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Prof. Alexey Drugov, a renowned scholar of oriental studies, doctor of political sciences, one of the Russian leading experts on Indonesian history recollects his memories of how the first Russian achievements in space exploration affected early Russian-Indonesian relations.

Worthwhile to note that the year of 1961, most notably April 12, marks the bloom, or at least the early rise of Soviet-Indonesian relations. Suffice it to say that there in June 1961 President Soekarno takes a trip to Moscow eager to celebrate his 60th anniversary together with his Soviet friends.
Из архива И.И.Кашмадзе 
Bung Karno's 1961 visit to Russia, "Space" pavilion at a Moscow exhibition. From I.Kashmadze's archive

It was a symbolic event, and both parties pinned their hopes on one another. Whereas in retrospective, based on my prior and current work experience, I can easily assert that then Soviet authorities harbored no illusions that Indonesia may become a sort of military or ideological ally. That time there was a firm comprehension that the era of oriental communist or socialist revolutions had just ended, or at least temporarily come to a halt, and they needed to be realistic about having to deal with those governments and political regimes that had emerged by that time. One way or another they didn’t imagine any serious alternative to Soekarno in Indonesia. Moreover it looked like quite a reasonable partnership. Yet Indonesia was equally interested in convergence with Soviet Union. Soekarno realized that Soviet Union didn’t claim any dominant positions or leadership in Indonesia, while both could have concentrated on the development of mutually beneficial partnership. This could become a separate topic for discussions, but I just wanted to illustrate how highly Soviet authorities esteemed the personality of Soekarno: it was a mere couple of months since Gagarin’s travel into space when the most popular and iconic person of the Soviet Union, the daring hero representing the best part of Soviet establishment attends the photo session in a company of highly regarded Indonesian guests and Soviet leaders. Yet Yury Gagarin receives from the hands of Soekarno one of Indonesia’s highest orders of merits - Order of the Star, 2nd Class (Bintang Adipradana), the same awarded to the nominal head of state - Chairman Leonid Brezhnev.
РИА Новости 
Soekarno with Yury Gagarin, Nikita Khruchev and Leonid Brezhnev at Kremlin (Moscow, June 1961). RIA-Novosti

It was just a beginning, but the words “Sputnik” and “Gagarin” immediately become a catchword of mutual understanding not only in Indonesia, but worldwide.
When you asked a person on any continent whatever he knew about Russia you might often expect to hear those magic words - “Sputnik” and, of course, “Gagarin”, anything else would be just a derivative.
Л.Иванов, РИА Новости 
Wife of Maj-Gen Ahmad Yani and Soviet cosmonauts (left to right) German Titiov, Andrian Nikolaev, Pavel Popovich and Yuri Gagarin. Photo L.Ivanov, RIA Novosti.

That golden thread of space-related topics run further throughout our relationships. There in September 1962 the “Cosmonaut No 2” (in the Soviet Union and in the world) Gherman Titov pays a visit to the Republic of Indonesia. It was a truly remarkable happening since there were only two cosmonauts on the planet thus far, i.e. Gagarin and Titov. It was quite a challenging task to encompass many countries of visit in a short span, but nonetheless Gherman Titov travels to Indonesia under personal invitation of President Soekarno.
The following year, in January 1963, yet another Soviet spaceman (the 3rd) Andrian Nikolaev sets foot on Indonesian soil. He returns to Indonesia in November the same year together with his spouse Valentina Tereshkova (who became the first woman ever to perform spaceflight in June 1963) and his mate Valery Bykovsky (who set the first space endurance record also in June 1963) who visited with his wife as well. Incidentally, I have had an opportunity to act in the capacity of an interpreter to this starry couple during my tenure with the team of Soviet military experts stationed in Jakarta.
В.Шустов, РИА Новости 
A 1964 reception in the Kremlin in Moscow. Left to right: U.S.S.R. pilot-cosmonaut Yury Gagarin, Chairman of the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet Anastas Mikoyan, U.S.S.R. pilot-cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova and Indonesian President Dr. Sukarno. Photo V. Shustov, RIA Novosti

It was the time of active Soviet (including military) assistance to Indonesia, in the aftermath of West Irian handover to Indonesia, and a period of large scale rearmament of Indonesian Armed Forces, that have just figuratively replaced their ancient piston engine airplanes with the advanced supersonic MIG-21 fighters. It was a huge leap forward which represented a kind of cultural revolt in the Indonesian Air Force and in the Navy when it became apparently necessary to master a brand new class of armament and equipment. And the Indonesian officers had the grace and talent to overcome those drastic changes quite swiftly and ably.
Из архива И.И.Кашмадзе 
Indian ocean, 1962. "Ordzhonikidze" light cruiser later renamed as "Irian". From I.Kashmadze's archive

And in the midst of this great development the starring trio of Soviet cosmonauts arrives in Indonesia, while I am assigned to interpret for them during their stay. I had just recently turned 26, Valentina Tereshkova was also my age, Valery Bykovsky was 3 years my senior, and the elder Valery Nikolayev was only 34 at that time. One may guess my emotional condition, and the first reaction was a sense of awe – the first meeting of a regular earthling with the Cosmonauts when they stepped out of the plane, despite they were also humans in flesh and blood, it was like an encounter with an entity from another dimension.
Later it turned out they were really nice guys, each one in his/her own fashion, but easygoing – without any whims, pretences or whatsoever, despite the fact that, for instance, Valentina was then expected to deliver a baby (her daughter Alyona), and the trip for her wasn’t that easy at all.
Терешкова у стадиона
She sustained all the hardships courageously and never misused her status, all the more so with ever cool headed Nikolaev to be always nearby. Once he told me an absolutely mind shattering story about his near fatal experience, after which he was awarded the Order of Red Star for the salvation of doomed aircraft risking his life. But it was told like about a routine and trivial procedure. It was at the core of his nature – absolute coolness and dependability.
The meetings in Indonesia were organized at different levels. These people were the personal guests of President Soekarno, who received them in his country residence in Bogor and who hosted a large reception in Senayan stadium (currently Stadion Utama Gelora Bung Karno – Russian Luzhniki look-alike, built by the Soviet contractors and opened in 1962).
Стадион Сенаян
Soekarno introduced his guests and delivered a speech at the gathering in Senayan about the friendship between our peoples and about the future of Indonesia. It was a truly spectacular show attended by a diverse multitude of people, many of which came with small infants. Soekarno was famous for his sometimes personal and very sensitive address to the members of the audience demonstrating paternal attitude towards people. All three Soviet cosmonauts also spoke at the meeting and were accepted with admiration.
Из архива И.И.Кашмадзе 
Nikita Krouschev's visit to Indonesia, 1960. Besides future staduim's model with Bung Karno. From I.Kashmadze's archive

Indonesians are often passionate and susceptible people, and there were tens thousands of thrilled local residents getting on the streets to salute the Russian pioneers of space, to tap on their shoulders once they were passing by in an open convertible. Of course it was a pure curiosity, in a good sense (a rare chance to see a real cosmonaut!), but at the same time it was an acknowledgement of the fact that it was a token of friendship by the Soviet nation that has delegated its best representatives (two “sons” and the “daughter”) to communicate with Indonesian friends. Besides Jakarta the “crew” together with me visited Palembang, Surabaya, Solo and Bandung. In Bandung the local singers have performed a touchy Sundanese version of the world famous Russian romance “Black Eyes” to the delight of the guests.
For me they were absolute “stars” but I was stricken by the absence of any “starry” attributes in them. The other day Nikolaev could come over and asked me if I was able to arrange a visit to the Zoo in Surabaya – he was an avid animal lover. I reported his request to the Ambassador Nikolay Mikhailov who accompanied the delegation, and he immediately contacted the Indonesian party and the trip to the Zoo was arranged in a blink of an eye. When we arrived we saw a (still wet) banner welcoming Soviet cosmonauts. Amusingly, Bykovsky disliked the appearance of Komodo dragon, but overall impression was wonderful. These people radiated absolute child-like ingenuousness. They just did their job with great interest and desire – but even slightest touch of “starry disease” was unbeknownst to them. I used to meet them later in different situations and their attitude didn’t change a bit.
Air Marshal OMAR DANI, the Air Force commander, has arranged a meeting of the Russian guests with Indonesian fighter pilots. Then they took a couple of days off to have a short rest in Bali (without me). The entire length of the delegation’s stay in Indonesia was imbued with friendly atmosphere, interesting meetings and direct communication with local residents.
I believe that if it wasn’t for the abrupt political changes in Indonesia since 1965 through the late nineties and cooling of relationships between our countries during the “New Order”, Indonesian cosmonaut (antariksawan) would have been prepped and definitely travelled into space with one of the Soviet/Russian space missions, which, I guess may sooner or later be realized at later time, anyway.

Interview by Mikhail Kouritsyn


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 13th, 2011 07:35 pm (UTC)
Beneficial info and excellent design you got here! I want to thank you for sharing your ideas and putting the time into the stuff you publish! Great work!

Apr. 14th, 2011 12:27 am (UTC)
Thank YOU!
Jun. 4th, 2011 04:44 am (UTC)
Thanks a lot!
Rival Norman-Syah
Jan. 21st, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
nice piece of work! hope you can write more about this!
Indra Wardhana
Apr. 23rd, 2014 12:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you From Indonesia
Hy My name is Indra Wardhana, this is the first time i found your Journal, and many thanks from all pictures about our Founding Father "Soekarno" 1st President Of Indonesia.

Warm Regards,
Indra Wardhana
Jakarta, Indonesia
April 23 2014
Ali Wardhana
Nov. 21st, 2014 06:09 am (UTC)
What you have written in your web is so interesting for me. It give me more info about Indonesia's history, well as you know, the era of 'Orde Lama', time of Soekarno is almost 'wiped' by the regime of Soeharto. And the pictures that you posted is a rare artifact for me, coz I've only seen it here. Thnks a lot sir :)

NB: btw would you mind if I use this post and translate it into my blog? Of course I'll put the link of your website in my post.

Edited at 2014-11-21 06:11 am (UTC)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )