Maybe the first tangible sign for most people that cracks were beginning to appear in the armor of the formerly impregnable Soviet Union came on May 28, 1987 when an 18 year old West German named Mathias Rust casually flew from Finland directly through Soviet airspace and landed his little Cessna aircraft near the heart of Moscow's Red Square. His escapade sent shockwaves through Gorbachev's Kremlin and resulted in the sacking of several high level Soviet Defense ministers.

The image of his tiny plane sitting in Red Square with Saint Basel's Cathedral in the background became one of the iconic images of the 80s. He received a four year sentence in a Soviet labor camp for his flight though he was never transferred to said labor camp and was released early by Gorbachev as a 'goodwill' gesture to the West.

Though his flight became iconic Rust himself, like many unlikely heroes, turned out to be something less than that, living a checkered life in the aftermath of his adventure. He's done time for attempted manslaughter and been convicted of theft and fraud. On the up side he's tried to organize a think-tank of sorts to find non-violent solutions to political, ethnic or religious problems (apparently he decided manslaughter doesn't solve anything) although it seems that project never managed to find its legs. He's also tried his hand at being a financial adviser. Today he's apparently living in Germany with his second wife and describes himself as a professional poker player.

(left) Mathias Rust in a Soviet courtroom. (center) His Cessna on the ground in Red Square 1987. (right) In a recent photo.