60 years later, the legacy of Yuri Gagarin still intact

60 years later, the legacy of Yuri Gagarin still intact
60 years later, the legacy of Yuri Gagarin still intact

SPACE CONQUEST – The first man to travel in space in April 1961, Yuri Gagarin still enjoys immense popularity in Russia. It also remains, 60 years later, a central symbol for the Kremlin and its policy of greatness.

Maxence GEVIN – 2021-04-07T21: 54: 28.255 + 02: 00

A pioneer of Russian astronautics, Constantine Tsiolkovsky prophesied in 1911: “The Earth is the cradle of humanity but you don’t spend your whole life in a cradle”. A dream transformed into reality fifty years later by Yuri Gagarin, the first man to travel in space. On the morning of April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin climbed without hesitation aboard the Vostok, “the Orient” in Russian. A few seconds after taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, at 9:07 a.m., he launched with a joyful voice “Let’s go”. In less than two hours, it tears itself away from the attraction of the blue planet and circles the Earth’s orbit at nearly 30,000 km / hour in its narrow capsule, like a bullet. It is in a parachute, at an altitude of 7,000 meters, that he finishes his journey. The feat and the name of its author resounded all over the world.

A true legend in Russia, Yuri Gagarin was born on March 9, 1934 in Klouchino, a village 150 km west of Moscow, into a modest family. Passionate about airplanes, the blond with blue eyes enrolled in an amateur aeronautical club at the age of 20 before joining a military flight school. Having become a fighter pilot, Gagarin volunteered in 1959, like 19 other soldiers, to learn to fly. “a whole new type of device”. Finally, he was appointed to perform the first human flight in space, the story telling that it was his skills and especially his working-class origins that made the difference with Soviet decision-makers. During this mission as historic as it is dangerous, he will come close to death on several occasions. The day before takeoff, the rocket launch success rate did not exceed 56% …

At the heart of Soviet … and Russian propaganda

Welcomed as a hero on Earth, he quickly became the darling of the leaders of the USSR. Adopted by Nikita Krouchtchev, he will be sent on a peace mission to the four corners of the world, meeting for example Queen Elizabeth II or Fidel Castro. Writer Lev Danilkine points out that many historians consider Gagarin as a “cog of the gigantic machine of violence” of the USSR. His feat would have served in particular to “to instill in the population” that the victims of Soviet repression and the Gulag “had not been in vain”.

Vladimir Poutine maintains, according to him, this logic to make today’s Russia the heir to the triumphs of the past. “The current power methodically appropriates popular cults: first that of victory during the Second World War, then that of the conquest of space and Gagarin”, he emphasizes, recalling that the State was fighting at the same time all “alternative interpretations” of these events.

Traces still visible in the education system

Other legacies of this propaganda are still widely visible today. Interviewed by LCI, Florian Vidal, researcher at the Russia / NEI Center at IFRI, explains : “within Russian society, Gagarin remains one of the most popular personalities”. And “the older generations have a still lively and more marked admiration of his exploits than the younger generations”, the education system is still imbued with its exploits.

Russian schools even organize “events around the figure of Gagarin” as the “Gagarin cup (Kubok Gagarina)”, kinds “Olympiads” with “several physical exercises”. “More than the scientific feat, it is the image of Gagarin which is used in the school environment to promote the surpassing of oneself”, concludes the researcher.

Read also

  • 100 years ago, the French Adrienne Bolland achieved one of the greatest feats in the history of aviation.
  • April 12, 1961: Gagarin in space, the American humiliation that prompted Kennedy to launch the conquest of the Moon

After a tragic accident during a flight aboard a training plane, Yuri Gagarin died in 1968. His death, still shrouded in mystery – the authorities never having published the full investigation report – constitutes , still a shock to many Russians today. Yet she transformed the hero into an icon. Another proof, if necessary, of the indelible mark left by this emblematic character.

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