The 1960 Soviet Illustrations that Fantasized about Life in 2017

In the realm of retro-futurism, few artifacts are as intriguing as those stemming from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Locked in ideological battle and the Space Race, the USSR was a hotbed of speculative art and literature, imagining future worlds and technologies. One such fascinating cultural artifact is the 1960 filmstrip “In the Year 2017,” created by V. Strukova and V. Shevchenko under the auspices of the Soviet film studio “Diafilm.” This optimistic and politically charged projection not only reflects the zeitgeist of its time but also offers a captivating look at how the Soviets of the past envisioned our present.

A Utopian Vision Amidst Cold War Tensions

“In the Year 2017” is an enthralling mix of 1960s Soviet aspirations, technological fantasies, and Cold War propaganda. The story is set against a backdrop where the Western world has imploded due to its “imperialist” tendencies, while the Soviet Union, thriving and unchallenged, leads humanity in scientific and societal progress.

Central to this utopia is the concept of scientific prowess as the driving force behind the ideal society. The filmstrip is rife with bold predictions and imaginative solutions to global issues, from atomic trains crisscrossing continents to floating power stations controlling the weather.

The Atomic Dream and Meson Energy

Reflecting the era’s infatuation with atomic power, “In the Year 2017” envisions a world almost magical in its technological advancements. One of the more striking concepts presented is the use of “meson energy.” Mesons, subatomic particles studied extensively during the 1950s and 1960s, were once theorized as a potential energy source.

Although meson energy was later debunked, its inclusion in the narrative highlights the period’s faith in science solving all of humanity’s problems, effectively leading to a societal utopia. These theoretical advances, presented in the filmstrip, embody the spirit of an era where scientific breakthroughs were viewed as the road to a brighter future.

#1 “In the Year 2017” by V. Strukova and V. Shevchenko, illustrated by L. Smekhov, produced by the Diafilm studio in 1960.

#2 Who isn’t worried by questions about the future? What will it be like? Who doesn’t want a glance at the next century? Reading science-fiction books, and learning about new scientific research and bold new engineering plans, you can paint yourself a picture of the future.

#3 And here are those students in 2017 in a school cinema hall. This “time loop” special cinema device allows them to view how the new face of their country was created.

#4 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.

#5 “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.”

#6 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.

#7 When the cinema show has ended, the geography teacher, Nikolai Borisovich, reminds the class that tomorrow’s lesson will be a field trip to the underground city of Uglegrad, located in the Arctic Circle.

#8 The next morning, Igor is awakened by a light flick across the nose by a wall clock invented by his father as a joke. Igor’s father works as one of the dispatchers in the Central Institute for Weather Control.

#9 Mother isn’t in the kitchen, but she’s left behind a note — it’s a task for the culinary smart machine. “My favorite breakfast!” the boy exclaims, reading it.

#10 Igor carefully starts the contraption and inserts the instruction note. Fulfilling the order, invisible beams probe the contours of the letters on the note, automatic scoopers measure out what’s needed, and special knives quickly chop vegetables.

#11 Next, Mother looks in from the screen of a televideo-phone. She’s standing on the deck of a motor ship. This is where her youngest children go to kindergarten. “Did you manage okay with breakfast?” mother asks, smiling.

#12 “Are you … in the Black Sea?” Igor asks, surprised. “I’m here for work,” she says. “I’m inspecting the Black Sea’s floating kindergartens, and I also dropped in on ours. Call Dad and tell him I won’t be home until tomorrow.”

#13 A half hour later, Igor was already far from the capital. The Arctic greets the newcomers with a wild blizzard. Local workers surround the Muscovites.

#14 A hatchway opens before the students, and a wide row of escalators takes them down below.

#15 Then everyone goes for a ride through the streets of Uglegrad. The air is filled with the subtle scent of linden trees. Glancing at people, tanning on the beach beneath the quartz lights, it’s hard to believe that there is a blizzard raging above.

#16 On the outskirts, huge steel combines drill into the earth. Uglegrad’s head engineer, Vladislav Ivanovich, tells the school children all about the city’s fascinating work.

#17 “Here, beneath the earth, an eternal spring reigns,” he says with pride. “But the volatile weather up above interrupts our schedule for shipping out what we produce.”

#18 “For now, flying delivery stations are only operational temporarily,” Vladislav Ivanovich explains, “and creating the conditions for the uninterrupted delivery of goods is possible only using an intercity metro through the entire Arctic.”

#19 Here is a model of the new construction for the earther; it’s as fast as a drilling machine. This earther will work using the new meson energy, which will double excavation speeds.”

#20 “But the flying stations have a bright future in weather control. A person will be in an office and push a radio-control button, and a machine will fly to a place and put out a hurricane, eliminating a storm.”

#21 Meanwhile, back at the Central Institute for Weather Control, where Igor’s father works, there’s dire news. “We’ve just been informed,” the head meteorologist says, “that the last remaining imperialists, hiding on a remote island, have tested a banned meson weapon. During the test, there was an explosion of unprecedented strength, which destroyed the entire island and simultaneously created atmospheric disturbances around the planet.

#22 “The explosion in the South Pacific Ocean is causing terrible hurricanes and windstorms. We need to start rescuing people immediately!” the head meteorologist says decisively. “Is our flying station ready?”

#23 Evgeny Sergeyevich, Igor’s father, thinks, his mind burning with a terrifying thought: ships, floating kindergartens, and, there, his wife, and Nina, and Vitya… The hurricane was drawing nearer with every minute. And his weather station still hadn’t been outfitted with radio control.

#24 “We’re going to ask permission to evacuate people using the weather control station,” says the head meteorologist. “We’ll fly there ourselves. Of course, we’ll be risking our lives, but we have to save the children, the sailors, and the ships.”

#25 Permission is granted. And outside the windows of the flying weather station, mountainous watery pillars are already crashing down. They reach the very clouds themselves.

#26 On the television screen in the station, an image of the Black Sea coast flashes. A gigantic tornado rips off the roofs on homes, tearing apart a century-old village.

#27 The head meteorologist lowers black glass over the windshield. Technicians man the control panel. A blast of light then cuts into their eyes, even through the black glass… The station radiates waves of invisible meson energy. The emissions battle the tornadoes.

#28 When, at last, the station stops emitting meson energy, and the black glass is raised, and the tornadoes, as if by magic, have vanished. The flying weather station had saved hundreds of people.

#29 Back in the capital, despite dark skies, the people prepare to celebrate. There is extraordinary excitement in the streets. Muscovites go around snatching newspapers from each other, reading about the latest accomplishments of Soviet science in weather control.

#30 When the weather station returns to Moscow, the men are hailed as heroes, having used their weather control powers to save hundreds of lives.

#31 When Igor’s father lands and exits the flying weather station, he gives his son the longest hug of their lives.

#32 That evening, Evgeny Sergeyevich turns on the televideo-phone and places a call to the “Kakhetiya” ship. His wife then smiles from the screen, and Nina stands near her, shouting, “Daddy, we had such a warm, warm little rain today!”

Avatar of Matthew Green

Written by Matthew Green

Andrew's writing is grounded in research and provides unique insights into the cultural and historical contexts of vintage pieces. Through his work, he aims to foster a greater appreciation for the value and beauty of vintage items.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *