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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Soviet 1963: Memorable events

As we have noted before, the 1960s was arguably the beginning of a "Golden Age" in the history of the USSR as it launched into an era of rapid development socially, technologically and economically only 15 years after the utter devastation of World War II ( the Great Patriotic War as it was known in the Soviet Union ).

It was a time of tremendous optimism and vitality in the building of socialism having expanded on and overcome the sacrifices and difficulties of the early decades of the revolution.

We looked at the year 1960 in the USSR in our post: Soviet 1960: A year in the life of the USSR in pictures (

This retrospective from USSR Magazine looks at "memorable events" of the year 1963. Each event is accompanied by a photo and include economic and diplomatic efforts, engineering and science advances, sports, literature, Communist Work Teams, the World Congress of Women and more.

"For the Soviet people 1963 was the usual eventful year. They built housing projects, harvested wheat, orbited space pilots, and fought to preserve the peace. It was a good year, crowded with work and achievement. Looking back, a number of events stand out, some because they show us how far we have come from our past, others because they give us a preview of the future. These, we think, deserve a place in the chronicle for the year."

It was the fifth year of the seven-year plan, and the country was looking forward to the encouraging prospect of surpassing all the planned targets. This trend had been confirmed by the previous year. Industrial output in 1962 was 9.5 per cent higher than in 1961. In the first four years of the seven-year period 3,700 big industrial projects were put into operation, among them the one in the photo, the country's largest iron and steel mill, in Western Siberia. Nine million apartments were built in the cities (including 2.5 million last year). State investments in industry and agriculture climbed to a record 34.5 billion rubles in 1963, more than a third of the national budget.

The country's productive potential was augmented by the completion of 628 of the biggest and most important construction projects. The magnitude of these highly efficient projects that incorporate the last word in automated techniques may be judged by the Krasnoyarsk Hydroelectric Power Station on the Yenisei in Siberia. The river was dammed this year. The Krasnoyarsk Station will be the largest of its kind in the world. It will have 10 units of unusual capacity, 500,000 kilowatts each. But even this record will be surpassed. Plan-ning is under way for o cascade of hydroelectric power stations on the Lena River in Siberia. One unit of the cascade, the Nizhne- Lenskaya Station, will have a 20 million kilowatt capacity, four and a half times greater than that of the Bratsk colossus.

This was a year of many engineering firsts. The IL-62, a 182-seat jet passenger plane, was tested in January; it will be the main long-distance means of conveyance. A 60,000-ton tanker, the largest in the country, was launched this year in Leningrad. An unusual air-cushion vehicle, the Uragan-2 , was also tested this year. It has pneumatic rollers and an 86-square-foot ground contact area, is built upon a Vikhr air cushion and travels at a speed of 125 miles an hour. New diesel engines, automobiles, computers and hydrofoil ships—all products of creative engineering—are on display at the USSR Exhibition of Economic Achievements in Moscow. In 1963 there were 70,000 new exhibits (of a total 100,000) on view in its 79 pavilions.

Soviet science, which points the direction of the country's technical progress, made significant research findings in many fields of study this year. Its leading center, the recently reorganized USSR Academy of Sciences, is now directing all research in the natural and social sciences. Lenin Prizes were awarded to Mikhail Molodensky (general theory of the gravitational field and shape of the earth), Bruno Pontecorvo (weak interactions of elementary particles and neutrino physics) and Ilya Vekua (theory of generalized analytical functions). Work with polymers and new cereal hybrids and in poliomyelitis was also honored with Lenin Prizes.

With the help of the accelerator shown in the photo Soviet scientists discovered the heavy isotope of the 102nd element, which has not yet been found in nature. A plasma cord with a temperature of 40 million degrees was obtained for the first time. Another first was a movie camera that shoots 500 million stills a second; it can record processes that take place at the speed of light.

Cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Valeri Bykovsky made a group several-day flight in spaceship Vostok VI and Vostok V respectively. This achievement followed upon others in cosmic exploration—heavy rocket accuracy tests in the Pacific area; the flight of Lunik IV toward the moon; the successful radiolocation of Mars, Venus and Mercury; and the launching of Cosmos XIX , the nineteenth man-made heavy satellite of the earth with a new program of investigation of the stellar ocean.

Cosmonaut Day, instituted in honor of the first space flight and the first man in space, Communist Yuri Gagarin, was marked by the Soviet people.

The Soviet people are busy with their peacetime labors, but the tragic events and glorious deeds of the Great Patriotic War are still alive in their memories. By commemorating the decisive battles of that war they do honor to those who fell and teach their children what tragedy war brings. Commemorated in 1963 were the twentieth anniversary of the Battle on the Volga, a turning point in the Second World War, and the Battle of the Kursk Bulge, a 50 day battle of tanks unparalleled in history.

This year also brought us other war remembrances. The Latvian sculptor Gediminas lokubonis was honored with the Lenin Prize for his "Mother", a personification of the sorrow of all the mothers, wives and sisters of those who gave their lives in the Second World War to defend their country and the world from the scourge of fascism. In the former Mauthausen death camp (GDR) a monument was unveiled to General Karbyshev, a prisoner at this comp killed by the Hitler executioners. Leningrad citizens initiated a collection for a monument to the civilians and soldiers who died in the blockade, and funds are coming in from individuals and organizations throughout the country.

This year brought glory to Soviet sports. At the seventy fifth open winter championship meet in New York for the U.S. title, Soviet athletes Valeri Brumel and Igor Ter-Ovanesyan took firsts. At Stockholm the Soviet hockey team won the world and European champion-ship titles for 1963. The world chess crown passed from one Soviet Grandmaster, Mikhail Botvinnik, to another, Tigron Petrosyan. Soviet boxers, wrestlers, fencers and weightlifters won victories at world championship competitions. A major event of the athletic year was the match of giants, the fifth meet of the USA and USSR track-and-field teams, the Soviet team winning with a 189:147 score. (Ralph Boston (left) and Igor Ter-Ovanesyan are shown being interviewed during the meet.) A new world high-jump record of 7 feet 5 3/4 inches was set at this meet by Valeri Brumel. The greatest mass athletic event of the year was the Third Spartakiada of the Peoples of the USSR, in which 66 million amateur athletes participated. There were 23 million participants in the First Spartakiada and about 40 million in the Second.

Equipment was installed in the Kremlin and White House for direct telegraph communication between the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the President of the USA. It was a practical expression of the simple fact that global peace and tranquility depend upon the relations between our two countries. That plain fact was demonstrated anew when the whole world sat waiting in the shadow at a thermonuclear war cast by the Caribbean crisis. We believe that in the most complex situations it is preferable to use this means of communication rather than weapons. The photo shows the telegraph apparatus sent from the United States for installation in the Kremlin.

Peace won a major victory when the three-power treaty banning tests of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, outer space and under water was signed in Moscow in August. Most countries in the world have already signed the Moscow Treaty, which they look on as a first step toward the peaceful settlement of current international differences.

This was a year of brisk diplomatic contacts, stimulated by the Soviet Union's active foreign policy of peaceful coexistence of states with different social systems, leading statesmen from Finland, Laos, Somalia, Cuba, Sweden, Mexico, Hungary and Bulgaria visited the USSR. Soviet newspapers reported Chairman Khrushchev's answers to correspondents of "Espana Popular" (Mexico), "Daily Express" (Britain), "Ultima Flora" (Brazil), and "II Giorno" (Italy) on various questions bearing on the domestic and foreign scenes. The photo shows Orville Freeman, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, presenting Khrushchev with a peace pipe.

The World Congress of Women, a forum of 2,000 delegates, guests and observers from 119 countries, met in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. The themes discussed were the struggle for peace, disarmament and friendship among nations; women in the fight for national independence; health; the education and rearing of children and the youth. The congress was virtually unanimous in its approach to contemporary problems. The only discordant tone was sounded by the Chinese and Albanian delegates, who voted against the recommendations adopted by the congress.

The new academic year began this fall for the 61 million people in the Soviet Union who attend secondary schools, colleges, special secondary schools and vocational and refresher schools. One out of every four people in our country is a student. Forty-two million attend the general schools and four million combine their studies with full-time jobs. Six million boys and girls, including the secondary school graduates shown in the photo, began taking college and special secondary school work, and 1.2 million teenagers began their studies in the vocational schools.

Searching discussions on literature and the arts took place. Creative intellectuals met with leaders of the Communist Party in March. The photo shows Grigori Chukhrai addressing the meeting. A pivotal event in the country's cultural life was the Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union last June, which discussed problems of ideology and its role in the epoch of communism.

The Fourth USSR Conference of Young Writers (each of the 170 writers attending was under 30) analyzed the contributions made to Soviet literature by the young writers. All the peoples of the USSR were represented at the conference, including those that had no written language of their own before the October Revolution.

In August the modern novel was debated in Leningrad and later in Moscow at the meeting of the Executive Council of the European Writers Federation. Eminent writers from many European countries took part in the discussion. The participants subsequently met with Chairman Khrushchev.

Members of Communist Work Teams gathered at a countrywide meeting. Twenty-three million working people have already pledged to live by the code of ethics which marks the Communist Work Team member. Three hundred and fifty-seven thousand production teams, 38,000 shops and 2,000 enterprises have already qualified for the Communist Work title. Following the example set by textile worker Valentina Gaganova, 50,000 leaders of teams, sections and shops have assumed leadership of backward work teams, raising them to the level of the most advanced. This is a Communist Work Team at the Chernigov Synthetic Fiber Plant.

The USSR Congress of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Society was held. This organization is concerned with all phases of health protection. Fifty million volunteers participate in its activities, which include inspecting the health standards of stores and apartment houses, helping to set up milk kitchens and village hospitals, and planting greenery. The organization is a member of the International Red Cross. It renders assistance to victims of natural calamities in other countries by providing food, clothing and medicines, and forms medical groups for work in the less developed countries. The photo shows workers at the Institute for the Study of Poliomyelitis testing vaccine to be shipped to Japan.

On May 5, Press Day, the Board of the Journalists Union awarded the Vatslav Vorovsky Medal (instituted in memory of the Soviet publicist and diplomat) to Yuri Frantsev, well-known Soviet journalist and public figure, for his articles on international topics in the Soviet weekly "Zo Rubezhom." This is the third year this award has been won by Soviet commentators on world affairs.

The Single Power Grid, which will link the power supply systems of the European part of the Soviet Union with those of the European socialist countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, is now serving the Ukraine, Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Like the Druzhba International Oil Pipeline, the Single Power Grid will help to promote the economic cooperation of the European socialist countries, a cooperation which is constantly being expanded to new economic areas. At its recent meeting in Moscow the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance discussed problems connected with the coordination of national plans and power and fuel balances of the CMEA countries.

Frederick Erroll (left), President of Great Britain's Board of Trade, visited the Soviet Union and negotiated a renewal of the five-year trade treaty concluded in May 1959. This treaty has been of mutual benefit to both countries. In four years the volume of trade has increased by 50 per cent, to 300 million rubles a year. The new treaty is expected to boost Soviet-British trade. In 1962 the Soviet Union traded with more than 80 countries, the volume totaling 12 billion rubles, an increase of 14 per cent over the previous year.

Among the usual voyages made by Soviet ships sailing the usual sea lanes this year, there was one rather unusual run—made by the Litva . It left the port of Odessa in September with a group of Soviet journalists aboard. Steering a course toward Algeria, it took on new passengers—journalists—at Black Sea and Mediterranean ports. They were all bound for Algeria to attend the world conference of journalists from 50 countries. The voyage of the Litva became a prologue to this meeting. Crucial political and professional problems were discussed en route. Soviet journalists brought to this international conference a message of greeting from Chairman Khrushchev.

After the meeting in Algeria, the world conference was continued aboard the Litva on its return cruise to Soviet shores after stopovers in several countries of the Arab East.



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