|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Science and Atheism|
Yuri Gagarin: the first Orthodox in Space
By the Rev. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos Vlachos
For (and in) many issues, a news item undergoes propaganda which distorts its content and is thenceforth exploited for the reasons and the purposes of a specific ideology. The same thing happened in the case of Yuri Gagarin.
Gagarin, as all we of the previous generations know, was a Soviet – and he was the first man to fly in outer space. On the 12th of April of the year 1961 he circled the earth in one orbit and then landed in the Soviet Union. He became famous the world over, and a hero in his own country. He went on tour in many other countries and became a parliamentary representative of the Upper Soviet. He died a few years later, in 1968, when the small plane he was in crashed during a training flight.
Apart from the above, Gagarin also became well-known for the phrase he is said to have stated, that: “I went up to space, but I didn’t encounter God” – a phrase that was used extensively by the atheist propaganda of the time. And I say “he is said to have stated”, because recent publications are claiming the opposite.
Specifically, an article titled “Yuri Gagarin, the Christian”, which was translated into Greek by Maria Biniari from the Russian site Interfax Religion and published in the periodical “KAINE KTISIS” (New Creation), in the June 2007 edition, includes an interview with General Valentin Petrov, Professor of the Air Force Academy ‘Yuri Gagarin’ and personal friend of the cosmonaut, in which it was stressed that Gagarin was a Christian. Among other things, it stated that “Gagarin was a baptized faithful throughout all his life…he always confessed God whenever he was provoked, no matter where he was.” In fact, there is a description of his visit –on the day of his birthday in the year 1964- to the Lavra of Saint Serge and the conversation that he had with the Prior of that Holy Monastery. When the Prior asked him “Who will believe me, if I tell them that Gagarin was in my cell?” Gagarin replied “this, is for those who don’t believe”. He had a photograph taken, of himself with the Prior, and he gave it to the Prior, with the following dedication written on it: “To the Prior, with my best wishes, Yuri Gagarin”.
According to the testimony of his friend Petrov, Gagarin “often, during his speeches - especially to young people but also to the Central Committee - had openly said that the temple of the Savor Christ (which the regime had destroyed) should be rebuilt, both as a monument for the military victory but also as an amazing work of art”.
The question, however, is how the “news” circulated that Gagarin himself had supposedly said he had not encountered God in space. Petrov insists that Gagarin never said that phrase, and that those words had come from Khrushchev. He narrated the following:
“Furthermore, that famous phrase which has been ascribed to him - “I went to space, but I didn’t see God” - well, in actual fact it was Khrushchev who had said it. 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.
And Petrov, Gagarin’s friend, who claims that he was the first representative of the army who had accepted catechesis by the Saint Serge Institute and that many students of his had also asked to baptized, gives us his personal testimony:
“I do not force anyone…I always remember that Yuri Gagarin had said: “An astronaut cannot be suspended in space and not have God in his mind and his heart.”
From this incident, it is clear how propaganda operates, by presenting white as black, and vice-versa. Faith in God is not a matter of sensations and of logic, but of the heart. And such an experience of the heart has immense power – not only to overthrow each dark propaganda, but entire atheist regimes.
Translation by A. N.
Article published in English on: 8-1-2008.
Last update: 8-1-2008.