Soviet Space Mythologies

Public Images, Private Memories, and the Making of a Cultural Identity

Based on prodigious research, and framed within interdisciplinary theoretical constructs, Slava Gerovitch has written a fascinating cultural history of Soviet space mythology and technology. This is a work of profound importance in the cultural history of technology. Elegantly written, with cogent analysis of the process of myth-making, this work dramatically deepens our understanding of the Soviet space project writ large.
The Russian Review

Winner, 2021 Gardner-Lasser Aerospace History Literature Award
Shortlist, 2016 Historia Nova Prize

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From the start, the Soviet human space program had an identity crisis. Were cosmonauts heroic pilots steering their craft through the dangers of space, or were they mere passengers riding safely aboard fully automated machines? Tensions between Soviet cosmonauts and space engineers were reflected not only in the internal development of the space program but also in Soviet propaganda that wavered between praising daring heroes and flawless technologies. Soviet Space Mythologies explores the history of the Soviet human space program within a political and cultural context, giving particular attention to the two professional groups—space engineers and cosmonauts—who secretly built and publicly represented the program. Drawing on recent scholarship on memory and identity formation, this book shows how both the myths of Soviet official history and privately circulating counter-myths have served as instruments of collective memory and professional identity. These practices shaped the evolving cultural image of the space age in popular Soviet imagination. Soviet Space Mythologies provides a valuable resource for scholars and students of space history, history of technology, and Soviet (and post-Soviet) history.

about the author

Slava Gerovitch

Slava Gerovitch is a lecturer in the history of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of From Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics and Voices of the Soviet Space Program: Cosmonauts, Soldiers, and Engineers Who Took the USSR into Space.

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Slava Gerovitch