“Maxim Gorky”: the death of a giant

“Maxim Gorky”: the death of a giant

The story of the tragedy, the causes of which remained classified for 75 years.

Saturday, may 18, 1935, over the Central Moscow airfield, which was located in the ice Palace, held a demonstration flight of the pride of Soviet aviation, aircraft giant “Maxim Gorky”. On Board an aircraft that is less than a year, set two world records, were its creators, and members of their families. It was accompanied by two smaller aircraft from the same operator was driving the filming of the flight. Another fighter I-5, had to fly next to the “Maxim Gorky” in order to demonstrate its scale in comparison. During the execution of another maneuver I-5 lost control and fell down on floating underneath a passenger plane.

In the crash killed 48 people: 11 members of the crew of the “Maxim Gorky”, 36 passengers were on Board, and piloted I-5 pilot Nikolai Blagin, who was considered the only culprit of the accident over the next 75 years.

The latest technology

“Maxim Gorky” was created to impress. Designed on the basis of the latest Soviet bomber, “flying fortress” TB-4, it could carry passengers, to carry out propaganda tasks, serve as mobile headquarters for the command in case of war.

The idea of creating such an aircraft was filed by a group of Soviet journalists headed by Mikhail Koltsov, in 1932, when we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the birth of the writer Maxim Gorky. Funds for the construction of the aircraft, a special Committee has collected throughout the country. Managed to collect about 6 million rubles. In July 1933 work was started to build aircraft, and in April 1934 it was made the first flight.

Its wingspan was 63 m, the interior space is 100 sq. m. In the cabin could accommodate up to 70 passengers, there was even provided bunk beds for guests. In addition, the Board has considered a mobile campaign platform. “Maxim Gorky” was equipped with a darkroom, a printing press, a library, a loud speaker radio “Voice of heaven”, and in the cabin were installed, the technical novelty of the autopilot.

By may 1935, when the plane took off from the Central airfield named after Frunze in Moscow, he managed to take part in the meeting of the rescue Chelyuskinites, and during his visit to the USSR, it was piloted by French Aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery.


Once in the air, “Maxim Gorky” made a circle over the airfield accompanied by two escortreviews his cars. I-5 served in the air aerobatics to give the flight more spectacular and demonstrate to the audience gathered at the airport, and those who will see the future of film, the scale of the aircraft.

At some point, he drastically reduced the distance with “the wonder plane”. I-5 dived on the tail slowly drifting giant, flying directly over him and the cockpit is suddenly gained altitude to perform on “Bitter” loop the loop. The fighter rose into the top spot, but lost speed, stopped and went into a tailspin, randomly rotating, fell down — right on located underneath a passenger plane.

The fighter crashed into one of the engines of the passenger liner and stuck in the wing. However, the “Maxim Gorky”, has withstood the collision and continued the flight — the pilots still had a chance to put the car. But the tail of the fighter, looking up, struck by another aircraft the blow — “Maxim Gorky” I turned over and began to crumble in the air. Fell to the ground, its rubble. The collision was so strong that I-5 even in the fall and remained lodged in the wing of the aircraft.

Killed all aboard. Many builders “Maxim Gorky”, the pride of the Soviet aviation, this day took on Board their children.

In the TASS report, released shortly after the tragedy, was listed their names. Here are some of them: “the Tsar Alexei Petrovich (son with Kolya) — plant fitter TSAGI. Kazarnowicz Semyon Abramovich (with his son Volodya) is working, Secretary of the party Committee of the plant of the TSAGI. Razumihin’s Alexandra Filip (son Vadim) — the wife of an engineer. Prokhorov Sophia Yakovlevna (daughter of Neleus) — the mechanic, the organizer of the workshop. He Victor Alexandrovich (son of Vladimir) — the chief accountant of the plant. Orlov Alexey (with daughter Lida) — the engineer of the plant”.


The crash shocked everyone. Newspaper published on Monday, 20 may, was almost entirely devoted to the disaster.

“Today we bury the wonderful creators and drivers “Maxim Gorky”, who died along with his wonderful creation. Killed not only the aircraft giant, is built on voluntary donations, equipped with the latest technology, the miracle plane, gained global recognition and worldwide fame. Killed wonderful people, full of energy, will, mind, talent, selected creators and builders,” — said, for example, in the article “memory of the dead”, published that day in “news”.

Condolence were made by members of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) led by Joseph Stalin, in a telegram to the Soviet government sent the representatives of other States — in particular, the head of the French Ministry of foreign Affairs Pierre Laval.

The investigation was launched immediately. It was carried out by the NKVD. No details of his progress was not reported, but it was obvious the culprit here is one pilot I-5 Nikolai Blagin, risked people’s lives for the sake of a good maneuver.

“Despite the categorical prohibition to do any aerobatics during maintenance, pilot Begin violated this order and began to do aerobatics in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft “Maxim Gorky” at an altitude of 700 meters”, — stated in the same message, published in “Izvestia” on may 20.

Nikolai Blagin

Blagin was an experienced pilot and a well-educated man. He was descended from a noble family (in 1920-ies prevented him to join the party). Before the revolution, graduated from high school, then cadet corps. In 1918 joined the red army and in 1920 began his flight career. At the time of the collision he was 38 years old. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

By coincidence, Nikolai Blagin was a disciple of the famous test pilot Mikhail Gromov. It thunders as an experienced and trusted pilot conducted flight tests of the “Maxim Gorky”. And with great probability supposed to be at the helm of “wonder machine” in the solemn day of the broadcast propaganda squadron. But shortly before Gromov was in the hospital, but because flight on 15 may was not involved.

Gromov himself later confirmed the official version about the guilt Biagina.

“My student Begin represented the disorganized type of person. However, he recently as if pulled, but the bad habits he’s still broke. I’m talking about his harste, bezobraznica in the air,” he said shortly after the crash, may 21, 1935.

Later, Gromov wrote that Blagin — the only culprit of the accident.

Missing newsreel

All died in that plane crash was buried with honors at Novodevichy cemetery. And despite the alleged certainty of the guilt of Nicholas Biagina, pilot And-5, repeatedly called in the press “air bully,” was buried with them under the bas-relief with the depiction of flying “Maxim Gorky”.

The family of the deceased pilot was given full support. While in print it was called the perpetrators of the tragedy, his wife was issued a pension for loss of breadwinner, in a separate apartment, the daughter in order to avoid conflicts specifically transferred to another school.

At some point there was a version that Blagin was made a battering RAM intentionally in a letter, allegedly drawn up by the pilot before his death was published in the white emigre press. However, even then no sanctions against his family in the Soviet Union was not followed, and the letter was soon declared a hoax. However, the reasons for which the alleged culprit of the accident divided the honors with its numerous victims, has long remained unknown.

And only in 2010 was declassified a memo with the results of the investigation carried out by the NKVD in 1935. According to the document, the interrogation of all involved in the organization of the flight it turned out that shortly before takeoff, the pilots met the staff of a film Studio of military training films, was responsible for the shooting. With the consent of the top leadership of the air force, they insisted on a change of the flight program and were asked to incorporate elements of aerobatics. In agreement with this, Nikolai Blagin, as the pilots “Maxim Gorky”, had complied with the orders of their superiors.

The results of the investigation were hidden, so as not to compromise the leadership of the air force. Newsreel, for which the pilot Nikolai Blagin was performing aerobatics near a passenger plane that disappeared immediately after the disaster. No one ever never saw.