As part of a month long build up to International Women’s Day Celebrations on the 8th of March, the YCL will be publishing daily articles highlighting the exemplary role played by women in the international communist & working class movement.
Today we pay tribute to Svetlana Savitskaya- Soviet cosmonaut and communist deputy in the Russian Duma, the first woman to perform a spacewalk Svetlana Savitskaya.
YCLers are encouraged to host, support and participate in celebrations locally to bring the message of International Women’s Day into our workplaces, colleges and schools, and communities.
Svetlana Savitskaya was born in 1948 to a privileged family. Her father, Yevgeny Savitsky, was a war hero and a highly decorated fighter pilot during the Second World War, which later brought him to the position of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Air Defense.
Savitskaya began parachuting at the age of 16, unbeknownst to her family, in the space of a year she had already completed 450 parachute jumps. In her youth she led record stratosphere jumps from 13,800 m and 14,250 before graduating from Moscow State Aviation Institute (MAI), where she also took flight lessons. In 1971 she was licensed as a flight instructor. After graduating from the MAI in 1972, she trained as a test pilot at the Fedotov Test Pilot School, graduating in 1976.
Between 1969 and 1977 she was a member of the Soviet national team for aerobatics. At the FAI World Aerobatic Championships in July 1970 she won the world championship with an all-female team. Back in the Soviet Union, she became an inspiration for many female pilots and aspiring cosmonauts.
While Valentina Tereshnokova was the first woman in space, and is known the world over, it took more than 19 years until Savitskaya followed her into space. In 1981 Savitskaya performed her first space flight to the space station Salyut 7.
Despite the progress made in the Soviet Union, when she first arrived at Salyut 7, one of her Soviet compatriots, Valentin Lebedev, presented her with an apron and told her “to get to work”. Savitskaya rebuffed this view of course and continued to be a leading figure for women across the Soviet Union.
During her illustrious career Savitskaya received a multitude of awards, including the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union, twice, as well as the Order of the Badge of Honour. Savitskaya’s total time in space was relatively short – 19 days, 17 hours and six minutes – but her contributions towards female astronauts, space exploration and research as a whole, are remarkable.
During the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Savitskaya was elected as a people’s deputy of the USSR from 1989 and a people’s deputy of Russia in 1990. She actively fought against the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. She famously stated that “everything her parents had worked hard to build was destroyed almost overnight” and she was glad they did not live to see it.
The tragedy that was the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union did not cause Savitskaya to lose hope in the socialist cause. To this day she remains a key figure in the CPRF, continually fighting against the spread of anti-communism and neoliberalism. She has been re-elected four times since the formation of Modern Russia.
Savitskaya is a key example of the communist struggle. Despite the counter-revolution, despite the spread of neoliberalism, despite the rise of United Russia, Savitskaya has continued to fight for the communist movement. To this day, she remains committed to the proletarian struggle. She is an example to communists around the world.