Space exploration became a key aspect of Soviet propaganda, especially as space dogs were some of the first animals to survive space flight.
The most famous examples are Laika, Belka and Strelka who have been immortalised in popular culture in cartoons, comic books and writing, although altogether over 40 dogs went to space.
Following the revolution of 1917 that established the Soviet Union, pet dogs were considered to be a relic of a bourgeoisie past and citizens were encouraged to dispose of them. However, eventually dogs returned to their role in society as “man’s best friend” as communist dogs. These new dogs were expected to fulfil a role in society through working as guard dogs, hunters or by pulling sleighs.
Belka and Strelka were sent into space in 1960 and safely returned to earth the next day. In the USSR these canine cosmonauts occupied multiple roles in society as heroes and professionals.
Laika was also represented as a hero, as well as a martyr for scientific progress in the Soviet Union. Laika’s death was incorporated into the idea of dying for the advancement of the Motherland, which was well established in the Soviet psyche, allowing her to continue fulfilling her role as an ideological hero.
Read more about Soviet space dogs: