The 12th of April in Russia commemorates the first manned space flight made in 1961 by Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut. It was a crucial milestone; it denoted a new era of mankind – an era of space travel. In this article, we are going to look through the history of the holiday, its celebrations, and its importance for modern space science.
History and importance for Russians
On April 12th, 1961, a 27-years-old Russian man, Yuri Gagarin, traveled around the Earth for the first time in human mankind. The first human spaceflight was called Vostok-1, launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, a Russian spaceport in southern Kazakhstan. The flight lasted 108 minutes, and Yuri successfully landed near Engels, a city in the European part of Russia.
After the flight, Yuri Gagarin received the nation’s highest honor – Hero of the Soviet Union and became an international celebrity. Unfortunately, Yuri died 7 years later during routine pilot training. To commemorate his achievements, his ashes were interred in the Kremlin wall.
The first manned space flight was a triumph of the Soviet space program. The program succeeded in a lot of destinations apart from the first man in space. It also has launched the first intercontinental ballistic missile, the first satellite (Sputnik), the first animal in Earth orbit (the dog Laika), the first woman in space and Earth orbit (Valentina Tereshkova), the first spacewalk, the first moon impact, first image of the far side of the Moon and uncrewed lunar soft landing, first space rover, the first sample of lunar soil automatically extracted and brought to Earth, and first space station and first interplanetary probs.
This list can partially explain the importance of the holiday for Russians. A lot of Russian people took part in these incredible achievements and many families have relatives that worked in space construction. For example, my grandmother guided the construction of Buran, the first Soviet/Russian spaceplane, one of the few spaceplanes that successfully launched to orbit.
The Russian Cosmonautics Day (День космона́втики) was established in 1962, a year after the spaceflight, by the Soviet government. It is not a national holiday, but it is still celebrated by a lot of Russians. The celebrations are mostly held in Moscow, in the Moscow Planetarium that offers special excursions, and in the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. Some little celebrations also take part in other cities of Russia and worldwide, remembering the deed of Yuri Gagarin and other cosmonauts all over the world.
In 2011 the United Nations General Assembly declared 12 of April to be the International Day of Human Space Flight. Since that moment this Russian holiday is considered to be international.
In 2000 was created an international event called Yuri’s Night (also known as World Space Party). This celebration is also held every 12th of April to commemorate milestones in space exploration. In 2011, on the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight, Yuri’s Night was celebrated at over 567 events in 75 countries. This year, on the 60th anniversary, it was held virtually because of the global pandemic.
During these 60 years since the flight of Yuri Gagarin, space science and astronomy have developed new ideas and achievements because of the brave and talented people of this sphere. But every year on the 12th of April all the world remembers the heroic feat of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.
If you want to know more about Russian cosmonautics, about history and culture of Russia, or about famous Russian people, we invite you to take dedicated classes at the Russificate Culture school, where professional teachers with extensive experience have developed many interesting online courses for those interested in Russia.