Even since the formation of the Russian Air Force at the beginning of the 20th century, aviation and aviators have enjoyed the affection of the general public, for whom any air show guaranteed spectacular excitement. Many saw mastery of the air as a personal lifetime ambition, something representing the very embodiment of pure heroism. For thousands of young people such dreams came true in the 1920s with the opportunity to take to the air in trainer aircraft at one or other of a variety of aviation schools, colleges and clubs. All this was helped in no small measure by the existence of the Russian Volunteer Air Fleet “DobroIet", which contributed greatly to the development of civil aviation.
The 1930s witnessed a triumph for aviation in our country, the setting of records, the brave undertaking of epic long-distance flights, improvements in aviation technology followed by the testing in battle of both pilots and machines in Spain and the Far East. Popular slogans on posters of the day included: “Youth — Take to the Air!", “We were Born to Turn Fairy-tales into Reality", “Flying Higher, Further & Faster than Anyone!”. They called on people to spend their leisure hours developing aviation skills in preparation to become professional pilots.
Heroes of the Soviet Union, such as Mikhall Vodopyanov, Valerii Chkalov, Mikhail Gromov, Andrei Yumashev, Vladimir Kokkinaki, Marina Raskova, Sergei Gritsevets and other famous pilots were all household names. The whole country knew its heroes and was immensely proud of them. Some of the memorable occasions of those years include the fly-past over Red Square in Moscow and the air-show in Tushino, where a column of planes was led by the legendary Polikarpov I-16.
Posters dating from the early days of the Great Patriotic War document starkly the tragedy of 1941. On L. Torich and P. Vandyshev’s poster a Soviet pilot is shown fearlessly firing att he enemy. On P. Sokolov-Skal's poster a red Soviet I-153 “Seagull” has cast a noose around an enemy bomber. A battling high-speed fighter knocks out a fascist Junkers on A. Voloshin’s poster. “A battering-ram - the weapon of heroes" — this slogan took on literal meaning after the first air battles in the skies above Moscow.
The arrival of jet propulsion, epitomised by the stupendous achievements of Soviet science and technology, inspired the highly optimistic mood of the post-war posters of V. Koretsky, V. Viktorov, Yu. Chudov and D. Pyatkin. The posters’ heroes here were the participants in the recent war; the future pilots and aviators — youthful members of the Pioneer scout movement. The new post-war generation provided history with the first cosmonauts and brought the country universal acclaim. On M. Solovyov’s poster a charming young pilot faces us, pointing to the scene of an air show. He is Yuri Gagarin’s age. Seven years after this poster appeared the first Soviet cosmonaut went into space - with that smile that was to captivate the whole world.