Can Soviets Predict the Future?

In 1960, Diafilm, a Soviet movie studio, released this filmstrip entitled “In the Year of 2017,” seen below. It shows images of what they believed the world would be like in 2017, after the Western imperialists were destroyed and the Soviet’s had perfected their knowledge of science and technology. There are atomic trains and flying power stations that control climate. It follows the story of a boy, Igor, and his family, as they travel, experiencing all the riches and achievements of the Soviet Union. I could go on and on about what is in all the frames, but I’ll let y’all explore the various options for viewing the different slides.

Some of the predictions are relatively accurate. You see in one frame, Igor talking to his family in some type of video chat, coming from a cruise ship on the Black sea, which foreshadows the development of Skype, FaceTime, and other video chatting features. This article shows all the slides with descriptions in English.

As I thought about how this type of technological based propaganda would come about, I thought of all of the efforts by the Soviet Union that were put into the space program, “the space program embodied the strength and weaknesses of the Soviet approach to technology.” The Soviet’s were the first to send a human to space on April 12, 1961, making them confident in their technological abilities and national abilities.

I found this propaganda to be so interesting, not only because it’s 2017 currently, but because of how effective this type of propaganda must have been to promote Soviet nationalism. This showed the Soviet people, and possibly the rest of the world, how highly the Soviet’s thought of themselves and their technological capabilities, making the Soviet people feel as though their country was on a long road to prosperity while they were in somewhat turbulent times. “The two decades after the Khrushchev’s removal were a marvel of contradictions — economic decline amid apparent prosperity, détente and confrontation, harsh repression and a burgeoning human rights movement,” this shows what place the Soviet’s were in during the time this filmstrip was made (Freeze 434-435). I also just find it so interesting to see how people envisioned the future and how different it is from what the future is actually like. People are constantly looking forward to the future and how great it will be with awesome technology and happier lives, but it is never what it is made out to be and history does not erase itself. Since it is 2017, we know what 2017 is like and that this is not accurate. The West is not destroyed and the Soviets have not taken over and neither has their technology. There is still turbulent relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, largely due to what happened in the 1960s and the Cold War.

Sources: (full film strip here. not in video form)


Freeze text: Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a history. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 1997. Print.


9 thoughts on “Can Soviets Predict the Future?

  1. Hey Johanna, such a cool couple of sources you’ve found here. I too find this propaganda to be interesting, especially since nation-states never predict their own demises like what occurred with the Soviet Union here. Additionally, in one of the film strips, I believe I saw a picture of a train passage that was built across the Bering Strait that would have connected the Soviet Union to the United States in the strip’s context; regardless, I remember watching a History Channel show on a possible project that would build a bridge across the Bering Strait for car travel, and how it would likely be one of the most expensive projects the human race had every undertaken. Great job!


  2. This is so funny! I think that this kind of plays into the emergence of science fiction into the arts in the coming years. A lot of literature, movies, and media were based around the idea of the future and what is to come as a result of the Cold War. I am pretty sure Fahrenheit 451 was written around this time as well as 2001: A Space Odessy. Fahrenheit 451 seems to play on the future and what the government will do with its people as a result of the Cold War. But it is funny that just as the US is creating these works that play in favor of the US governing structure, the Soviets also have their own science fiction propaganda. Great post!


  3. This was a very influential decade for the Soviets in technology and innovation. Not only did this propaganda seem to build enthusiasm domestically, but it had an impact abroad, specifically in regard to space travel, on the African countries that were becoming independent and interested in a socialist agenda. I really like that you focused on the filmstrip but also connected it to a broader discussion of propaganda and the future.


  4. It always amazes me seeing these archived predictions of the future. Really cool sources you have here with very interesting predictions. Your point on the power of propaganda and promoting nationalism is spot on and definitely a key tool. Great post!


  5. I think this is an awesome post, especially because it is 2017. I love seeing projections of the future and how far they end up being from reality. I also think this post shows us the power of propaganda and how it is able to bring a group of people together to support a national goal. Great job!


  6. Thanks for including links to view the translated slides! I like your point on the fact that Soviet success hinges on Western imperialism being destroyed. It seems like they used the West as an excuse for their setbacks, and that once the West is defeated then the Soviet Union can finally succeed. Great post!


  7. This is such a cool post! You always hear about what people from the 20th century thought the present would be like, but this shows what the soviets thought about what society would look like today. The one thing that struck me was the confidence they had in being able to defeat the “capitalist west”. They had complete faith that they would be able to defeat the US.


  8. This is so cool! I’m honestly amazed at the coincidence that we are studying this in the year they predicted. It seems to me to be a great piece of propaganda aimed at giving the people hope in the future (or pushing the soviet ‘long-con’), and pacifying them in the present. It is interesting to me that this film strip can almost be seen in the same light as ‘Back to the Future’ with its optimistic depictions of American society in 2015.


  9. This was a very interesting post to read. It’s funny to think that Russians predicted atomic trains and flying power stations by the year 2017. It’s interesting to see another culture’s perspective on the future, and compare it the predictions that Westerners have for the future.


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