Soviet Civil Aviation and Modernization, 1923–1976
The history of Soviet civil aviation reflects in microcosm much of the history of Soviet society at large—its problems and its achievements. This chapter shows that Soviet civil aviation has played a modest but important role in the modernization efforts of the Soviet system in strengthening the centralization of the regime and in helping to legitimize Soviet rule in the eyes of various groups that make up Soviet society. In a country with the size, climate, and distribution of resources, of the Soviet Union, aviation has a special role to play. In stressing the particular role of civil aviation, Soviet theorists have emphasized geographical and climatic factors that afford a distinct advantage to the regional use of air transportation. In the political realm, one prominent feature of modernization in the Soviet Union has been the extreme centralization and concentration of political power, a concentration even greater than that achieved under the tsars.