November usually is the month in which we especially remember those who passed away. At this special time of the year, we´d like to share with you an article different than usual – a walk through one of the most famous cemeteries in Eastern Europe, the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, telling you the story of the aviation-related graves that could be found there.
Novodevichy Cemetery (
Новодевичье кладбище) is, without any doubts, the most famous necropolis in Moscow, located near the third most visited tourist attraction of the capital city – Novodevichy Convent, built in the 16 th century. The cemetery at the convent walls was opened in 1898 and shortly after became the place where the famous and noble Russian were buried, since 1920s it became the second in prestige graveyard in the country, just after the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
Today, the Novodevichy Cemetery is the last resting place for the many famous Russian persons – authors, musicians, poets, actors, political leaders and scientists, with more than 27,000 people buried there. As there is almost no space left for any new tombs, the Novodevichy necropolis is now used for burials only in exceptional circumstances and for the most important Russian people (one of such examples was the burial of the first President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, in April of 2007). Other notable Soviet and Russian people are nowadays usually buried at Troyekurovo Cemetery, that was re-opened in 1991.
It was a rainy day of July 2017 when I visited the cemetery and walked through the wood there. As Novodevichy is covering the area of more than 7,5ha, this was merely impossible to walk all the paths there and find all aviation-related graves during a single day. Therefore, the photo gallery below shows just a selection of some interesting tombs and persons buried there, and not a complete directory.
The common grave of the ´Defenders of Moscow´, soldiers that died in 1941 and then became a legendary icons of the defence of Moscow – L.M. Dovator, V.V. Talalikhin and I.V. Panfilov. Viktor Vasilevich Talalikhin was a fighter ace, who became famous of ramming a German He 111 with his I-16 fighter during the night of 6/7 August 1941 and being among the first pilots who rammed the enemy aeroplane at night. It was his second aerial victory and then he achieved a five more until he was shot down in a MiG-3 in October. His I-16 was found in 2014, and the wreckage is now exhibited in Domodedovo museum.
Alexander Ivanovich Pokryshkin – Marshall of Aviation, three times Hero of the Soviet Union, WWII fighter ace. The final number of his aerial victories is still a subject of discussion among the historians, varying from 59 personal and 6 shared (and this would make him the third most successful Soviet ace), to only 46 + 6 victories. He also wrote a few books, including his war memoirs and tactics manual.
Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub – Marshall of Aviation, three times Hero of the Soviet Union, WWII fighter ace. Kozhedub is officially recognized as the Soviet fighter ace with the highest number of aerial victories – exceeding 60 (and including Me 262 jet fighter). During his WWII fighter career he was flying the Lavochkin fighters: La-5, La-5FN and La-7. From April 1951 to January 1952 he was a commander of the 324th Air Division in the Korean War, but he was forbidden to fly the combat missions. Kozhedub also wrote a few aviation books and his war memoirs.
Vitaly Ivanovich Popkov – WWII fighter ace, credited with 40 aerial victories. During the war he flew 345 (or 358) sorties on LaGG-3, La-5 and La-7. His WWII service was partially portrayed in the famous war-drama ´Only “Old Men” Are Going to Battle´ from 1973, being one of the basis for ´Maestro´ Titarenko character.
Amet-khan Sultan – WWII fighter ace, with 30 personal and 19 shared victories and 603 sorties flown. He started his fighter career with I-153, then flying Hurricane, Yak-7B, Yak-1, P-39 Airacobra and La-7. One of the highest decorated Crimean Tatars. After the war he was a test pilot and was killed in 1971, together with his crew, flying the Tu-16LL engine testbed aircraft.
Semyon llyich Kharlamov – WWII fighter ace, who started his active service in 1942. During the war he achieved 11 personal victories, flew 732 sorties and was two times wounded. Considered as one of the best air-reconnaissance pilots. After the war he stayed in the military until 1971, then became military advisor of Egyptian Air Force commander. Retired from the army service, Kharlamov was involved in the sport aviation as a DOSAAF president until 1982, FAI vice-president since 1973 and the president of the Soviet Union Federation of Air Sports from 1987. In 1942, on the same day, Kharlamov and Popova were shot down and met together in the ambulance car. Then they met each other a year after, then again… and again… having their final date at Reichstag ruins. Kharlamov and Popova were married after the war, now they are buried together at Novodevichy.
Nadezhda Vasil'yevna Popova – a legendary WWII pilot, flying the Polikarpov Po-2 biplane used for the night air raids. Popova joined the 588th Night Bomber Regiment (later known as 46th ´Taman´ Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment) in May 1942, soon becoming one of the most-known ´Night Witches´, as the unit was nicknamed. She flew totally 850 sorties on Po-2 and was also reported to fly 18 sorties during just one night. After the war she married S. l. Kharlamov, whom she met several times during the war.
Aleksandr Nikolaevich Yefimov – Marshal of Aviation (´Iron Marshal´), the most famous and effective Il-2 ´Shturmovik´ pilot, who also achieved the highest personal score among the Soviet aviators during the WWII – 85 aircraft destroyed on the ground and 7 air victories.
Nikolai Nikolaevich Polikarpov – aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer, one of the aviation pioneers. Although his aviation career started as early as in 1918, Polikarpov is most known for his later designs: U-2 / Po-2 biplane from 1927 (and which remained in production until 1954) and the I-15 and I-16 fighter aircraft from the 1930s. He was also a designer of I-180, new fighter aircraft with radial engine created in 1938, but the project was cancelled, presumably due to political reasons.
Sergey Vladimirovich Ilyushin – aircraft designer, known for one of the iconic WWII aeroplanes, Ilyushin Il-2 ´Shturmovik´. His first aircraft, AVF-3, was designed in 1923, then he cooperated with Polikarpov, Tupolev and Grigorovich. In 1930s Ilyushin became the chief designer of his own construction bureau and was working on the DB-3 (Il-4) bomber and Il-2 attack aircraft. Starting 1943, his construction bureau designed also the passenger airliners: Il-12, Il-14, Il-18 and Ilyushin´s last design – Il-62, the flagship of the Soviet air lines.
Artem Ivanovich Mikoyan – aircraft designer. Mikoyan created his first aeroplane in 1936, then working together with Polikarpov until 1939, when he became the head of his own construction bureau (together with M.I. Gurevich). The Mikoyan-Gurevich bureau was focused on fighter aircraft, starting from the MiG-3, their only successful propeller-powered design, to the jet-powered fighters MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19 and others.
Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev – aviation pioneer and aircraft designer. His career started as early as 1909, when Tupolev was working for the famous aviation pioneer N.Y. Zhukovsky. In 1920s Tupolev, then working for the Central Design Office, was involved in the creating the heaviest aeroplanes: TB-1 and TB-3 bombers and ANT-20. During the WWII years, he designed Tu-2 bomber and later was leading the reverse engineering project of Tu-4. After the war, Tupolev´s construction bureau designed several heavy bombers and airliners – Tu-16, Tu-104, Tu-95, Tu-114.
Pavel Osipovich Sukhoi – aerospace engineer and aircraft designer. Initially working with Tupolev since 1925 and involved with the design of TB-1, TB-3 and ANT-20. In 1937 he designed the light bomber BB-1, later known as Su-2. His construction bureau, established in 1953, designed several successful jet-powered military aircraft: Su-7, Su-15, Su-17, Su-24 and Su-25 (the last ´Su´-designated aircraft he managed to see flying).
Vladimir Mikhailovich Myasishchev – aircraft designer. At the beginning of his career, Myasischev worked for Tupolev and Petlyakov. His own construction bureau was founded in 1953 and designed several exceptional aircraft, including M-4 ´Bison´ strategic bomber, VM-T ´Atlant´ heavy transport aircraft, M-14 ´Stratosfera´ reconnaissance aeroplane.
Nikolay Ilyich Kamov – aerospace engineer, pioneer of helicopter design. His aviation-related career started in 1918, initially wanted to be a pilot, but not approved for the health reasons, Kamov decided to be an aircraft designer. He created his first autogiro in 1927 (together with N.K. Skrzhinskiy), in 1939 became the general designer and director of the first Soviet autogiro factory, with M. L. Mil as his deputy). Kamov´s own construction bureau was founded in 1948, creating several coaxial-rotor helicopters, from Ka-8 to Ka-26.
Leonid Alexandrovich Voskresenskiy – rocket engineer, one of the pioneers of Soviet space programme. He was involved in the rocket development since 1945, worked as Sergei Korolev associate between 1954 and 1963, involved in the rocket artillery development and being the launch director for R-7, R-9, Vostok and Molniya rocket programmes.
Dmitry Sergeyevich Markov – aircraft designer. Markov was initially working for Polikarpov - together they created I-7 and R-5 biplanes. His next successful design was the R-Z / P-Z aeroplane, made together with Skarbov. In 1941 Markov started his work for Tupolev´s bureau, where he was appointed a deputy chief designer, responsible for heavy bombers and the works on Tu-4 and Tu-16. Later, he was leading designer for Tu-104, Tu-134 and Tu-154 airliners. More than 25 years of his career were devoted to Tu-22M bomber. However, he never become the general designer of Tupolev bureau, as A.N. Tupolev decided to assign this position to his son, Alexei Andreyevich.
Igor Sergeyevich Shevchuk (LEFT) / Mikhail Petrovich Simonov (RIGHT) – aircraft designers. Shevchuk started his military career as Tu-22M pilot and since 1976 worked at Tupolev Construction Bureau. Involved in the design of Tu-144, Tu-204, Tu-334, Tu-160 and Tu-155. Later, Shevchuk became the president and general designer of Tupolev company. In 2010 he was dismissed from this post due of the issues with Tu-214PU special purpose aircraft and died soon after, because of the heart failure. / Simonov was working as the chief designer of Sukhoi construction bureau from 1983 to 1995. He participated in the creation of Su-24 and Su-25, was the leading constructor of Sukhoi sport aircraft and one of the main designers of Su-27 fighter aircraft.
Sergei Konstantinovich Tumansky – aircraft engines designer. Tumansky was working in the aviation engine industry since 1931, in 1943 he became the deputy chief designer in the aviation engine factory created by Mikulin. In 1956 he succeeded Mikulin as general director of the company. A wide range of Soviet military aircraft was powered by Tumansky engines, including Il-4, Su-2, MiG-19, Su-15 or MiG-21.
Georgy Filippovich Baydukov – test pilot and writer, the pioneer of long distance flights. His military career started in 1926, and two years later Baydukov became a pilot. Since 1930 he was working as a test pilot and performing the long distance flights in the Arctic area – as a second pilot he participated in the first attempt to fly to North America via the North Pole (1935), then in Chkalov´s flight to Udd Island, via the North Pole (1936) and from Moscow to Vancouver (1937). During the WWII he was a commander of several aviation units and leading the purchase of P-39 Airacobra from the United States. After the war he served in air-defence, in command positions. Baydukov also wrote ten aviation books, with first of them published in 1937 and telling about the flights to America.
Alexandr Alexandrovich Shcherbakov – Merited Test Pilot of the USSR. His pilot career started during the World War II, in 1943, and he achieved one air victory. Shcherbakov became the test pilot in 1953 and until 1986 he tested most of the Soviet military aircraft (MiG-17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27; Su-7, 24, 25; Yak-25, 28) and several other aeroplanes. After finishing his active military service, he was working in the Mikoyan construction bureau.
Pavel Ivanovich Belyayev – fighter pilot and cosmonaut. His military career as a fighter pilot started in 1945, during the Manchurian Operation; for the next ten years he stayed in the Far East, becoming one of the most experienced fighter pilot of the Soviet Air Force. In 1960 Belyayev attended the cosmonaut training and become the first commander of the cosmonaut corps. He was also the commander of Voskhod 2 space mission in 1965, famous of the first man walk in space. This mission was featured in the 2017 Russian film ´The Age of Pioneers´.
Alexandr Vasilyevich Sarigin – Merited Test Pilot of the USSR. He started the military career in 1940, flying as the pilot-instructor; then became a bomber pilot in 1942 and flew 148 combat sorties with SB and Pe-2 aircraft. After the war, he attended a test-pilot courses and started to work as a heavy-bomber test pilot, flying Tu-4, Tu-16, M-4, Il-28 and Tu-12 aircraft.
Gherman Stepanovich Titov – pilot and cosmonaut, the second man in space, the first man staying in space longer than 24 hours, the youngest cosmonaut in history. His mission aboard Vostok-2 took place in August 1961 and lasted one day, one hour and 18 minutes.
The common grave of Tu-144 crew, killed in 1973, during the flying display at Paris Air Show – on 3rd June 1973, the Tu-144S (CCCP-77102) supersonic airliner was performing the display in front of 250,000 spectators, went into a steep dive and broke up in the mid-air. Eight people on the ground were killed and 60 injured, the Tu-144 crew – M. Kozlov, V. Molchanov, G. Bazhenov, V. Benderov, B. Pervukhin and A. Dralin, was also killed. The investigation report was not disclosed to public, therefore the reason of this accident is still a purely speculation.
The common grave of SSSR-V6 OSOAVIAKHIM (СССР-В6 Осоавиахим) airship crew, killed in 1938, when the dirigible crashed into the hillside near Kandalaksha, Murmansk area. After the crash, the V6 caught fire and 13 people from the crew of 16 were killed. The airship was on the rescue mission, to save the Arctic expedition stranded on the drifting ice pack. This crash had a significant influence on suspending the Soviet airship programme in 1940.
The common grave and the memorial wall for 49 people killed in ANT-20 crash – on 18th May 1935, the prototype of eight-engine transport aircraft, Tupolev ANT-20, was performing the demonstration flight over Moscow. The giant aeroplane was accompanied by two other aircraft, R-5 and I-5 biplanes. The R-5 was carrying the camera operator, while I-5 fighter had to fly together with ANT-20, allowing to compare the size of both aeroplanes. Shortly after the take-off, the I-5 pilot N.P. Blagin, started to perform aerobatic manoeuvres around ANT-20. While Blagin was performing the dead loop, both aircraft collided in the air and hit the ground. The fighter pilot, entire crew and all passengers of ANT-20 and also nine people on the ground were killed.
Gleb Yevgeniyevich Kotelnikov – inventor of the knapsack parachute and braking parachute. His first parachute, designed RK-1, was invented in 1911 and used during the Great War. In 1912 his first test of the brake parachute, mounted on the car, were performed. In the next years, Kotelnikov devoted his professional career to parachute development, creating several variants of parachutes, including the cargo and paratrooper variants. He also wrote a book about the parachute development. Kotelnikov´s grave is a traditional place of pilgrimage for paratroopers, who attach parachute ribbons to the trees around the tomb.
If you happen to be in Moscow one day, visiting the Novodevichy cemetery is really recommended. It could be a fascinating walk through the history of aviation, with a few hours spent in the park-like area and forgetting about the metropolis outside the cemetery walls.
One must be, however, prepared to meet there the crowd of guided tours, because a hurry walk to few most famous graves at Novodevichy is usually the fixed point in their ´Moscow tour´ programme.