"Let Us Look into the Future": Representations of Upward Social Mobility in Soviet Space Culture
Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
History and American Studies
Department Chair or Program Director
Major or Concentration
Beginning in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, the Soviet Union initiated what would come to be known as the Space Age. This scientific endeavor produced an enormous and unprecedented cultural phenomenon identified by historians today as “space culture,” or “cosmic culture.” This “space culture” permeated both official and popular discourse in the Soviet Union from the time of Khrushchev to the fall of Communism in 1991, and an examination of how space exploration was represented in the USSR is critical to understanding the society more broadly. Most historians have understood the Khrushchev Era as a decisive break from the Stalin Era. In contrast, in this paper I show that space culture representations, as conveyed through posters and other forms of visual propaganda, daily consumer items, folk art, film and public ceremonies reveal continuities in Stalinist narratives of upward social mobility that few scholars have examined to date. These narratives center around heroic and mythic expressions of space exploration as a means of massive upward social mobility through material prosperity, education, gender equality and national prestige. Intersecting both officially-sanctioned as well as unofficial and popular discourse, representations of space exploration in the Soviet Union contain crucial insights in evaluating the role of science and ideology in culture.
Higginbotham, Richard, ""Let Us Look into the Future": Representations of Upward Social Mobility in Soviet Space Culture" (2020). Student Research Submissions. 331.