When/where did the cosmonauts fight wolves? or was it bears? With a gun? Could someone provide a more complete story?

One of comments on the article TidalWave linked in the Soyuz joysticks question had links to a pair of articles 1 2 on a gun that is a standard issue in the survival pack in all Soyuz capsules. The second article mentions the only non-training instance when the gun was used:

Every Soyuz spacecraft carries such a gun, although none of these guns have ever been unpacked in flight. And they have never been needed, with the exception of an incident in 1965, when bears (or wolves—the story varies) chased two far-off-course cosmonauts. The guns are often presented to crew members as postflight souvenirs. Although several survival kit bags have shown up at space auctions, I’ve never seen any of the guns for sale.

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I tried to find more on that topic, but...

The first mission with a crew, Soyuz 1, launched on 23 April 1967 source

So either it was not Soyuz or the date is off.

Could someone provide the full story?


1 Answer 1


The first manned Soviet flight was Vostok 1 in 1961, and the first Soviet flight with a multiperson crew was Voskhod 1 in 1964. The Wikipedia article that you linked intends to say that Soyuz 1 was the first Soyuz mission with a crew.

The anecdote about the wolves and bears comes from Voskhod 2 on March 19, 1965:

For the Soviet crew of Voshod 2 [sic], their landing back on Earth in an isolated, very snowy forest marked a harrowing start to a new mission: survival. Getting through the ordeal would end up requiring a gun to ward off wild bears, some tricks to staying warm in below zero temperatures and cross country skiing.

Voskhod 2 landed off target in the Siberian forest, and according to the account it was in the middle of mating season for the bears and wolves which lived there. Moscow had no idea where they landed for some time, so the two cosmonauts had to survive in the forest until they were retrieved by a rescue team.

You can read the full story in the Discovery article I snagged this from. Wikipedia says the landing site was 59°34′N 55°28′E.

The first-hand account captured in Air and Space neglects to mention any use of the gun:

We were only too aware that the taiga where we had landed was the habitat of bears and wolves. It was spring, the mating season, when both animals are at their most aggressive. We had only one pistol aboard our spacecraft, but we had plenty of ammunition. As the sky darkened, the trees started cracking with the drop in temperature—a sound I was so familiar with from my childhood—and the wind began to howl.

Even though mission control had no idea where we were or whether we had survived, our families were informed that we had landed safely and were resting in a secluded dacha before returning to Moscow.

That seems like an extraordinary event to leave out (and if the gun had been fired, this would have been in a report), so it is most likely they just took comfort in the fact that they had a gun.

In response to some questions about radio -- the craft was equipped with a radio beacon, and though Moscow did not receive the signal others did:

We had no idea if our rescue signal had been received. It turned out later that Moscow had not received it, but it had been picked up by listening posts as far away as Bonn, Germany. More importantly, a cargo plane flying close to our landing site had also picked it up. A search party had been dispatched, and late in the afternoon, we picked up the sound of a helicopter approaching.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Wait. How did Moscow manage to put these guys up in space and bring them back down alive... and somehow neglect to give them a radio that could be used in locating the downed capsule? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @MasonWheeler: I'm fairly sure they did have a radio, or the search would have taken much longer. Likely the radio range was fairly limited, and the forest reduced it further. They were found relatively fast, but the helicopter couldn't land due to all the trees, so they only got some supplies dropped and had to await arrival of land rescue mission. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ But somehow they where heard in Germany? Bouncing on the ionosphere ? $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Antzi Most likely, yes. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ "Even though mission control had no idea where we were or whether we had survived, our families were informed that we had landed safely and were resting in a secluded dacha before returning to Moscow." WOW AWESOME A+ MOSCOW $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 16:40

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