Imperial Russian Air Force 1898-1917. By Gennady Petrov. London: Unicorn Press, 2014. Photographs. Index. Pp. 264. $39.95 ISBN: 978-1-906509-40-8
Occasionally a book on aviation history comes along that is singularly compelling for both its quality and quantity of images. This is one of those volumes. The subject is far more interesting and runs further afield than the title suggests. Petrov's book is truly about the aeronautical community in Imperial Russia from its inception. It well describes how this community would form the nexus of the Imperial Russian Air Force that would face the combined forces of Germany, Austro-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire in the Great War from 1914-1917.
Petrov surveys the development of aviation from aerostatics (balloons), and even tethered kites, to the very first aircraft built and flown in Russia. The section on World War I is, as the title suggests, complete with images of aircraft and personnel from the Navy and Army squadrons on the northern and southern fronts as well as the ubiquitous Sikorsky Il'ya Muromets long-range strategical reconnaissance/bomber flown by the Eskadra Vozdushykh Korablei (EVK or Squadron Flying Ships).
English-language books authoritatively dealing with the subject of the beginnings of aviation and aircraft construction in Imperial Russia have only recently been produced. The reasons are complex: certainly the Russian language itself as...