Science fiction that shaped the Revolution

Daniel Antonio Villar looks at the impact of Red Star, by Alexander Bognadov

If you had been in Petrograd in 1917, during the first few months of ferment after the Tsar had been expelled and before the new regime had entrenched itself, you would have had the pleasure to encounter scores or brilliant and original theoreticians.

However, none would have been quit as interesting as Alexander Bogdanov. Bogdanov was a polymath – as a philosophy, physician, politician, and novelist he had gained note. But it was as a novelist that he most aided the Russian Revolution. In his 1908 work of science fiction, Red Star, Bogdanov gave one of the clearest vision of the scientific socialist society which was envisaged by most of the Russian intellectual class during the Russian Revolution.

The story revolves around a mathematician, Leonid, who travels to Mars and discovers how socialism, brought about by technology, has created a utopia. By the end of the novel Leonid returns to earth, and seeing that utopia is possible, enters the revolutionary fray with new vigor.

Bogdanov is often forgotten today, but a century ago he was a close friend of Trotsky and involved in most of the revolutionary movements, in arts, sciences, and politics, which were in the air at the time.

Many Russian scientists and intellectuals were introduced to socialism via Red Star, and although he is little remembered today, the influence of his technologically driven space communistic ideology survives in things as varied as Star Trek and the technology of Richard Stallman.