Yuri Gagarin

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is seen inside the Vostok 1 command capsule. The 27-year-old's 108-minute flight on April 12, 1961 is still remembered in <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PLGEO00000025" title="Russia" href="/topic/international/russia-PLGEO00000025.topic">Russia</a> even after the USSR's collapse as its greatest national achievement. The first flight into space made by Russia, by Gagarin, allowed the Soviet leadership, fully entrenched in the cold war, to maintain the superiority of the communist system over their principal adversary, the United States.

( Getty Images / April 12, 1961 )

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is seen inside the Vostok 1 command capsule. The 27-year-old's 108-minute flight on April 12, 1961 is still remembered in Russia even after the USSR's collapse as its greatest national achievement. The first flight into space made by Russia, by Gagarin, allowed the Soviet leadership, fully entrenched in the cold war, to maintain the superiority of the communist system over their principal adversary, the United States.

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