Tag Archive: Soviet Union


I’m always trying to get better at what I do. It takes tome to learn new tricks and techniques and improve old ones. This rendition of a Russian AN-2 in flight somewhere over Siberia in the 1950s is much better than the one I did a few years ago. This is sort of a doodle for a couple of other images I want to do which will include an AN-2 or two. The AN-2 was built by the Antonov Design Bureau which is still in existence in the Ukraine.

an_2_wip

As the AN-2 is a biplane, making it more complicated to portray than single-wing aircraft, I first tried out a few things I learned to do on something simpler. Two Dassault Super Mystère B2 fighter bombers from the Israeli Air Force (IAF) 105 Squadron (Scorpion) in flight over a mountainous desert landscape; circa 1967.

two_mysteres_mod

The Super Mystère was the result of progressive improvements in earlier Dassault aircraft which were also flown by the IAF. The Super Mystère went into production in 1957. Israel acquired its first aircraft of this type a year later. They saw service in both the 1967 Six Day War and in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. It was the first aircraft flown by the IAF which could attain supersonic speeds in level flight. IAF pilots liked the aircraft feeling it was a good match for the MiG-19.

The image of the Super Mystères is available on various products at one of my Zazzle stores. The AN-2 should appear there at some time in the near future.

mr. molotov's pale ale

Mr. Molotov’s Pale Ale

A bit of dark humor this time – a label from a bottle of Mr. Molotov’s Pale Ale brewed by mythical High Octane Brewing Company.

Mr. Molotov’s Pale Ale[/caption]Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs under Josef Stalin. Along with text reading “Mr. MOLOTOV’S Pale Ale” and “OCTANE RATING: 93.” Additional includes health warnings and the name of the brewery. Customizable text reading “Toss ‘Em A Molly” also appears. I often refer to Molotov cocktails as Mr. Molotov’s Pale Ale.

The Molotov Cocktail (Russian: Коктейль Молотова) is an improvised incendiary device, usually a gasoline-filled bottle. As they are extremely easy to make they are often used in riots, by street gangs, and by guerrilla fighters. The idea is to set the target ablaze, as opposed to blowing it up with explosives.

While most probably first used during the Spanish civil war in the 1930’s, the term “Molotov Cocktail” was coined by the Finns, as a jibe against Molotov, during the Winter War (1939-40) following a Russian invasion. Molotov claimed on Soviet radio that the bombs the Russians were dropping on Finland were actually humanitarian food deliveries for the starving Finns. The FInns referred to Soviet cluster bombs as “Molotov bread baskets.” Later, the Finns called gasoline incendiary devices used against Soviet tanks “Molotov cocktails,” a beverage to accompany the bread. Minister Molotov did not much care for the term.

Light up the party; toss ’em a Molly. Please do not try this at home or on the street. Leave it to the professional radical; especially as most people make a critical mistake when constructing Molotov cocktails and are more likely to immolate themselves than their intended target.

I enjoyed making this project as it required thinking about both artistic and technical elements. Making the label itself was quite fun, and then so was rendering a 3D bottle with the label image correctly sized and oriented in DAZ Bryce. I think I was fairly successful in giving the label the look of second-rate, poor quality which was typical of many items printed in the Soviet Union.

As usual the image is available on a growing list of items at one of my Zazzle stores. Search for “molotov.”

mr. molotov's pale ale label

A Molly Label

a flaming bottle of mr. molotov's pale ale

Don’t Try This At Home

A faux propaganda image featuring a rural scene from the early post-war Soviet Union. Depicts a GAZ M-20 Pobeda automobile, in front of a dacha (rural summer house). Across the upper part of the image is an “M20” hood ornament, Cyrillic (Russian) text reading “ГАЗ” (GAZ) and a side ornament found on the vehicles featuring stylized Cyrillic text reading “Победа” (Pobeda). The image has been “aged” to suggest that it dates from the early post-war period.

Internal Soviet propaganda often tried to inform the people how good life was in the USSR. A dacha and a car to get there signified the good life. City dwellers dreamed of having a small plot of land outside the city to flee to on summer weekends, away from the heat and dirt of the city.

Click on image for full-size view.

russian gaz pobeda and dacha

GAZ M20 Pobeda parked near a dacha

The Pobeda, was the first automobile manufactured for the public after the end of World War. The M20 was produced 1946 to 1958. GAZ (ГАЗ is a Russian acronym for Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod – Gorsky Automobile Factory) Pobeda (Победа) is the Russian word for victory. The name was chosen because the car was first tested in 1943 when an Allied victory in World War II began to appear likely.The Pobeda was manufactured under license in Poland and a few were assembled in North Korea. The Pobeda was the first post-war Soviet-made automobile and the first Soviet vehicle to have turn signals, two electric wipers, an electric heater, and a built-in AM radio. The car came to be a symbol of postwar Soviet life and is today a popular collector’s item. A total of 235,997 Pobedas were produced. A number of M20s have been extensively customized in recent years. There are even a few “muscle car” versions on the road.

The word “dacha” originated in the 17th century from the verb “davat’” (to give), in reference to plots of land distributed by the Tsar. At the beginning of the 18th century during the reign of Peter the Great dachas became popular as summer holiday retreats. The nobility used their dachas for social and cultural gatherings, including masquerade balls and fireworks displays.

By the end of the 19th century, a house in the country was one of the necessary possessions of the rich as well as the middle class. Russian poets and playwrights (including Alexander Pushkin and Anton Chekhov) mentioned dachas in their works. Summer homes in beautifully adorned areas became a “place-to-be” for many Russian artists. Many types of goods were specially manufactured for dacha use – from lady’s accessories such as fans and hat to furniture items and even toilets.
After the 1917 Russian Revolution some dachas became “holiday homes” for workers.

Dachas became very popular after the end of World War. For some it was not just a weekend getaway. A dacha with a small plot of land let people save their tiny incomes. Here they could plant their own vegetables. They stored potatoes in cellars, pickled cucumbers and made jams out of apples and pears in order to have some food reserves to last through the cold Russian winter. Some people grew fruits and vegetables not only for their own consumption, but to sell as well.

In many areas the plots of land for dachas were limited to 0.06 hectares (about .15 acres). A plot of that size was too small for most people to live on permanently; authorities needed to keep workers in the big cities and were not interested in the restoration of private farming on a wider scale. The concession of the “zero point zero six of a hectare” was necessary because the country could not provide its people with enough food. As a result many dacha settlements sprang up with small houses standing right next to each another.

There were legal size restrictions for dacha houses. They had to have not more than 25 m² (269 square feet) of living area and be only one storey tall. That’s why they usually had a Mansard roof with a small second storey room, which was considered by authorities as just a big garret or attic, not a second storey. Dachas built since the dissolution of the Soviet Union tend to be rather larger.

A typical plot of land was surrounded by berry trees and shrubs. There was a small house (in many cases – with no conveniences at all) and a hut for storing garden tools. Around the house there were rows of plants and vegetables. In the areas around Moscow potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers were the main crops. However, the owners’ fantasies about what to plant knew no boundaries. A row of strawberries became “a must” for many (strawberries usually ripen faster than everything else). In the south beans and even melons were grown, while in Siberia many dacha lovers liked to plant sakura (Japanese cherries). At the beginning of the 1960s the number of fruit trees that could be planted was heavily regulated by the rules of the dacha settlement. The aim of this measure was to make the area visually pleasing. Later all these quotas were lifted. The same was true for the size of the plot – if you wanted a bigger plot you could simply buy your neighbor’s land or find another plot somewhere else.

In the 1980s, due to the shortage of goods in stores, farming at dachas became a massive phenomenon. For some it was more necessity then pleasure, as modern farming tools were not readily available. But others took their dacha trials as a hobby. They took pride in inventing something unique for their flowers and vegetables, such as greenhouses or unique water-spraying devices. Still others tried to think of ways to fertilize the ground not just with manure, but other additives. Many unnecessary items from city apartments could easily be turned into useful gadgets for the dacha. For example, if you had too many empty cola bottles you could cut them in half and use the bottom part to protect young plants from cold spring nights.

The harvest was a special pride for many people – some sold their produce, while others gave it away to their neighbors and friends. It was common to share the seeds of rare plants with others. Real fans think about their dacha all year long. In winter they plant tomato, cucumber, pepper and eggplant seeds in small pots that they keep on the window sills of their apartments – and at the beginning of May they re-plant them at their dachas.
Many dacha lovers chose to live on their plots of land. They built good houses with all the necessary facilities, including heating and electrical systems. Having a banya (a small bath house) at your dacha is not a luxury any more. At the beginning of 1990s some Russian “nouveau riches” made “fortresses” out of their dachas. A few even bred exotic animals – like iguanas and crocodiles.

It is said that the dacha is a way of “returning to paradise lost” – a source of temporary harmony away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Midnight Sun Polo

Every year the Goldpanners baseball team of Fairbanks, Alaska plays in the Midnight Sun Baseball Game. The game begins at midnight on the summer solstice, lit only by the sun. Fairbanks is only 160 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the sun is just beginning to set in the north as the game gets under way and, at its conclusion some three hours later, the sun begins to rise again – also in the north.

Baseball is not the only sport that could be played on the solstice. And, the idea of riding a moose is not new. See you at the polo grounds.

Click on image for full-size view.

Midnight Sun Polo Poster

Midnight Sun Polo

In northern Europe and Asia moose were used to carry riders and loads across inhospitable terrain. As a mount the moose has no equal in crossing bogs and windfalls, slipping through thickets, climbing over rocks, and swimming swiftly across broad, dangerous rivers. In the dense coniferous forests and bogs that cover much of northern Europe and Asia, a rider on horseback cannot outrun a rider on a moose-as Russian general Yermak Timofeyich found out when he began the conquest of Siberia on behalf of Czar Ivan the Terrible in the sixteenth century. To gain the upper hand over the Siberian moose riders, General Timofeitsch banned moose husbandry, killed off domesticated moose, and systematically hunted down moose riders to flay, impale, or mutilate them publicly as examples to others. It is likely that moose husbandry in the northern forests was just frequent enough to be a nuisance, since as we now know moose-for all their advantages as beasts of burden- are difficult to keep in captivity. Had trained moose been common and easy wards, the tough, adventuresome Cossacks would surely have changed mounts and pursued the moose riders on equal terms.

In Europe moose were also used to pull sleighs great distances across frozen wastes. One drawback to using moose in this way is that horses unacquainted with moose shy wildly and become uncontrollable when confronted by these strange-looking creatures. In the seventeenth century, the city council of the Estonian town of Dorpat (Tartu) forbade domesticated moose on its streets. One can only imagine what havoc horses out of control, hitched to a coach or wagon, could wreak in the town’s narrow streets after suddenly coming face to face with a moose innocently pulling a sleigh into town.

King Karl XI of Sweden considered mounting a cavalry regiment on moose, probably to take advantage of the terror they would strike into the hearts of enemy horses. No canon and musket fire, no lances and sabers would be needed to disperse the enemy’s cavalry charge. The mere appearance of moose on the battleground would put the enemy’s cavalry into heedless flight. Alas, the king’s grand plan came to naught, and experiments in domesticating moose in this century make it evident why. Moose could never prosper as cavalry mounts because of their catastrophic susceptibility to livestock diseases, and because of the great difficulties in feeding moose properly.

As early as 1869, the Russian zoologist and explorer Alexander von Middendorff wrote to the Tsar’s Government:“

“Even the civilized Europe these days has failed to domesticate the moose, the animal that doubtlessly can be of great utility. Our government ought to apply all possible efforts toward the domestication of this animal. This is doable. The reward would be great, and so would be the glory.”

After the seventeenth century, moose husbandry became a forgotten art for nearly four hundred years. In Sweden there was a debate in the late 18th century about the national value of using the moose as a domestic animal. Among other things, the moose was proposed to be used in postal distribution, and there was a suggestion to develop a moose-mounted cavalry. Such proposals remained unimplemented, mainly because the extensive hunting for moose nearly drove it to extinction and because of aggressiveness during the rutting period.

The idea of the moose domestication did not get much traction in Czarist Russia. However, it reappeared in the 1930s’ Soviet Union; it was suggested at the time that moose cavalry could be efficiently used even in the deep snow. In 1934, the Soviet Government’s Nature Reserve Committee ordered creation of moose reserves (zapovedniks) and moose breeding centers. Experimental work, initiated by Petr Alexandrovich Manteufel, took place at a number of locations: in Yakutia, at the Serpukhov Experimental Game Farm, and in the Buzuluksy Bor Nature Reserve in the Orenburg Region.

Russian scientists tackled the issue of moose husbandry systematically-and were successful. They discovered that moose could be trained to give milk, carry loads or riders, pull sleds and logs, go to pasture, and return willingly to stables. However, the work was not finished in time for the World War II, and when the war came, the entire idea of cavalry as a combat force was swept away.

After the war, the idea of domesticating the moose was pursued again, with the focus on agricultural use. It was thought that the moose, whose very name means twig eater in an Algonquian language, could provide an ideal way of improving the utilization of the biomass production potential of the taiga of northern and eastern Russia, which are not particularly suitable for either food crop planting or conventional animal husbandry. If the moose could be farmed, they could be provided with feed practically for free, utilizing the by-products of timber harvesting: tree branches and bark.

To study the behavior of the moose, each animal at Kostroma Moose Farm is equipped with a radio transmitter.

The first experimental moose farm, led by Yevgeny Knorre, was launched in 1949 by the staff of the Pechora-Ilych Nature Reserve, outside of the settlement of Yaksha in the Komi Republic. Rare photos from that period, one of a moose being ridden and one of a moose pulling a sledge, reproduced from Ye. P. Knorre’s 1969 paper, “Behavioral changes in elk in the process of its domestication”, can be seen at one of the Kostroma Moose Farm web site’s pages.

Since 1963, moose breeding has continued at Kostroma Moose Farm, which had a herd of 33 tame moose as of 2003. Although at this stage the farm is not expected to be a profit-making enterprise, it obtains some income from the sale of moose milk and from visiting tourist groups. Its main value, however, is seen in the opportunities it offers for the research in the physiology and behavior of the moose, as well as in the insights it provides into the general principles of animal domestication.

A fully grown moose can carry about 275 pounds (125 kg) and work with a sleigh laden with 600 to 800 pounds (3 00-400 kg); it can pull a heavier sleigh, but not all day. Its walking speed is 1.8 to 2.5 miles per hour (3-4 km/h), and the comfortable working range in a four- to six-hour working day is about 12.5 miles (20 km). Greater performances are possible. Moose can carry packs through the roughest of terrain without doing the slightest damage to the pack. They crawl under windfalls, slither across swamps, jump obstacles, negotiate thickets, and swim torrents. Yet at the end of the day, the packs remain securely in place. Hand-reared moose have utter faith in their trainers. They will, for instance, calmly walk up to an aircraft whose engines are howling. Cow moose trained for milking shower their keepers with affection-a “problem” that, in one form or another, has been reported by all keepers of moose. The most useful working moose, not surprisingly, are castrated bulls, which grow large and strong and are easy to handle. Those who have kept tame moose report that the experience is more like keeping a friendly, loyal dog (one six feet high at the shoulder) than like hosting a member of the deer family.

Although moose are useful and have some endearing characteristics, one reason they were never domesticated is that they are notoriously difficult to feed and keep healthy in captivity. Attempts by Russian scientists to subsidize the natural forage of moose with oats, barley, and wheatgerm failed as the moose became ill. What work the moose did perform was sustained by natural forages. Today, we know that the natural diet of moose can be supplemented with oat mash, beets, and potatoes; however, disease remains a problem. Moose are not only susceptible to livestock diseases, but also to the diseases of other deer species. American moose have an especially dismal record in captivity.

A problem hindering the domestication of moose is that they cannot be worked year round. In late winter, spring, and early summer, they are thin and weak and cannot be used as beasts of burden on natural forage alone.

Cold War

And now for something completely different. Sometimes I make pictures of things other than wildlife just to do something different. This is one of those times; and I wanted to try something new with one of my 3D graphics applications.

A Soviet airfield early on a late winter morning early in the Cold War, the mid 1950’s. There is ice on the ramp as the crew and passengers of an Antonov AN-2 prepare for takeoff. Three MiG-17s are parked near a hangar; two more fly overhead. If you look closely you may be able to see a second AN-2 in the hangar.

Click on image for full-size view.

An Antonov AN-2 Colt and Mig-17s on a Soviet airfield in the mid 1950s.

An Early Flight

The AN-2 (Russian nickname: кукурузник [kukuruznik or “maize farmworker”] and referred to by NATO as COLT) is the world’s largest single-engine biplane. Its extraordinary slow-flight capabilities make it supremely suited for short, unimproved fields, and some specialized variants have also been built for cold weather and other extreme environments. It fills the same niche in Russia and parts of East Asia as does the venerable Douglas DC-3/C-47 in the West.

Since its first appearance in 1947, the AN-2 has been produced in great numbers; over 5,000 were built in the USSR. Since 1960, most AN-2’s have been built at in Poland, with over 12,000 made before full production ended in 1992. Limited production from part stocks continues. The AN-2 is also built under license in China as the Shijiazhuang Y-5. North Korea operates several AN-2s for use by special forces units. Save for the Lockheed C-130, the AN-2 has been in, more or less, continuous production for longer than any other aircraft.

The AN-2 was designed as a utility aircraft for use in government-owned forestry and agriculture. However, the basic airframe is highly adaptable and numerous variants have been developed. These include hopper-equipped versions for crop-dusting, scientific versions for atmospheric sampling, water-bombers for fighting forest-fires, flying ambulances, float-equipped seaplane versions, lightly armed combat versions for dropping paratroopers, and of course the most common AN-2T version, which is the 12-seater passenger aircraft.

The AN-2 has design features which make it suitable for operation in remote areas with unsurfaced airstrips:

-It has a pneumatic brake system (similar to those used on heavy road vehicles) allowing it to stop on short runways.
-It has an air line fitted to the compressor, so the pressure in the tires and shock absorbers can be adjusted ‘in the field’.
-The batteries are large and easy to remove, meaning that the aircraft does not need a ground power unit to supply power.
-It has it has an onboard fuel pump that allows the fuel tanks to be filled from simple fuel drums on the ground.
-It has the minimum of complex systems. For example, the crucial wing leading edge slats that give the An-2 its slow flight ability are automatic, being held closed by airflow over the wings. Below 40 mph (64 km/h), they extend as they are on elastic rubber springs.

An interesting note from the pilot’s handbook reads: “If the engine quits in instrument conditions (blind flying when you can’t see the ground) or at night, the pilot should pull the control column full aft (it won’t stall) and keep the wings level. The leading-edge slats will snap out at about 40 mph (64 km/h), and when the airplane slows to a forward speed of about 25 mph [40 km/h], the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground.”

The AN-2 has no stall speed quoted in the operating handbooks (the stall speed being the speed at which the aircraft is traveling too slowly for the airflow over the wings to keep it aloft). Pilots of the An-2 say the aircraft can be flown in full control at 30 mph (as a contrast, a modern Cessna 4-seater light aircraft has a stall speed of around 55 mph). This slow stall speed makes it possible for the aircraft to fly backwards (if the aircraft is pointed into a headwind of, say, 35 mph, it will travel backwards at 5 mph whilst under full control). This is a rare ability, even amongst other Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft. Only the German Fieseler Fi-156 “Stork” of World War II has better slow-speed ability.