Asif Siddiqi on Cosmic Enthusiasm in Bolshevik Russia

Talk, in English, Paul-Desmarais Theater, 20 February 2020, 6:30pm

1920s Soviet culture participated in an international movement of utopian cosmic imagination through a network of artists, architects, amateur enthusiasts, and members of the general public. Tapping into the millenarian worldview of the Bolsheviks, the allure of the cosmos connected figures like the Suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich, writer Alexei Tolstoy, filmmaker Yakov Protazanov, and American rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard. It also drew from nineteenth-century mysticism, pre-Revolutionary avant-gardes, and American Modernist sensibilities. This talk will trace manifestations of cosmic themes through art, architecture, fiction, film, and exhibition.

This lecture is part of Search for a new New World. The more frustrated you are on earth, the more you hope for in space. Moving beyond the terrestrial focus of the exhibition Building a new New World, four case studies from before the revolution to the space race look to Russian sci fi to probe individual hopes and ideas about new societal organization. Inherently experimental, sci-fi stories and films could reflect on what was and wasn’t possible in Russian reality and think beyond it.

Asif Siddiqi is Professor of History at Fordham University and specializes in the history of science and technology and modern Russian history. His interests include the history of Soviet science and technology, popular science in Russian culture, and the origins and evolution of ideas about space exploration in Russian and Soviet culture. He is the author of The Red Rockets’ Glare: Spaceflight and the Soviet Imagination, 1857-1957 (2010).

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