Gagarin, Iurii Alekseevich

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gagarin, Iurii Alekseevich


Born Mar. 9, 1934, in the village of Klushino, Gzhatsk Raion, Smolensk Oblast; died Mar. 27, 1968. Pilot and cosmonaut of the USSR. First man to accomplish flight in outer space. Colonel; Hero of the Soviet Union (Apr. 4, 1961); member of the CPSU from 1960.

Gagarin was born into the family of a kolkhoznik. In 1951 he graduated with honors as a molder-founder from a trade school in the town of Liubertsy on the outskirts of Moscow; at the same time he finished a school for working youth. He was then sent to the Saratov Industrial Technicum, which he also completed successfully in 1955. Gagarin took his first steps in aviation when he was a student of this technicum, receiving instruction in the Saratov Aeroclub. After finishing the aeroclub’s course in 1955, Gagarin enrolled in the First Chkalov Military Aviation Pilots’ School. In 1957 he graduated from this school with the highest possible rank and served in the fighter units of the Red Banner Northern Fleet’s aviation. As one of the most talented and courageous fighter pilots, he was chosen in 1960 for the detachment of cosmonauts. In February 1968 he graduated with honors from the N. E. Zhukovskii Air Force Academy in Moscow.

On Apr. 12, 1961, Gagarin completed the world’s first space flight in the satellite-spaceship Vostok. Gagarin circled the globe in 1 hour and 48 minutes and returned safely to earth. After this flight he continuously worked at improving his skills as a pilot and cosmonaut and directly participated in instructing and training cosmonaut crews as well as directing space flights. Gagarin carried on a great deal of sociopolitical work and visited many countries in the world. He was a deputy to the sixth and seventh convocations of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and a member of the central committee of the All-Union Lenin Communist Youth League (VLKSM; elected at the 14th and 15th congresses of the VLKSM). In 1966 he became an honorary member of the International Academy of Astronautics. Gagarin was awarded the Order of Lenin as well as the highest awards of many foreign states.

Gagarin died tragically in an airplane crash near the village of Novoselovo, Kirzhach Raion, Vladimir Oblast, while on a training flight. He was buried on Red Square in Moscow.

To immortalize Gagarin’s memory, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR renamed the city of Gzhatsk, Smolensk Oblast, as the city of Gagarin and the Gzhatsk Raion, Smolensk Oblast, as the Gagarin Raion. The name of Iu. A. Gagarin was also accorded to the Red Banner of the Order of Kutuzov Air Force Academy in Monino. A crater on the far side of the moon was also named after Gagarin.

In 1968 the International Aeronautical Federation instituted a gold medal named for Iu. A. Gagarin, which is awarded each year to pilot-cosmonauts who have achieved the greatest results in the field of man’s mastery of outer space for peaceful purposes. The first medal was awarded to G. T. Beregovoi (1969).


Psikhologiia i kosmos. Moscow, 1968. (With V. I. Lebedev.)
Est’ plamia! Moscow, 1968.
Doroga v kosmos. Moscow, 1969.


Pervyi polet cheloveka v kosmos. Moscow, 1961.
Sovetskii chelovek v kosmose. Moscow, 1961.
Utro kosmicheskoi ery. Moscow, 1961.
Kamanin, N. P. Pervyi grazhdanin Vselennoi. Moscow, 1962.
Borzenko, S. A., and N. N. Denisov. Pervyi kosmonavt. Moscow, 1969.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.