Celebrating Space Day

By Lucia Irurozki

After 12 April 1961, Gagarin became the most popular person on the planet. Everyone wanted to greet him, if not touch him, at least see him from a distance. Different countries invited the first cosmonaut and he visited about 30 countries in two years.

Wherever he went, he was greeted by crowds of people with flowers and signs in Russian.

Here are some anecdotes from the countries he visited during his earthly journey. In all of them, the young astronaut was greeted with gifts and great displays of affection.

How much we miss this flow in today’s world, which for a moment made us all feel part of the same thing! Yuri Gagarin was the perfect messenger of the new spirit, fully convinced of the most altruistic values of Soviet socialism. His open smile, a sign of honesty, represented the other great achievement of the hero “of all”, this time with his feet on the ground.


Soviet cosmonauts, Heroes of the Soviet Union Pavel Popovich, Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova, on Wikimedia commons

The first celebration took place in Moscow on 14 April. The whole city took to the streets, people pushed against police barriers and threw bouquets at the motorcade. After Moscow, the events were repeated in Leningrad, Kiev and Volgograd, kicking off a world tour after his departure from the planet.


The President of Czechoslovakia received Gagarin at the site of the Golden Star of the Czechoslovak Socialist Hero of Labour. During a visit to the largest engineering plant in Prague, workers presented him with a statue from the foundry. The symbolic significance of this award to the astronaut was to highlight the foundry as the first profession.

The United Kingdom

During the visit to the United Kingdom, a delegation with the first cosmonaut was invited to breakfast at Buckingham Palace. There was a lot of cutlery on the table and Yuri Alekseevich did not know what to choose… Then he took a large spoon and, saying “Let’s eat in Russian”, dipped it into a bowl of salad. The Queen and other guests followed his example, armed with large spoons, and began to eat at the Haya-Garinsky.


Gagarin and Fidel Castro on Wikimedia Commons

Gagarin was greeted by Fidel Castro, Cuban President Osvaldo Dortikos and the legendary Comandante Che Guevara. As the plane landed on the island, a tropical rain began to fall. The first cosmonaut was offered a raincoat, but when he saw it underwater he refused and ended up soaking wet.


So many people wanted to see Gagarin that the police had to disperse them with the help of the fire brigade and put-up fences on all the routes to the hotel where Gagarin was staying.


Gagarin and his wife travelled to India. He met India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlar Nehru and Indian film star Rajim Kapoor. He toured the country in all its breadth beyond the typical sightseeing tours with an interest in the yogis and the diversity of rituals.


Yuri Gagarin watching the air parade, air base near Cairo, Egypt, 1962, in Wikimedia Commons

In Egypt, Gagarin visited the pyramids of Giza, the ancient city of Luxor, and Aswan, where the Egyptians, with the help of the Soviet Union, had built the largest dam in Africa. As a farewell gift, he received the symbolic keys to the gates of Cairo and Alexandria, and the President of the country awarded Gagarin the highest decoration of the Republic, the Order of the Nile.


Japan was the first foreign country Gagarin saw from space. On the airfield of Tokyo, a crowd of 10.000.000 hands chanted: “Banzai, Gagarin”. When Yuri Alekseevich visited the Minolta photo shop, a car with a complete set of photographic equipment was waiting for him at the exit.

In France

Gagarin visited France twice. During one of the visits he visited Matra, a developer of rocket and space technology, which at the same time produced cars. One of them was praiseworthy, as he immediately received the keys to the sky-blue Matra-Bonnet Jet VS double coupé. Once in Moscow, however, Gagarin was embarrassed by the ostentation of the car and only drove it around the capital once.


Photo Central Gahlbeck 8 May 1961 on Wikimedia Commons

The city of Karl Marx named a street after Yuri Gagarin. The city of Karl Marx paid tribute to Yuri Gagarin. Since the 16th anniversary of the liberation, Zschopauer Strasse in Karl-Marx-Stadt has been named after the world’s first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin. Many residents and young pioneers attended the ceremony.

The young astronaut undoubtedly stood for humanist values and was a great ambassador for them throughout the world.


*Russian Foreign Ministry:

🚀 #TodayAsToday In 1961, at 9:07 am Moscow time, the Vostok 1 spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome with Yuri Gagarin on board. The Soviet cosmonaut became the first man to travel into space, a historic event that marked the beginning of the space age for all mankind.

Gagarin spent 108 minutes in space, orbiting the Earth and successfully landing by parachute in the village of Smelovka, Saratov province.

In orbit, the pilot maintained contact with Earth, monitoring the operation of the spacecraft’s control systems and carrying out simple observations and experiments.

News of his flight immediately spread around the globe and Yuri Gagarin became the planet’s number one celebrity.

Two days after his space flight, Gagarin was celebrated in Moscow with a 19-kilometre-long parade attended by millions of people that ended in the Red Square of the Russian capital.

At the end of April, our compatriot embarked on an extensive tour of the world, visiting more than 30 countries in two years, receiving hero’s welcomes and meeting kings, presidents, politicians, scientists, artists and musicians.

For billions of people around the world, Yuri Gagarin remains an example of heroism and selflessness, inspiring them to overcome all obstacles to achieve the most ambitious and noble goals.

– Chancellor Sergey Lavrov

☝️ Gagarin’s space voyage was a true triumph of Soviet science and technology and was of crucial importance for the development of cosmonautics and humanity as a whole, laying the foundations for international cooperation in space exploration.

Photos of the Russian Cosmonautics Memorial Museum in Moscow

The original article can be found here