Anatoly Zak: The Russian Silver Age

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 1.31.50 PMAnatoly ~1 hour into episode 2427 of The Space Show:

“This frontier mentality, it exists in Russia as well. You’ll remember, Russia was actually built – over many, many years of its history it was actually built by movement of people from the west to the east. So it was exactly opposite direction like for the United States, all the explorers were moving from the West. Here it was all the explorers were moving from the European part to the Asian. And it was going on much longer than the United States. This expansion started, back, almost in Medieval times, when Russia was still fighting Mongols and Tartars and they were expanding into the East. One by one they were crushing all the kingdoms in the East. All the remnants of this giant Golden Herd, this Mongol empire. And they were slowly taking this land going East until they reached this area where they are right now building this launch site, many time belts, time zones away, from Moscow. So this expansion over land was going on much longer than in the United States. So it is sort of in the dreams of Russians. Much more extensive than in the United States. The length of Russian history is just staggering. Russia is almost more than one thousand years old.

Second, especially during the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century – this educated class, which was extremely sort of world-oriented, this very cosmopolitan people who were thinking about the world, about the design of the universe – they were philosophers, they were revolutionaries, they were musicians – during this period, they call it Russian Silver Age of culture and Russian science. That’s exactly when Konstantin Tsiolkovsky started his research – and at this time he is one of the people who embodies this idea of space exploration, however, many Russian scientists, and even Russian artists, they were thinking about the idea of the universe, an idea of building a better world, so, this world in my opinion of course came together in the thirties, when, first this German societies for rocket development and space exploration were formed, and of course, because at this time there were so many ties between Germany and Russia, it was really easily caught up in the Soviet Union, and of course this revolutionary idea of building a better world, fueled this idea – there was this famous novel called Aelita – that was about this revolution on Mars – so all of this sort of came together with technology, philosophy, history, and this forward movement – building all this progressive, new technology, exploration was developing very actively at that time. That was very fertile ground for all the space exploration gigs, who started exactly like they did in Germany or the United States, which was just small groups of people who were just enthusiasts of this idea.

But then the government, as soon as the government saw the military importance of the – and saw the potential in the military field, they heavily invested into those organizations. They took over pretty much, they militarized them, and, made them work to develop weapons. And of course now we had world war two, all those German missiles, that of course that exploded and all those Russian engineers who were excited about space, as soon as they saw there was a way to implement their dreams using military funding and military backing they immediately jumped onto this idea, and, they used the military missiles as a cover – but as we know from the biography of Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev – all they were interested in was space exploration, they could not care less about ballistic missiles or all this military weaponry but they wanted to use the military to build their space dream. There is still a well educated class in the United States and in Russia which is interested in exploring the universe, building technology to go into space, and those people are still there.”