Historama, March 30

The designer behind the Soviet Union’s World War II combat planes and the Russian Empire’s most unprofitable deal are remembered in tonight’s Historama.

Russia sells off its Klondike

­The Russian Empire sold Alaska to the US for over $7 million on this day in 1867.

Alexander II decided to sell off the region, as Russia could not afford major settlements or a military presence along the Pacific coast.

The US proposal was considered a good deal – at least until the great Klondike gold rush of 1896, which led to the discovery of major oil and gas resources in Alaska.

Read more on this event in Russia’s history

­“Black death” constructor born

­A man who designed planes that inspired Nazi Germans with fear was born today in 1894.

Sergey Ilyushin became addicted to air when he was 16 years old, when he accidentally took part in Russia’s first-ever aviation week in St. Petersburg.

His first plane was a long-range bomber that established a world record in 1938, flying nonstop from Moscow to Vladivostok and back.

During World War II, Ilyushin constructed the IL-2 attack plane that Soviet soldiers called a “flying tank” and the Germans “black death.”

Today you can see passenger and cargo planes with the letters IL painted on their sides named after Ilyushin.

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