Soviet Union Leaves America in the Dust…Or on the Earth

This post was awarded a “red star” from the editorial team.

“Mikhail Khmelko: Greeting the First Cosmonaut Back to Earth (1961)”

During the space race, the Soviet Union successfully sent a cosmonaut named Iurii Gagarin to space on April 12, 1961. This accomplishment marked a stamp in the history of the Soviet Union. Sending an individual to space proved that the Soviet Union could accomplish many scientific and technological advancements. There was much praise for the Soviet Union’s accomplishment. Articles on the Soviet Union’s success in space reveal the tensions of the space race with America. The articles also show the strength of Soviet nationalism as the country took pride in standing at the forefront of science and technology.

“The Country Glorifies Its Hero”

Articles and music from the 1960’s, during the Soviet Union’s accomplishments in space, reveal the pride in Soviet science and technology and the tension of the space race. In a post-flight conversation between German Titov and Krushchev on August 7, 1961, the two discuss Titov’s great accomplishment in circuiting the earth seventeen and a half times in “twenty-five hours and some minutes.” Kruschev discusses how Titov has “fulfilled mankind’s dream” and how he is proud that “a Soviet man, a Communist” has accomplished such a task. Numerous Soviet Union sources claim that the Soviets success in space is for the good of all mankind. In the song, Gagarin’s March (1961), are included the lyrics, “No, not for nothing was Gagarin first in space, He opened new paths for us all.” Many in the Soviet Union advocated that the accomplishments of the Soviet Union were going to make the world a better place. In the article, “Man Will Conquer Space,” the author describes how the Soviets are making so much progress because communism is what fosters the growth of science and technology. The author also states that the accomplishment of the Soviets taking on space is fueled by their goal to make a better life for man on Mother Earth. The author is stating that the Soviets are successful in space because they have the proper government system and the goals for doing so. If this was not to be considered as a jab to the American capitalist system and the U.S’s failure to achieve success in space at the rate the Soviets were, the last sentence of the document is clearly a poke at the Americans. In the last sentences of the article, the author notes that the Americans have yet to put on “a satellite weighing two tons.” This suggests that the Soviet Union is better and more advanced than America and their capitalist system. In another articles, “Space, Man, and Peace,” an author also explains how the Soviet success in space reveals that the “flagship [American capitalism] is at the mercy of the waves, because its sails are not catching the winds of the 20th century.” This reveals the tension in the space race between the Soviets and the Americans. The Soviet Union’s success in space bolstered Soviet pride in communism and leaving the Americans behind in scientific and technological advancements.

The Soviet Union took the lead in space and this helped generated pride among the leaders and citizens in the communist system and the country. The images from the early 1960’s reveals this pride among the country in their success in science and technology. However, tension increased between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as the documents reveal the belief, among some, that communism was the system of the 20th century and the Soviets were doing a service to mankind in their achievements in space, unlike the U.S.


“First Cosmonaut.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed November 1, 2014.

“Congratulations to a Spaceman.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed November 1, 2014.

Shevlyakov, I. “Man Will Conquer Space.” The Current Digest of the Russian Press 20,  no.12 (June  15, 1960): 12-45. Accessed November 1, 2014.

Gribachev, Nikolai. “Space, Man, and Peace.” The Current Digest of the Russian Press 32,  no.13 (September  06, 1961): 21-22. Accessed November 1, 2014.

Labkovskii, Eduard. Gagarin’s March. (1961). Audio.

First Cosmonaut Image retrieved from:

Newspaper Image retrieved from:

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3 Responses to Soviet Union Leaves America in the Dust…Or on the Earth

  1. leahw93 says:

    I wrote about almost the exact same topic last year! Another song on Seventeen Moments called “Glory to the Forward Looking” also fits really well with this post…the Soviets were all about moving forward, especially in science and technology, and they made sure that the average citizen realized that he could help with every step. You didn’t have to be rich or famous – if you worked hard and focused on Soviet goals, you could become a heroic astronaut too! Interesting post and nice job fitting a lot of sources together.

  2. jslattery says:

    I think a lot of the early Soviet successes have to do with the fact that the Soviets “inherited” some of the German infrastructure from WW2, while America got most of the scientists and therefore would see their success later than the Soviets.

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