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The First Pilots of the Russian Navy

The Russian naval aviation got its start at the Kulikovo Field. Not the one at Nepryadva River that witnessed the battle between the Russians and Mongols in 1380 but the one that nowadays included in the city line of Sevastopol. Right from this field on September 16, 1910 naval Lieutenant Stanislav Dorozhinski took off in the cockpit of Antoinette monoplane. He flew over Sevastopol... The whole city kept an eye on his brief but spectacular flight. Should the engine have failed and the pilot would have been doomed. There was not a single plot of flat land that could be glided upon but hills, bays, ravines… Dorozhinski successfully returned to the airfield. And October 10 he made an overwater flight namely over Navy squadron anchored at the roads. Afterwards the young pilot was invited in the City Duma were he was presented with a golden badge. Thanks to these achievements he won his all-Russian laurels.

Later he was called "Russain Bleriot" comparing with the French pilot who a year before impressed Europe by crossing the English Channel in a plane.

To get Antoinette Lieutenant Dorozhinski himself made a trip to France at the direction of the Navy Minister. He personally picked up the aircraft, dismantled it for transportation to Russia and later himself re-assembled the plane in Sevastopol. But prior to this he attended the full course of aircraft flying training in France and qualified as a pilot of the French Flying Club with number 127.

In 1911 he made the second trip to France. There was the time of new aircraft type Vuazen trials there. Lieutenant Dorozhinski became a test pilot. During one of trial flights his plane crashed into the ground. Dorozhinski had a narrow escape – with multiple fractions he was delivered to a Parisian hospital. In three months he was in plane’s cockpit again.

Upon return home he was honored with an audience with the Tsar and the latter presented him with unique platinum badge made by Faberge and designed specially for Dorozhinski. In the middle of the golden laureate wreath was placed an anchor sided with the wings also made of gold. The bottom of the badge was completed by crossed torpedoes as the suggestion that Dorozhinskiy had graduated from submarine training school and several years served as a submariner.

Such a steep curve from air to the water was a real surprise to many. Lieutenant Dorozhinski changed airplanes to submarines. By that time submarines already developed from “apparatus” stage to real fighting ships. The cause of such turn in the fate of young lieutenant was French fantasist Jules Vern and in particular his novel about captain Nemo and Nautilus red by Dorozhiski yet in college.It is true that we all came from our childhood. But still Dorozhinski made it into Russian history as naval aviator who was not only the first to venture a flight over unfamiliar environment but also the first to take off the water having the floats instead of wheels installed on his plane. It is well-known fact that Russian Navy was started by Peter the Great. But the question is who pioneered Russian Airforce. Such deed should be considered equal to the exploits of great Tsar the Builder. Right here the official historians become silent as the great venture to create Russian aviation was assigned to the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich. And the right-hand man of the first “Air Force Commander-in-Chief" became Captain of the 2nd rank Dorozhinskiy. Together they visited aviation factories in Europe picking up the best types of aircrafts for Russian air force. They had no need in interpreters as Dorozhinski was at home with five foreign languages. The same was with regard to consultants.

It was hard to distinguish in these tiny and fragile flying machines the most dangerous threat to the fleets in the future - strike fighters, bombers, torpedo bombers, submarine hunters, air scouts, radar picket and target marking aircrafts... It would pass a short thirty years since the first flights of Dorozhinski and his colleagues and the world would rock from the battles between sea and air armadas. In his lifetime Stanisav Faddeevich yet witnessed in newspapers the tragedy of American Navy in Pearl Harbor when hundreds of aircrafts from Japanese aircraft carriers hammered from the skies upon battleships and cruisers. And the latter could be saved from the air strike by neither heavy armor nor their great guns. Aviation changed the linear nature of the classic naval battle by aiming it at the air. The greater part of naval ships lost during the years of World War II was sunk by aircrafts. The fact that is very hard to dispute.

The marine pilots what can be said of them. Both risk and bravery everything is twofold and squared about them. The square of sea multiplied by air. That was marine pilots who made air strikes on Berlin in 1941 the year that was the hardest for us. They took off the same airfield that had been a base for the 2nd air division of the Baltic Sea Fleet under command of captain of the 2nd rank Dorozhinski in 1914. And that was four years before the victory day when our pilots hammered the enemy in his own den. Was Dorozhinski aware of that in his lonely spot in the Pyrenees? He did not make it only several months to the first space flight of Yuri Gagarin who was former fighter pilot of the Northern Fleet Air Force. It appeared that lieutenant Dorozhinski launched his “air stack” in the air above Sevastopol for the sake of the first cosmonaut as well.

It is a shame to forget those who were the first. For over seventy years the history of aviation though the history of everything advanced in this country got started from 1917. Should anyone have mentioned the ancestor of our brave Air Force were the Grand Duke and his supporter Dorozhinski it would meant immediate imprisonment. Even now you can not find their portraits in any military museum. Our history had been brushed for too long.

The name of Dorozhinski you can not find in any Soviet Encyclopedia although it must be there. Alas, but it can not be remembered by those who should know it due to their connection to aviation. It is hard to believe how they’re not aware of the ancestor of their profession. But the marine pilots have no idea of who was the first marine pilot as the first military and marine pilot of the Russian Navy appeared to be an immigrant. For a Soviet military historian that was more than enough to black out the name of “people’s enemy” from the historical records.

But nonetheless the name of Dorozhinski made its way back to Russia together with his grandson Vadim Kryzhanovski. Former French citizen and later American national Vadim Dmitrievich Kryzhanovski getting the Russian passport brought to Moscow the archive of his grandfather including unique photographs. That was him who gave the possibility to know the bits of Dorozhinski’s biography.

Dorozhinski was born in Sevastopol in an old noble family that coat of arms included a symbol related to a roadway – horseshoe (Dorozhinski last name is derived from the Russian word meaning road - translator's note). He studied in Tsarskoe Selo and then in Naval Colledge. He graduated as a warrant officer in 1901 and got an assignment to the Black Sea Fleet.

But beforehand he was educated by English family tutor. That was him who read the boy Vern’s novel about balloon flights and together they cut out newspaper articles about aeronauts. That was the beginning of air fever. Once the tutor deliberately brought his pupil to a slaughter house. The boy witnessed the bleeding of the doomed animals and could never eat meat ever since becoming stern follower of vegetarianism like his tutor. In the Naval College the menu like throughout the Navy was far from vegetarianism ideas. Midshipman Dorozhinski had plenty of conflicts with the officers with regard to abstinence from meat and was even subjected to disciplinary segregation but remained strong in his views. And while his service aboard he starved a lot, before the time the cooks started cooking separately for a weird officer.

Who knows but may by this very oddity saved his life in bloody 1917. Among the seamen he had a reputation of kindly soul – “can't say boo to a goose”. In 1918 the Bolsheviks drowned unwanted officers in the “Death Barges". Soil barges with drop open bottoms were staffed with doomed officers and then the barges were put out from Kronstadt, delivered to Tolbukhin lighthouse where peopled were drowned alive. Dorozhinski was also among the sentenced but his former subordinates took him out. The next “Death Barge” sailed away without him.

Dorozhinski was disguised in pea jacket and taken to Sevastopol. Not to be captured and shoot on the way because of his white hands his palms were properly blackened with motor oil. He was put in a railroad carriage with the sack of sunflower seed and in the likeness of seller sent to Crimea. All half of the month on the way to Crimea Dorozhinski fed on these seeds and buiscuits. Not a single snoop could guess that aviator diploma #127, dirk and orders were buried at the bottom of the sack filled with sunflower seeds.

He managed to get to Sevastopol alive. He grabbed his wife and daughters and left mad Russia for ever. This ruthless trip was made by thousands of Russians those days: Istanbul, Warsaw, Paris… Dorozhinski was remembered well in France. He was helped to purchase cheap plot of land in the Pyrenees. There at the border with Spain number one marine pilot of Russia became real farmer: bred chickens, cows, made hay, handled vegetable garden… The farm was odd to the surprise of local peasants as the livestock was never butchered and even hens had natural death. The more so the weird Russian willingly accepted ill and crippled mules, horses, dogs, goats nursed them and gave them “permanent alimony”. The Vega farm has become the first Christian vegetarian center in France. Mahatma Gandi himself wanted to make acquaintance with unexpected like-minded fellow and finally met Russian immigrant.

Soon Dorozhinski graduated from agricultural college and added his pilot certificate with agriculturist diploma. Later he became familiar with medicine. During Nazi occupation he sheltered those who were searched by Gestapo or hide from compulsory labor for the Third Reich. During first years in immigration he took oil painting lessons from Konstantin Korovin. Outstanding artist and marine pilot were bounded with the ties of friendship for many years. Korovin presented Dorozhinski with about fifty of his paintings. After becoming prosperous farmer Dorozhinski helped his gifted friend as far as possible. And Dorozhinski himself was a man of great talent in whatever he entered: pilot, submariner, agronomist, doctor, painter, philosopher…

Yes, he was a real philosophist and not an arm-chair thinker but utilitarian philosopher so called fate tester. He pushed his luck in the air above the sea and underwater, at the fronts of Civil War and in the foreign lands. He thought a lot about the nature of things. He trusted his thoughts to paper only that was secured deep in his counter.

His beloved grandson inherited from his grandfather not only striking resemblance but all the talents as well. Like his grandfather Vadim Dmitrievich is at home with five languages, a pilot who bought a plane on installment plan and flew it a lot from Canadian Lakes to Mexican deserts. He also keeps to vegetarianism, the same love to agronomy and gardening.

“I never dreamt that could find myself at grandfather's home land in Sevastopol", Vadim Dmitrievich said. “But with the grace of God I managed."

We got acquainted with him back in 1991 at the first Compatriots’ Congress in Moscow. For the past ten years when the Russian borders suddenly became open for Kryzhanovski and alike he traveled over half the country being already nowhere near to age of a boy. He visited such places that he only knew from grandfather’s stories – Valaam, Siberia, and even traveled down Yenisei to very Didinka. In his travels over Russia he is accompanied by his Italian wife Laura a teacher of English language. They permanently reside in a small town in California. Just a quick look at the map and you are taken aback where California is and where Dudinka is. They traveled to the South to the river Don to pay a tribute to the home land of his father a Cossack officer.

At the high coast of Severnay Bay in Sevastopol where the remnants of towers of ancient Calamite still can be seen once had been the cemetery of the first Russian pilots with the propellers at the tombstones instead of crosses. In the years of wars it was plowed with shells and bombs but some gravestones survived although to stay in the dark oblivion. Reckless pilot Dorozhinski many times was close to end his days at that cemetery. But the Fate watched him till his declining years and the remains of the first Russian marine pilot sleep far from Russia at Cote d'-Azur under the palms of Nice at the cemetery of Kocade. The noveaux riches never visit that place and the members of the Russian embassy by tradition once set by their Soviet predecessors are not in a hurry to find a path to the forgotten gravestone.

In the year of 300 years anniversary of the Russian Navy the first Russian aircraft carrier – heavy aircraft carrying cruiser Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetzov made a cruise into the Mediterranean first under the flag of Admiral Igor Kasatonov and then Valentin Selivanov. On board of the carrier was traveling after a long interval a ship borne fighter wing of the Northern Fleet equipped with SU 33 aircrafts. Many pilots took off their aircrafts from the carrier’s deck into the air above the Mediterranean right in the vicinity of Nice were the remnants of one of the first marine pilots of the Russian Navy Captain of the 2nd rank Stanislav Dorozhinski rest in peace.

It’s a pity nobody of them guessed to shake the wings of their aircrafts in memory of him…

Source: Krasnaya Zvezda, Author: Nikolai Cherkashin. Photo: Stanislav Dorozhinski
Translation: RusNavy.com