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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Russian Aviation Collection

Identifier: 2018-00-00-4
The Russian Aviation Collection documents 20th-century Soviet and Russian aviators and aviation accomplishments with photographs, clippings, articles, and photographic reproductions of various textual materials. The materials are grouped by subject, arranged roughly in chronological order.

One folder of material documents the Douglas World Cruisers of 1924. The materials consist of black-and-white photographic reproductions of magazine covers, magazine and newspaper articles, and images from books or clippings. All the source materials are in Russian and the photos have captions in both Russian and English. One photographic postcard commemorates the Soviet flyers who flew from Moscow to New York in 1929.

The Soviet Transpolar Flight of 1937 is documented with photographs, articles, clippings, and printed ephemera. One black-and-white photograph appears to depict the Tupolev ANT-25 parked in a field upon its landing in Washington in 1924. The rest of the materials are commemorative in nature rather than from the event. There are two folders of clippings and articles in English as well as French and Italian. There are two copies (one signed) of the program for the dedication of the commemorative monument erected at Pearson Field in 1975, as well as a press kit for that event, and a booklet (in Russian) that appears to be commemorating the flight.

In addition to the specific events, Soviet and Russian aviation is documented more generally with photographic reproductions of informational panels, perhaps from exhibits or text books. One folder covers general aviation and one folder covers gliders. The materials on gliders have translations with them, although the source of translations is unknown. There is also one folder of portraits (reproduced from books or other printed sources) of Soviet/Russian aviators and aviation designers, most with identifications. Included among these are images of many women aviators who served with the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, also known as the Night Witches.


  • 1924-1983

Language of Materials

The bulk of the collection is in Russian. Some materials are in English, French, and Italian.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


0.5 Cubic Feet (1 full-width legal size document box)


The Russian Aviation Collection documents 20th century Soviet and Russian aviators and aviation accomplishments, including the Soviet Transpolar Flight of 1937 as well as the Douglas World Cruisers of 1924, with photographs, clippings, articles, and photographic reproductions of various textual materials.

Historical Note: Soviet Transpolar Flight

The Soviet Transpolar Flight of 1937 was the first non-stop flight between the U.S.S.R (Russia) and the United States. Charles Lindbergh's solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927 inspired others to set inter-continental flight records, and a transpolar flight goal was held by many. Soviet aviator Sigismund Levanevsky was determined to beat American aviator Wiley Post to the record of a flight between Soviet Russia and the United States over the Arctic. Post's dream was cut short when he died in a crash in Alaska in August, 1935. Levanevsky made an attempt in July of that year in a Tupolev ANT-25 but had to turn back after 300 miles due to an oil leak and determined a four-engine plane would be required for the flight.

Later, another Russian aviator, Valeri Chkalov, determined he could make the flight in the Tupolev ANT-25 along with Georgi Baidukov as co-pilot and Vassilyevich Belyakov as navigator. It took him two years and a record-setting flight across Siberia to convince Soviet government officials that he could make the transpolar flight. The ANT-25 had been specially designed by Andrei N. Tupolev for setting a distance record. With a short fuselage and 110-foot long, thin and narrow wings, it was designed like a sailplane to reduce drag. It was meant to fly at slow speeds, about 120 miles an hour, to conserve fuel and had a ceiling of about 18,000 feet. The plane used for the record-setting flight was fitted with a sun compass since a magnetic one would be useless at the pole, and all unnecessary weight was removed from the plane, including the brakes.

The flight departed at 5:04 a.m. from Moscow on June 17, 1937 with a destination of Oakland, California. Belyakov reported that they were over the North Pole at 9:10 p.m. on June 18th. After that they hit massive storms but couldn't rise above the clouds. Baidukov took over the controls. The crew needed oxygen, but their tanks were low. They continued to encounter problems--winds forced them to change course, the engine overheated, their drinking water froze, their radios became inoperable, the crew got nosebleeds from the high altitude.

At 7:30 a.m. on June 20th they passed over Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. They headed further south but when they were near Eugene, Oregon they realized they were running low on fuel and needed to land. They turned back toward Portland and decided to land at Pearson Field in Vancouver. After 63 hours and 16 minutes flying they had completed their transpolar flight. Immediately they were dubbed the "Lindberghs of the North." The next day the three men received a 19-gun salute and a parade and luncheon in Portland for their accomplishment. The city's Meier & Frank department store fitted the men with new suits, and put their fur coats on display. Then the men continued on a triumphal tour of the country, including a stop in San Francisco, a ticker tape parade in New York and a visit to the White House to meet President Franklin Roosevelt, before heading back home via France where they received more accolades.

Chkalov died in a test flight accident in 1938. Belyakov later worked as a professor in the Soviet Air Force Academy, retiring in 1960. He died in 1982. Baidukov continued to serve in the Soviet Air Force, retiring in 1988 at the rank of General Colonel. He died in 1994.

A monument was erected at Pearson Field to commemorate the first non-stop flight between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. on June 20, 1975. Baidukov and Balyakov both attended the event. That year was also the City of Vancouver's sesquicentennial.


Historical information derived from collection materials and various online sources.

Custodial History

The provenance of these materials is unknown.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Materials at Other Institutions

Additional information on the Transpolar flight is available at the Pearson Air Museum at Fort Vancouver Historical Site and online at

A museum dedicated to Valery Chkalov is in Chkalovsk, Russia.
Related Materials at the Museum of Flight The Russian Transpolar Flight Collection (accession 2012-12-23) also includes commemorative materials about the June 1937 transpolar flight as well as the July 1937 transpolar filght.

The Jim McGill ANT-25 at Pearson Field Photographs (accession 2011-05-11) consist of eight (8) black-and-white prints and eight (8) corresponding negatives documenting the landing of the Soviet Tupolev ANT-25 at Pearson Field in Vancouver, Washington after the first Transpolar Flight in June 1937.
Guide to the Russian Aviation Collection
Completed - Level 3
N. Davis
2018, 2024
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
2nd edition

Revision Statements

  • 2018 November : Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2024 March: Updated subjects, agents, and scope note with info about women aviators.

Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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