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Russian Smokejumpers (nationalgeographic.com)
114 points by Mz on Sept 23, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

The photo in the article shows a jumper dropping out of an AN-2. That is a very interesting aircraft, as it has a very low stall speed. Here is a video where you can see it fly extremely slow without stalling:


From the pilot handbook, this gem:

"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 40mph (64km/h), and when the airplane slows to a forward speed of about 25mph [40km/h], the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground."


I've read accounts of people jumping out of the AN-2 at low speeds, without a parachute, and without injury.

Alaskan bush planes already have very low stall speeds (contests are impressive, they take off in under the length of the plane itself, and the best pilots barely get any roll landing) but that's a whole new level of crazy.

It's a pretty big plane too.

Flying like what you describe generally has a fairly significant headwind component.

The Carbon Cub, a carbon reinforced Super Cub is exactly what you're talking about I think

I'm an experienced skydiver, this is the first time I hear about smokejumpers and I am absolutely amazed by what these people do.

Here is a raw footage from a helmet mounted camera of a smokejumper. You can see his entire team jump, then see himself jump, experience the quietness under canopy and realize the technicality of maneuvering such a canopy with many pounds of equipment on you. Really incredible stuff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz_6cq7dfVc

Those guys should use big grab toggles, none of that "my rig needs to look small and slick so I make my toggles hard to grab"-stuff.

Thanks, but I already hav'em :)

Oh fun. I'm a tandem instructor and I got my start in the SF bay area. Where do you jump?

Some times simpler is better ... After it reminds me that life doesn't have the same value in russia.

And as a french thanks they have this kind of abnegation : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquidator_%28Chernobyl%29

Russians or more generally Slavs do not value human life less than western societies do. Their societies and cultures are just more collectivistic and focused on the survival of the state and its people than western societies. (where individualism is stronger)

And this didn't happen by chance. If you take a look at the history of the Slavs, that live and lived on the territory of current Russia, you'll find that it is mostly about having to defend against invasion after invasion for most of the last 1000 years.

If it wasn't the europeans who were invading (France, Germany, Poland-Lithuania, Sweden, Denmark - which all were very powerful at some point in history), then it were the Turks or Persians from the south, or the Mongols from the east that invaded.

This certainly had an effect on the society and their psychology and that's why you will see there more people willing to risk or sacrifice their lives for the survival of their state and their people.

That's the explanation why most liquidators in Chernobyl were volunteers, why the Soviet Union could even fight a total war against Nazi Germany where they lost 30-40 million people (could you imagine France fighting any war in which they lose 10 million citizens? Even under the harshest dictatorship that uses force?) and why a collectivistic ideology like Communism could rise in Russia.

It even explains why opposition has a very hard time in modern Russia (it is often viewed as betrayal against their state and their people), and why Russia is so large in the first place. (they feel the need to have giant buffer zones in case of future invasions and to have a backup plan behind the Ural mountains if the Moscow region should ever fall)

> life doesn't have the same value in russia

I was going to comment how this wasn't an accurate statement, but in reflection it actually is. It's not that the powers that be are negligent with dispensing their citizens' lives, it's that people themselves are more willing to risk their lives, both heroically altruistically and sometimes without due need at all. Buckling up is indeed for wussies, but then you do in fact have the acts of extreme heroism like in Chernobyl. It's an interesting cultural trait.

Chernobyl wasn't heroism, it was slave labor. The people that were made to work there were gathered all over Soviet Union with no choice in the matter and no knowledge about where they were being taken, what happened, and what dangers they faced.

What a nice piece of propaganda. Reality though, is different. You, sir, need to research the subject before posting. Lots of army officers, construction workers went there with motivation: "if not us, who?". Slaves won't do what was done there.

If you say so.

We Russians are all about slavery, as everyone knows, yeah! Not even a bit of heroism :)

The first response to Chernobyl was heroic. Fire fighters later died from acute radiation poisoning.

But would it really surprise you if the Soviet leaders did as "pilsetnieks" wrote and forced people to get high radiation doses without telling them?

Russia have outstanding traditions in e.g. math, literature, art and engineering. That is not diminished by Russian leaders' traditions of enslaving Russians (and others).

Yeah bit of both as usuals but the first as engineers know what they risked.

As any dramaticals events you had stupidy , petty arrangements, manipulations and heroism.

Still glad for the heroism of the first people on this event.

The first people there certainly knew what they were facing, and they knew the risks. The rest - not so much. People were gathered from the streets, from their homes and their workplaces. None were told what they were about to face, none were allowed to talk to anyone back home, and none were allowed to leave when they got there.

All in all, there was a handful of people who really knew the risks and who truly, heroically sacrificed themselves. Then there were some volunteers, and then there were masses of involuntary laborers who were told that they should take a few charcoal tablets a day and they'll be fine.

About 600 000 people were involved in the liquidation effort. Surely you cannot believe that they were all Soviet heroes, or volunteers for a cause no one actually was told about at the time. You don't need to hope for volunteers in a totalitarian regime if you can just gather any able-bodied man you can find.

> People were gathered from the streets, from their homes and their workplaces.

Please do us all a favor, don't smoke that ever again.

Grabbed in the streets and thrown into radiation-glowing ruines? Not to much to believe only for someone who hates Soviet from the very depth of his heart, I suspect, sorry :)

Kind thanks, but regardless of who's meant by the "others", I feel obliged to point that our leaders' "Western partners" did quite a stellar job in that department, too.

Speaking of the Ch. episode, while there were definitely criminal decisions involved (local people not being told what exactly happened, and thus exposed to huge risks), what "pilsetnieks" does is spreading "клюква", I believe.

> [Western world enslaved countries]

Ah, that is why USA had to build a wall to stop people fleeing to the freedom of East Europe? :-)

Edit: On the other subject -- I can't find much on Wikipedia at all about the construction of the sarcophagus.

You would not find any "slaves" to the the east of that wall, still -- but look at the pre-60-ies Africa, for example, that was much closer.

Speaking of the sarcophagus, I'd start looking into the memoirs of both those in charge back then, and those in actual action down there (both kinds of sources will likely be not available in translation though).

I am sorry, but your description of East Europe is complete bullshit.

I assume you're Russian? Only Germans seem to learn about their own country's atrocities in school/media. (I'll add Russia to the list of Turkey, Pakistan, Japan, ...)

A brutal dictatorship, as Putin seem to work towards, means that the controlling junta can treat the people as their own property.

As I wrote: If you have to lock people up to stop them from fleeing -- and the guards even shoot on sight! -- it shows the relationship; leaving is theft of valuable property, i.e. a slavery situation.

I have worked in Romania and have read/heard about how the spine of the people were broken and how they were controlled.

For example: There were some German speaking people since the Middle Ages in Transylvania. The adults were sent to Siberia. The broken survivors did get home, years later... Another example: Political prisoners (but at least not "criminals" which had just refused to sign over their land to the Party), were just not going to survive prison.

And so on.

(Pre-60s Africa, during colonialism? Well, that is at least different compared to the usual Soviet argument of blacks in USA. :-) )

You're beating the African card, or what? (Then, we could proceed to whether the landlords should own the land in a rural underdeveloped country, whether it really was "the party" it went to, if the Romanian government was responsible for some indeed disgusting things going on there, or their Moscow patrons, whether it is always "from slavery" or rather plain "into better life" people are fleeing across the borders, and to the Transylvanian events)

My best commie cheers from the land of Brutal Dictatorship!

P.S. If your second line is indeed about Hitler regime being on-par (or "better") than the pre- / or post-war Soviet one (despite declared political goals, documented doings, and victim counts), just say so :)

Oh please, realize that almost directly it was clear that Soviet divisions wouldn't again "visit" as an answer to democratization in East Europe, the juntas were gone.

And Putin isn't brutal inside the borders, yet. The tendency seems clear. I really wish the best for the Russian people, they if anyone on the planet deserves better after the history. (It is not easy to go democratic for a country with big income from natural resources, see "the oil curse".)

(I didn't compare with the German nazis, I noted that citizens are generally not enlightened about atrocities done by their own country, but I'd guess Soviet did have them beaten in absolute numbers. Number of millions, that is.)

That guess would be wrong by a decimal order of magnitude then :)

Hardly a factor ten.

Holodomor, the great purge, the red terror, forced resettlements, Gulag... Values between 8 and 61 millions, depending on if the starving are part of that.


Now, that (and specifically, 50+ M starved to death by the "regime") is a what I'd call a BS view :)

But merely the count of those executed during the "repressions" era / total count of Soviet civilian losses during WWII is less than 0.1 (and USSR was not the only side that has suffered from Hitler).

Bring your claims to the academic authors -- I quoted 8-61 million from the wikipedia page, which quoted the researchers.

The researchers seem to differ in, amongst other points, how much of the hunger was planned.

Quotes from the wikipedia page I referenced, with different researchers:

"Some historians attempt to make separate estimates for different periods of the Soviet history, with casualties for the Stalinist period varying from 8 to 61 million."

"Several scholars [...] put the death toll at about 20 million."

"no fewer than 15 million deaths"

"Wheatcroft excludes all famine deaths as "purposive deaths," and claims those that do qualify fit more closely the category of "execution" rather than "murder."[4] However, some of the actions of Stalin's regime, not only those during the Holodomor but also Dekulakization and targeted campaigns against particular ethnic groups, can be considered as genocide"

(About the last quote -- I don't get the difference of execution and murder, when it comes to farmers whose only crime were to have been born.)

Addendum to the last paragraph: I think the last researcher thought the ones killed through hunger were more random -- take most food from a population and you don't know exactly which ones will die. With murder, you are more specific. At least, I can't find any other way of reading that.

Again -- argue what your schools taught you (or whatever source you have for your claims) with the researchers on the subject, not with me. (Or go the popular way and claim that Wikipedia and/or all the academic research are in a conspiracy... :-) )

Edit: Anyway, as I wrote, the original point is that you can define living in the Eastern Bloc as slavery. The slave owners did whatever they felt like to anyone -- e.g. if individuals or groups complained about the situation or tried to leave. Torture, murder, genocide and throwing complainers into prison or a mental hospital. See Pussy Riot.

That was no more slavery than what was happening in the West in the same time (protesters being fired at, i.e.).

On the last phrase: have you seen Pussy Riot yourself? :) (not even asking if you've ever listened to them -- as no one did)

Regarding school knowledge -- I'll claim that the sources listed on that page are BS w/o even looking (although going one-by-one could by a truly fruitful exercise in myth-debunking, probably) -- you may compare the then population count to the figures you mentioned to get some initial suspicions.

>>That was no more slavery than what was happening in the West in the same time

Oh, please... Extraordinary claims need extraordinary support. Post a careful comparison.

We are back to the original point -- people had to be put in prison (with guards that shot people fleeing!) to keep them in. The borders and information were open in the West.

>>have you seen Pussy Riot yourself?

I've seen that in civilized countries, we don't throw people in jail for being blasphemous. (And what in H-ll has artistic quality have to do with that?!)

>> I'll claim that the sources listed on that page are BS w/o even looking

As I guessed: "Or go the popular way and claim that Wikipedia and/or all the academic research are in a conspiracy..."

Well, I have better things to do than argue with people claiming Wikipedia is a conspiracy which misrepresent the present state of research -- without knowing the subject enough to recognize the sources!!

That is a basic test for non serious debaters, sorry.

So bye.

>> Extraordinary claims need extraordinary support. Then just do it yourself regarding the "Eastern Europeans enslaved by Soviet leaders" one then! As illegally crossing a border will get you detained or fired at in almost any place now and ever, just as politically-motivated oppression is not a Soviet invention (i. e. McCarthyism, for ex.). Regarding the emigration-preventing regulations, that may be a perfectly understandable brain-drain prevention practice stemming from the difference in income equalities between the blocks (a qualified worker would sometimes earn more than the factory's manager to the East of the curtain, a scientist with a well-established career earned enough, too, but less than his colleague on the other side, most probably, and a humble cleaning lady was a complete different story, I'm sure).

Speaking of seeing PR, and the civilized practice: the folks in question are not "a rock band who dared to say no to the dictator from a Cathedral stage (in music!) and were imprisoned", but rather a group of political hooligans, known initially for a group sex orgy in a museum (and an another alike event, which I'll not describe here), who then performed several rush-into-cathedral-and-start-cursing-and-jumping-around-with-a-guitar (sound to be overlayed later) acts, until finally getting whoever saw this pissed off enough for the freaks to be handled to the police (and then, the infamous trial happened). (coming from your original "See PR" -- you may indeed go and see the pictures).

Regarding renowned Wikipedia researchers in question -- you don't have to be one to highly doubt their claims: with nearly every family in ex-USSR losing members during what is called The Great Patriotic War here (the total losses are officially > 20 M), both the collective consciousness of the nation, the witnesses still alive, and their families share the memories of the losses' severity. Same applies to the 1936-39 repression era (< 2 M executed being the official figure), the ratio of "official figure" / "perceived impact", most importantly, seeming to be close to that in the case of the War. Now, the events costing 60 M in human lives would have roughly x3 the impact of the War, and still there's nothing like that -- which brings to a conclusion of roughly a 60/20 * 20/2 == 30x hoax!

And don't you dare to say that living here, we "don't know the subject enough" :)

>>illegally crossing a border will get you detained or fired at in almost any place now and ever,

Leaving a border will generally not make soldiers shoot at you from the country you leave.

Being that locked in only happens to slaves and other prisoners.

And I think you know that.

>>Regarding renowned Wikipedia researchers

(I already noted that you learn differently in your schools, like most all other countries with recent atrocities in their history.)

Sorry, if you argue against wikipedia without even looking at research references I can't take you seriously.

I didn't read the rest.

>> Leaving a border will generally not make soldiers shoot at you from the country you leave. Is it really so? Which countries can be left safely this way, in view of the border patrols? :)

>> I didn't read the rest. Arguing through not listening may indeed be an effective (albeit a solipsistic) strategy, but not in a public discussion :)

"Your schools covering up recent atrocities!", and Russian leaders historically outperforming the West in enslaving nations -- is that really what you've been taught?

Again, what cover up are we talking of? You very much cannot sell a 60 M dead from famine story to anyone here, due to presence of alive witnesses -- but it obviously flies much better over the curtain and far away. What is taught builds on information declassified during the 90-ies, when "dozens of millions dead" claim was fashionable, but found no supporting ground, to quite a surprise of those insisting on access to relevant documents and their publication.

yet you will find that same outlook in many countries, middle America has many who share the same beliefs. I would say that that outlook is more common with rural areas than urban.

Thanks for the link. Was illuminating, humanizes the people of USSR and their government. A reminder that not all stories are stereotypical.

There is no USSR anymore. These are Russian smoke-jumpers.

"humanizes the people of USSR" - so you are saying they weren't actual humans?

You also have the divers that goes on suicidal mission in this event : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_due_to_the_Chernobyl_dis... http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1986/Soviet-Press-Reports-Heroi... and for the value of life. Lot of events and russian friends make me think like this. as always it's my experience and point of view.

I daresay the US does smokejumping too http://gacc.nifc.gov/oncc/logistics/crews/smokejumpers/

I always have mixed feelings when it comes to Russian "freedom." On one hand it looks like a libertarian's dream where freedom (to not wear a seatbelt...) is plentiful. On the other hand, it also reminds me of this: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/19/anarchi...

There's a fine balance between freedom and recklessness but I'm glad Russia has smokejumpers and the like so we can see another way than that of most of the western nations.

Thanks for generalizing. I assume everyone in USA owns a shotgun and a trailer?

It should be noted that the US also has smokejumpers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0a-UcqrYFg

Russians care less about physical safety then West. It has nothing to do with freedom.

It's not just physical safety. In Russia we have a popular saying, "the severity of Russian laws is offset by their non-observance". Variants of the phrase has been attributed to various authors from the 19th century, yet it still holds true.

Have you ever been to Russia? There is no "free to not wear a seatbelt". Only fines.

Seatbelt is obligatory here (well, at least on a front seat), what are you talking about? ;)

Well, not just the seatbelt example but also the feeling of freedom from limited policing and/or limited laws. In the article when Alex claims, "No seat belts in Russia!" I imagine freedom from an over-zealous law system whether from under enforcement or otherwise. Certainly, I'm looking from the outside in and my views on freedom in Russia aren't from a deep knowledge on the subject. And the word "freedom" is probably a poor choice but that's the feeling I get when I see a tank purchased with ease or a home made helicopter taking off.

I'd like to have that same feeling in the US but I'm apprehensive about the implications.

Speaking of purchasing arms, the regulations are much stricter in Russia, btw: you may be able to buy a tank (w/o the machine guns, and w/ a malfunctioning main gun), but there's no type of license allowing one to buy full-auto weapons, as far as I understand (unless there's an affiliation with government, at least). The helicopter will not get you imprisoned though :)

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