In 1917, the Bolshevik revolution spurred profound changes in the Russian
society. The leaders of the Soviet Russia called for turning the
country from an agrarian peasant society into an industrial power.
Technological progress became a crucial point of the Soviet official
In accordance with Vladimir Lenin's doctrine that "revolution
should defend itself," Soviet government also spared no effort
in modernizing the newly-formed Red Army. In line with this strategy,
on March 1, 1921, engineer I. Tikhomirov organized a lab for research
in rocketry under uspices of the military with the goal of developing
"rocket-propelled mines." In 1925, Tikhomirov's lab moved
to the city of Leningrad, as St. Petersburg was renamed at the time.
In 1928, Tikhomirov's lab recieved a name of Gas-Dynamic Laboratory or GDL
under Revolutionary Military Council, RVS, the procursor of the
Ministry of Defense.
The researchers at GDL worked tirelessly on perfecting military missiles
and developing new types of solid rocket fuel, which would allow
the new weapon competing with artillery. By 1933, nine types of
ground- air- and sea-based rockets are tested in GDL.
By that time, the personnel of the lab grows from original 10 to
200 people. In 1929, the separate department of GDL headed by Valentin
Glushko had started experimenting with electrical and liquid-fueled
In the meantime, back in Moscow at the beginning of 1930s several enthusiasts
of aviation and interplanetary travel including Sergei Korolev started
a new organization known as GIRD, from Russian abbreviation of Group
of Research in Jet Propulsion. The government-sponsored Society
for the Advancement of Defense, Aviation and Chemical Development,
Osaviakhim, supported GIRD, whose members concentrated on the development
of a rocket-powered glider. Since 1932, the Soviet government directly
sponsored GIRD. On August 17, 1933, GIRD test-launched the rocket
equipped with hybrid engine. The first Soviet rocket equipped with
liquid-fuel engine (GIRD-10) was launched on November 25, 1933.
On September 21, 1933, GIRD and GDL officially merged to create Jet
Propulsion Scientific Research Institute, or RNII. I. Klemenov was
appointed the chief of the institute. For the short time Korolev
was the deputy chief of RNII but then replaced by Langemak, which
undoubtely saved earlier and doomed the latter during upcoming Stalin
RNII continued the development of solid-fuled missiles initiated in GDL
as well as absorbed the research in the field of liquid-fueled rocketry
inherited from GIRD, including the development of the rocket-powered
glider and winged missiles.
By 1937, the reign of terror unleashed by Stalin and his associates
in their compaign to consolidate power in the Soviet Union reached
its apogee. Although there wasn't a single individual in the nation
who could feel safe from repressions, the Soviet intelligentsia
with any apparent or assumed links to the old revolutionary Bolshevik
elite became the primary target of Stalin's purges. Not surprisingly,
this made RNII leadership, a perfect victim of Stalin's henchmen.
At the beginning of 1937, the Soviet citizens were stunned by the announcement
that Marshall Tukhachevskiy, a towering figure in the Bolshevik
party and an old patron of NII-3 was arrested and soon executed
as an "enemy of the people." The arrests within NII-3
followed. By 1938, the institute director and his deputy were executed,
while leading engineers Valentin Glushko and Sergei Korolev imprisoned
Andrei Kostikov, who according to Russian historians might have inspired
the arrests in NII-3, took over the directorship at the institute. Under Kostikov's watch
NII-3 finalized the development of unguided short-range missiles,
which became known during the World War II as Katyusha rockets.