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Andrey Tupolev 1937-41 - Repressed

During the Great Purge in 1937 A.N.Tupolev was groundlessly accused of espionage and sent to jail. For a person with a normal mind, especially people of the next generation, it is difficult to understand the wildness and tragedy of those years. Tupolev was arrested on October 21, 1937 right in his office, accusing him of being a member of the “Russian fascist party”, of sabotage in preparing Gromov’s record-breaking flights, introducing perverse American technology, spying for France and many others. Tupolev confessed everything and sat in the remand prison of Butyrskaya prison, awaiting trial and the death sentence until April 1938.

The question of "why was Tupolev arrested?" is perhaps mor complicated that it might at first seem. The standard "police blotter" account that he was a spy and pest and sabateur is obviously concocted of whole cloth. On 15 August 1937, the Order of the NKVD No. 00486 was issued on the commencement of reprisals against “traitors to the motherland, members of right-wing Trotskyist espionage and sabotage organizations convicted by the military board and military tribunal in the first and second categories, beginning on August 1, 1936,” and also on the procedure “ the arrests of the wives of the traitors to the motherland, members of right-wing Trotskyist organizations, spies and saboteurs ”. At the end of 1937, the investigating authorities of the NKVD of the USSR announced the exposure of a major conspiracy in the Red Army Air Force and the aircraft industry. The key persons in the conspiracy were the Red Army commander Viktor Alksnis [arrested November 23, 1937, and shot July 29, 1938], Moisei Lvovich Rukhimovich, chief of the First Main Directorate (aircraft), People's Commissariat of Defense Industry [who was arrested 15 October 1937 and shot a year later] and lead designer Andrei Tupolev, who was arrested a week later but not shot.

According to the charges "He led the anti-Soviet sabotage organization in the aviation industry, and carried out sabotage work in the field of aircraft and engaged in espionage in favor of France." Tupolev was also accused of undermining the economy and creating a counter-revolutionary organization. In addition, he allegedly sold his blueprints to a German aircraft designer, Wilhelm Messerschmitt, the main competitor of Soviet aircraft designers.

Suspicions fell on Tupolev because of his trips to Germany, France and the United States in the 1930s. One of these trips miraculously avoided a scandal - Tupolev issued orders for the manufacture of aircraft at foreign factories, bypassing the consulting trading company AMTORG, created by the USSR specifically for this. In addition, Tupolev took his wife with him on business trips, which was not related to aviation. As a result of the trips, licenses for the production of several aircraft were purchased, some of which turned out to be too difficult to manufacture, while others did not meet the Soviet standards of strength.

For many years, both before and during the war, and after its termination, one and the same question was heard: "Is it true that Tupolev sold the drawings of his plane to Messerschmitt?" Once, already in the 1980s, the same question was heard from an elderly Air Force colonel. People without imagination believed that the drawings were taken out just in a suitcase. More gifted found other ways. Here is one of them. It turns out that the ingenious Andrei Nikolaevich hid them in the tubular spars of the wing of the ANT-25. And V. P. Chkalov, who did not suspect anything, transported them straight to America during his brilliant flight across the North Pole. Well, and there, with the capitalists, while the crew was resting, those who needed it did their dirty work.

And it’s unbelievable to many that not only the suitcase and spar tubes, but also the entire volume of the ANT-25 aircraft was not enough to transfer the drawings. This is how deeply into the minds and souls of people, someone has skillfully fired into it, having no basis, false information. This simple and intelligible "duck" was designed either for people who are not thinking, or for people who are not associated with technology. For who will buy drawings of a combat aircraft, developed in one country, for its mass production in another? The difference in technological solutions, the range of materials used, their mechanical properties, and the like will make it impossible to quickly establish the mass production of machines. And who will buy the drawings for the release of the war machine of yesterday?

Another view holds that in the 1930s, a monopoly of Tupolev actually existed in the aircraft industry; the lack of healthy competition hindered the development of the industry. Most of the projects of Tupolev were failed and not profitable. It was essentially a monopolist, partially independent and. but only the Yakovlev Design Bureau and the Design Bureau led by Ilyushin were a little competitive, but that was probably all. At that time, they were tightly clamped and could not unfold like Tupolev. It was precisely because of the low productivity of the work of his design bureau that Tupolev was arrested. And how many of his cars participated in the war? TB-3 and Pe-8 are purely symbolic.

Aircraft designer Alexander Yakovlev later wrote: “If we compare the main types of Soviet aircraft that were in mass production ... in 1939, with the same German ones, this comparison will not be in our favor". The arrest of Tupolev provoked a rapid growth in the development of the aviation industry. Together with Tupolev were arrested two other aircraft designer, Myasishchev and Petlyakov. The authorities acted smartly and new KBs appeared.

  • In 1938, Myasishchev KB, independent of Tupolev, was created and the result was the creation of the DVB-102 high-altitude bomber.
  • Petlyakov in the "conclusion" headed his own closed TsKB-29, issued the plane PE-2
  • In 1939, a new Sukhoi Design Bureau appeared, which quickly created the Su-2 and then the Su-6.
  • In 1939-40, the Ilyushin Design Bureau created IL-4 and IL-2 aircraft.

Competition positively influenced the development of the industry, creating and developing. For the first time, the country was able to build up aircraft that were catching up on their foreign counterparts.

“I was kept for a long time in the Lubyanka, alone,” he later told his friend Leonid Kerber, also an aircraft designer. - Then they transferred to Butyrki. It became easier and harder, after all, people were around ... No, they did not beat me, they only kept me on the counter for a long time - and it’s hard for me - I’m heavy. You stand, and the investigator mutters his own: "Write, b ... who sold the drawings?! How much did you get paid? Write, do not be shy, your buddies Arkhangelsky, Sukhoi, Petlyakov, Myasishchev split long ago, sold you. Only you persist, be pricked, it will be easier for yourself ”...

"You know, such a stupid, limited maniac, he has his own, and I stand, my legs hurt, my eyes close, I want to sleep, I stand and I think: it seems that all my life I have been doing what I built planes for them, no, not for them, for my country".

If Tupolev did not confess his wife was promised to be sent to the camp, and the children to the orphanages. Under the threat of arrest of his relatives, he "confessed" that he had been a French spy since 1924. However, the confession did not help.

Almost all TsAGI aircraft designers were jailed with him. When in October 1937 Tupolev was arrested by the NKVD, many leading experts of the Design Bureau were also repressed, among whom were V.M. Petlyakov, V.M. Myasishev, B.M. Kondorskiy, N.S. Nekrasov, M.N. Petrov, E.I. Pogosskiy, T.P. Saprykin, B.A. Saukke, N.A. Sokolov, A.E. Sterlin, and E.K. Stoman. In 1938, on the threshold of the World War II, the government took a decision on the formation of special design units consisted of imprisoned specialists under the auspices of the NKVD, in order to create modern machines for retrofitting the Red Army, including its aviation, as soon as possible. Many aviation experts were transferred from prisons and camps to the Special Technical Departments (later known as CDB-29) of the OTB NKVD.

“I was summoned to my superiors, and I got my first task - to compile a list of the arrested specialists known to me,” Tupolev himself later recalled. “To be honest, I was extremely puzzled. I knew all the arrested before me, but after that? On my list, God knows how many people will be imprisoned? On reflection, I decided to rewrite everyone I know, but I knew everyone. Can't it be that the entire aircraft industry was imprisoned? This position seemed to me reasonable, and I wrote a list of people on 200. And ... it turned out that with rare exceptions all of them are already behind bars!"

Andrey Tupolev stayed in prison for one and a half years and was later transferred to KB-29, which was fully under NKVD command (the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs). This plant was also known as Sharashka (an informal name for secret research and development laboratories in the Soviet Gulag labor camps system). Tupolev worked together with other ex-TSAGI employees. The Sharashka then moved to Moscow and was dubbed “Tupolevka” after its most famous prisoner.

In 1939 Tupolev received the challenging task of building a new dive-bomber with tactical capabilities that would exceed all other dive-bombers. In 1941 Tupolev and his crew came up with the Tu-2 (NATO reporting name “Bat”). It was a twin-engine high-speed daylight bomber. Designed to challenge the Ju-88 Junkers, the Tu-2 proved comparable, and was produced in interceptor, torpedo and reconnaissance versions.

For developing this plane Tupolev was awarded with a state prize. The history of the Tu-2 aircraft development cannot be called otherwise than the moral and patriotic feat. Even under such extraordinary circumstances A.N. Tupolev did not lose courage and faith in the triumph of justice. He estimated the role of aviation in the just begun in Europe World War II and he insisted on universal two-engine front bomber constructing instead of heavy four-engine dive-bomber proposed by Stalin and Beria.

He was released from prison on 27 June 1941, five days after the start of the Great Patriotic War. A.N. Tupolev and his workers were released from prison when the war began so they could work selflessly for victory as free men. Under difficult conditions of the initial period of the war, after evacuation to Omsk A.N. Tupolev managed to start the production of Tu-2, one of the best front bombers of the war which was ready for operation by the middle of 1942 and then in Moscow it was mass produced and at the same time several modifications of this unique aircraft were being developed.

Stalin couldn’t help but understand the vital importance of Tupolev’s experience in aircraft designing. At that time the air fleet of the USSR needed new airplanes to meet the challenges of the time. Andrey Tupolev perfectly coped with the problem providing the Soviet army with new innovative fighters and bombers.

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