New East Digital Archive

Rockets away: how Soviet space dreams became child’s play

Russia’s glorious exploration of the universe left indelible traces in the country’s history.

25 April 2015

Novocheboksarsk-born photographer Ivan Mikhailov has paid homage to Russia’s space travels by photographing children playgrounds. “When I was a child, I dreamed of being an astronaut” says Mikhailov. “There was a rocket-shaped slide near my house. I often perched on it at night, gazed at the stars, thought of distant planets and space adventures”. Walking around his hometown, he spotted around 40 small playhouses and slides disguised as rockets pointed at the sky. Most of these date back to the Soviet era. On the one hand these are simple objects for the amusement of children; on the other they’re symbols of human achievement and ambition in space. “Space is still just a far dream for humanity”, says Mikhailov. “Meanwhile these children’s rockets have become heaps of rusting ruins. These rockets are the nostalgic story of my childhood, an attempt to run away from reality into the world of dreams.” Shooting the project, Mikhailov spent a lot of time at night at playgrounds, “I still gazed at the stars and thought of distant planets. But this time they seemed significantly more distant.”