In the early 1960’s Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) was the man in the Soviet Union. After being the first human ever in Space, the young cosmonaut became nothing less than a rock star. As he was dragged all over the world for Soviet propaganda, his whole life simply turned around drinking and giving toasts. When the tours and with that the attention and admiration finally stopped, Gagarin just had the booze left. Depressions drove him further down the vodka bottle, in the same way as his fellow cosmonaut Buzz Aldrin after his glory days. In the end Gagarin didn’t die from the booze, but in a plane crash at age 34. Still a nice way to go for a man with 2 hobbies: drinking and flying.
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was born in a village called Klushino,where both of his parents worked in a collective farm. Just 1.57 meters tall, but always wearing his typical big smile. This made him the perfect working class hero the Soviet Party was looking for. There are no indicators that Gagarin was an exceptional drunkard in his younger years, but then again: in order to be noticed in the Russian countryside or as a student in the capital Moscow, one must really drink a lot.
All of this changed after the 12th of April in 1961, when Gagarin boarded the spacecraft Vostok 1. He became the first human to enter space and see planet Earth from there as a green and blue marble. But he also looked upon a world that would never be the same for him. First of all on the way back he ejected from the Vostok 1 at 7 kilometres altitude and parachuted to the ground. Why is this important? Well, the Russians wanted to claim Gagarin’s flight as an official altitude record, but for that to count the rules said a pilot must land in his craft. From that moment on at every propaganda gig Gagarin was sent to, he had to lie about the landing that never happened.
And that wasn’t the only thing. The simple boy from the Russian countryside was now adored by millions of people. He drank with world leaders and rock stars. Every event he was sent to, he was expected to consume large amounts of alcohol. Friends and acquaintances had always described the cosmonaut as a sensible drinker, but they saw him change as he got used to this new rock and roll lifestyle. More and more rumours about his drunken escapades spread around the Soviet Union. One time Gagarin was lost for 2 whole days as he was wondering around in the World’s largest wine cellar in Milestii Mici, Moldova.
The most famous drunk story is without a doubt when Gagarin was in the Black Sea resort Foros in 1961. After a ‘productive day’ on the water, he got injured in a boat accident. The national hero seduced the nurse that helped him and at night the intoxicated Gagarin went up to her room. Unfortunately for him his wife Valentina was on to him and stormed in the room. The drunk Gagarin tried to escape through the balcony but fell flat on his face. He had to spend a month in the hospital and plastic surgery was necessary to fix the ‘new face of the Soviet Union’.
For a good year after his trip into Space the cosmonaut traveled the world to brag about his success. His superior, general Nikolaï Kamanin,wrote in his diary: “It seems to me he’s drinking a good deal. He’s at the top of his glory, carrying a great moral burden, knowing that his every step is being watched. One or two years will pass, the situation will change drastically, and he will become dissatisfied.”
And the general was right. When these boozy trips finally came to an end, Gagarin fell into a depression. He kept drinking heavily to fight the negative thoughts. Basically he could not feel happy unless he was drinking or flying, but his superiors didn’t want to give him too many flights, since they were scared something would happen to their national hero. Gagarin however convinced them to give him more and more flights and in 1968 one of these test flights became a fatal one, as his MiG-15 crashed. Directly there were rumours that Gagarin must have been flying drunk, but that’s probably not true and it’s more likely the crash was the result of a mechanical error.
Either way, Gagarin died doing what he loved best. This 1.57-meter short boy from the countryside got a shitload of medals and titles, including the highest one: Hero of the Soviet Union. He also had a medal, a city, a spaceship, a hockey cup and many other things named after him. Not bad at all for a little drunkard.