Published:March 18, 2022
Legendary cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin has been caught up in the global push to punish all things Russian amid the Ukraine crisis, despite having died more than half a century ago.
A major US space industry conference has censored Gagarin’s name, essentially canceling the first human to travel into outer space. The Space Foundation, a Colorado-based not-for-profit group led largely by aerospace industry executives, altered the agenda for its upcoming Space Symposium in April, renaming a fundraising party that used to be titled “Yuri’s Night.”
The group noted that “in light of current world events,” the fundraiser had been renamed “A Celebration of Space: Discover What’s Next.” That page was later deleted and replaced with an updated conference agenda that excluded the explanation for canceling Gagarin.
The annual Space Symposium is in its 37th year and costs nearly $3,000 to attend with a “premium access” pass. It typically attracts about 10,000 space-industry professionals from around the world. The focus of the renamed event remains the same – “to celebrate human achievements in space while inspiring the next generation to reach for the stars,” the foundation said.
Gagarin made such an achievement in April 1961, traveling in the Vostok 1 capsule in an orbit of Earth. The historic feat made him an international celebrity and earned him such honors as being granted the title ‘Hero of the Soviet Union,’ the nation’s highest award. A native of a small village west of Moscow, he died at the age of 34 in 1968, while serving as a flight instructor.
The cosmonaut becomes the latest Russian icon to be posthumously punished as the US and its NATO allies impose sweeping sanctions on Moscow over the war in Ukraine. For instance, a university in Milan canceled a course on novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, while the Cardiff Philharmonic in Wales nixed plans for a Tchaikovsky program.
Of course, living Russians have also been targeted with sanctions and scorn, from President Vladimir Putin to opera stars to athletes. The fallout has extended even to Russian cats, which were banned from overseas competitions by the International Feline Federation in Paris.