Monday 3 May 2021

The Soviet Union, Russia and the US at Expo 67


Photo credit:  © National Archives of Canada          From

I don’t remember the Russian pavilion. Too bad! My mom remembers there were large goldfish outside by the front entrance and some space stuff. Of course there was! I do remember getting a CCCP (USSR in Cyrillic) pin … “You will not wear that to church on Sunday” my mother to me when I had pinned my CCCP pin from EXPO to my dress on Sunday. (I think I still have that pin.)

I also don’t remember that the US pavilion was so close. More on that below.     But I do remember some stuff of the US pavilion – more on that later.

Who knew that Russia had asked, and was given the right to have the world’s fair in 1967 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. Canada, which had also put a bid in to celebrate, or now really, commemorate, its centennial, was denied.

EXPO PAVILIONS      USSR, Canada, Biggest Attractions                                                                 Copyright by the Canadian Press, October 30, 1967

 The lines at the Czechoslovakian and British pavilions might have seemed the longest but it was the Soviet Union's exhibit that attracted the most visitors -- about 13,000,000.

Canada had 11,000,000 visitors, the United States 9,000,000, France 8,500,000. Czechoslovakia 8,000,000 and Great Britain 5,000,000.   

 The Soviet Union at the 20th-Century World's Fairs        Anthony Swift

Montreal 1967 and Osaka 1970

The Soviet Union made plans to hold a world expo in Moscow in 1967 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution, but concerns about the cost and, very likely, the exposure of its citizens to bourgeois ideology and material culture led it to postpone the event indefinitely in 1962. … After the Soviet decision not to go through with the Moscow expo, Canada, which had previously made an unsuccessful bid to stage a world expo in 1967 to commemorate the centennial of its Confederation, got approval from the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) to host Expo 67 in Montreal.

By 1967 the race to put a man on the moon was in full swing, with the outcome still in doubt, and each of the superpowers mounted large exhibits of space technology. The Soviet pavilion, fronted by a giant sculpture of a hammer and sickle, was again in a contemporary style with glass and aluminum curtain walls, but now topped by a cantilevered curved roof that contemporaries likened to a ski-jump. Designed by a team led by Mikhail Posokhin, it faced off with the acrylic geodesic dome of the United States pavilion, the work of Buckminster Fuller….

The American displays included giant pop-art paintings, cowboy gear, clips from old movies, photos of Hollywood stars, and Raggedy Ann dolls as well as the inevitable space technology, and some visitors found this depiction of American life to be frivolous and superficial. The Soviet pavilion, in contrast, was "jam-packed with all of the impressive technological displays that it can hold."68 … Inside the pavilion, visitors encountered a giant bronze sculpture of Lenin, flanked by replicas of an assortment of Soviet spacecraft and satellites. In addition to the industrial and technical exhibits that crammed the interior, consumer goods such as clothing, televisions, and automobiles were on prominent display. In Montreal the Soviets made some use of contemporary audio-visual technologies – their pavilion contained a spherical flying saucer-shaped theater in which visitors could experience the sensation of a liftoff and journey to the moon.70 They also brought a lavish program of cultural events to Montreal during the Expo that included a series of performances by the Bolshoi Opera in its second-ever visit abroad.71


 Swift, Anthony, The Soviet Union at the 20th-Century World's Fairs. World History Connected 13.3 (2016): 40 pars. 26 Apr. 2021 <>.



Saturday 1 May 2021

Expo 67, Yuri Gargarin and Kazakhstan

The tulips of the Kazakh steppes (Credit: Alyona Koshkina) 

(Image credit: Alyona Koshkina)   

I continue to be fascinated by Expo 67 and the former Soviet Union (now Russia).

I was looking about this which is in a book I have from Expo 67  Stepping Out in Space       Flight of Spaceship Voskhod-2.

On April 12, 1961, the spaceship “Vostok” took off into outer space with Cosmonaut No. 1 Yuri Gargarin. The Kazakhstan steppe, crimsoned by the spring crops of tulips and poppies, welcomed the hero in its embrace. 

After thousands of people left the steppes of Kazakhstan, nature began to reclaim it on a huge scale.

“When Alyona Koshkina walks through the wild grasses of Kazakhstan’s vast plains in spring, she is overwhelmed by the life blooming around her. Migratory birds zip overhead through a sprawling sky, greenery shimmers, ocean-like in the breeze, and flowers dot the landscape with specks of purple, yellow, white and red.

     You have always this sound of wind in your ears,” she says. “It’s very open.” Koshkina, a researcher at the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK), knows this treeless habitat – called steppe – intimately.

    “When you drive through the steppe, it appears to be nothing but monotonous expanses of endless grass. But that grass is full of surprises. [Martin] Freitag mentions the wild tulips, for instance.

     When the snow has melted and it becomes a bit warmer at the end of April, the massive flowering of tulips is really most colourful,” he says.”

 (The picture, and the sound of the wind, is eerily like Saskatchewan.)

Yuri Gargarin was the first man in space

The first satellite in space (in 1957) was the Sputnik, also Russian.

Both of these things started the space race, and also both left (i.e. blasted off) from Kazakhstan. John F. Kennedy said he would get a man on the moon first, before the Russians.   

The book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe tells the story of American space flight. (It’s a great read and there is a lot more than the JFK Library says!)

Of interest right now is the Russian vaccine for Covid 19. It’s called Sputnik V, called that to reflect their great success in space.

And, of course, Yuri Gargarin.