Communal House of the Textile Institute

Communal House of the Textile Institute

I absolutely love this painting by Mikhail Nemtsov of The Communal House of the Textile Institute in Moscow.

Designed by Ivan Sergeevich Nikolaev and completed in 1931, it is one of the seminal buildings of the Constructivist era, and is often referred to simply at Nikolaev's House. It embodies the radical approach to communal living and education that gained popularity in the post-revolutionary fervent, when all social institutions became open to re-examination. The painting by Nemtsov doesn't just represent the building but also tries to capture the multitude of social relations that would have taken place in the building.

Since 1968, when it was last repaired, the building has fallen into disrepair, and although Nemtsov likes the fact that it still supports a variety of uses, a renovation is planned.

Watch this video interview with Nemtsov from the excellent Ogino Knauss site here:



Without Pavel Klushantsev, Kubrick might never have made 2001.

Road to the Stars vs 2001

In 1954, Klushantsev, pioneering Soviet sci-fi film director, began working on a short film, part-documentary, part-visionary projection, about the Soviet conquest of space. The film follows a young man as he learns the basic principles of space flight, before the final parts of the film depict the launch of the first Soviet man in space, life on an orbiting space station, the first man to set foot on the moon, and concludes with the possibilities of colonising Mars.

You can watch the film online here.

Road to the Stars vs 2001

Road to the Stars vs 2001

In 1957 Sergei Korolev, the 'father' of the Soviet space program, proclaimed "the road to the stars is open" following the historic flight of Sputnik 1. Klushantsev quickly shot footage to represent this momentous occasion, and the film was released a month later.

Road to the Stars vs 2001

Road to the Stars is a delirious film, stunning in its prescience about many aspects of space exploration that would unfold over the next 40 years.The similarities between Road to the Stars and Kubrick's 2001 are obvious, and Kubrick was known to have been inspired by Klushantsev's film. Indeed, parts of 2001 can be considered a homage, or as this article states, a shot-for-shot copy.

[Slightly related, here's an article I wrote called Road to the Stars for Kino Fist about Baikonour and a space station called Kosmograd from the short story Red Star, Winter Orbit, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.]


Vladimir Komarov

Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov was the first man to die in space.

The Russian cosmonaut died aboard Soyuz 1 on April 24th, 1967, which crashed on its return to earth due to failure of the parachute mechanism.

Soyuz 1

Soyuz 1 was the first step in the Soviet's race to put a man on the moon. The plan was to launch Soyuz 1, then launch Soyuz 2 a day later with a three man crew, and complete a spacewalk of two cosmonauts from Soyuz 2 to Soyuz 1.

Soyuz 1

The problems with Soyuz 1 began shortly after it achieved orbit. One of the solar panels failed to open, depriving the ship of half of its planned solar power. Komarov repeatedly attempted maneouvres to orient the spacecraft to the sun, without success. Ground control decided to bring Komarov back to Earth earlier than planned. A series of poor decisions by ground control, and additional equipment failures meant that Komarov made 19 revolutions before able to attempt a manual orientation with retrofire to bring the vessel into a descent.

On an early orbit, Komarov makes a strident radio broadcast:

'for (or in the benefit) of the peoples of our fatherland along the for the whole humanity famous way to communism. Pilot-cosmonaut Komarov.'

Realising he was aboard a stricken craft, Komarov's radio communiques became increasingly agitated. Several persons claimed to have picked up radio communications from Soyuz-1, either as dedicated amateur radio enthusiasts, or officials working at military listening posts. This analysis of the flight of Soyuz-1 tries to piece together what happened to Soyuz-1 from the mass of often conflicting data.

Soyuz 1 - orbit path

Soyuz 1 - orbit path

Soyuz 1 - orbit path

According to one recording made by a NSA listening station in Istanbul, Komorov's radio communications became increasingly fraught, and knew that he was doomed:

"He understood that there was trouble with "stabilization" and that Komarov replied to commands from the ground by saying "I'm doing still isn't working..." He kept asking "How long till re-entry?".

Some reports have Komarov allegedly cursing Brezhnev, the spacecraft designers and flight controllers, and accusing them of killing him, while other radio intercepts claim that he remained calm and loyal even in his final moments. His last words are thought to be "the parachute is wrong" and "heat is rising in the capsule".

The capsule crashed near the village of Karabulak in the Orenburg Region of Orsk, (now part of Kazakhstan). Komarov's badly burnt body was recovered from the capsule and flown to Moscow for a post-mortem. Komarov's ashes were interned in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis on the Red Square in Moscow. A memorial was created on cosmonauts alley in Moscow.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong placed a small memorial on the moon, to Komarov and the three American astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, who died during a training mission Apollo 1 in January 1967.

The track Komarov by the artist Regis appeared on the compilation Merge 7, and samples some of Komarov's radio communications.

Download komarov.mp3 (5Mb)