Think of your hero today. Are they an actor, actress, musician, family member, or athlete? Well the proud Soviet citizen of the 1960s has a clear answer to that difficult and very personal question. The Russian Cosmonaut became the nations champion, paraded around the country as a hero who triumphed against the United States.
Why were these astronauts heroes to the everyday Russian citizen? They embodied what was most ideal in a Soviet. Cosmonauts like Yuri Gagarin (the first man in orbit and pictured below) went to where no one else had gone before, to space. Men like Yuri and women like Valentina Tereshkova (the first woman in space) became icons and utopian symbols for the Soviet Union in their race against the United States.
Yuri Gagarin was one of these symbols or icons for the Soviet Union. He became the first human to orbit the Earth on 12 April 1961 making him a hero to many. This was clearly evident and portrayed when he paraded around Moscow after his flight. “Mausoleum is a huge crimson banner with a portrait of Lenin with the words: ‘Forward to the victory of communism!’… A solemn ceremony begins, dedicated to the great world-historic victory of the Soviet people, the success of the world’s first space flight by our dear compatriot comrade Yuri Gagarin.” This clearly shows the meaning behind the flight. It was not just a small step for man, but a giant leap for the Soviet spirit. The government used Yuri as a stepping-stone to show how the Soviet project was prevailing and nothing would stop their success. It is plain to see how this affected the culture and attitudes of the entire communist nation. It had raced the United States and won. Those inside the country must have felt that they would prevail against all odds.
 Moskva, Vecherniaia. “The Capital Meets Its Hero.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. September 29, 2015. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1961-2/first-cosmonaut/first-cosmonauts-texts/the-capital-meets-its-hero/.