The Thing That Goes Beep shows the amazing progress that the Soviets made in the 20th century.
The Imperial Russian 1897 Population Census counted the percentage of literate people in all Russia as 28.4%. … In 1926, the literacy program was not performing as well as the Soviets expected. Only 51% of the population over the age of ten was now literate. … According to the 1939 Soviet Census, 89.7% of people between the ages of 9 and 49 were literate. During the 1950s, the Soviet Union would achieve a near 100% literacy rate.
And then this…
On April 12, 1961, the spacecraft Vostok 1 was launched. At this point, putting things in space was routine for a nation where the population remembered not being able to read.
Putting someone into Earth Orbit is amazing but the achievement is mind-blowing given the foundation.
As a Westerner, I find it fascinating to hear patriotic stories from a Soviet perspective.