Thursday, April 4, 2013

Misquoting a Cosmonaut

Yuri Gagarin, Soviet Cosmonaut and the first man in space, was alleged to have said that he did not see God when he left Earth.  In reality, Gagarin never said this and was actually a lifelong Christian.  Rob Kerby writes in Orthodoxy Today,
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, in line with the official atheistic Soviet line, proclaimed that Gagarin had told him the famous line about not seeing God in space. But nobody else ever heard Gagarin say it –and he never repeated it.
In fact, “Gagarin was a baptized faithful throughout all his life,” says General Valentin Petrov, Professor of the Russian Air Force Academy and a personal friend of the cosmonaut. “He always confessed God whenever he was provoked, no matter where he was.”

In a 2007 article titled “Yuri Gagarin, the Christian,” by Maria Biniari, she wrote on his birthday in 1964, he visited a monastery, the Lavra of Saint Serge, and met with the Prior — the monk in charge.
There, he had a photo taken of himself, which he told the priest “this is for those who don’t believe.” He signed it “with my best wishes, Yuri Gagarin.”
“That famous phrase which has been ascribed to him, well, in actual fact it was Khrushchev who had said it,” says Petrov. ”It was heard during a meeting of the Central Committee, whose desire it was to promulgate anti-religious propaganda.

“Khrushchev had mockingly addressed the following words: ‘Why didn’t you step on the brakes in front of God? Here is Gagarin, who flew up to space, and yet, even he didn’t see God anywhere.’
“Immediately after that, those words were placed into another’s mouth, because the people would have believed more in Gagarin’s words than Khrushchev’s,” says Petrov.

In fact, Gagarin should be remembered for completely different words, says his friend:
"I always remember that Yuri Gagarin said: “An astronaut cannot be suspended in space and not have God in his mind and his heart."
I had read Gagarin's alleged line about God, and until now I had no idea that he was actually a believer.  I wish that my own country had beat the Communists to space, but if someone had to beat us, I'm glad it was Yuri Gagarin.


  1. Even though the Russians beat the U.S. to space, you guys made it to the moon first. A much grander, monumental accomplishment.

    1. True. Also, our program had a better safety record. Though not usually reported by the Soviet government, a significant number of cosmonauts died during the space race.

  2. Had totally forgotten about the quote until I read this post.
    Not surprized to hear the Ruskies lied.