6 homegrown superheroes who inspired the kids of the USSR

Timur

Timur

Dmitry Divin
Forget mutants and shapeshifters – Pioneers, cosmonauts, policemen and spies were the first role models for the children of the Soviet era. RBTH presents six of the great real-life figures and fictional heroes that every Soviet youngster aspired to be like.
  1. Malchish-Kibalchish

Drawn by Dmitry DivinDrawn by Dmitry Divin

A 12-year-old village kid, Malchish-Kibalchish was a fictional character in Arkady Gaidar’s children’s stories The Tale of the Military Secret, Malchish Kibalchish and his Firm Word (1933).

Equipment

Budyonovka (the pointed helmet worn by Red Army soldiers), saber, flag, shirt with military belt, and bare feet.

Superpower

Bravery and ability to keep a “military secret.”

Enemies

The bourgeoisie as an image of European capitalism. Malchish-Plokhish (the bad boy), a coward, who betrayed his comrade for a barrel of honey and a basket of cookies. 

Achievement

The young hero helped the Red Army to fight the bourgeoisie. After being betrayed, he was captured and tortured to death, but still protected “the military secret” to his grave.

Motto

“All we need is to make it through the night and hold out a day!”

Legacy

The Story of Malchish-Kibalchish was adapted into an animated film and a feature film. In 1972 the Malchish-Kibalchish monument was unveiled near the Palace of the Pioneers in Moscow.

 

  1. Timur and his squad

Drawn by Dmitry Divin.Drawn by Dmitry Divin

Timur Garayev, a schoolboy from the short novel Timur and His Squad is another fictional character created by Arkady Gaidar in 1940. A role-model pioneer, good-doer, and volunteering community servant.

Equipment

Red scarf, badge, flag, horn, drum.

Superpower

Courage, self-determination, kindness, sense of justice, honesty.

Achievement

He organized his friends into a “good gang” to help the Red Army veterans and support elders by preparing firewood and carrying buckets of water from the well.

Enemies

Hooligans and scoundrels, who would make night raids on the village gardens.

Motto

“People feel safe. And I feel safe, too!”

Legacy

After the book was published, the Timurite movement became a massive phenomenon all over the country and gave birth to many volunteer gangs. In the USSR the number of timurovtsy (participants of the movement) reached more than two million teens.

 

3.  Chapayev

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A real historical figure, Vasily Chapayev was the legendary hero of the Russian Civil War (1917-22). He was a commander with natural gifts and became popular thanks to the movie Chapayev by the Vasilyev brothers.

Equipment

Felt cloak (worn in the Caucasus), sheepskin hat, saber and upward-curling moustache. 

Superpower

Bravery, courage, sabre, and his assistants Petka, the Red Army soldier, and Anka, the gunwoman.

Achievement

Fighting near Ufa, Chapayev received a wound to the head, but remained abreast. After a shot in the arm, he died of blood loss. According to another version, Chapayev drowned in the Ural River. 

Enemies

White Army forces and foreign invaders.

Motto

“I am Chapayev! Lay down your arms!”

Legacy

Chapayev became a recurring character in numerous Russian jokes, movies, books, songs and even computer games. Quite a few cities and towns in Russia have been renamed Chapayev in his honor.

   

  1. Yuri Gagarin

Drawn by Dmitry DivinDrawn by Dmitry Divin

A real person. Gagarin was the first pilot and cosmonaut in the world to journey into outer space.

Equipment

Bright-orange spacesuit, cosmonaut helmet with the acronym “USSR” on the front, and the Vostok 1 spacecraft.

Superpower

According to Gagarin’s medical report: “His favorite word is to work. Trains easily. He is pure in mind and body. Has a good memory.” 

Achievement

On 12 April 1961 Gagarin became the first human in history to travel into space. He completed an orbit of the Earth in one hour and 48 minutes and landed safely.

Enemies

Officially, none

Motto

“Let’s go!” (“Poekhali!”)

Legacy

The date of Gagarin’s space flight, 12 April, has been commemorated and celebrated in Russia as Cosmonautics Day.

 

  1. Stierlitz

Drawn by Dmitry DivinDrawn by Dmitry Divin

Max Otto von Stierlitz is a fictional Soviet spy who infiltrated the top echelons of the Third Reich in 1945. He is the lead character in a popular Russian book series written by Yulian Semyonov. But the iconic image of Stierlitz first appeared in the 1973 television series 17 Moments of Spring.

Equipment

SS uniform, designed by Karl Diebitsch, the Horch automobile.  

Superpower

True Aryan. Nordic and moderate temper. Family man.

Achievement

Stierlitz disrupted the separate peace negotiations between Germany and the Western Allies.

Enemies

Heinrich Müller, a Gestapo chief officer.

Motto:

“Among all the people, living on Earth, I truly love elders and children.”

Legacy

Became a much-loved character of Russian jokes.

 

  1. Uncle Styopa the Militiaman

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A fictional character in the poem Uncle Styopa, written by Soviet children’s poet Sergei Mikhalkov in 1940. The uncle, whose full name is Stepan Stepanov, helps firefighters, serves in the navy and works as a police officer for the Soviet militia.

 Equipment

Police uniform, gun holster, service cap, greatcoat, and metal badge with the emblem of the Soviet Union on the belt.

Superpower

Extreme height, love for children, kindness. His nicknames are “Giant,” “Fire Tower,” and “Traffic Light.”

Achievement

Walked an old lady across the road, prevented the bully pranks in Detsky Mir (“Children’s World” – a toy store in Russia), lifted a small boy in the crowd to help him find his mother, reached up to the traffic lights with his hand and fixed them.

Enemies

Bullies, traffic jams.

Motto

“I joined the militia because I think it is important.”

Legacy

After the animated film appeared in 1964, confectionery factories in the USSR launched a namesake brand of long chewy candies.

 

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