How did the people of the Soviet Union expect to live in the year 2017? A filmstrip from 1960 shows that their expectations were pretty similar to the futuristic predictions of Americans. With a touch more Communism, of course.
Matt Baillie from the Facebook group Soviet Visuals sent me a tip about the retro-futuristic filmstrip, which would have been played through a Diafilm in the 1960s—a kind of home slide projector that was incredibly popular in the Soviet Union.
The illustrations were created by L. Smekhov and written by V. Strukova and V. Shevchenko. And it’s incredible how closely they mirror what was going on in the United States as far as technological dreams were concerned.
I’ve included select images from what appears to be the original source (Sergey Pozdnyakov) below, along with some of the translations from the Moscow Times, which our own Russian-speaking editor confirmed are accurate.
Someone also did a video version if you’d like to watch it that way. It has jazzy music and star wipes if that’s your thing. Otherwise, some of the stills are below.
The first panel reads “In the Year 2017", naturally.
One of the panels shows students of the year 2017 using a “special cinema device” which allows them to look back at how the Soviet Union was created and evolved. Interestingly, the illustration looks like it was almost certainly inspired by the Futurama exhibit from the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Visitors to the fair could look at the futuristic cities of tomorrow in the Futurama ride, not unlike the Soviet kids above.
Much like the dreams that were sold in the United States at midcentury, everything in the future Soviet Union would be atomic powered! Including the trains!
From the Moscow Times:
The children hear the voice of the narrator: “And here is the dam across the Bering Strait. Do you see what’s whizzing over it? Atomic-powered trains. The dam blocked the cold water currents from the Arctic Ocean and the climate in the Far East improved.
The drilling of the future will be advanced as well. “And then, the earth surface kind of melted away, and you could see what was happening in the bowels of the earth. In the depths of volcanos, underground boat-moles made out of special heat-resistant steel were ripping mines towards eternal sources of energy.”
And there’s amazing space travel, of course.
From the Moscow Times:
Then in the film, the Earth itself disappears. In outer space, almost at the speed of light, photon interstellar rocketships set off for the nearest and faraway planetary system, Alpha Centauri.
The pictures of space travel are decidedly Soviet, but Americans will perhaps recognize a hint of Chesley Bonestell from the mid-1950s.
We meet a young boy named Igor in the strip, whose father works in weather control. Weather control, of course, was something that both the United States and the Soviet Union obsessed over during the Cold War as a potential weapon.
Above we see Igor inserting an “instruction note” into the computerized kitchen, which makes his breakfast. After the machine reads the instructions, “automatic scoopers measure out what’s needed, and special knives quickly chop vegetables.”
If this all looks similar to the Jetsons, that’s because it is. And this was produced a full two years before the Jetsons would air on American TV.