Quotes RED FILES - The Book Biographies Interviews References Maps Bibliography Russian Archives Online

The single best book in English on the Russian and American sides of the space race. Well-written, judicious, balanced, incredibly interesting, this book is a model of science reporting and writing about science at its very best.

William E. Burrows, This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age (New York: Random House, 1998).

A recent provocative interpretation of the failures of the Korolev and Soviet systems that emphasizes the ironies of Soviets behaving more like Capitalist competitors and Americans following a central-planning, command economy approach to reaching the moon is, Bill Keller, "Eclipsed," The New York Times Magazine June 27, 1999 pp.30-37,52,55,61,63

An amazingly useful online resource, complete with a very complete index, timeline, and hard-to-find in English technical drawings is: The Encyclopedia of Astronautica.


A wonderful account of the Chief Designer based on long study and dogged research can be found in: James Harford, Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997). A bi-lingual history of the design and production bureau begun by Korolev that contains some unique photographs is, Iu.P. Semenov, S.P.Korolev Space Corporation Energia (Moscow: RKK, 1994).

James E. Oberg, is the Dean of American experts on Soviet space efforts. His early book are very good, his latter books take advantages of the opening of Soviet secrets during the glasnost [candor, openness] era begun by Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1985 which continues in fits and starts today.

James E. Oberg, Red Star in Orbit: The Inside Story of Soviet Failures and Triumphs in Space (New York: Random House, 1981)

James E. Oberg, Uncovering Soviet Disasters: Exploring the Limits of Glasnost (New York: Random House, 1988)

A dated, but still interesting account by a Russian is: Leonid Vladimirov, The Russian Space Bluff: Inside the Soviet Drive to the Moon (New York: Dial Press, 1973).

Better on the American side than the Soviet. Still an interesting work Walter A. McDougall, ...The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (New York: Basic Books, 1985). A good counterbalance is the more crisply written account by the talented journalist Nicholas Daniloff, The Kremlin and the Cosmos (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972). A stilted, but sometimes-unexpected counterpoint also is Evgeny Riabchikov, Russians in Space . There is a good summary of salient events in both, Phillip Clark, The Soviet Manned Spaced Program (New York: Orion Books, 1988) and Brian Harvey, Race into Space: The Soviet Space Program (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1988). An interesting book, stronger on subsequent events than those of the Korolev era is John Rhea, ed., Roads to Space: An Oral History of the Soviet Space Program (New < biblio >). Another American expert on Soviet space produced an important book of a more limited scope. Nicholas Johnson, Handbook of Soviet Lunar and Planetary Exploration (San Diego: American Astronomical Society, 1979). For many years during the 1980s Johnson produced a very handy volume, The Soviet Year in Space published annually in Colorado Springs, Colorado by Teledyne Brown.

There is some good basic information as well as some useful links on the Space Program of the Soviet Union site:


A new Russian site that is good on contemporary issues and sometimes is useful for understanding earlier era is:


Since the East-West rivalry often intrudes on space race information a useful site from neutral Sweden is Sven's Space Place:


On the impact of Sputnik, the papers presented at a conference dedicated to its 40th anniversary

Also useful is the more synthesized, Robert A. Devine, The Sputnik Challenge (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). Two good insiders view on Sputnik's impact on the upper reaches of the U.S. Government are: James Killian, Jr. Sputnik, Scientists, and Eisenhower (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1982); George B. Kistiakowsky, A Scientist at the White House (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976). A more specific perspective can be found in, Rip Bulkeley, The Sputnik Crisis and Early United States Space Policy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991). A good "time machine" that gives a feel for the shock waves Sputnik generated can be found at:

An important book for seeing over the Kremlin walls, for those lacking superman's x-ray vision, to get a real sense of what the Communist party bosses were thinking is, Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov, Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996). Always fascinating yet tinged with self-justification as well of the bombastic overstatement that made him so much fun to follow is the memoir that Nikita Khrushchev tape recorded (on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder).The tapes were then smuggled to the west and translated by the current Assistant Secretary of State, Strobe Talbot. The volume that touches on Korolev is:

Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament translated and edited by Strobe Talbot (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1974). To see the Kremlin from above and to get a picture of the capabilities of spy satellites, their camera technology, and history visit the National Security Archives:


A good account of the early days of rocket building and dreaming about space is:

Frank H. Winter, Prelude to the Space Age/The Rocket Societies: 1924-1940 (Washington D.C. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983). A terrific account of the role of revolutionary visions, including science fiction and utopian writing about flying and space played in Russia, can be found in, Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

A very uncritical English biography of Tsiolkovsky came out just before Sputnik made the west recognize Russian space expertise: A.A.Kosmodemiansky, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, His Life and Works (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1956). Growing interest in him prompted NASA to translate his works. B.N. Iur'ev and A.A. Blagonravov, editors, The Collected Works of K.E. Tsiolkovskiy (Washington D.C. NASA, 1965) TT F-236, 237, 238.

A superior general history of Soviet and post-Soviet affairs that takes into account the most recent western scholarship is Ronald G. Suny, The Soviet Experiment: Russia, The USSR and The Successor States. A good general work on the interrelationship between science and Communist politics is Stephen Fortescue, The Communist Party and Soviet Science. Another treatment of the same material is, Peter Kneen, Soviet Scientists and the State (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984). The one man who has done more to advance the history of Soviet Science in America is Loren R. Graham. A good quick summary of this subject is Loren R. Graham, Science in Russia and the Soviet Union: A Short History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993). His book on the impact of science and technology on Soviet society is equally useful. Loren R. Graham (ed.) Science and the Soviet Social Order (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990). Those interested in how Marxism influenced Soviet science would do well to read, Loren R. Graham, Science, Philosophy, and Human Behavior in the Soviet Union (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987). An important work on the problems scientists encountered in recent decades is Harley D. Balzer, Soviet Science on the Edge of Reform. Balzer is at work on a long anticipated study of the history of engineers in Russian and Soviet society. The very well connected former dissident, Zhores Medvedev, wrote a very insightful book, Soviet Science (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978) his twin brother wrote one of the key books on the sins of Stalinism. Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989).

The history of repression under Stalin and the Gulag system is enormous. Besides Medvedev's seminal work key books include Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin's Purges of Thirties and Robert Tucker, Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928-1941. America's leading expert on the KGB is Amy Knight, a Senior Research Analyst at the Library of Congress. For an overview see, Amy Knight, The KGB: Police and Politics in the Soviet Union (Boston: Unwin/Hyman 1990). A new important work that looks at the revolution from above and the people below, including a good account of the cult of aviators in the 1930s is, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). The life work of Noble Literature Prize winner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, built on accounts he gathered from his fellow zeks, prisoners in the Gulag makes daunting reading, The Gulag Archipelago: An Experiment in Literary Investigation translated by Thomas P. Whitney 3 vols. (New York: Harper & Row,1974-78). His account of life in sharashka forms the core of his great novel, The First Circle. Less well known, but in ways more insightful is the honest first person memoir of the man on whom the anti-hero of The First Circle Is based, Lev Kopelev, The Education of a True Believer translated by Gary Kern


Deep Background   Quotes   Book Highlights   Biographies   Interviews   Reference   Bibliography   Maps   Russian Archives Online

horizontal line

© 1999 Abamedia, unless otherwise indicated.