Select language:

"Not a bird, but a man is flying above us!"

 /  / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / "Not a bird, but a man is flying above us!"

"Not a bird, but a man is flying above us!"

21.07.2021

Sergey Vinogradov

In the early 20th century, there were hardly any memoirists, including Russian classics, who overlooked such a personality as Sergei Utochkin. He left his mark in history as a pioneer of aviation but his contemporaries remembered him as a wonder-hero for whom nothing is impossible. The wonder-hero Sergei Utochkin was born 145 years ago.

Sergei Utochkin on an airplane, 1910. Photo credit: https://ru.wikipedia.org

In the course of his short lifetime that lasted less than 40 years, Utochkin managed to earn fame as a fencer, swimmer, yachtsman, boxer, football player, racing cyclist, motorcycle racer, racing car driver, and many other capacities. The first Russian superstar - this is what modern historians and publicists call Sergei Utochkin, who lived at the same time as Chaliapin, Stanislavski, and Poddubny.

Utochkin Street in St. Petersburg starts from Ispytateley Avenue and runs into Korolova Avenue. And this is quite symbolic. This cheerful and fearless man was destined to connect a hot air balloon and an airplane with a spaceship having inspired a whole galaxy of Soviet aircraft designers.

Racing with horse and tram

There were many myths and legends surrounding Sergei Utochkin's personality and achievements during his lifetime, and after his death, their number doubled. Two years before his passing, he decided to answer all the rumors at once and wrote My Confession. However, having broken some myths, he created many new ones. In tortuous and harsh phraseology, Utochkin shared about losing both parents as a child and being raised by his guardians, as well as having a "huge fortune" left by his father.

According to him, his impetuous nature manifested itself back in school where he had to “debate from the corner”. Disputes with teachers about the pointlessness of science and rote learning resulted in the fact that at the age of 15, Utochkin left the commercial school, and since then was on his own.

The author devoted a third of his literary confession to the story that at the age of 13, as the champion of the yard in games testing "dexterity and eyecrometer," he had lost to a player who was stronger than him. The defeat made Utochkin forget about anything and everything until he retrieved his loss. "It took vigorous hard work of a bee, and I regained my former authority," he describes at the end of the story.

According to contemporaries, Sergei Utochkin did not have an outstanding physique. He managed to become famous in several sports throughout Russia and even Europe. And it was this bee-like hard work that helped him. He himself pointed out in his autobiography that he "tirelessly strove for excellence" in fifteen sports. Utochkin achieved particular success in cycling.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, his native Odessa was the Russian center for bicycle racing. Utochkin repeatedly became the champion of the city and country and brought prizes from the main European competitions. Before he discovered aeronautics, Utochkin had no equal in running (his endurance was really surprising), boxing, football, auto racing, and other sports.

However, in all areas of sports, he never reached perfection and could be considered more a talented and fearless amateur than a true professional. Bicycle racing was the only sport that he was really brilliant at. The bicycle was his element. When he was on the track, there was no equal to him in the world," noted Valentin Kataev.

Sergei Utochkin at the cycle track. Photo credit: https://ru.wikipedia.org

According to the memoirs of Alexander Kuprin, who used to call Sergei Utochkin the most original person ever, anyone he met in Odessa recognized him; and his appearance on the street caused pandemonium. The street boys run after me and tease: Utochkin, the ginger dog, he told the writer.

This incredible fame gave Utochkin’s biographers the right to entitle him the first sports star. In a lot of ways, it was Utochkin who stood at the origins of such traditions as the cult of the champion, pride in our athlete on the podium, the habit of following the success of an athlete and support him, which saw incredible growth in the 20th century.

He delighted the public not only with records and gold cups; Sergei Utochkin demonstrated his sports talents to the public in the most bizarre forms. Not every contemporary producer will be able to come up with such shows as the "ginger dog" used to perform in Odessa and other cities. He ran a race with a tram, competed on roller skates against a cyclist, and on a bicycle against a racehorse. And every time he won.

As to the Potemkin Steps, the symbol of Odessa, Utochkin, used to go down on a motorcycle, bicycle, and car more often than by walking. It was all to the delight of the public, of course.

"Not a bird, but a man is flying above us"

And then the sky enticed him because there were no more ambitions on the ground. Aviation has always been an expensive hobby, but his father's fortune helped Sergei Utochkin fulfill his long-nurtured dream. In 1907, he bought a hot air balloon and went on a flight in Odessa, the next year his balloon was seen in the sky of Egypt.

Passion for technology, especially automotive engineering, gave rise to another dream - to combine a gasoline engine and aeronautics. When the first airplanes did not fly, I knew for certain that there was no speed; if there is speed, I will fly holding on to the skirt... And speed is given by power, he wrote. The higher the speed is, the less impact the law of balance, and the wind have. The more precise and safer the flight is ... Give us light power... We will fly..."

The sense of purpose, a bee-like hard work, and personal fortune enabled him to master flight control in the shortest possible time, study all the technical books on flying devices available, and acquire his first biplane. It could hardly be seen in the hangar: over the next three years, Utochkin made about one hundred and fifty flights, having visited seventy cities in Russia.

Today, nobody pays attention to the noise of an airplane overhead. But back then, a Russian provincial saw an airplane in the sky like a miracle of progress that came to his yard from unknown laboratories. Demonstrations of Utochkin flights and air competitions brought together tens of thousands of spectators.

For hours, I sat with other boys on top of a high fence around the cycle race track under the blazing sun, so I could finally see with my own eyes how Utochkin, being next to some thirtieth verst post, would suddenly bend over to the handlebar and take the lead just like a whirlwind leaving all his ill-fated rivals far behind, one after the other, Korney Chukovsky recalled. Utochkin! Utochkin! Utochkin! - I shouted together with the crowd in frenzy, almost falling off the fence..."

The moving spirit is Sergei Utochkins capacity which he did not mention in My Biography. His flights were witnessed by outstanding aircraft designers-to-be who had spent their childhood and youth in the pre-revolutionary years. I was walking with the guys from the gymnasium, recalled Pavel Sukhoi, and suddenly an airplane flew over our heads. It was so unexpected and amazing that it was breathtaking. Not a bird, but a man is flying above us ... "

On the same day, having come home, Pavel climbed into the attic and started making a model of an airplane, wrote the authors of Utochkins first big biography - Mikhail Lyakhovetsky and Vadim Rudnik. Six-year-old Sergei Korolev was brought to one of Utochkins aerial performances by his grandparents.

The airplane was a magic word that burst into the sleepy, quiet life of pre-revolutionary Nezhin like a storm, recalled his uncle Alexander Lazarenko. And Utochkins name was heard along with this word all the time. Although I was Seryozha Korolev's uncle, I was not that old that he could call me so. I remember that we, Nezhin boys, enthusiastically played as if we were Utochkin long after the aviator had left our city, even stuttered like he used to, and made airplanes out of small boards."

The First World War prompted Sergei Utochnik to leave the tour and enroll in the army. At the end of 1915, he was accepted as an instructor at the Petrograd Aviation School and bestowed the rank of a warrant officer. But his military service was not long as he caught a cold during a flight and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. The dashing life and fatigue were the very reasons his body was not able to defeat the disease, and Utochkin died at the age of 39. He was buried in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

The darling of the fortune earned true fame, which has been lasting even after his death. During his lifetime, many considered him a magician and madman. But time has put everything in its place. They wrote books and made films about Sergei Utochkin, unveiled monuments and busts, named streets after him (you can walk along Utochkin streets in St. Petersburg, Voronezh, and other cities), and cycling competitions.

I ask you not to regard me as a proud or assertive person, he wrote. Where it is challenging for me, it is impossible for another. Where I am invulnerable, ironclad, and breathe freely, the other person will fall apart and suffocate. I have always lived thoughtfully, thinking according to a plan, improving myself, developing myself."



Sergey Vinogradov 12.07.2021

In the early 20th century, there were hardly any memoirists, including Russian classics, who overlooked such a personality as Sergei Utochkin. He left his mark in history as a pioneer of aviation but his contemporaries remembered him as a wonder-hero for whom nothing is impossible. The wonder-hero Sergei Utochkin was born 145 years ago.

Sergei Utochkin on an airplane, 1910. Photo credit: https://ru.wikipedia.org

In the course of his short lifetime that lasted less than 40 years, Utochkin managed to earn fame as a fencer, swimmer, yachtsman, boxer, football player, racing cyclist, motorcycle racer, racing car driver, and many other capacities. The first Russian superstar - this is what modern historians and publicists call Sergei Utochkin, who lived at the same time as Chaliapin, Stanislavski, and Poddubny.

Utochkin Street in St. Petersburg starts from Ispytateley Avenue and runs into Korolova Avenue. And this is quite symbolic. This cheerful and fearless man was destined to connect a hot air balloon and an airplane with a spaceship having inspired a whole galaxy of Soviet aircraft designers.

Racing with horse and tram

There were many myths and legends surrounding Sergei Utochkin's personality and achievements during his lifetime, and after his death, their number doubled. Two years before his passing, he decided to answer all the rumors at once and wrote My Confession. However, having broken some myths, he created many new ones. In tortuous and harsh phraseology, Utochkin shared about losing both parents as a child and being raised by his guardians, as well as having a "huge fortune" left by his father.

According to him, his impetuous nature manifested itself back in school where he had to debate from the corner. Disputes with teachers about the pointlessness of science and rote learning resulted in the fact that at the age of 15, Utochkin left the commercial school, and since then was on his own.

The author devoted a third of his literary confession to the story that at the age of 13, as the champion of the yard in games testing "dexterity and eyecrometer," he had lost to a player who was stronger than him. The defeat made Utochkin forget about anything and everything until he retrieved his loss. "It took vigorous hard work of a bee, and I regained my former authority," he describes at the end of the story.

According to contemporaries, Sergei Utochkin did not have an outstanding physique. He managed to become famous in several sports throughout Russia and even Europe. And it was this bee-like hard work that helped him. He himself pointed out in his autobiography that he "tirelessly strove for excellence" in fifteen sports. Utochkin achieved particular success in cycling.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, his native Odessa was the Russian center for bicycle racing. Utochkin repeatedly became the champion of the city and country and brought prizes from the main European competitions. Before he discovered aeronautics, Utochkin had no equal in running (his endurance was really surprising), boxing, football, auto racing, and other sports.

However, in all areas of sports, he never reached perfection and could be considered more a talented and fearless amateur than a true professional. Bicycle racing was the only sport that he was really brilliant at. The bicycle was his element. When he was on the track, there was no equal to him in the world," noted Valentin Kataev.

Sergei Utochkin at the cycle track. Photo credit: https://ru.wikipedia.org

According to the memoirs of Alexander Kuprin, who used to call Sergei Utochkin the most original person ever, anyone he met in Odessa recognized him; and his appearance on the street caused pandemonium. The street boys run after me and tease: Utochkin, the ginger dog, he told the writer.

This incredible fame gave Utochkins biographers the right to entitle him the first sports star. In a lot of ways, it was Utochkin who stood at the origins of such traditions as the cult of the champion, pride in our athlete on the podium, the habit of following the success of an athlete and support him, which saw incredible growth in the 20th century.

He delighted the public not only with records and gold cups; Sergei Utochkin demonstrated his sports talents to the public in the most bizarre forms. Not every contemporary producer will be able to come up with such shows as the "ginger dog" used to perform in Odessa and other cities. He ran a race with a tram, competed on roller skates against a cyclist, and on a bicycle against a racehorse. And every time he won.

As to the Potemkin Steps, the symbol of Odessa, Utochkin, used to go down on a motorcycle, bicycle, and car more often than by walking. It was all to the delight of the public, of course.

"Not a bird, but a man is flying above us"

And then the sky enticed him because there were no more ambitions on the ground. Aviation has always been an expensive hobby, but his father's fortune helped Sergei Utochkin fulfill his long-nurtured dream. In 1907, he bought a hot air balloon and went on a flight in Odessa, the next year his balloon was seen in the sky of Egypt.

Passion for technology, especially automotive engineering, gave rise to another dream - to combine a gasoline engine and aeronautics. When the first airplanes did not fly, I knew for certain that there was no speed; if there is speed, I will fly holding on to the skirt... And speed is given by power, he wrote. The higher the speed is, the less impact the law of balance, and the wind have. The more precise and safer the flight is ... Give us light power... We will fly..."

The sense of purpose, a bee-like hard work, and personal fortune enabled him to master flight control in the shortest possible time, study all the technical books on flying devices available, and acquire his first biplane. It could hardly be seen in the hangar: over the next three years, Utochkin made about one hundred and fifty flights, having visited seventy cities in Russia.

Today, nobody pays attention to the noise of an airplane overhead. But back then, a Russian provincial saw an airplane in the sky like a miracle of progress that came to his yard from unknown laboratories. Demonstrations of Utochkin flights and air competitions brought together tens of thousands of spectators.

For hours, I sat with other boys on top of a high fence around the cycle race track under the blazing sun, so I could finally see with my own eyes how Utochkin, being next to some thirtieth verst post, would suddenly bend over to the handlebar and take the lead just like a whirlwind leaving all his ill-fated rivals far behind, one after the other, Korney Chukovsky recalled. Utochkin! Utochkin! Utochkin! - I shouted together with the crowd in frenzy, almost falling off the fence..."

The moving spirit is Sergei Utochkins capacity which he did not mention in My Biography. His flights were witnessed by outstanding aircraft designers-to-be who had spent their childhood and youth in the pre-revolutionary years. I was walking with the guys from the gymnasium, recalled Pavel Sukhoi, and suddenly an airplane flew over our heads. It was so unexpected and amazing that it was breathtaking. Not a bird, but a man is flying above us ... "

On the same day, having come home, Pavel climbed into the attic and started making a model of an airplane, wrote the authors of Utochkins first big biography - Mikhail Lyakhovetsky and Vadim Rudnik. Six-year-old Sergei Korolev was brought to one of Utochkins aerial performances by his grandparents.

The airplane was a magic word that burst into the sleepy, quiet life of pre-revolutionary Nezhin like a storm, recalled his uncle Alexander Lazarenko. And Utochkins name was heard along with this word all the time. Although I was Seryozha Korolev's uncle, I was not that old that he could call me so. I remember that we, Nezhin boys, enthusiastically played as if we were Utochkin long after the aviator had left our city, even stuttered like he used to, and made airplanes out of small boards."

The First World War prompted Sergei Utochnik to leave the tour and enroll in the army. At the end of 1915, he was accepted as an instructor at the Petrograd Aviation School and bestowed the rank of a warrant officer. But his military service was not long as he caught a cold during a flight and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. The dashing life and fatigue were the very reasons his body was not able to defeat the disease, and Utochkin died at the age of 39. He was buried in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

The darling of the fortune earned true fame, which has been lasting even after his death. During his lifetime, many considered him a magician and madman. But time has put everything in its place. They wrote books and made films about Sergei Utochkin, unveiled monuments and busts, named streets after him (you can walk along Utochkin streets in St. Petersburg, Voronezh, and other cities), and cycling competitions.

I ask you not to regard me as a proud or assertive person, he wrote. Where it is challenging for me, it is impossible for another. Where I am invulnerable, ironclad, and breathe freely, the other person will fall apart and suffocate. I have always lived thoughtfully, thinking according to a plan, improving myself, developing myself."

New publications

Recently FSB declassified the original text of the 1946-1948 Tokyo International Military Tribunal verdict. It referred to the plans of imperialist Japan to seize the Soviet Far East and Siberia. Just a day before the opening of the international forum dedicated to the 1949 Khabarovsk War Crime Trials has started. The forum was dedicated to the trial over Kwantung Army soldiers accused of developing and using bacteriological weapons.
There are some good news for art connoisseurs. From now on every person can buy an exhibit from the Hermitage. Of course the buyer should possess a certain amount of money. All this has become possible thanks to new technologies.
Everyone knows that Russian has been borrowing foreign words. But the fact that Russian has enriched other languages is less known. Scientists from the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences have come to a rather unusual conclusion: the growing global influence of English is based on the power of American science, while the Russian language today has a different trump card - everyday life.
enultimate summer weekend in Russia was be marked by the 800th anniversary of Nizhny Novgorod. The city on the Volga River celebrate its milestone birthday on a large scale - throughout the whole of Russia - from August 19 to 21.
On August 19, 1721, the fountains and cascades in the Peterhof Palace and Park Ensemble were set to work. This unique monument of water-engineering art has been globally considered unsurpassed for 300 years: 40 kilometers of water channels, 147 running fountains that operate without a single pump due to the natural flow of water. The entire system is so perfect that it has been preserved virtually intact, and 70% of the pipes have been in operation since the 19th century.
Irene Galitzine became famous in the fashion world in the 1960-70s. The most celebrated and elegant women in the world, including Jacqueline Kennedy and Greta Garbo, as well as representatives of European aristocratic families and the wives of billionaires, preferred to wear outfits designed by her. Surprisingly, she became a fashion designer almost by accident, not even knowing how to draw and sew properly. But her talent, impeccable sense of style, and enormous passion for work enabled her to remain at the top of the temple of fame for almost 40 years.
Greek art photographer Kostas Asimis is preparing an exhibition about Russian kremlins for Western audiences. For several years, the photographer has been traveling around the Russian provinces to capture temples from domes to basements and open exhibitions free to all. Admirers of the master's work except that Kostas Asimis will be able to reveal Russia to the world, as he previously revealed the monasteries of Athos to Europe.
Maxim Gorky's Day has been established in Sorrento, Italy, where the writer lived for nine years. Gorky Day in the Italian coastal town is the day of the writer's death - June 18. During his life, Gorky was extremely popular in Italy; often he had to take a cab to hide from the crowd of fans. The Russian classic is not forgotten in the coastal south of Italy even today.