Gagarin cries ‘poyekhali’ from Karlovy Vary

On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth. His first words on lift off were ‘poyekhali’ or ‘off we go’. I hadn’t absorbed the significance of Gagarin for Central and Eastern Europeans til a trip to the 18th century spa town of Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) in the early 1990s and chanced upon a rocket sized statue of the hero, standing next to an immense steel and glass structure housing the hottest spa waters. It was installed in the 1970s by the town council in a robust architectural argument with the fading Austro Hungarian elegance all around. Yuri now proclaims ‘poyekhali’ from a new posting near the airport, presumably as part of the more or less silent process of erasing the hard landscaping of state socialism.

There is a tempting sounding event at  Arts Catalyst tomorrow:  where, among other things, Nick Edwards will present a reading of the transcript of Gagarin’s conversation with ground control and the tape recording he made whilst in orbit.

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