Russia celebrates 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic space flight

12 April 2021, 09:44

Gagarin monument
Russia Gagarin. Picture: PA

The cosmonaut became the first person in space on April 12 1961.

Russians are commemorating the achievements of Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space 60 years ago.

Gagarin’s 108-minute mission on April 12 1961 took the Space Age to a new level and marked a historic achievement for the then-Soviet Union, which beat the United States in a tight race to launch a man beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin’s 108-minute flight took place on April 12 1961 (RIA Novosti/AP)

For the Soviet people, Gagarin’s spaceflight was a triumph comparable to the victory over the Germans in the Second World War.

It has remained a source of national pride in Russia ever since, a symbol of the country’s bravery and technological prowess.

Russia Gagarin tribute
A model rocket is launched in St Petersburg to mark Gagarin’s achievements (AP)

Gagarin died just seven years after he orbited the planet, but the first monuments glorifying him and his pioneering achievement were erected while he still was alive.

There are dozens of monuments and memorials dedicated to the cosmonaut across Russia, from a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean.

A Gagarin statue in Kazakhstan
The sun sets over a statue of the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (AP)

A titanium obelisk depicting a starting rocket and dedicated to the first Soviet cosmonauts was unveiled in Moscow in 1964.

Standing 107 metres high (351ft), it includes a Gagarin relief.

Gagarin space flight graphic
(PA Graphics)

The Cosmonauts Alley near the Conquerors of Space monument which opened in 1967 features bronze busts of Gagarin and other Soviet cosmonauts.

Another towering monument built in 1980 also became a Moscow landmark: a titanium statue of Gagarin standing on a pedestal formed to resemble rocket exhaust. It is 42 metres (138ft) high and weighs 12 tonnes.

Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin’s achievements are still a source of great pride to the Russian people (AP)

After Gagarin died in a training jet crash in March 1968, he was buried near the Kremlin Wall alongside former Soviet leaders.

The field near Moscow where his plane crashed also has a memorial.

Other Gagarin monuments include a statue in Star City, home to the spaceflight training centre just outside the capital where Gagarin and many other cosmonauts lived.

Yuri Gagarin
Municipal workers clean the bas-relief of Yuri Gagarin ahead of Cosmonautics Day (AP)

Dozens of others are spread across Russia, including one in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on the far-eastern Sakhalin Island.

A statue of Gagarin also marks the Baikonur space launch facility, the place he blasted off from in then-Soviet Kazakhstan.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia leased Baikonur for both piloted space missions and satellite launches.

Monuments celebrate cosmonauts
The bust of Yuri Gagarin, right, and the 351ft titanium obelisk depicting a starting rocket dedicated to the first cosmonauts, in Moscow (AP)

A field near the Volga River where Gagarin landed after his historic 1961 flight bears an obelisk, and a Gagarin statue was added later.

A theme park was set up there to mark the 60th anniversary of his flight.

By Press Association