This past Thursday we broke up into groups to explore different topics regarding the changes and events going on within the Soviet Union during the sixties. My group in particular was to investigate the conversations between Khrushchev and Gagarin after he had just landed from the first manned flight into space. While that conversation seemed basically to be a public relations fluff type piece with the leader of the Soviet Union asking questions such as “Tell me, Yury Alexeyevich, do you have a wife, children?” and “Are your parents, you mother and father living? Where do they live now, what do they do?” the more in-depth aspect were the constant mentions on how his actions would speak louder than words to the the rest of the world in regards to how advanced Soviet technology and education was in comparison, especially when comparing to the United States. Exploring beyond this single document, into places such as the 1961 section of Seventeen Moments on the First Cosmonaut you find that there is more to the story than just smart scientists and a good education system that allowed the Soviets to explore space at a much faster pace (at first) than the United States. In fact, just as the United States did, it relied heavily on the technology and resources that the military had been developing for long-range missiles. The fact that it is heavily relied upon by the military work and not pure independent breakthroughs can be seen as you explore into even more detailed bits about his flight on the site Russia Space History: First Flight. This site exposes the bits that were kept covered up until after the fall of the Soviet Union, such as the fact that Gagarin was not told of his current capsules status because of lack of communication between Ultra-shortwave ground stations, particularly the one in Eastern Russia/Siberia area. Although the Soviets presented this flight to the world as flawless, the landing was extremely off, the decent and service modules detached much later than planned, and the fact that after the engine braking occurred there was a period when the spacecraft began to spin around at very high speeds, jeopardizing the safety of the mission and the Cosmonaut. I think this first milestone in manned spaceflight regardless of who had actually done it, the Soviets or United States had the chances of being riddled with errors such as these and it it very interesting that it took many decades for the truth to be told. The broader implications of what these accomplishments did were more important than the tiny details that at any moment had the possibility to turn them into sheer disasters for the world to see.
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In the Seventeen Moments in Soviet History page on 1956, one particular moment that although deserves recognition in its importance is just too late in some degree to actually pull together the country through words along with stopping many Western communist movements to be abandoned. This very moment I am talking about is Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, which was given out to the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party within the Soviet Union. The speech contained an enormous amount of criticism, denunciation of acts, and shedding light to many of the things Stalin had kept wrong and done during the entire terror of his rule. He explains such things as how unprepared the Soviet Union was for the attack by Hitler and the Germans as being Stalin’s fault completely. He was particularly harsh in spelling out the fact that “Stalin acts for everybody, he does reckon with anyone. He asks no one for advice. Everything is shown to the people in this false light.”[Full Speech] He wanted to show the Party Leaders, but not the public since this was a closed speech kept in secret only to those in the highest of political rankings, that he acknowledged the actual work that the bureaucracy along with the military leaders did in pushing the country through the horrors of the Second World War and also helping bring out more power to the Soviet Union as a country within the international community. Stalin focused too much on himself as a leader, as what Khrushchev repeatedly calls, the individual, as a weakness in the actual Soviet system in a way to bring to show that the great leader whom many Soviets adored, actually went against many of the principles that communism consisted of without any proper checks on his power. All these revelations, whether already known, or new to some of the party leaders, were still a shock in regards to the fact that they were admitted by the highest leader of the communist country. It seems like an attempt to instill trust in those high leaders to prevent any overthrows, however any further examination shows that this speech backfired in actually bonding the nations leaders better and more a speech just admitting to the horrors of Stalinism with a hope or sort of promise that the new regime would not continue such trends. Later points in history would show whether this would stay true or not…
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