Sunday, October 20, 2013

Before there was Lady Gaga, there was Mr. Gaga...rin

Crazy cool murals have been popping up around town. This one appeared on Sumskaya Street in August, featuring a lead character from the 1973 film В бой идут одни «старики» (Into This Battle Go Only Veterans).

Then work began on a mural of Yuri Gagarin on (where else?) Prospect Gagarina. Side note: is it just me or does this guy not get much publicity in the US? I didn't even know who he was until I saw his portrait on the wall of a Russian bakery/grocery store in Alaska. [cue gasp of horror] What do you mean, who is that? It's Gagarin, the first man in space!

That was only about 5 or 6 years ago, shamefully. Until then I'd heard of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and maybe a dog or monkey that had been sent to space... but seriously, nothing about Mr. Gagarin. Oh high school, where did you go wrong? Or did I fall asleep during that part of the lesson?

So if you're like me and somehow missed out on this rather monumental historical fact, here are the basics-

Yuri Gagarin was the first human to truly get off this rock. He orbited the Earth once, spending less than 2 hours in space, but it was enough to make him a mega-ultra-super celebrity in the Soviet Union and the rest of the world (except for my school district, apparently). Although he died in a plane crash at the tender age of 34, his name will never be forgotten. Just like every city here has its Lenin Avenue, there's bound to be a Prospect Gagarin or Gagarin metro station somewhere nearby. His face is instantly recognizable both for being quite cute (it's true! do a Google image search!) and for its smile. Let's face it; how many other famous Soviets have you ever seen smiling?

One other thing...
Does this not blow your mind? Yuri Gagarin and the American country singer Kenny Chesney could be one and the same!

Having became a recent Gagarin fan, it was exciting to see the city began work on a massive portrait of him. First, a projector was set up and an outline was traced over the course of several nights. One night I saw the вахта outside with a scowl on her face. Vandals! Hooligans! she spat. How could they deface our city like this! I tried to explain that it was art in progress, not graffiti scrawls, but it didn't go over very well since I didn't know the Russian words for "in progress" or "scrawl".

It's taken the artists several weeks of balancing atop this ladder:

But they've done it! : ) Instead of a blank wall, there's now a cool tribute to the first man in space. It brightens up the neighborhood on a rainy day (fall weather, ugh)-

and it stands out like a beacon on a beautiful autumn day like today-

The words at the bottom read:
Soviet pilot - astronaut
Hero of the Soviet Union
Decorated with the highest honors
Honorary citizen of many Ukrainian and foreign cities

So here's to you, Yuri! May you live on in our memories forever!

PS: Here's a couple other pictures done in his honor from around town:
and who can resist this one? :p


  1. Oh really I do find this communication so frustrating, but never mind, I have stolen the GIF, then once I have it posted I will return to complete this comment!

    Here is the link:

  2. Ah, the return of my favorite feline cosmonaut! Don't feel bad; they only cover Kenny Chesney briefly in history class. However, I heard there are whole chapters on Lance Bass.

  3. Ok, the Gagarin/Chesney comparison just freaked me out a little! I've never seen it before, but I'll never unseen it now.

  4. Now the artist crops up:

  5. Quite a politically correct mural. Well, better than just empty wall.
    Something is missing there. Find a few distinct differences with this:
    Some story about the "differences":

    1. Good point, Roman! D was just mentioning that the other day. Interesting how it's not in any of the murals of Gagarin around town... but I get the feeling there's a bit of a blacklash against anything Russia/USSR these days...