical questions, test the value of the sources of the reports. Only thus will it be possible to arrive at the fundamental question of all hagiography, the question of miracles in history. Are matters, which the modern man is inclined to take as legend, authentically vouched for, or are they met with only in doubtful sources?

The point to be emphasised from the outset is the distinction between hagiography and history. The work of the hagiographer may be historical, but it is not necessarily so. It may assume any literary form suitable to the glorification of the saints, from an official record adapted to the use of the faithful, to a poetical composition of the most exuberant character wholly detached from reality. It is obvious that no one would venture to assert that everywhere and at all times hagiographers have submitted themselves to strict historical canons.

Progress in scientific hagiography has given rise to more than one misunderstanding. Historical criticism when applied to the lives of the Catholic saints had certain results which were in no way surprising to those accustomed to handling documents and interpreting inscriptions, but which had a somewhat disturbing effect on the mind of the general public.

Religious-minded people who regarded with equal veneration not only the saints themselves but everything associated with them, had been greatly agitated by certain conclusions assumed by them to have been inspired by the revolutionary spirit that has penetrated even into the Church, and to be highly derogatory to the honor of the heroes of our faith. This conviction frequently finds utterance in somewhat violent terms. Those who suggest that the biographer of a saint has been unequal to his task, or that he had not professed to write as a historian, are accused of attacking the saint himself, who, it appears, is too powerful to allow himself to be compromised by an indiscreet panegyrist. Those who venture doubt concerning certain miraculous incidents repeated by the author on insufficient evidence, although well calculated to enhance the glory of the saint, are at once suspected of lack of faith.

Such historians are told they are introducing the spirit of rationalism into history, as though in questions of fact it were not above all things essential to weigh the evidence. How often has not an accusation of destructive criticism been flung, and men treated as iconoclasts, whose sole object had been to appraise at their true value the documents which justify our attitude of veneration, and who are only too happy when able to declare that one of God’s friends had been fortunate enough to find a historian worthy of his task.

One might have thought that this simple analysis of the attitude of suspicion which so many devout souls assume in regard to historical criticism would suffice to demonstrate the injustice of their prejudices. Unhappily, it is less easy than might be supposed to efface an impression which, as they think, can only have been inspired by piety. Many readers are not sufficiently on their guard against the vague sentiment which endows hagiographers with some mysterious privilege of immunity from the errors of human frailty to which all other categories of writers are liable.

To give assistance in detecting materials of inferior workmanship is not to deny the excellence of what remains, and it is to the ultimate advantage of the harvest to point out the tares that have sometimes become mingled with the wheat to a most disconcerting extent. The simple narrative of heroic days, written, as it were, with pens dipped in the blood of martyrs, the naive histories, sweet with the perfume of true piety, in which eye-witnesses relate the trials of virgins and of ascetics, deserve our fullest admiration and respect.

For that very reason they must be clearly differentiated from the extensive class of painfully-elaborated biographies in which the features of the saint are hidden by a heavy veil of rhetoric, and his voice overborne by that of his chronicler.

The New Soviet Man

The whole life that arose after the revolutionary upheavals and the Civil War of the Soviet country was permeated with the expectation of the onset of a new, communist world. At the same time it was obvious that for the advance of communism, not only new production relations and technology are necessary. Communism also needs a new man — born in the revolutionary element and capable of generating a new society — and at the same time becoming a part of it. Actually, Marx said that as a result of the revolution, not only the proletariat will change the world around itself, but a change in the people themselves will occur, a new personality will be born.

There was no strictly definite idea of exactly how this ideal new person should look like, among the Bolsheviks did not exist. But on the whole, it was clear to contemporaries that this is a conscious person, a collectivist who puts the general above the particular, that he is physically and intellectually harmoniously developed. Every ideological communist had to strive to become such a person.

The longed-for new man had to be strictly dressed, restrained in behavior, thorough in conversation and highly moral in intimate relationships. In the sphere of action, he was supposed to be hard-working, with a high degree of self-discipline, emotionally restrained and absolutely loyal to his superiors, the party and the state, but at the same time he must be full of energy and strive for success. The main thing, however, was unconditional obedience to orders. Until the very fall of the regime, the Soviet leaders continued to strengthen the rigor of the criteria of behavior that everyone externally respected. The imposition of this model on all citizens of the country, without exception, from the very beginning was the primary task of the Communist Party.

V.I. Lenin saw in Socialist emulation or socialist competition a powerful means of developing creative initiative and amateur activities of the masses, identifying organizational talents and involving the working people in government. An important means of recognizing the achievements of the best teams that have achieved great success in socialist competition over the years is moral and material incentives; the names of the foremost production are entered in the Books of Labor Glory, their portraits are placed on the Boards of Honor, and cash prizes are issued. Departmental awards are also used to encourage the best workers and innovators: Diplomas of Ministries and the Central Committee of Trade Unions, the marks of “Excellent Socialist Competition” and others.

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Page last modified: 27-03-2023 18:06:21 ZULU