“Glory to the Conquerors of the Universe!”: Propaganda Posters from the Soviet Space Race (1958–1963)

conquer space

Walk­ing around L.A. just yes­ter­day, I noticed new ban­ners embla­zoned with illus­tra­tions tout­ing sub­way sta­tions now under con­struc­tion. In bold, bright col­ors, they deliv­er clear, ambi­tious imagery of a bright future ahead: ded­i­cat­ed builders, focused stu­dents, noble work­ing com­muters, surg­ing trains. Why, I thought, those look a bit like Sovi­et pro­pa­gan­da! I had no polit­i­cal com­par­isons in mind, only aes­thet­ic ones, and this Retro­naut post shows off many per­fect exam­ples of the Cold War-era Russ­ian posters the Los Ange­les Metro’s brought to my mind. They cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion by exud­ing even more intense sci­en­tif­ic, tech­no­log­i­cal, edu­ca­tion­al, and social opti­mism — and doing so in even more visu­al detail — than I’d remem­bered.

And boy, speak­ing of ambi­tion: “From student’s mod­els to space­ships!” “To the Sun! To the stars!” “Glo­ry to the con­querors of the uni­verse!” Chil­dren inclined to accept these glo­ri­ous slo­gans and the rap­tur­ous imagery they accom­pa­ny could not pos­si­bly fail to believe that, thor­ough­ly edu­cat­ed by their coun­try, their gen­er­a­tion would go on to ush­er in a new galaxy-span­ning order of peace, pros­per­i­ty, and social­ism. Yet we in the rest of the world now know of the bore­dom, cyn­i­cism, and oppres­sion that attend­ed many Sovi­et cit­i­zens’ every­day lives. A Cold War-spe­cial­ist col­lege his­to­ry pro­fes­sor of mine liked to tell a sto­ry about a trip to Moscow he took in the six­ties, on which he kept see­ing ado­les­cents with noth­ing more pro­duc­tive to do than open­ly chug­ging vod­ka on street cor­ners.  Yet, see­ing posters like these, you sim­ply want to believe, just like I want to believe in the exten­sion of Los Ange­les’ sub­way — which, at times, seems about as plau­si­ble as the con­quer­ing of out­er space.

“From student’s mod­els to space­ships!”


“Glo­ry to the work­ers of Sovi­et sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy!”


“I am hap­py — this is my work join­ing the work of my repub­lic”


“In the 20th cen­tu­ry the rock­ets race to the stars”

Vis­it Retro­naut for many more space pro­pa­gan­da posters from the Sovi­et era.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“First Orbit”: Cel­e­brat­ing 50th Anniver­sary of Yuri Gagaran’s Space Flight

How the CIA Secret­ly Fund­ed Abstract Expres­sion­ism Dur­ing the Cold War

How to Spot a Com­mu­nist Using Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism: A 1955 Man­u­al from the U.S. Mil­i­tary

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • carolad says:

    We are see­ing pro­pa­gan­da pop up every­where these days. It is appear­ing in our schools, which I find par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­turb­ing, our polit­i­cal lead­ers are push­ing it etc. It seems that we have for­got­ten about many of the things we so dis­liked and feared about the Com­mu­nist par­ty. I see far to many things occur­ring that are so redo­lent of com­mu­nism. It seems we are deter­mined to go down a path we fought so hard to keep out of our coun­try.

  • Youcef says:

    I would like to use some of these images for the cred­its of my short film. Do you know if these posters are copy­right­ed or are they in the pub­lic domain?
    Thank you!

  • Paul Watson says:

    I think it’s easy to over­look that many of us, no mat­ter what polit­i­cal or reli­gious envi­ronem­net we live in, can find our­selves influ­enced by pro­pogan­da of one form or anoth­er — much of it sub­lim­i­nal and not eas­i­ly recog­nised. To some degree news­pa­pers are that, influec­ing peo­ples atti­tudes and
    opin­ions, but we the pub­lic just don’t see the ‘agen­da’ behind it!

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