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Cosmic Plots in Early Soviet Culture: Flights of Fancy to the Moon and Mars

In: Canadian-American Slavic Studies
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This article explores two classics of Soviet science fiction – Konstantin Tsiolkovskii’s Beyond the Earth (1918) and Aleksei Tolstoi’s Aelita (1923) – in their related historical contexts. Both had their origins in the popular nineteenth-century “cosmic romance,” owing to their staple characters, settings, and plots. These were extraordinary adventures into the heavens, modern signposts of how the fantastic was becoming real. Yet both novels also became leading texts in the genre of Stalinist Socialist Realism, stories that made “fairy tales come true.” Tsiolkovskii and Tolstoi both appealed to the Bolshevik Revolution as a radical break in time here on earth, much as they predicted that the rocket would become a radical new means to reach beyond into outer space. They centered their stories on real science and technology, articles of comprehension and anticipation. They created characters that revealed the utopian potential of human beings to create new regimes of equality and freedom. Part inheritance from abroad, part innovation at home, the cosmic romance in their hands became a successful medium to situate and justify the Soviet experience.

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