|—Gagarin on take-off|
Yuri Gagarin (Russian: Юрий Гагарин; 1934–1968) was a Soviet cosmonaut, the first human to fly in space and orbit the Earth. His flight was the second major achievement in a row for the Soviet space program, after the launch of the first satellite two years earlier. Thus, it was a huge publicity coup for the Soviet Union, both at home and abroad. Gagarin himself was nearly deified by Soviet propaganda, which got even worse after his sudden demise. Both his flight and his death became fodder for conspiracy theories and other fringe claims.
Gagarin, like all good Soviets, was a vocal atheist, although some doubt that he really was, and have even painted him as a kind of Russian saint. Gagarin's feat was also the subject of at least one piece of Socialist Realist, anti-religious art. The Orthodox Church continues a policy of claiming him as their own, and some have disputed that he ever made the widely quoted statement, "I see no God" on reaching orbit. Such statements rely on second hand testimony and rumour as well.
Gagarin was a charismatic figure, often smiling, and accommodating to his fans and audiences across the world. For example, when visiting Manchester in England, he was asked if he would put the roof back on his limousine, during his parade. He replied, "If all those people are getting wet to welcome me, surely the least I can do is get wet too!"
A certain breed of people have claimed, through second or third hand sources, that Gagarin didn't see God up there, but aliens, and others claim that he was abducted by them. There are also claims that his flight record was falsified.
Gagarin died in a MiG-15UTI together with flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin. The cause of the crash isn't entirely certain, and for many years the Soviet government basically said nothing about it; documents weren't declassified until 2003(!!). It's not that strange that various rumours surrounding Gagarin's death were wide-spread. They're often called "conspiracy theories", and technically some are, but when you're living in the USSR in the 1960's with such fun perks as the KGB, and the official accounts say pretty much nothing at all, it's not entirely fair to just dismiss them as crank nonsense similar to 9/11 truthers, JFK assassination theories, reptoids, etc.
Common rumours were that the pilots were drunk,[citation NOT needed] that the plane was hit by birds, and other mundane causes. More outlandish rumours were that Gagarin staged his own death and had plastic surgery, that jealous Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev purpously crashed the plane to kill Gagarin, or that Gagarin committed suicide.
The real cause of his death according to the KGB investigation declassified in 2003 is a combination of bad weather information and either a bird strike or a possibly a sudden move to avoid a second aircraft (a witness saw a Su-15 very close). There's also been speculation about an air vent that was left open, leading to possible oxygen deprivation.
It's a hoax!
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- Did aliens snatch Yury Gagarin?, a RT segment discussing his death (the usual warnings about RT's standards of journalism apply)
- Siddiqi, Asif A., Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974. NASA SP-2000-4408, 2000. (Part 1; free PDF of the book provided by NASA; part 2 is also available)
- Twenty Myths About Gagarin's Spaceflight
- Translated to English: Let's go!, or Here we go!
- Gagarin as Christ
- A Priest Contemplates Gagarin's Feat
- Yuri Gagarin: the first Orthodox in Space by Rev. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos Vlachos
- UFO enthusiasts peddling rumours about Gagarin
- Gagarin's Falsified Flight Record
- KGB held ground staff to blame for Gagarin's death
- Death of Yuri Gagarin demystified 40 years on
- Inquiry promises to solve Gagarin death riddle
- (Russians What?) The Yuri Gagarin Hoax
- Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was never in Space
- Yuri Gagarin, A Cosmic Lie, on the flat earth society