Ural federal university: ‘He Was Like The Beatles’: How Gagarin’s Flight Changed the World

On April 12, Russia celebrated Cosmonautics Day. Gagarin’s smile, “Let’s go”, “Cedar, I am Zarya-1” – all these have become important symbols of the Soviet era and remain easily recognizable 60 years later. Ekaterina Kamenskaya, an expert on Soviet everyday life, associate professor at the UrFU Ural Institute of Humanities, tells about the changes in public consciousness that the first manned flight into space entailed.

“The space race was viewed in the spirit of competition with the West. The launch of an artificial satellite and a successful manned flight into space showed the USSR’s supremacy in the space sphere and convinced of the success of the socialist system. The conquest of space by Soviet people was often presented as a weighty slap in the face of the capitalist world. In the Soviet press, Gagarin’s flight became one of the main topics for a long time. He was as famous worldwide, too, like The Beatles a few years later. And in the photographs, which were full of all newspapers and magazines, Nikita Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders were regularly next to Yuri Gagarin, “the teacher said.

Ekaterina Kamenskaya argues that the USSR’s successes in space were interpreted as a natural result of the progressive line of development of domestic science.

“The flight of Gagarin further strengthened the Soviet science’s prestige. The youth aspired to become scientists, engineers and, of course, astronauts. And the pace of development of the space sphere allowed us to hope that the result of our own efforts could be seen quickly enough, ”said the associate professor.

In those days, people were interested in possible options for arranging life on the Earth’s closest neighbors – the Moon, Mars, Venus. For example, it was imagined that scientific laboratories and living quarters for protection from meteorites and sudden changes in temperature would be located in the thickness of the moon, people would move in spacesuits on tracked electric vehicles and grow fresh vegetables in space greenhouses.

“It is significant that in the published materials, in the overwhelming majority of cases, space was ‘out of politics’. It was thought of as a kind of paradise – here was the triumph of science and technology, here the most daring dreams of mankind were realized. Yuri Gagarin’s words about space – “Extraordinary beauty!”, Which were actively circulated in the press, further strengthened this perception. Along with, by the way, works of fantastic literature, which in those years gained superpopularity, “- said Kamenskaya.

In addition, ordinary people were very interested in alien civilizations – are there intelligent beings in our galaxy, if aliens exist, could they ever visit Earth or launch artificial satellites into space. But the answers to these questions remain open even after 60 years.

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