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How the Soviets in 1960 imagined 2017: Interstellar travel, underground cities, and socialism everywhere

The world's first artificial satellite. Sputnik I, launched by the Soviet Union from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 4, 1957. (OFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Humans can fly to the stars and harness the energy of the Earth's core. Mankind has figured out how to control the weather. The Soviet Union is preparing for the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

And the imperialists? Don't worry: The remaining few of them have been driven off to a remote Pacific island.

This is the vision of 2017 laid out in a 1960 Soviet filmstrip that surfaced on the Internet at the turn of the new year, plucked from the family collection of St. Petersburg resident Sergei Pozdnyakov. Entitled “In the Year 2017,” the filmstrip recounts a day in the life of Igor, a boy who lives in a futuristic Moscow that reflects the idealistic and ideological mind-set of the authors — who, of course, had no idea their country would cease to exist in 1991.

The 45-pane filmstrip evokes a poignant note about the meaning of 2017 as Russia prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. President Vladimir Putin, who has overtly stated his aversion to revolution, has been trying to come up with a way to celebrate the one that defined modern Russia. It's a far cry from what Soviet leaders thought this year would be.

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Back in the U.S.S.R., the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution was going to be a great time, a moment to savor all the achievements of socialism. And if you go by the imaginations of V. Strukova and V. Shevchenko, the authors of “In the Year 2017,” these achievements were awesome.

Yes, as in all futuristic visions posited by Soviet and American dreamers of the 1960s, space ships can take you to the stars — Alpha Centauri is a popular destination. But the really cool advancements in the year 2017 are on the Earth's surface, and under it. The "imperialists" of the West have destroyed themselves, the Soviet Union has created “atomic trains” that traverse the Bering Strait, and the dream of reversing the course of great Siberian rivers has been realized. The Ob and the Yenisei flow into the Black Sea.

Scientists are even perfecting flying power stations that can control the planet’s weather, and Igor's dad works at the Institute of Weather Management. A dam across the Bering Strait to Alaska has halted the currents from the Arctic Ocean, vastly improving the harsh climate of the Far East. Climate change is a good thing, and Soviet achievements are making that happen, too.

But that doesn't mean all is perfect. The cutting edge of technology is “meson energy,” a theoretical type of atomic energy, and one day Igor's dad gets some bad news at the weather control institute! The last imperialists have tested a forbidden meson weapon — Oh, those imperialists! But the test backfires. The explosion not only blew up the island and the thieving imperialists — yay! — it has created a noxious cloud that threatens to blot out life everywhere!

Igor's dad thinks of his wife and children. And the people of Moscow! They were preparing for the 100th anniversary by grabbing newspapers and reading about the "latest achievements of the Soviet science of controlling the weather."


Anyway, the black cloud threatens them, too. Igor's dad springs into action. He gets permission to fly one of the newfangled weather-control stations, and darned if he doesn't fly that thing right to the heart of the black muck, destroying it and saving the world!

The station lands, Moscow celebrates, and dad hugs Igor like he'll never let go. Another happy ending in the socialist paradise of 2017.

Read more:

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