Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

Translations

Yuri Gagarin
Molodaya Gvardia (2011)
ISBN 978-5-235-03440-2
Yuri Gagarin’s flight into space on 12 April 1961, exactly 50 years ago, is one of mankind’s greatest achievements, but we still know very little about the man himself. Existing Gagarin biographies circulate more or less the same selection of facts in different packaging and rely on the same range of sources. Lev Danilkin’s new Gagarin, however, bucks this trend by being a truly original and comprehensive work—the definitive biography of the definitive spaceman.

Gagarin makes use of more than a thousand sources, including not only previously unpublished archival material and personal interviews with eye-witnesses, but also recently published documents about the Soviet space programme and hundreds of previously overlooked memoirs, as well as excerpts from the global press which watched Gagarin’s every move.

Danilkin uses this massively extended corpus of sources to tell the story Gagarin’s life from its humble beginnings to its conspiracy-shrouded end, taking along in his many travels, including his historic trip to England soon after the spaceflight. The book is split into 17 chapters linked to periods in Gagarin’s life, each of which consists of a detailed introduction by the author and a ‘literary montage’ of quotations which includes the opinions of contemporary witnesses alongside verified facts. The result is a polyphonic narration in which the voices (very often independent foreign observers) do not just tell their versions of what happened, but enter into a dialogue with each other, allowing the reader to decide the truth for themselves.

This book, which is illustrated with exclusive photographs, is more than a chronology of events; it is an investigation into the crucial questions surrounding Gagarin, which casts new light on the Space Race and the Cold War as a whole. To what extent was he just the product of Soviet ideology—a kitsch quasi-religious myth designed to justify the regime? How did he survive being the most popular man on the planet? What was the real reason for his death? And many more. (Academia Rossica)