Do you know who “K. Sergeyev” was? How about “Chief Designer”? The soviet people did not know either, nor were they allowed to know. These are the aliases of Serhii Koroliov, the USSR chief spacecraft designer whose identity was kept hidden by Stalin and the NKVD (the masterminds of purges in the USSR). They limited his freedom, tortured him, and forced him to remain incognito, but they never broke him.
Read our article to learn the truth about the Ukrainian genius behind the biggest technological achievements of the USSR.
Just imagine, aged 17, Koroliov independently designed a working glider (an aircraft without an engine). Later, the Aviation Society of Ukraine had the design, created by a teenager, taken into actual development.
Serhii Koroliov was a Ukrainian genius obscured by the soviet government. He was the mind behind numerous outstandingly progressive and revolutionary inventions of humankind; he created the first artificial Earth satellite and organized the first spaceflight and the first spacewalk.
Today, the creation of the original artificial Earth satellite enables us to use the GPS system, check the weather forecast for tomorrow, and keep in touch with our loved ones. When the Nobel Prize committee attempted to award Koroliov for the invention, the soviet leadership interfered, stating that “in the USSR, the entire soviet people get credit for the creation of new technology!”. Thereby Koroliov remained in the shadows.
And yet, today, Koroliov’s existence and genius are held in Elon Musk’s high repute. There is a twist, however, since he does not consider Koroliov a Ukrainian. Indeed, russia made sure no one would. On the 114th anniversary of Korolev’s birth, the Roscosmos tweeted their congratulations. To that, Elon Musk responded with a tweet written in russian: “He was brilliant”.
Today, people around the world mostly perceive Koroliov as a soviet scientist or a russian. Yet the actual Koroliov hailed from the Zhytomyr region and identified himself as a Ukrainian.
Koroliov’s friends and colleagues knew well that he loved Ukraine and considered himself its son. When astronaut Oleksii Leonov went to outer space, he sang Koroliov his favorite Ukrainian song: “Watching the sky and thinking a thought”.
Koroliov’s daughter reminisced that her father often sang other Ukrainian songs at home. Koroliov’s identification papers stated that he was Ukrainian, and he reaffirmed this in his application for admission to Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.
In 1938, Koroliev was suddenly arrested, allegedly for subversive activities and transferring technology to the enemies of the USSR. The accusation was groundless. In NKVD imprisonment, he suffered horrifying physical torture that left him with a broken jaw. Later on, he was exiled to Maldiak, a village in Siberia. For the rest of his life, Korolev never fully opened his jaw as it had failed to properly fuse in the camps.
Yet, today, russia calls him a “legend”.
Even in exile, Korolev continued working on his designs. For example, in the NKVD special prison, where he was later transferred, he designed several bombers, which the USSR would then actively produce. Koroliov spent 6 years in various prisons. Due to prolonged exile, he developed multiple serious diseases; thus, he had to constantly receive medical treatment in his old age.
During a surgical operation to remove a polyp, a breathing tube stood in the surgeon’s way, so he failed to administer anesthesia in time. The genius’ heart stopped beating because of his once-broken jaw. Even in the official announcement of his death, Koroliov was still referred to as “Chief Designer” to avoid disclosing his name.
Today, a crater on Mars’ surface bears Koroliov’s name even though it had been long hidden by the soviet union until finally being unfairly appropriated by russians.
The story of Koroliov is one of many examples of soviet and russian lies. But the truth always prevails in the end; hence, today, Serhii Koroliov is a globally recognized genius. Now it is up to us to tell his story to the world, popularize him in the international arena, be proud, and reclaim other Ukrainian geniuses for Ukraine’s heritage.