‘Fight with history has started,’ cosmonaut tells RT after Gagarin ‘canceled’
Russian Cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko has criticized as ‘indefensible’ this week's removal of the name of the first human in space, legendary cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, from the title of a US space industry conference’s fundraiser. The erasure comes amid the global clampdown on all things Russian as the conflict in Ukraine goes on.
“A fight with history has started. Yuri Gagarin is not only our history, [he] is global history. They are trying to erase world history from the memory of everyone on Earth,” the cosmonaut lamented, in an interview with RT on Saturday.
“Such actions are indefensible,” Borisenko, who was part of two long-duration missions to the International Space Station and who has over 337 days in orbit under his belt, added.
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.
Borisenko believes that Russia’s other space achievements will suffer the same fate. “I suspect that in other events that will be held in the near future, related to the coverage of space exploration, space flights, the mention of our country will also be erased,” he said.
Yuri Gagarin made history on April 12, 1961, when he became the first person to orbit Earth. The Soviet pilot’s iconic flight inspired a generation to imagine the possibilities of space travel, and cemented the USSR’s status as a technological superpower.
In the wake of the military operation in Ukraine, pressure on Moscow by the US, EU and their allies has extended far beyond economic sanctions. The international clampdown has also affected the country’s athletes in numerous disciplines, who have been banned from international competitions, and such world-famous musicians as Valery Gergiev and Anna Netrebko, who lost their jobs in Germany. The trend has taken some ridiculous forms, like an Italian university dropping from its curriculum a course on the works of iconic 19th-century writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, though later reinstating it after a backlash, and Russian cats and dogs being barred from taking part in showcase events abroad.
Moscow launched a large-scale offensive against its neighboring country last month, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk ceasefire agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to regularize the status of the breakaway regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the NATO military bloc. Kiev says the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it had been planning to retake the two rebel republics by force.