On May 28th 1987, at the age of 19, the German amateur pilot Mathias Rust landed his Cessna
's Red Square
in front of the Kremlin
. Without any military training, he'd managed to slip through the iron curtain
, unnoticed by the Warsaw Pact
's vast array of radar
stations and air patrols. This embarassed the USSR
a great deal, and Rust was put to trial and sentenced to 4 years in prison.
In the West, he became a celebrity, his flight was taken as a symbol for world peace and the act of a visionary free thinker. In the essay The Cyberpunk: The Individual as Reality, Timothy Leary mentioned him (together with Mark Twain and Christopher Columbus) as an example of a cyberpunk (which he defined as an exceptional individual who governs his own life).
Unfortunately, all this hype proved to be rather unfounded (or perhaps it was self-defeating). Rust was released after only 14 months, enjoyed his fame for a while, but then he stabbed a girl who had rejected him - prison again. Then he traveled to the USA and married a Polish woman, but they broke after short time. Rust returned to Russia to visit an orphanage for which he had become the patron. He disappeared for two years, worked as a shoe salesman. In 1996 he declared personal bankruptcy, unable to pay the fees for a lawsuit against a newspaper he'd lost 1991. A short time later, he announced that he would marry again, this time the daughter of a rich Indian tea merchant. Recently, he was fined for shoplifting in a department store in Hamburg.