Facts about First Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin

On April 12 the whole world celebrates the Day of Aviation and Space (Space Probe Day) along with memory of Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

On April 12, 1961 a citizen of the Soviet Union, Senior Lieutenant Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) for the first time in the world accomplished orbiting the Earth on the spaceship “Vostok”, opening the era of manned space flight.

Cosmonautics Day in Russia

As a holiday – Cosmonautics Day – it was established by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on April 9, 1962, and received the international status in 1968 at a conference of the International Aeronautical Federation. By the way, since 2011 this day has another name – the International Day of Human Space Flight. On April 7, 2011 at a special plenary session of the UN General Assembly, on the initiative of Russia, was formally adopted a resolution on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first step in space exploration.

The initiative to establish the Cosmonautics Day in the Soviet Union and the idea of organizing the World Day of Cosmonautics belongs to a cosmonaut German Titov. (1935-2000).

An exhibition dedicated to the first man in space is open to visitors from 1 December 2014-31 October 2015 in Moscow Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics.


Yuri Gagarin – Russian hero

Total 108 minutes lasted the first flight of the first cosmonaut in the world. When the news about the first flight spread over the Earth in a few hours, Yuri Gagarin was already the citizen of the world. Courage and fearlessness of a simple Russian guy with a big smile conquered everyone. Before stepping into the unknown, calm and focused Yuri Gagarin said his famous “Poekhali” (Let’s go!). 

“If to be, only be the first” was his motto in life. Yuri Gagarin was born 81 years ago – March 9, 1934.

To pay our respect to our national hero Yury Gagarin, the first Russian cosmonaut, and the first cosmonaut in the world, we collected some stories connected with him.


A peasant’s son turning into a heavenly man

The English Queen allowed herself to break court etiquette and be photographed with him. The explanation she found was that Gagarin – no earthly man, but heavenly now, so can be taken photos with.

Moreover, during the official reception the astronaut, sitting at a table in front of a string of cutlery, did not know with what fork or spoon to start dinner and decided to just repeat all of the queen. But she did not move, and apparently waited for him to start. Then Gagarin openly said to her, “Your Majesty, I’m just the pilot, and I was not taught how to use it all.” Elizabeth II said: “Mr Gagarin, I grew up in Buckingham Palace, but I do not know where to start either, let’s just eat as we want.”

Cosmonautics Day in Russia

Russia. First Russian Cosmonaut Yury Gagarin and English Queen

Before the Flight

Pre-flight preparations took place in a very tense atmosphere. Every now and then there were technical problems. There was great risk of death of the astronaut. No one knew how he human mind will behave in the space. Some psychologists believed that Gagarin would go mad, all alone in the void. Therefore, flight control was automatic.

Despite all that, Gagarin was calm and whistling his favorite song.

Space aviation in Russia

Russia. First Russian Cosmonaut Yury Gagarin


One of the rumors discussed in the international press was about the social origins of the first cosmonaut of the Earth. Country boy, a native of the West Russian peasant family, Yuri Gagarin was thought to be somehow connected with his namesakes, the princes, who after the Revolution immigrated to the United States. This question opened the press conference on 15 April 1961. Gagarin answer was: “Among the relatives I know, there are no princes or people of noble birth. Have never heard of them.”

Legends of Russia

Russia. First Russian Cosmonaut Yury Gagarin


Initially, no one planned a grand meeting of Gagarin in Moscow. Everything changed at the last moment due to Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev called the Kremlin and demanded that Gagarin had a grand welcome in Moscow.

He also called Defense Minister Marshal Malinovsky and said, “It is you first lieutenant. It is necessary to urgently raise his rank”. Malinowski said, rather reluctantly, that he may give Gagarin captaincy. On what Khruschev replied angrily: “What captain? You give him at least a Major. ” Malinowski disagreed, but Khrushchev insisted, and on April 12 Gagarin was already talked about as “Major Yuri Gagarin.”


Christ the Savior Cathedral

One of the first initiative to restore the ruined Christ the Savior Cathedral was made in 1964 by the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Such a proposal Gagarin made after their joint visit to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. When he came to the model of Christ the Saviour and looked inside, he said “What a beauty they destroyed!”

Soon after that Gagarin was speaking at a meeting of the Central Committee plenum on education of young people, and openly offered to rebuild the cathedral. The motive of Gagarin was very simple: it is impossible to raise the patriotism, not knowing your roots. The Christ the Savior Cathedral is a monument of military glory, the people who are going to defend our homeland, should know this.

The Presidency, of course, was seriously scared, but could do nothing against Gagarin.


Yuri Gagarin – the professor

Russia had two similar Yury Gagarin not only in their first name and patronymic. The cosmonaut was only three years older of the namesake engineer, both grew up two daughters. No wonder that two Gagarins became friends. The full namesake – Yuri Gagarin – is now a professor of descriptive geometry, teaching at the Moscow State University of Environmental Engineering. Gagarin professor has two daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson and two great granddaughters.


The family of Yury Gagarin

Wife – Valentina Gagarina (married in 1957 in Orenburg), worked in the laboratory of the Medical Control Center. In the house where the family lived in Orenburg, was subsequently opened Apartment Museum of Yuri and Valentina Gagarin.

She is currently retired, having worked all his life as a nurse and a laboratory-biochemist.

Lives in Star City in Shchyolkovsky District, Moscow Region. In 1981, Valentina wrote the first book in memory of Gagarin – “108 minutes and the whole of life.”

After the death of her husband does not give interviews. Participates in events marking the first cosmonaut, meets the first people of the country, helping the museum of Yuri Gagarin.

Children – daughters: Helen (b. 17 April 1959) – Director of the museum “Moscow Kremlin”, PhD – and Galina (b. March 7, 1961) – Professor, Head of the national and regional economy of the Russian Economic University Academy. Plekhanov, Ph.D. Helen’s daughter also works in the Moscow Kremlin.

Russian heroes

Russia. First Russian Cosmonaut. Yury Gagarin. Photo: kosmo-museum.ru

If you are interested in Russian literature, art galleries or simply want to see the birth city of Russian president Putin, check our tours in St Petersburg.

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