Soviet Superscience

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    The tendency to give those Dirty Commies technologies far beyond their Western counterparts. After the end of the Cold War this is something of a Discredited Trope and usually only played for laughs. Although "abandoned Soviet experiments" seems to be a fairly common trope.

    Not that the US is left out, as long as both sides are in a Lensman Arms Race.

    It is worth noting that historically the most recognizable disciplines of any super science—genetics and cybernetics—received a poor start in the USSR as the Party proclaimed those "false sciences" for being "bourgeois" (yes, this makes about as much sense as Those Wacky Nazis dismissing Einsteinian relativity and the modern theory of the atom as "Jewish physics"). This stance was lifted after Khruschev took power and USSR's first computer was finished in the mid-50s, but it was too late to successfully catch up with the US. The Soviets, however, loved Nuclear Power—the world's first nuclear power plant to generate electricity for a power grid went online in USSR—so there are some roots for the trope to grow from. Of course, the inconsistencies can be handwaved by the means of an Alternate Universe, as Red Alert testifies.

    All in all, the Soviets had a mixed record as far as science goes - remember, this is the country that put the first man in space, but also brought the world Lysenkoism, the abuse of psychiatry for "rehabilitation" purposes and Chernobyl.

    The New Russia, sadly, won't be able to have anything vastly superior due to economic problems and lack of funding, so no, "Russian Superscience" is not a likely prospect and wouldn't be anytime soon. Contemporary Russian electronics, however, don't lag behind their Western counterparts much, though the opinions on this tend to differ.

    The fall of the Soviet Union is often used as a reason why long-abandoned Soviet Superscience is once again rearing its ugly head, it having been forgotten about, lost in the confusion or sold off by corrupt handlers in the post-Soviet restructuring of Russian society.

    Stupid Jetpack Hitler is a Sister Trope, giving Those Wacky Nazis things like Powered Armor and Cool Airships, while Ghostapo could be a "cousin trope", in that it's a more mystical version of Stupid Jetpack Hitler. All of these are culture-specific sub-disciplines of Mad Science.

    Examples of Soviet Superscience include:

    Anime & Manga

    • Full Metal Panic! is set in an alternate reality where the Cold War never ended and both the United States and the Soviet Union have developed Arm Slave technology.

    Comic Books

    • The Marvel Universe has its share of Soviet experiments gone awry, particularly from the days of the Cold War.
      • Crimson Dynamo is a Soviet scientist who invents an armored suit which also allows to control electricity.
      • Soviet scientists trying to get a leg up on American engineering with bizarre creations like Mongu and the Titanium Man formed the glut of Iron Man's original rogue's gallery.
      • The very first opponent The Incredible Hulk fought (other than the US Army), was "The Gargoyle", a Soviet scientist warped into a deformed, large-headed, super-intelligent dwarf by exposure to radiation. His son, "The Gremlin", was almost identical in looks and abilities and, among other things, created the high-tech gear (including Powered Armor) used by the Soviet Super-Troopers (precursors to the Soviet Super-Soldiers).
      • The Ultimate Universe series "Ultimate Nightmare" took place almost entirely in a complex dedicated to this.
    • Blake and Mortimer: In "SOS Meteors", it's revealed that the Soviet Bloc has developed weather control technology, which it uses to destabilize the climate of Western Europe in order to prepare for a military invasion. Why the Soviets didn't instead use it to improve their own weather is anyone's guess.
    • The first comic in the Global Frequency series was about a soviet sleeper agent that lost control of a chip implanted in his brain. The chip was suppose to augment his natural ability to teleport objects. This would have allowed agent to teleport a hidden nuclear weapon to his location - with himself ground zero. Global Frequency was formed to deal with exactly these kinds of strange cold war "unexploded bombs".
    • The obscure noir superhero series The Winter Men imagines a massive military-industrial operation throughout Soviet history to build mechanical and biological superbeings. It doesn't work, but not quite for the reason you'd expect.
    • Though it's technically a Fantasy Counterpart Culture, The Red Star is abound in this trope.
    • Ghost Projekt
    • In Judge Dredd, the Spiritual Successors of the Soviet Union are the megacities East-Meg One and Two, which are at par with and occasionally ahead of western technology.


    • In Dr. Strangelove the Soviets build a Doomsday Device after the U.S. had already considered a similar device ("Our source was the New York Times"). They neglected to tell anyone about it.
    • Firefox has the Soviets build a new superplane, the MiG-31 (not to be confused with the Real Life MiG-31). This plane is capable of Mach 6 and has thought-launched weapons, technologies that still don't fully exist today.
    • GoldenEye has a satellite-launched EMP weapon taken over by criminal elements in the Soviet space program command.
    • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has Irina Spalko and her fellow Communists searching for the Crystal Skulls. It is mentioned that Stalin has a program investigating psychics, which isn't actually all that far-fetched; the US investigated possible paranormal things themselves.
    • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has the Soviet search party in the jungle riding a huge truck that clears its path by mowing down trees like grass.
    • The Hunt for Red October is a pretty well-done thriller about, well, the hunt for the Red Oktober, a highly-advanced Soviet ballistic missile submarine, the so-called "stealth-bomber" of submarines. Instead of the traditional propeller-driven sub, this one had one that sucked in water, compressed it, and shot it out, like a jet engine. The result is a sub with nearly zero-sound, meaning active Sonar will be almost the only thing able to detect it; making it virtually impossible to track, due to the danger of using active Sonar often. That doesn't stop Seaman Jones from inventing a way to track it though.
    • The 2005 Russian Mockumentary Pervye Na Lune (First on the Moon) shows "proof" that the Soviets actually sent a man to the Moon and back... in 1938...


    • In Dale Brown's books, while the former-Soviets-now-Russians needed to reverse-engineer American tech for most of their new toys, they did come up with powerful anti-satellite lasers on their own.
    • Pops up in some of Charles Stross' stories. In the novelette A Colder War, set in an Alternate History where the Cold War was fought with the powers of the Great Old Ones, the Soviets not only weaponize shoggoths and deployed them in Afghanistan, but they have an ultimate doomsday weapon called 'K-Thulu' in a giant concrete bunker in the Ukraine. Missile Gap, set in a world where Earth of 1962 was duplicated and laid on a gigantic disc, has the Soviet Union exploring the new world in a giant nuclear-powered ekranoplan.
      • Similarly, one of the MacGuffins at the core of The Jennifer Morgue is a "Gravedust" rig on a sunken Russian submarine that British intelligence believe was used to seek guidance from recently-deceased Politburo members in case the West struck first. It turns out to be built to dial up something much, much older...
    • In the Necroscope books the Soviets have an advanced Psychic intelligence service (almost as advanced as the UK's one, the US doesn't get a look in). Their attempt at a Star Trek style Deflector Shield bubble to cover The Entire USSR and protect it from nuclear attack doesn't go well and in fact accidentally blows a hole in the fabric of Space-Time creating a gateway to a vampire ridden hellhole. Erm, oopsie.
    • Oleg Divov's Zombie Trail trilogy is all about Soviet "psychotronic" weapons and their Gone Horribly Wrong side effects. The original Project came to be after an American misinformation campagin led the Soviet leadership to believe that the US was experimenting with Psychic Powers. Unintentionally, the resulting Soviet psychic program bore fruit. A "psychotronic cannon" was built that could be used to Mind Control people on a massive scale. However, it had to be operated by an extremely powerful psychic. In order to create one (or more), the Children's Program was set up that involved subjecting 1000 children to radiation, hoping the resulting mutation would be psychic in nature. It was a near-complete disaster, as all but 5 children died. Some of the survivors, though, did become the coveted super-psychics, although they refused to fire the cannon. Additional experiments were conducted on metropolitan scale by building powerful mind-control generators in major Soviet cities that would eliminate all dissent. They worked for a while, until interdimensional holes started opening, letting in Energy Beings that took over humans and became so-called "zombies" (of the fast variety). You'd think the experiments would stop in a What Have I Done fashion. No such luck. The third novel reveals that the modern-day Russian version of the Project succeeded in subliminaly influencing the world population into thinking that everything Russian is cool.
    • Red Plenty by Francis Spufford is an Alternate History novel in which the Soviet Union decides to outdo capitalism by creating a proper planned economy with the help of computers and cybernetics. The novel is based on actual work being done at the time behind the Iron Curtain but, as in real life, cynical realism triumphs over communist idealism and only token reforms are made.
    • The Russian multi-writer series called Death Zone is about the aftermath of a strange event involving a Negative Space Wedgie that wipes out several major Russian cities and creates five anomalous areas roughtly 50 kilometers in diameter separated from the rest of the world by gravity bubbles. One of the novels eventually reveals that the so-called Catastrophe was, in fact, caused by the second activation of a device that was originally developed by a Soviet scientist to allow instantaneous hyperdimentional transportation. The first activation of the device on April 26, 1986, caused the 4th reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Pland to meltdown.

    Live-Action TV

    • Recently, played straight in the Fringe episode "Earthling".
    • A less antagonistic variety in Stargate SG-1: the Russians are the only other nation on Earth that has a working Stargate program and even gets a couple of starships. Of course, that's because a Stargate just happened to fall into their laps, which they combined with a DHD they had taken from the Nazis. Technically, the United States is paying rent to Russia for the use of their Stargate when the one the US had at the time was lost, and the Russians asked if they could take some of that rent in the form of a cool starship.
    • In the first episode of The Tick (animation) live action TV series, the Tick and Arthur must thwart the Red Scare, a robot made in the 1970s by the Soviet Union, programed to destroy the US President. Unaware of the present year however, the Red Scare seeks to destroy former President Carter.



    • The Command & Conquer: Red Alert series gives those Dirty Communists mind-controlled squids, cloning vats, Weaponized Tesla Coils, six-legged amphibious boats with double Tesla coils, armored war bears, huge zeppelins with megaton bombs, nuclear vacuum ICBMs, weapon-stealing tanks, magnetic satellites AND MORE.
      • Don't forget the mancannon-equipped amphibious transports, which also function as AA support. They are quite capable of shooting the aforementioned armoured war bears. Talk about abnormal ammo...
      • A mention should also be made of the mind-control radio towers that drive the plot of Red Alert 2.
      • This is far less noticeable in the first Red Alert, without expansions, partially because it has far less superscience overall, and partly because the Allies aren't far behind in superscience, their teleporter balancing out a Soviet invincibility generator, leaving only the weaponized Tesla coil to shift the balance in the Soviets' favour (and even then, the Allied GPS system is arguably far enough into the future of the period for it to count as a sort of super-tech). The expansions added a lot more super-science, but on both sides, setting the trend for the future games: the Soviets have Superscience, but only slightly more than the Allies.[1]
        • One could argue that the Soviets are actually lagging behind technologically - a large amount of the "super-science" is more or less a redux of the prior game's technology - compared to the Allies, who between Red Alert 1 and 2, developed lasers, cloaking devices, and weather control. Red Alert 1 might play it straight, but essentially every game from 2 onwards might just count as a subversion.
    • Singularity has quite a bit of this Just check the game's page. It'd be faster.
    • The rather obscure RTS War Front Turning Point has the Soviet Union using "canned Siberian weather" Freeze Rays and Freeze Bombs, as well as house-sized tanks with five turrets and building-sized artillery guns. They even steal a German Exoskeleton at one point and jury-rig it with a freeze ray.
    • Freedom Force features Nuclear Winter who is a Soviet spy dunked in his own chemicals, Freedom Force Vs The Third Reich features Red October, who for some unexplained reason is a witch.
    • In Destroy All Humans!, the Soviets have a secret moon base and an alliance with aliens.
      • "Alliance" perhaps isn't the right way to put it; it's more like all of the Soviet Union's leaders since the Russian Revolution were actually aliens manipulating them for their own aims.
    • One of the levels in Tomb Raider: Legend was Telsa's secret laboratory in Kazakhstan.
    • In Team Fortress 2, Soviet Sandviches are powerful analgesics.
    • Snatcher had the Soviets develop biological weapons, cryogenic sleep, and androids so advanced that the West didn't have an equal even decades later.
    • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has the Russians reverse engineer an American satellite component, which allows them to launch a massive trans-oceanic invasion of the US Mainland with complete surprise.
    • In the Remake of Battlezone 1998, the Space Race between the USA and the Soviet Union was really about the Applied Phlebotinum, featured hovertanks and was fought over most of the solar system.
    • Parodied in the Wii version of Punch-Out!!, where Soda Popinski's Title Defense intro shows Soviet scientists working with all their might to produce... grape soda.
      • Grape soda that makes Soda Popinski strong enough to drag a truck with his teeth.
    • Just to compliment the caption joke above: averted in Resistance, where the Russians were never Communists (the 1917 revolution was crushed) and were wiped out by aliens, who did have superscience.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3, the presence of the IR Goggles and the NVGs in 1964 is explained as being due to the Russians being more advanced technologically. Your tech support even asks you to return the items to America for reverse engineering.
    • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri recycles this in space by bringing in a University of Planet faction, ostensibly just following a For Science! ideology, but actually being thoroughly Russian in terms of flavour.
    • Heavy Weapon has the Red Star's forces. You fight regular troops like missile helicopters, tanks, bomber planes, SCUD missiles and ICBM missiles. Then you fight mini satellites with death rays, Humongous Mecha, and even a Cool Airship that SUMMONS METEORS via tractor beams
    • In Call of Duty Black Ops this is played straight both in the main storyline and partially in the Nazi Zombies mini-game. In the story-line the Russians are able to weaponize a highly lethal toxin that has been shown to kill men in mere minutes and is not easily dispersed by wind making it an effective area denial weapon and weapon of mass destruction. Furthermore they have access to anachronistic weapons that won't be introduced until the 70s or 80s, (the Americans showcase this too though) have mastered drug-induced brainwashing so advanced that you can program a man to do anything that you desire even make Mason and/or Oswald kill John F. Kennedy, and have somehow found a way to create a base on the ocean floor without it being crushed from the sheer pressure it would faced with at such depths. Somewhat averted in the Nazi Zombies storyline as most of the technological achievements are actually achieved by Group 935 which is an international organization and have more or less equally introduced the same level of technological advancement to the Americans as they have to the Russians. However the Zombie map "Ascension" still showcases some pretty advanced technology on the Russians' part, they have created flying platforms, genetically enhanced monkeys, the Thunder Gun (a hand-held cannon that fires high-powered waves of compressed air) which contrary to Richtofen's beliefs was not made by Dr. Maxis but Dr. Gersh a Russian scientist, and Dr. Gersh as mentioned already created a small device which generates a miniature black hole.

    Western Animation

    Web Originals

    • In The Return we have a group of nuclear powered, female, cyborg, Soviet, mercenary assassins.
    • From SCP Foundation, the GRU Division P is Russia's equivalent of the Foundation, meaning it's Soviet Superscience and Soviet Supernatural Research. Though, since the end of the Cold War, it's less "Soviet", of course.

    Real Life

    • There was an Soviet attempt to create man-chimpanzee hybrids for use as workers. Didn't work, but explains the weird science aspect they get in fiction. The precise details of that infamous experiment, which is usually considered (understandably) little more than an Urban Legend, is that the Soviet scientist who did it worked more or less alone, only got a grant from Stalin due to red tape (and probably would have been shot if Stalin had discovered what he was actually doing), the experiment consisted of trying to use human sperm to artificially inseminate orangutans (because they didn't know about the close genetic relationship between humans and chimps), and his actual goal was to "prove" evolution and use that to stymie the political power of the Russian Orthodox Church, not to make Super Soldiers.
    • There are rumors about Soviet low-frequency Sonic Weapon devices at their borders, threatening to instill depression and anxiety in the whole population. Some even argued that this was already taking place...
      • This is probably based on the phenomenon of the "Russian Woodpecker", an odd low-frequency shortwave signal caused by the over-the-horizon radar system in the Ukraine that irritated European ham radio operaters during the '70s and '80s.
    • Some conspiracy theorists believe that the Soviets developed "psychotronic" weapons that could do tremendous damage (and other effects) at a great distance using technology that violates the known laws of science.
    • The Soviet Union, apart from creating apemen, was actively working on flying tanks and flying ships built to skim over the surface of the ocean as fast heavy transports that would work below radar.
      • US worked on flying submarines too. But the Soviets took it Up to Eleven when they actually started cutting steel for a nuclear submarine aircraft carrier/amphibious warfare ship. Sadly, it was canceled immediately afterwards.
      • WIG are mostly known in Anglosphere for "Caspian Sea Monster" photographs taken by American spy satellites, which was a test platform built in 1966. Later designs with actual purpose were built:
      • A-90 Orlyonok ("Eaglet") transport from Alexeyev. "S-23 crashed during testing" (in the link), while true, is an understatement: what happened was that it had the hull cracked on a rock when landing, returned to the base normally, but during the next test, impact of a wave during takeoff broke off the whole tail… and then the chief designer personally piloted the forward half back using takeoff engines (the cruising engine was on the tail, and as such under the sea at the time) and landed it "properly". The Minister of Shipbuilding Industry used the incident to demote him, while military shared his view that this level of survivability is awesome, and the political tug-o-war over the project continued.
      • Lun ("Harrier"; NATO Reporting Name Duck) missile boat from Alexeyev (later medical variant was developed, but that's when the funding ended);
      • Bartini Beriev VVA-14, submarine hunter prototype from another design bureau. Was optimistically planned to be full VTOL, but due to takeoff engines being not up to the task didn't go beyond prototypes. Featured in Metal Gear Solid 3.
    • The world's only extant modern balanced ternary computer, a design that allows for more efficient handling of many computational algorithms (including basic addition and multiplication), is a Soviet design from the late 50s (Setun). Designs and theories have appeared in the West as well as one of the world's first computing devices, a 19th century wooden calculating machine, but no ternary computers have been actually built outside of the Soviet Union due to general lack of interest and the ubiquity of binary hardware.
    • Possibly worthy of mention is the use of supercavitation for torpedoes. Water creates quite a lot of drag and severely limits the top speed that a projectile travelling through it may achieve. With supercavitation, a bubble of water vapour forms around the projectile, greatly reducing drag. The Soviets started experimenting with the phenomenon in the 60s, and by 1972 a supercavitating torpedo, the VA-111 Shkval, was put into service. Its top speed is in excess of 370 km/h (in comparison, 50 km/h is at the top end of what a nuclear submarine may reach as of this writing; the US made Mk-54 torpedo achieves about 75 km/h). Eventually other countries got in on the act: since the 90s the US Navy has also been developing its own roster of supercavitating projectiles, DARPA is thinking of supercavitating troop carriers, Germany has deployed the creatively named "Superkavitierender Unterwasserlaufkörper" in 2004, and even Iran claims to have tested a supercavitating torpedo in 2006. Superscience marches on.
    • In the field of space, there's Polyus (the world's only space battle station, which fortunately for the West failed on launch) and a ground-mounted laser that the Soviets used on the shuttle Challenger as part of brinksmanship over SDI (and worked a bit too well; Challenger was damaged to the extent that it was almost unable to reenter the atmosphere).
      • The Russians were quite keen on experimenting with space stations in general. Once they lost the Moon race, they aimed for and pretty much achieved many records for longest stays in orbit. Russian space habitation technology is possibly still the best in the world.
    • A real-life example of "abandoned soviet experiment" is the NK-33 closed circuit rocket engine. Originally intended for use in the attempt to get a man on the Moon, the prototypes were supposed to be destroyed once that project was cancelled. Sore losers the Soviets. Fortunately, several NK-33 engines were hidden in a warehouse by their designer, Nikolai Dmitriyevich Kuznetsov. That happened in the 70s. Fast forward to the 90s, when somewhat improved relations between East and West, and presumably some money, helped the old relics emerge from storage, where they proved to be still cutting edge tech despite being two decades old. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the NK-33 achieves the highest thrust-to-mass ratio among all currently existing rocket engines, and it, or variations thereof, are now used by satellite launch companies like Orbital Sciences Corporation and several future space projects plan to employ them as well.
    • The US played this trope straight twice in the 50s and 60s. The military-industrial complex and "tough on Communism" politicians warned the American people about a "bomber gap" and then a "missile gap," saying that the US was falling behind the USSR in weapons production when in fact the reverse was true.
      • These gaps were based on truly heinous intelligence gathering. In one example the USSR displayed a new strategic bomber by flying one formation of them over a military parade repeatedly; the US assumed each appearance was a different formation. A little later, US aerial reconnaissance photographed dozens of bombers at one Soviet airbase. Via reckless multiplication they assumed every airbase had a similar stock when in fact the group of bombers photographed was the entire production run at the time.
      • US intelligence has a running history of making inflated evaluations of enemy capabilities. For example, the Mi G-25 'Foxbat' interceptor (created in response to the US B-70 program, which was canceled after one of the two prototypes was lost) was monitored flying over Egypt at a speed of Mach 3.2, which was assumed to be the normal performance of the aircraft, and was believed to be an agile dogfighter (with the US F-15 being designed to counter it). Only after Lt. Belenko defected with a Mi G-25 in 1976 was the Mi G-25 discovered to be a relatively unmaneuverable high-altitude interceptor, and that its demonstrated speed capacity would require replacing the engines after the flight.
    • Zombie dogs!
    • A twelve-kilometre-deep hole in the ground. Y'know, for science. Or something.
    • Real life averted: late-70s tinfoil hatter "Dr." Peter Beter (believe it or not, his real name) entertained many fantasies about Soviet technology, including the existence of "cosmospheres", which were apparently large, blimp-like spacecraft. His, er, theories were carried into the 1990s by noted Usenet kook Robert Mc Elwaine.
    • The Soviet Union built an allegedly automated nuclear retaliatory system (though opinions differ if it's fully automated), which the Russian Federation apparently still maintains.
    • Real state of Soviet (and for much the same reasons post-Soviet Russia's) development was split between "left to rust" (car industry in particular: it was diverted to military requests, but couldn't even do that, so few good designs were made, and even those didn't go beyond small series), "mediocre knock-offs of NATO hardware" (Tupolev and his bureau were particularly infamous for making inferior Boeings, and long after fall of Soviet Union you could meet his Hatedom in Russian-speaking internet) and "deviously creative" (including several designer bureaus in aviation). The best technology has never been super-science, but Boring but Practical. The T-34 tank is considered by some to have been the best of World War II and Soviet small arms have long been quite good. On the less bellicose side, Russia makes some pretty good bush planes and similar heavy weather equipment. Some products aimed for both military and civilian niches turned out downright Awesome Yet Practical, like Antonov An-22.

    1. Yes, that does mean Red Alert technically fails the "far beyond their Western counterparts" part of this trope's description.