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From Moscow to Pacific, Russia glorifies Gagarin

by The Associated Press | April 16, 2021 at 4:04 a.m.
FILE - In this Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 file photo, the sun sets over a statue of the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, File)

MOSCOW -- From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space 60 years ago.

Gagarin's 108-minute mission took the Space Age to a new level and marked a historic achievement for the Soviet Union, which beat the United States in a tight race to launch a man beyond Earth's atmosphere.

For the Soviet people, Gagarin's spaceflight was a triumph comparable to the victory over the Germans in World War II. It has remained a source of national pride since April 12, 1961, a symbol of the country's bravery and technological prowess.

Gagarin died seven years after he orbited the planet. The first monuments glorifying him and his pioneering achievement were erected while he still was alive.

A titanium obelisk depicting a starting rocket and dedicated to the first Soviet cosmonauts was unveiled in Moscow in 1964. Standing 351 feet, it includes a Gagarin relief. The Cosmonauts Alley near the Conquerors of Space monument that opened in 1967 features bronze busts of Gagarin and other Soviet cosmonauts.

Another towering monument built in 1980 also became a Moscow landmark: a titanium statue of Gagarin standing on a pedestal formed to resemble rocket exhaust. It is 138 feet high and weighs 12 tons.

After Gagarin died in a training jet crash in March 1968, he was buried near the Kremlin Wall alongside former Soviet leaders. The field near Moscow where his plane crashed also got a memorial.

Other Gagarin monuments include a statue in Star City, home to the spaceflight training center just outside the capital where Gagarin and many other cosmonauts lived.

Dozens of others are spread across Russia, including one in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on the far-eastern Sakhalin Island.

A statue of Gagarin also marks the Baikonur space launch facility, the place he blasted off from in then-Soviet Kazakhstan. After the Soviet Union's collapse, Russia leased Baikonur for both piloted space missions and satellite launches.

A field near the Volga River where Gagarin landed after his historic 1961 flight bears an obelisk and a Gagarin statue added later. A theme park was set up there to mark the 60th anniversary of his flight.

The monument of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. The monument built in 1980 also became a Moscow landmark. Gagarin's statue standing on a pedestal made to resemble a rocket exhaust is made of titanium. It's 42-meter (138-feet) high and weighs 12 tons (26,455 pounds). From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Maxim Marmur)
The monument of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. The monument built in 1980 also became a Moscow landmark. Gagarin's statue standing on a pedestal made to resemble a rocket exhaust is made of titanium. It's 42-meter (138-feet) high and weighs 12 tons (26,455 pounds). From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Maxim Marmur)
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 file photo, children play near a sculpture of the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, the world's first and largest operational space launch facility, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 file photo, children play near a sculpture of the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, the world's first and largest operational space launch facility, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, File)
The bust of Yuri Gagarin next to the 107-meter (351-feet) high titanium obelisk depicting a starting rocket dedicated to the first cosmonauts in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 9, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
The bust of Yuri Gagarin next to the 107-meter (351-feet) high titanium obelisk depicting a starting rocket dedicated to the first cosmonauts in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 9, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
The bust of Yuri Gagarin, right, and the 107-meter (351-feet) high titanium obelisk depicting a starting rocket dedicated to the first cosmonauts, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 9, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
The bust of Yuri Gagarin, right, and the 107-meter (351-feet) high titanium obelisk depicting a starting rocket dedicated to the first cosmonauts, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 9, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
The monument of Yuri Gagarin at the landing site of the first spaceman in the world Yuri Gagarin, located in Engels District of Saratov region in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 16, 2011. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Yuri Nabatoff)
The monument of Yuri Gagarin at the landing site of the first spaceman in the world Yuri Gagarin, located in Engels District of Saratov region in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 16, 2011. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Yuri Nabatoff)
Honor guards stand at the monument of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, in Orenburg, Russia, Saturday, March 9, 2019. Yuri Gagarin studied at the Chkalovsk Military Aviation School of Pilots from 1955 to 1957. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Sergey Medvedev)
Honor guards stand at the monument of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, in Orenburg, Russia, Saturday, March 9, 2019. Yuri Gagarin studied at the Chkalovsk Military Aviation School of Pilots from 1955 to 1957. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Sergey Medvedev)
FILE - In this Friday, April 12, 2019 file photo, people queue to lay flowers at a grave of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, in the Kremlin wall Cosmonauts Day, in Moscow, Russia. After Gagarin died in a training jet crash in March 1968, he was buried near the Kremlin Wall alongside Soviet leaders. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
FILE - In this Friday, April 12, 2019 file photo, people queue to lay flowers at a grave of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, in the Kremlin wall Cosmonauts Day, in Moscow, Russia. After Gagarin died in a training jet crash in March 1968, he was buried near the Kremlin Wall alongside Soviet leaders. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
The statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. For the Soviet people, Gagarin's flight was a triumph comparable to the WW II victory. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
The statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. For the Soviet people, Gagarin's flight was a triumph comparable to the WW II victory. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
A monument to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space at Russian Space Training Center in Star City outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 5, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo)
A monument to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space at Russian Space Training Center in Star City outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 5, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo)
The monument of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space is seen in the city of Gagarin, former Gzhatsk, his homeland, in Smolensk region, Russia, Tuesday, April 6, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo)
The monument of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space is seen in the city of Gagarin, former Gzhatsk, his homeland, in Smolensk region, Russia, Tuesday, April 6, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo)
The statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Sergei Krasnoukhov)
The statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Sergei Krasnoukhov)
The bas-relief of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, as part of a 107-meter (351-feet) high titanium obelisk depicting a starting rocket dedicated to the first cosmonauts opened in Moscow 1964, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 28, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
The bas-relief of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, as part of a 107-meter (351-feet) high titanium obelisk depicting a starting rocket dedicated to the first cosmonauts opened in Moscow 1964, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 28, 2021. From a giant statue towering over Moscow to a more modest monument on the Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, dozens of memorials across Russia commemorate Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who became the first person in space on April 12, 1961, 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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