Mathias Rust - the fall of an angel

 Mathias Rust lands on the Red Square

On May, 1987, happened one of those little facts which seems to provide a concrete shape to certain wishes and yearnings of the populations -- even if they are badly defined, still without the precise words or images. A symbolic and real action, at the same time, was required to make people say: that's what we needed, that's it! And he came as a crazy and incredible feat, rather like a miracle angel landing on Earth: Mathias Rust, a 19-years-old German man, an amateur pilot, flew from Helsink to Moscow inside a little Cessna airplane, landind in the middle of the Red Square after cheating the Soviet aerial defense.

At that time, it's right that strange things happened, and there were few people who would dare to predict what the world would be. Some little time before, a meeting between the USA president Ronald Reagan and the USSR president Mikhail Gorbachov take place -- and the international expectations ended in failure: the nuclear disarmament process wasn't put forward as expected, and the Cold War went ahead, although the perestroika.

For those who saw the images of the fact through the television (at a time with no internet resources), the Rust's prowess looked like a revenge, a child play over the stubbornness of the great politicians. The young man was able to build a symbolic bridge between the East and West, and everything at this flight -- the surprise, the youth, the daring -- was a promise of vitality and change.

The truth is that Rust's trip had important consequences -- beyond taking him into jail for 14 months, in USSR. Gorbachov made good use of the opportunity: before the international public humiliation, he forced many high military leaders to resign, what turn the process of reforms in progress easy. The Russian defense was directly struck: even if the radars and some Soviet pursuit planes had perceived the little airplane, they weren't able to identify it -- or looked impossible to them that this was what that was in fact. A flock of geese: that was one of the explanations for the presence of Rust on the radars. Rust told, on a Washington Post interview, the terror he passed on his trip: "During the whole flight, I was falling into trance; it was like an extracorporeal experience (...) I remind myself flying over a Estonian beach. And told to myself: 'Now I'm at USSR'". When a pursuit plane got close, Rust had a lot of fear but, as few years before the Soviets had frightened the world striking against a Boeing from the Korean aerial lines with 269 people on board, he trusted that this scandal would make them think twice before cast violently, with no reason, against an unknown airplane.

 The Mathias Rust judgement

The Rust's history had its broadcasting time on the international media, and put a big pressure on the life of that young guy. Two years later, things no-one had ever though was happening around the world, and the little heroic act turned into a episode into the stream of history.

In 2007, twenty years after the flight, the newspaper reminded of him once more. What would have happened to the pale and thin young man, with brow RayBan glasses? In fact, many many bizarre things had happened. Back to Germany, he alleged conscientious objection in order to not perform the military service -- what was in accordance with his defense for peace, what justified the famous flight. He had, thus, t perform a civic service in a hospital -- and here star the facts which seem to belong to someone else: he fell in love for a nurse and, being rejected, he killed her with a dagger, by what he was condemned for some months in jail. Later, he professed that the prison in Russia, joined with the media impact and the problems he had on coming back, put him into a very difficult emotional situation, and he had no explains for what he did.

After that, he saw himself facing justice for many times: he stole a cashmere night-dress; he didn't pay for the furniture a company delivered into his house; and one or other deceits. He got married, got divorced, and got married again. With the money he got thanks to the notoriety of his flight, he says, he could afford a reasonable fortune, and currently he is partner of an Estonian investments company and professional poker player -- as it seems, with lots of earnings at this last activity. He even created an organization -- Orion and Isis dedicated on promoting the peace in the world, but this think tankproject, which had as a first challenge the Middle East, never had a great impact.

It's hard to conciliate the idealist image of the young Mathias Rust who landed on the Red Square with these little facts reported by many newspapers about his recent life, with no justification that would bring to us a moral relief. I confess that this is precisely what makes me impressed for Rust as a character, what becomes him worth of a Dostoievski astonishing book -- the hero, the ingenuous idealist, the little criminal, the mad lover and the player: all of these things inside one person. Perhaps, those are, at last, distinct expressions of the same kind of nonsense. Or, perhaps, the life and its rules, after the incredible flight, had become too small.

Read also: Mathias Rust speaks about his life before and after the flight (2002, in English); and interview to a Danish television in 2007 (subtitles in English).

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