Sillamäe SDE councilors protest change to Soviet pilot street name

Valery Chkalov shaking hands with Stalin in a photo dated from 1936.
Valery Chkalov shaking hands with Stalin in a photo dated from 1936. Source: Wikimedia Commons / Pravda

Social Democratic Party (SDE) councilors in the eastern Estonian town of Sillamäe have criticized a move to rename a street in the city which had until now been named after a Soviet-era test pilot.

The councilors addressed the Minister of Public Administration Riina Solman (Isamaa), in respect of Tškalovi street in Sillamäe.

Valeri Tškalov – Estonian spelling, rendered in English as Valery Chkalov, was a Soviet test pilot in the 1930s.

The four SDE deputies wrote that: "In many countries of the world - the US, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Ukraine and many former Soviet, now independent, streets, lanes, roads, boulevards or local governments bear the name of the legendary pilot Valery Chkalov."

"In total, there are about 400 place-names [named after the pilot] worldwide. Valery Chkalov and his team made an amazing flight over the North Pole to America at the time, extending the hand of friendship to the Americans. The flight was very warmly received by the American people, as has been documented. The Americans commemorated his achievement in the form of a street name in Vancouver (WA)."

That the street was named after Chkalov, who has no connection with Estonia, at all, derived from ideals he supposedly set in commitment to a cause which were to be matched in the building up of Sillamäe, the statement continued.

As to the relevance to today's world, the petitioners pointed to an example he could set to the young of today, the fact that he was a known hero in his field and the fact that no other reports have come in of other Valery Chkalov streets worldwide being renamed.

Minister Solman sent the communique to the Sillamäe city government on September 23 to place on the agenda as soon as possible the renaming of Valeri Tškalov street to reflect a name appropriate to independent Estonia's history and culture.

Solman also noted the changed security situation following Russia's invasion of Ukraine from February 24 this year, which, she said, placed heightened importance on the street's renaming.

Valery Chkalov (1904-1938) was involved in several ultra long flights, including a 63-hour journey from Moscow, to Vancouver, Washington, United States via the North Pole in a Tupolev ANT-25 airplane, in so doing pioneering the polar air route from Europe to the American Pacific Coast.

He was planning the world's first non-stop flight around the planet when he died, testing a prototype Polikarpov I-180 fighter.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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