Important New Gagarin Book in Russian

There is a new biography of Gagarin out in Russian. I’m trying to get a hold of it (by Lev Danilkin, a prominent literary critic in Russia, titled Iurii Gagarin). I’ve read excerpts posted on line at the Molodaya Gvardiya publishers in Moscow:

They have a series of biographies on prominent people in Russian and world history. What I’ve read is really good. This could be the first attempt to sort out the Gagarin phenomenon in Russian. The author has cast a wide net in interviews with acquaintances, colleagues, etc. And he covers some terrain that I cover regarding Gagarin’s education which I had hoped I would be the first to discuss! Oh well. I hear it will be translated into English. It’s interesting that it has taken so long for anyone in Russia to attempt to write a biography of the real and profane Gagarin — as opposed to the sacred one of Soviet hagiography. At any rate, I suspect this book will be a must read for historians of 20th century Russia — and one that I will have to cite in my own Gagarin work.

4 replies on “Important New Gagarin Book in Russian”

What is your reaction, as far as historical value, to that other book by Anton Pervushin “108 Minutes That Changed the World”

I’m glad you mentioned Pervushin, a journalist who publishes interesting popular histories of space exploration, among other things. Like Danilkin, and as you note, he has published a new Gagarin biography in Russian for the 50th jubilee. He is similarly part of a new trend of writing about the historical as opposed to hagiographical (or urban mythological) Gagarin. I’ve found his books to be quite useful. His 2007 Korolev protiv Fon Brauna (Korolov Versus von Braun) was quite well done and I cite it in my own work. My impression of the difference between Danilkin and Pervushin (based, mind you, on only having gleaned information about their books from the blogosphere and various excerpts available online) is that Danilkin’s source base is far larger. The revelations in Pervushin’s book — at least as presented in various media outlets — involve things that scholars such as Asif Siddiqi and others have talked about for quite some time. Danilkin, however, seems to have accessed many new sources to fill in critical gaps or inconsistencies in the Gagarin hagiographies. He also seems to bring to his analysis a more sophisticated apparatus of cultural and literary criticism — no surprise, given his status as one of Russia’s leading literary critics. The details of his book, I suspect, will add little to our understanding of Gagarin’s flight and the engineering and politics behind it (one excerpt I’ve read admits as much). Rather, Danilkin provides new information about Gagarin’s life as well as the cultural phenomenon attached to it that no Russian has attempted before.
Meanwhile, I find it intriguing that it has taken 50 years for Russians to tackle Gagarin as an historical subject. It’s a testament to the hold of the mythological Gagarin on the imagination.

Here is blurb on Pervushin:

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