As far as I see nearly no one here knows the reasons why all the Soviet sci-fi had poor special effects. The reason is simple: in Soviet Union were NO commercial movie industry at all. Movie makers were making their movies and had month pays for their work. When they began making a new movie they showed the screenplay to the ministry of culture and if the ministry accepted it it allotted them some money from the state budget. Any sci-fi had never been that politically correct in comparison to war or revolution movies and thus the budget of such movies was ALWAYS very small. You can understand how much devotion to the work and art was needed to make such films in such conditions. This is the reason why soviet sci-fi movie makers always tried to put into their movies the things that were not dependent on budget. They put ideas. Soviet way of life and way of thinking was much enclosed in itself and developed enclosed. Influence of western culture was rather subtle because all the borders were closed. Contraband products were rare and highly illegal. No one have seen any of the non-Soviet sci-fi movies until the very end of 80's.
"Cherez ternii k zvyozdam" ("Per aspera ad astra" is the correct translation) have one of the best special effects ever made in the Soviet Union, seriously. So ignore them, they are not the central piece of the movie. The central piece is the ideas, the characters and the acting. The visions of the ecological catastrophe were rather fresh in 1981 for the whole world, the more in the Soviet Union where government always told everyone that the future is bright. According to the screenplay there should have been the ending title saying "All the scenes of the dying planet Dessa were shot at the territory of the Soviet Union". No need to say that that title was censored out (now it was added in the new re-edited DVD version).
I see that many of those who have seen "Cherez ternii k zvyozdam" misunderstand its plot. It's very strange because the plot is clear and straightforward, possibly it's all because of the poor translation. In fact only the concluding scene may be found somewhat strange because it has purely allegoric meaning: creation of the new life.
All acting is nearly perfect, no need to describe it, especially amazing are the roles of the economical tyrant Turanchox by Vladimir Fyodorov, Ambassador Rakan by Vadim Ledogorov and of course, Niya the Artificial Human by Yelena Metyolkina.
Review by Efenstor from the Internet Movie Database.