Soviet Union

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Design History

This Giant Abandoned Soviet Spaceship Made of Wood Looks Like the Ultimate Children’s Playground Feature

September 13, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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While exploring an abandoned corner of the Zhukovsky airfield (Ramenskoye Airport) in Moscow two years ago, aviation photographer Aleksander Markin stumbled onto a forgotten relic of Russia’s Buran Space Program. This decaying wooden spacecraft was used as a wind tunnel model in the 1980s for the VKK Space Orbiter, the largest and most expensive Soviet space exploration program conceived as a response to the United States’ Space Shuttle. Despite its scientific purposes the wooden ship has the appearance of a fantastic children’s playground feature.

According to Urban Ghosts, this 1:3 scale replica was just one of 85 wind tunnel models used to test various aerodynamic properties of the orbiter. The testing would eventually reveal that NASA’s prototype for the Enterprise was ideal for spaceflight and the VKK Space Orbiter would take a similar design as a result.

Despite the ambitious size and scale of the Buran Space Program, the final craft would fly only a single unmanned mission in 1988 before being scrapped completely in 1993 due to lack of funding and political instability (and yet only modern Russia retains the ability to send people to the ISS today). Markin mentions in comments along with his photographs that this particular wind tunnel model has since been destroyed and no longer exists. (via Urban Ghosts)

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History Music

Bone Music: How Banned Western Music in the Soviet Union Was Printed on Repurposed X-Ray Records

December 30, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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Photos via Jozsef Hajdu and Ksenia Vytuleva

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Photos via Jozsef Hajdu

If you asked me when the history of bootleg music began, I would have assumed it arrived with the invention of the cassette tape, something small, inexpensive and portable that was easily duplicated in any garage from deck A to deck B. In reality, widespread bootlegging dates back even further, to the 1950s in the Soviet Union where music lovers, desperate for banned Western tunes, devised an ingenious way to print their own records. The only problem was the scarcity of vinyl.

Desperate times called for desperate measures. With the aid of a special device, people started pressing banned jazz and rock n’ roll music on thick radiographs scavenged from the dumpsters of hospitals. X-rays were plentiful (not to mention cheap), and while the records could only be pressed on a single side, the music they produced using a standard turntable was passable. The recordings even had a catchy name: bone music. From an interview with author Anya von Bremzen via NPR:

“They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole. You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan—forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”

By 1958 the authorities caught on and the act of making x-ray records was made illegal. It wasn’t long before the largest distribution networks of illicit bone music were discovered and shut down. You can see more scans of bone music over on this page created by Jozsef Hajdu, and FastCo has a great article about the entire phenomenon. (via Junk Culture, NPR, FastCo)

 

 

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