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April 11, 1961

Transcribed Notes Dictated by Nikita Khrushchev while at Pitsunda on the Eve of Gagarin’s Flight

This document was made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)


Tomorrow, as they say, if everything goes smoothly, then a manned spacecraft will be launched at 9 hours 07 minutes. Its flight around the Earth will take an hour and a half, and it should land. We would like for everything to go smoothly. The day after tomorrow he will be brought to Moscow.


When I was leaving, we exchanged opinions. I, for example, expressed [the opinion] and comrades agreed that we have to somehow think of a celebratory reception at the government level. I just got a phone call from [Dmitriy] Ustinov, about two or three hours ago. [The launch] was planned for the 13th, but apparently they succumbed to superstition and are saying that they are going to launch it tomorrow. I was told that they were thinking of bringing him here [to Pitsunda]. I shot this down. This won’t do. It is hard to explain and hard to understand why here. Because we are vacationing here? Therefore I believe that I have to go and I am going to persuade Anastas Ivanovich [Mikoyan], and we will have a reception at Vnukovo airport [outside of Moscow] with as much display as possible – radio, television, a short rally, then a procession to Moscow, to the Kremlin. We should organize a reception in the Kremlin. I didn’t talk about it, but I believe that maybe we need to have a rally in Moscow on the Red Square. This is a historical event.


I have an idea that we should prepare an address on behalf of the Central Committee and the government to the people and the party and to the whole progressive mankind.


We have to point out this heroic act was performed by humankind at the time when the development of science allowed a human to enter into space and come back. Therefore we paved the way for the exploration of outer space by humans, of entering space by humans and their safe return.


It is necessary to point out that we are informing our people and our Party about this with great satisfaction, that this is a person from the Soviet Union, our socialist Motherland, that this is a demonstration of Marxist-Leninist teaching, its progressiveness, because the former Tsarist Russia did not even dream of competing with other countries more developed technically and economically. But in a very short time the working class under the leadership of the great Party of Lenin, with Lenin at the head, took the power in their own hands. And what about the people who did not understand the progressiveness of the event which manifested itself in the act of the achievement of the October Revolution and the taking of power by the working class? And what about many honest people who recognized the progressiveness in the revolutionary movement of the workers, but even so they expressed a certain mistrust saying how is it that the working class is able to take the power and maintain the status quo? None of them talked about the development of science and art, but of preserving it. And now we are demonstrating to the whole world that, having taken power into his hands, the worker who became literate, who gained knowledge, and mastered science, did not only master it in order to preserve it at the same level at which it was before, but he also developed, advanced the science and achieved such heights that our country could beat every country in the world and was the first to break into space and the human came back.


We were the first one to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, we were the first ones to send a satellite [sic] to the Moon, we were the first one to send a satellite [sic] to Venus (list all of them). And now we have already sent an orbital spacecraft with animals on board and were able to safely return them.[1] And now as the height of this progressive exploration of space, relying on science and technology, we were able to achieve… (Find the right words).


(Continue here approximately in the same style).


And then address in that manner:


We are addressing progressive humankind, the peoples and the governments of all countries that these are the heights that the humans have currently reached, by their intelligence, and if we concentrate our material and intellectual efforts so that we can apply them in this direction so now we can develop and not just conquer space, we can solve other the mysteries of nature so that we can make them serve humanity. And in order to promote the successful advancement of humanity in conquering science and in meeting the material and intellectual needs of humankind, we have to secure peace in the first place. Therefore once again we are extending our hand to all the countries of the world, all governments of the world irrespective of the social and political structures of these countries, irrespective of the skin color, faith, and other things, we have to make all our knowledge, material and intellectual resources serve humanity, and for that reason we have to ensure peace in the world. And in the first place, in order to ensure this peace, we have to come to the understanding that, in order to ensure peace, we need to stop the arms race and, by relying on reason, to find the strength and courage to achieve an agreement on universal disarmament under the strictest international oversight.


(Repeat what I said in America)


We, the Soviet people, the people who are building socialism and communism, have the honor to be the first to enter space. And we are going to put these achievements and discoveries to service not for military purposes but to serve in the interests and for the well-being of all people, of all humanity. We believe that these achievements are not only the achievements of our people, but they are the achievements of all humanity.


I believe that this address can be made as soon as we receive the news that the spacecraft has landed and that the man is in good condition. The press release will be earlier, as soon as it has been launched.


Apparently, there will be a rally, and I will have to make a short speech, and therefore the speech will be along the same lines.


We’re going to fly the day after tomorrow, not tomorrow. Tomorrow he is going to get himself in order, will prepare himself at the landing site, and the day after tomorrow he is going to arrive at Vnukovo airport, and there will be a welcome reception organized on the airfield.


On Red Square we have to organize a rally, there will be no need for a speech.


(The rally has not been yet envisioned, but this is what I am suggesting now). The rally needs to be organized, we have to assign a certain number of people from each factory, plant, or institution.


Written down by N. Gavrilova





Archival source: APRF, f. 3, op. 52, d. 441, ll. 1-6. Original.


[1] Khrushchev means the August 19, 1960 launch of the Vtoraya Korabl’-Sputnik [Second Satellite-Ship] spacecraft with dogs Strelka and Belka on board. The spacecraft returned successfully with the dogs the day after launch.

Transcribed notes dictated by Nikita Khrushchev while at Pitsunda on the eve of Gagarin’s flight, on April 11, 1961.

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Selected, edited, and annotated by Asif Siddiqi. Translated by Gary Goldberg and Angela Greenfield.


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