On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

Yuri Gagarin, first human in space, was a devout Christian, says his close friend

The first man in outer space 50 years ago believed fervently in the Almighty — even though the atheistic Soviet government put famous words in his mouth that he had looked around at the cosmos and did not see God.

Mankind’s first space flight lasted 108 minutes on April 12, 1961.

It was the height of the Cold War. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was proclaimed by the Soviet leadership to have announced, “I went up to space, but I didn’t encounter God.”


However, he never uttered those often-quoted words, says a close friend. And it seems that the Soviet Union lied about a number of aspects of the 1961 space flight.

For example, they covered up the fact that he landed more than 200 miles away from where they were expecting him, a new book discloses. The Soviets trumpeted his mission, the first manned flight into space, as a major Cold War propaganda coup, portraying it as a glitch-free triumph of Communist ideology, writes Russian journalist Anton Pervushin in his book, 108 Minutes That Changed the World.

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 he was a baptized member of the Russian Orthodox Church. Due to Soviet repression of Christianity, he kept that to himself.

A new book published on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s famous flight reveals that Soviet scientists severely miscalculated where he would land. “For many years Soviet literature claimed that Yuri Gagarin and his Vostok I landing capsule had come down in the area it was supposed to,” writes Pervushin. “They had been expecting Gagarin to land almost 250 miles further to the south So it turned out that nobody was waiting or looking for Yuri Gagarin. Therefore the first thing he had to do after landing was set off to look for people so he could tell the leadership where he was.”


The Soviets also lied about the manner of his landing, claiming that he had touched down inside the capsule — which landed on dry land, unlike American space capsules, which splashed down in water. In fact, Gagarin bailed out and landed by parachute.

The book reveals a touching letter Gagarin wrote to his family before the mission in which he pondered his own mortality, telling his wife not to “die of grief” if he never returned. “After all life is life and there is no guarantee for anybody that tomorrow a car might not end one’s life.”

Earlier, the Soviets had sent Laika, a dog, but had made no provision for her to return to earth — so she died in orbit.

“Gagarin also became well-known for the phrase he is said to have stated, a phrase that was used extensively by the atheist propaganda of the time,” writes Nafpaktos Hierotheos Vlachos, the head of today’s Russian Orthodox Church. “And I say ‘he is said to have stated.'”


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.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lionel

    It is not what the Atheist say, it is what the Christian don’t say.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment theist1947

    I’m an American and I remember when Yuri Gagarin went into space. I thought he was “cute” and it didn’t matter that he was Russian. My father, who greatly admired Lindbergh said “he’s a #$% Communist!” I said “people all over the world liked Lindbergh”. Anyway, if Yuri was a Christian, he was not a true Communist. I’m glad I liked him and didn’t care he was Russian

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment john ramsbottom

    don’t think anyone would expect to see God in space. God is present in the world….

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kayode

    I was back home in Nigeria when this event occurred and of course, it was all over the news. Yuri Gagarin’s name was everywhere. What was unknown at the time was that the he had even an iota of faith in God. This has come as a pleasant surprise to me as I am sure it has to many. And in my eyes, Yuri has suddenly grown many feet, nay many miles taller. It must be very easy to proclaim one’s faith in an open society, but in a society such as the Soviet Union of his time, it must take a real man not only to profess a religious faith; but also to hold on to it in spite of the huge, intimidating and ruthless apparatuses of the State.
    In my language, we have a proverb that goes: Though a lie had been on the run (making the rounds) for a thousand years, the Truth will catch up with it in but a split second.
    I salute you, Comrade, Brother Yuri. May your gentle soul enjoy its deserved rest in the bosom of the Father.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jo Grossman

    How great it is that the first man in space was a Christian. Most likely, God had something to do with that.
    How sad, that such a lie was told. And, how wonderful to be reading this story on Palm Sunday.
    Jo Grossman

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Patrick Miller

    Hhhmmmm-Christianity or Communism: one form of brainwashing versus another?
    Let’s see-one system affirms absolute power and demands absolute fealty. Let’s see-that would be communism.
    The other system affirms absolute power and demands absolute fealty. Let’s see-that would be Christianity.
    OK, wait-one system stifles critical thinking skills and fills its followers with fear-yep, communism alright.
    The other system stifles critical thinking and fills its followers with fear-yep, sounds like Christianity.
    And let’s see-one system is so cold-hearted that it sends an innocent animal to its death in outer space-communism, for sure.
    But then you have this other system that treats women and animals as second-class beings here on earth and considers women so spiritually unworthy that they can’t hold positions of power? Well, that must be Christianity.
    Gee, what’s a soul to do?
    Maybe the truth is, there’s God and then there’s our ideas about God and never the twain shall meet?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment dan

    Some of our greatest scientists were Christians……Newton,Kelvin and more….”seek and ye shall find,…knock and it shall be opened…”..when Bible was translated in language “for the people”….not Latin……science flurished….the rennasance (sp?) “happened”….

  • M. Antoinette Jerom

    I’m glad I read this and my misunderstanding about Yuri’s view on God was cleared. Thank you!

  • Richard G Moss

    There’s plenty of other sources that say he was Jewish, a fact covered up by the soviets for years

    • Skillet Chitlins

      If he in fact had a Jewish heritage (genetics) his religious identity would still be Christian. He was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. However even the Jewish heritage claim seems highly unlikely in his case.

      • Richard G Moss

        that someone tried to murder his soul is irrelevant, a Jew remains a Jew how ever it may be concealed

        • Skillet Chitlins

          Sorry Richard I don’t want to belabor this however unless you have specific knowledge to report that a) Yuri’s mother was Jewish or b) Yuri converted to Judaism; then anything else is merely speculation or wishful thinking. It would not be a bad thing if he was Jewish but you are too vague with your “plenty of other sources” to be credible.

          • Richard G Moss

            There is nothing more difficult than trying to educate a fool. Just check out the sources for yourself and stop wasting my time.

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