50 years ago today at 9:07 A.M. Moscow time, 1:07 A.M eastern, Yuri Gagarin was launched on a Soyuz rocket in the Vostok spacecraft becoming the first human in space. Gagarin spent a total of 108 minutes in space returning back to earth at 10:55 A.M. Moscow time.
There were many pronouncements that day from Moscow and around the world on this historic flight. However the following statement was released by Soviet leadership and is reprinted here online for the first time in english. It provides a unique view of the world at the time from the Soviet perspective.
“A great event has occurred: man had made a space flight for the first time in history…
An orbital spaceship, Vostok, with a man on board, took off on April 12, 1961, at 9:07 A.M., Moscow time, flew around the globe and returned safely to the sacred soil of our country, the land of the Soviets.
The first person to penetrate into outer space is a Soviet man, a citizen of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics!
This is an unparalleled victory of man over the forces of nature, the greatest achievement of science and engineering, a triumph of human thought! Manned space flight has begun.
The genius of the Soviet people and the vast power of the socialism are embodied in this exploit, which will go down in history.
With feelings of great joy and legitimate pride the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet and the Soviet Government note that this new era in the progressive development of humankind had been opened up our country, a country of victorious socialism.
Tsarist Russia with its backwardness could not even dream of accomplishing such feats in the struggle for progress or in competing with more technically and economically advanced countries.
By the will of the working class, by the will of the people inspired by the Communist Party, led by our Lenin, our country became a mighty socialist power and achieved unprecedented heights in the development of science and technology.
When the working class took power into their hands in October, 1917, many people, including those who were honest, doubted whether the working class would be able to govern the country and to preserve at least the achieved level of development in the economy, science and engineering.
The working class, the Soviet collective farm peasantry, the Soviet intelligentsia, the entire Soviet people are now demonstrating to the whole world their remarkable success in science and engineering. Our country has taken the lead over all other states in the world and is the first to blaze the trail into outer space.
The Soviet Union was the first to fire an intercontinental ballistic rocket; it was the first to launch an artificial satellite; it was the first to send a space probe to the moon; it created the first artificial satellite of the sun; and it dispatched a spaceship towards Venus. Soviet orbital spaceships with living creatures on board carried out flights in space and returned to earth one after another.
Our victories in the conquest of outer space are crowned by the triumphant flight of a Soviet man in spaceship around the earth.
Honor and glory to the working class, the Soviet peasantry, the Soviet intelligentsia, the whole Soviet people!
Honor and glory to the Soviet scientists, engineers, and technicians, the creators of the spaceship!
Honor and glory to the first cosmonaut, Comrade Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin, the pioneer of space research!
The honor of being the first to penetrate into outer space has fallen to us, the Soviet people, who are building communism. We regard the victories in space exploration as being not only the achievements of our people, but of the whole of mankind a swell. We gladly place them at the service of all peoples in the name of progress, happiness, and the well-being of all people on earth. We place our accomplishments and discoveries at the service of the peace and security of the peoples, not a the service of war.
The development of science and technology presents boundless opportunities for the mastering of the forces of nature and their use for the good of man. For this, peace must first of all be ensured.
On this great occasion we once again address to the peoples and governments of all countries our appeal for peace.
Let all people, irrespective of race or nationality, color, religious creed or social status, spare no efforts to ensure a lasting world peace. Let us put an end to the arms drive! Let us carry out general and complete disarmament under strict international control! This will be a decisive contribution to the sacred cause of peace.
The glorious victory of our country inspires all Soviet people to new deeds in the upbuilding of communism.
Forward to new triumphs in the name of peace, progress, and happiness of humanity!
From: The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, The Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, and The Council of the Ministers of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”
Gagarin returned to Moscow a hero of the Soviet Union and was suitably celebrated in honor of the motherland. Four days later at the Scientists Club in Moscow he ended a speech by saying “Personally I want to fly a lot in outer space. I liked it. I want to fly to Venus, to Mars, to do some real flying.” Sadly Gagarin would never fly in space again. His life ended tragically on March 27, 1968 when he was killed while training in a jet. He was 34.
– RSC Energia Vostok 1 Anniversary Photo Album: Gagarin As He Was
– RSC Energia Vostok 1 Anniversary Photo Album: The Road to Space
– RSC Energia Vostok 1 Anniversary Photo Album: The Space Age Has Begun