Space travel was at the center of the Soviet psyche, and key to the communist vision of the future. Humans would one day expand across the whole cosmos, exploring and building among the stars, and the socialist countries, particularly the USSR, would lead the way. All humanity would eventually join hands in plunging into the great unknown beyond our world. Propaganda posters are the most obvious reflection of this vision, extolling the glories of the Communist Party and the imminent conquest of space, but there was also an entire genre of Soviet space music. Today we will explore the weird and wonderful world of cosmonaut songs.
Let’s start with one of the most famous cosmonaut songs: “Fourteen Minutes to Start.” This was, according to sources on YouTube, the official anthem of the Soviet cosmonaut program, and it is indeed a cheerful tune, with lyrics about getting ready for a space voyage. Check it out below:
It’s kind of melancholy, honestly, when one considers that the Soviet manned space program never made it beyond low Earth orbit, and that the Soviet Union itself later collapsed under the weight of its dysfunctional communist system.
Also melancholy is the song “And on Mars There Will be Apple Blossoms.” This appeared in the movie A Dream Come True, which I reviewed some time ago. It’s not as bombastic as some of the other songs in this post; rather, it’s intimate, personal, and emotional, expressing longing for a better future. You can listen to it here:
Now, as for the more upbeat side of things, we have “The Constellation of Gagarin,” written in 1971 by Nikolai Dobronravov. This is a heroic march, celebrating the spirit of Yuri Gagarin and the inevitability of the Soviet conquest of space. As the lyrics go, “The boundless sky is closer and closer to us / and there will be no end of great deeds. / The Constellation of Gagarin rises above the world.”
My personal favorite is “Glory to the one who look forward!”, composed in 1962 by Aleksandra Pakhmutova and Nikolai Dobronravov (evidently he had a prolific career). It’s a stirring, upbeat song, celebrating the glorious communist future that never arrived. Unlike “The Constellation of Gagarin” it incorporates a full-on chorus. Enjoy!
An English translation of some of the lyrics:
The banner of Lenin is above us. We have come to build happiness! We write with young hands The biography of the Earth! Glory to those who look forward! Glory to those who go forward! Our path is from the present To the starry future! Our path is from the present To the years ahead!
Beautiful stuff. The song references cosmonauts Gagarin and Titov, too, anchoring it firmly to those early, forward-looking days of the Space Age. I wasn’t even alive back then, and I’m nostalgic for things that never came to pass. Back in high school I went so far as to carve the refrain into a plate I made in my ceramics class. “Glory to the Ones Who Look Forward” is a masterpiece, and it has a special place in my heart!
Now, my list here is by no means exhaustive. I only selected my favorite four songs out of the dozens available in the dusty corners of YouTube, and I’m sure that still others were composed and then lost to history. I invite you to explore the internet for yourself and see what you can turn up; hopefully, my post got you thinking about this often-overlooked genre of music, and illuminated a fascinating aspect of space history!