THE SPY WHO CHANGED HISTORY
In 1931, Joseph Stalin announced, ‘We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We 1
must catch up in ten years. Either we do it, or they will crush us’. These words began a race to close the yawning technology gap between the Soviet Union and the leading capitalist countries. The prize at stake was nothing less than the survival of the USSR. Believing that fleets of enemy bombers spraying poison gas would soon appear in the undefended skies over Russia’s cities, and amid predictions that millions would die from inhaling the deadly toxins, Stalin sent two intelligence officers – an aviation expert and a chemical weapons specialist – on a mission to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He ordered them to gather the secrets of this centre of aeronautics and chemical weapon research and bring them back to the Soviet Union, along with the means to defend his population against the new terror weapons of modern warfare.
On the hot summer’s day of Sunday, 3 August 1947, a large crowd of Muscovites gathered at Tushino
airfield for Aviation Day. From early morning they had made their way in their thousands to secure a grassy bank as a vantage point from which to watch the aerobatics and parachute jumps. They waited expectantly to cheer and applaud the heroic pilots, set to perform dizzying barrel rolls and stomach-turning loops.
SON OF THE WORKING PEOPLE
Joining an exhilarated crowd heading back to Moscow from Tushino airfield and thrilled by the successful parade of new Soviet air power, Stanislav Shumovsky reflected on his extraordinary life. His
mind drifted to the very first time he had seen a man fly, in his home city of Kharkov where he had stood as an eight-year-old in another large crowd, gripping his father’s hand tightly with excitement. It was the summer of 1910 and, just like the rest of the vast Russian Empire, the young Shumovsky had caught aviation fever.