Saka Manor memorial commemorates historic Mathias Rust flight

The Saka Manor memorial to Mathias Rust's flight, unveiled on its 35th anniversary.
The Saka Manor memorial to Mathias Rust's flight, unveiled on its 35th anniversary. Source: Tõnis Kaasik

A memorial dedicated to an historic flight which saw a young, amateur pilot from the former West Germany nonchalantly fly a Cessna light airplane right into the heart of the Soviet Union, landing right in front of the Kremlin, has opened in Ida-Viru County.

The memorial was opened just ahead of the 35th anniversary of the flight, by Mathias Rust, which falls today, Saturday, while the location, Saka Manor in Ida-Viru County, lies at the point where Rust first penetrated Soviet airspace. Estonia was still under Soviet occupation at the time.

Tõnis Kaasik, owner of Saka Manor, said: "The flight through the Iron Curtain gave an additional impetus to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the re-independence of Estonia."

"We wanted, on our behalf, to commemorate this historic event, which is also directly related to the history of Saka, with a monument," Kaasik continued, via a press release.

"It was here in Saka area where Rust entered the Soviet air space, and reaching above Kohtla-Järve, continued his flight along the path of the railway line to Moscow. Today, as the successor to the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, is waging an aggressive war against neighboring Ukraine and the entire Western world, with a desire to turn time back to before Rust's flight, the commemoration of such a flight is particularly pertinent," Kaasik added.

Tõnis and Eha Kaasik. Source: Tõnis Kaasik

The monument depicts a 24-meter long black concrete runway ending with a symbolic Red Square made of red granite, and was erected in collaboration with Eha and Tõnis Kaasik, Saka Manor owners, and architect Kristiina Renter.  

A commemorative plaque, depicted as an iron book, outlines the deed in four different languages, including English.

The Saka Manor memorial to Mathias Rust's flight, unveiled on its 35th anniversary. Source: Tõnis Kaasik

The memorial was opened on the 35th anniversary of the legendary flight, and the ceremony featured a private pilot, Hendrik Agur, who performed an overflight in a Cessna 150, similar to the plane Rust used.

A video of the event is here (takes user to dropbox file).

On May 28 in 1987, 18-year-old German amateur pilot Mathias Rust, from Schleswig-Holstein, had just 50 hours' flight experience when he started his odyssey, one which culminated in him landing on Red Square in Moscow in a small Cessna Skyhawk 172.

Rust had first flown from Hamburg, to Keflavik, Iceland, before turning east for Norway (see map below). The Soviet leg of his journey started at Malmi Airport in Helsinki, traversing the Gulf of Finland and first bisecting Soviet airspace in the skies above Saka, in so doing avoiding all Soviet air defense systems and landing 6 hours later in the heart of Moscow, in Red Square, right under the eaves of the Kremlin and virtually within spitting distance of the Politburo. Rust had been detected by Soviet air defense radar, but surface-to-air missile launchers had not been granted permission to fire. He was sentenced to four years in a labor camp upon being apprehended by Soviet authorities, but was pardoned after 14 months and released, whereupon he returned home to Germany.

Flight route of Mathias Rust's flight, May 1987. Source: Wikimedia Commons/Europe_laea_location_map.svg: Alexrk2/Flugroute von Mathias Rust.svg: NordNordWest

Then-filmmaker and writer, later first President of Estonia following the restoration of independence, Lennart Meri, named his pet dog Mathias Rust in honor of the event.

Established in the 17th century when Estonia was under Swedish rule, the main building of Saka Manor was built in 1864 and was reopened after refurbishment in 2010. It is situated in Toila Parish, Ida-Virumaa County, on a noted beauty spot located on the 1200-km long Baltic Klint, a limestone escarpment which dominates Estonia's north coast.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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