The tragedy of Korolev: how the future General Designer was tortured and killed


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113 years ago, on January 12, 1907, Sergey Korolev, rocket engineer, Russian scientist-designer of space-rocket systems, full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1958, corresponding member since 1953), twice Hero of Socialist Labor (1956, 1961), winner Lenin Prize (1957); the head of the Soviet rocket and space programs, the founder of practical cosmonautics, and so on and so forth …
But all these titles and awards could not have existed, and only an unnamed mound of frozen ground would have remained from Korolev, who by a miracle had not died in Stalin's prison and in Kolyma …

At first, nothing foreshadowed future shocks and blows of fate: just the childhood of a gifted child in the Russian Empire …
Sergey Korolev was born on January 12, 1907 (in a new style) in the city of Zhytomyr (Russian Empire) in the family of Pavel Yakovlevich Korolev, a teacher of Russian literature (1877-1929), a native of Mogilev, and the daughter of a Nezhin merchant, Maria Nikolaevna Moskalenko (Balanina) (1888-1980) )


Korolev's house in Zhytomyr

He was about three years old when Maria Moskalenko left the family. Little Seryozha was sent to Nizhyn to the grandmother of Maria Matveevna and grandfather Nikolai Yakovlevich Moskalenko.
In 1915 he entered the preparatory classes of the gymnasium in Kiev, in 1917 he went to the first class of the gymnasium in Odessa, where his mother, Maria Nikolaevna Balanina, and stepfather Grigory Mikhailovich Balanin moved.
He did not study at the gymnasium for long – it was closed; then there were four months of a single labor school. Then he was educated at home – his mother and stepfather were teachers, and his stepfather, in addition to teaching, had an engineering education. Back in school years, Sergei was interested in the then new aviation technology, and showed exceptional abilities for it. In 1922-1924 he studied at a construction professional school, studying in many circles and at different courses.
In 1921, he met pilots from the Odessa Hydro detachment and actively participated in aviation public life: from the age of 16, as a lecturer in eliminating illiteracy, and from 17, as the author of the draft K-5 non-motorized aircraft, officially protected by the competent commission and recommended for construction.
Having entered the Kiev Polytechnic Institute in the field of aviation technology in 1924, Korolev mastered general engineering disciplines in it in two years and became a glider athlete. In the fall of 1926, he was transferred to the Moscow Higher Technical School (MVTU) named after N.E. Bauman.

During his studies at the Moscow Technical University, S.P. Korolev already gained fame as a young capable aircraft designer and experienced glider. On November 2, 1929, on the “Firebird” glider designed by M. K. Tikhonravov, Korolev passed the exams for the title “pilot-soar”, and in December of that year, under the guidance of Andrei Nikolaevich Tupolev, he defended his thesis – the project of the SK-4 aircraft. Aircraft designed by him and built — Koktebel, Krasnaya Zvezda gliders, and the SK-4 light aircraft, designed to achieve record flight ranges — showed Korolev’s extraordinary abilities as an aircraft designer.
However, especially after meeting with K. E. Tsiolkovsky, Korolev was carried away by thoughts about flights to the stratosphere and the principles of jet propulsion.
In September 1931, S. P. Korolev and a talented rocket engine enthusiast, F. A. Zander, achieved the creation in Moscow with the help of Osoaviahim of a public organization – the Jet Propulsion Research Group (GIRD); in April 1932, it essentially became the state research and development laboratory for the development of rocket aircraft, in which the first Soviet liquid ballistic missiles (BR) GIRD-09 and GIRD-10 were created and launched.
On August 17, 1933, the first successful launch of the GIRD rocket was carried out.
In 1933, on the basis of the Moscow GIRD and the Leningrad Gas-Dynamic Laboratory (GDL), a Reactive Research Institute was established under the leadership of I.T. Kleimenov. Korolev was appointed his deputy in the rank of a divider engineer.


Division engineer S.P. Korolev in 1933

In 1935, he became the head of the department of rocket aircraft; in 1936 he managed to bring cruise missiles to the test: anti-aircraft – 217 with a powder rocket engine and long-range – 212 with a liquid rocket engine. In his department, by 1938, projects had been developed for liquid long-range cruise and ballistic missiles, aircraft missiles for firing at air and ground targets, and anti-aircraft solid-fuel missiles. However, differences of opinion on the prospects for the development of rocketry forced Korolev to leave the post of deputy director, and he was appointed to the rank of senior engineer.

On June 27, 1938, the head of the missile flight systems department of the Moscow Rocket Research Institute, 31-year-old Sergei Pavlovich Korolev was arrested under the infamous 58th article as a member of the counter-revolutionary Trotskyist organization, allegedly operating inside the RNII, as well as for disrupting the delivery of new weapons ( earlier in the “RNII case” Kleimenov, Langemak, Glushko were arrested).
Korolev was tortured during interrogations – both jaws were broken, hitting Sergei Pavlovich with a decanter on his cheekbone. Korolev wrote: “Investigators Shestakov and Bykov subjected me to physical repression and bullying.”
In 1938, investigators who tortured him, who broke the prisoner's jaw and soon after threats to kill his wife and daughter, who obtained confessions, hardly thought about the future fate of the person under investigation. Dozens of bright personalities passed through the hands of sadists and there was even an unspoken competition among investigators: whoever breaks faster and signs everything.


After the arrest. Butyrka prison, June 28, 1938

September 25, 1938 Korolev was included in the list of persons subject to trial by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR. Armchair soldier Vasily Ulrich chaired a meeting of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court, and tens of thousands of repressed passed through his hands.
The refusal in court of the “confessions” beaten out under torture, of course, did not affect anything, but the defendant was lucky. In the list, Korolev walked in the first category – almost all of them were sentenced to death. If it had been a year earlier, then this would have ended for Korolev. But he was lucky, on September 27, 1938, Sergey Korolev was sentenced to 10 years in prison and sent to Kolyma.

In Kolyma, at the gold mine, Korolev survived by accident. To systematic malnutrition and scurvy, severe frosts and exhausting work, terror of criminals was added. Criminals generally exploited “enemies of the people” with impunity – at their expense they freed “their” from hard physical work, took away rations in order to eat better. The attempt at the “rebellion” of the proud loner was easily suppressed by starvation. He became a “wick”, they even stopped chasing him to work, as he could not walk: “As soon as I bend down, I fall. Tongue swelled, gums bleeding, teeth fell out from scurvy. ”
If you don’t work, they reduce the already miserable rations. Before the unexpected savior, who recognized a talented colleague, a dying gangster appeared: “In unimaginable rags lay a terribly thin, pale, lifeless man.”

Mining Madyak. Korolev spent only five months here, from July to December 1939, worked at the Maldyak mine in the Susumansky district. Among the Kolyma camps, which are not the most fun places, this one had a very bad reputation. In 1938-1939, the death rate of prisoners was very high, and about a year before the future chief designer got there, the “Moscow brigade” of investigators raged on Maldyak, of which a certain NKVD lieutenant M. Katselenbogen (Bogen) was especially cruel. Hundreds of people were shot.
“Bogen instructed me and a group of comrades to conduct an investigation, giving deadlines in three hours to complete 20 cases. When we complained to him about excessive work, he directly ordered the arrested to be beaten. Bogen himself showed us an example, called one prisoner and beat him with a poker, after which we beat what we had to. A few days later, Captain Kononovich arrived with the prosecutor Metelev at 2 a.m. and by 6 a.m. they examined more than 200 cases, of which 133-135 were sentenced to capital punishment. The prosecutor did not look at the arrested and did not talk to any of them. ”
(from the testimony of the UNKVD officer for Dalstroy A.V. Garusor).

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's flight, a film was made about Korolev, where he was allegedly presented as a rebel against camp orders. In fact, Sergey Pavlovich barely stood on his feet from exhaustion, and was not capable of any rebellion. His doctor Tatyana Repyeva saved him and transferred him to the hospital as a nurse.

In the autumn of 1940 he was transferred to a new place of detention – the Moscow special prison of the NKVD, where under the direction of A.N. Tupolev, also a prisoner, took an active part in the creation of the Pe-2 and Tu-2 bombers and at the same time developed projects for guided airborne torpedoes and a new version of the missile interceptor.

Getting into Tupolev’s sharah was both a salvation and the beginning, without exaggeration, of the greatest things. But the phrase “slam without an obituary” for a long time became his favorite saying: “Her eyes (Themis) are blindfolded, she will take and make mistakes, today you solve differential equations, and tomorrow – Kolyma. "

In 1942, Korolev was transferred to another prison-type design bureau at the Kazan Aircraft Plant, where work was underway on new types of rocket engines with a view to their use in aviation. Korolev, with his characteristic enthusiasm, devotes himself to this work. He was released in 1944 and rehabilitated in April 1957.
But the arrest and stay in the Gulag forever infected the Queen with a pessimistic attitude towards the surrounding reality. According to the memoirs of people who knew him closely, the favorite saying of Sergei Pavlovich was the phrase "Slap without an obituary."

In July 1944, S.P. Korolev was prematurely released from prison with a criminal record but without rehabilitation (protocol of July 27, 1944, at a meeting of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR) on the personal instructions of I.V. Stalin, after which he worked for another year in Kazan.
On May 13, 1946, Decree of the USSR Council of Ministers No. 1017-419ss “Issues of Jet Weapons” appeared, S. P. Korolev was not explicitly mentioned in the text of the Resolution, but in accordance with this document he was appointed to a new place of work. In August 1946, he was appointed Chief Designer of the Special Design Bureau No. 1 (OKB-1), created in Kaliningrad, Moscow Region, for the development of long-range ballistic missiles, and head of department No. 3 of the NII-88 for their development.
The first task set by the government to S.P. Korolev, as the Chief Designer of OKB-1, and all organizations involved in missile weapons, was to create an analogue of the V-2 rocket from Soviet materials. But already in 1947 a decree was issued on the development of new ballistic missiles with a longer range than up to V-2, with a range of up to 3,000 km.
In 1948, S.P. Korolev began the flight design tests of the R-1 ballistic missile (an analogue of the V-2) and in 1950 successfully commissioned it.

In 1956, under the leadership of S.P. Korolev, a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile R-7 was created with a detachable warhead weighing 3 tons and a flight range of 8 thousand km. The rocket was successfully tested in 1957 at the No. 5 training ground in Kazakhstan built for this purpose (the current Baikonur cosmodrome). In 1958-1959, a combat launch station (the Angara facility) was built in the vicinity of the village of Plesetsk (Arkhangelsk region, the current Plesetsk cosmodrome) for combat duty of these missiles. The modification of the R-7A missile with a range increased to 11 thousand km was in service with the Strategic Missile Forces of the USSR from 1960 to 1968.

In 1957, Sergey Pavlovich created the first ballistic missiles based on stable fuel components (mobile land and sea based); he became a pioneer in these new and important directions in the development of missile weapons.

On October 4, 1957, the first artificial earth satellite in the history of mankind was launched into near-earth orbit. His flight was a staggering success and created the Soviet Union high international authority.

April 12, 1961 S.P. Korolev again amazes the world community. Having created the first Vostok-1 manned spacecraft, it implements the world's first manned space flight – USSR citizen Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin in low Earth orbit.

The main achievement of the USSR was the first flight into space. Communists often cite Gagarin’s flight as an example to prove the advantage of the Soviet system. Under the leadership of S.P. The Queen in the USSR created ballistic and geophysical rockets, artificial Earth satellites, launch vehicles and the Vostok and Voskhod manned spacecraft, on which for the first time in history manned space travel and man’s exit into outer space. The space-rocket systems, led by Korolev, made it possible for the first time in the world to launch artificial satellites of the Earth and the Sun, fly automatic interplanetary stations to the Moon, Venus, Mars, and make a soft landing on the surface of the Moon. Under his leadership, artificial Earth satellites of the Electron and Lightning-1 series, satellites of the Cosmos series, interplanetary spacecraft of the Probe series were created.

But in reality Korolev as a designer did not take place in many respects thanks to, but contrary to the Soviet regime. Soviet power nearly rotted him in the camps. The fact that Korolev survived is simply an accident. The circumstances would be a little different, and there would be no flight of Gagarin. If Korolev fell into the hands of Katselenbogen or not to meet a good doctor, and instead of Gagarin’s flight, we would have had the nameless grave of the Kolyma ZK.
Ultimately, Korolev died prematurely thanks to the Stalinist executioners. The premature death of Korolev in 1966 was the hardest blow for the whole industry. The last attempt to save the patient was an operation conducted personally by the USSR Minister of Health. During the operation, the anesthesiologist was faced with an unforeseen circumstance – in order to give anesthesia, it was necessary to insert a tube, and the operated person could not open his mouth wide. The jaws of the patient broken during interrogation did not grow together correctly, and he was always nervous before visiting a dentist …
Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences S. N. Efuni spoke about the operation of 1966, during which Sergei Pavlovich died. Efuni himself took part in it only at a certain stage, but, being at that time the leading anesthesiologist of the 4th Main Directorate of the USSR Ministry of Health, he knew all the details of this tragic event.
– Anesthesiologist Yuri Ilyich Savinov was faced with an unforeseen circumstance, – said Sergey Naumovich. – In order to give anesthesia, it was necessary to introduce a tube, and Korolev could not open his mouth wide. He had fractures of two jaws …
– Did Sergey Pavlovich have broken jaws? Asked the journalist Y. Golovanov, Korolev’s wife, Nina Ivanovna.
“He never mentioned it,” she answered thoughtfully. – He really could not open his mouth wide, and I recall: when he was to go to the dentist, he was always nervous …

From the official death certificate:
Comrade S.P. Korolev was ill with rectal sarcoma. In addition, he had: atherosclerotic cardiosclerosis, cerebral artery sclerosis, pulmonary emphysema and metabolic disorders. S.P. Korolev underwent a tumor removal operation with extirpation of the rectum and part of the sigmoid colon. Death Comrade S.P. Koroleva came from heart failure (acute myocardial ischemia).
Where does such a number of diseases come from at 60 Korolev received emphysema of the lungs in camps in the Kolyma and the Far East.

In 1965, shortly before the death of the great designer, he was visited by friends on a Tupolev sharashka. Pointing to the guard at the gate, he, an academician, twice Hero of Socialist Labor, said: “You know, guys, sometimes you wake up at night, you lie and think: now, maybe someone has already been found, gave a command – and these same polite guards will brazenly enter they’ll throw here: "Well, you bastard, pack your things!" »
But this was after Stalin and Khrushchev, in the era of the “good” Brezhnev. Incidentally, the Fau Nazi designer Werner von Braun received American citizenship earlier (1955) than Korolev (1957), who had not committed crimes, was rehabilitated.
Forever mutilated life. And no awards and titles could not compensate for the torment and suffering that the future General Designer suffered in the Stalinist dungeons …

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