So I found out from a post on skeptics:SE that when Yuri Gagarin landed from being the first human in space during the Vostok 1 mission, he parachuted down and landed in the Soviet Union near the Volga river on a farm.

Wikipedia recounts it like this:

Gagarin's parachute opened almost right away, and about ten minutes later, at 08:05 UT, Gagarin landed. Both he and the spacecraft landed via parachute 26 km (16 mi) south west of Engels, in the Saratov region at 51.270682°N 45.99727°E. It was 2800 km to the west of the planned landing site (near Baikonur). A farmer and her daughter observed the strange scene of a figure in a bright orange suit with a large white helmet landing near them by parachute. Gagarin later recalled, "When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in fear. I told them, don't be afraid, I am a Soviet citizen like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!"

It think this is a really cool story - and want more detail. Did the farm where he landed have a phone? Did they let him use it? Did he wait at that farm, or did they give him a ride into town? How long did he wait there? Did they send a taxi from Saratov? What did he do?

I visualize that there was a local grandma who make him a big meal and he drank a bit of vodka while waiting a few hours for his ride. Or maybe he took a nap at the farmer's house? I imagine it took a few days for him to return to Moscow. Did he tell the people he met that he just got back from space, and did they believe him? Was he rushed home and treated like a hero, or did they just tell him to buy a bus ticket and save his restaurant receipts? Did anyone hassle him?

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    The people charged with observation certainly knew where he landed. I don't think he spent long time in a farm, before he was picked by a special team.
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 18:34
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    Note that 51.270682°N 45.99727°E has precision of about 1m, so I doubt that both Gagarin and his spacecraft landed at this exact spot. ;-)
    – sds
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 18:29
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    This most certainly does not answer your question: but here's how the Russian movie "Gagarin, first in space" decided to fictionalize the scene youtu.be/KikZMgXBwY4?t=5886 Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 22:05

2 Answers 2


In 1991 Central Committee of the CPSU Archive released several documents related to Gagarin's flight. Amongst them was Gagarin's own after-action report to the government commission. Sadly, Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History, which inherited the CC CPSU archives, doesn't have a digitised version online, but it was published in the "Communist" journal, and documents from that publication are avaliable here (there are several lengthy documents, search for "Доклад тов. Гагарина Ю. А. от 13 апреля 1961 г." to find the actual report). According to it (translation mine):

I walked over the ridge and saw a woman with a girl moving towards me. She was about 800 meters away from me. I started walking to them, to ask where the nearest phone is. So, I am walking and I see the woman is slowing, and the girl splits from her and starts going back. Then I start waving my arms and shouting: "I'm soviet, don't be afraid, come here". It is uncomfortable walking in a spacesuit, but I am still walking. I see, she is timidly, quietly stepping towards me. I walked up to her, told her, that I'm a soviet man, came down from cosmos. We got acquainted, and she said that I can speak on the phone at the field camp. I asked the woman to see that no one touches the parachutes, until I go to the camp. Just as we got to the parachutes, 6 men came: tractor drivers and mechanics from that camp. I got acquainted with them. I told them, who I am. They said, that right now on the radio there is a message about the spaceflight. In about 3 minutes a ZIL-151 truck arrived. With it arrived artillery major comrade Galimov.

After that, he was in the army jurisdiction and they sent him straight to the nearest city by a helicopter, so no restaurants or bus tickets =)

The report doesn't mention names of the first people he met, but according to this article it was Anihayat Takhtarova, wife of a local forester, and her granddaughter, Rumia. The article is an 2011 interview with the granddaughter, and it matches pretty well with the report.

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    Nice job hunting down a source for this. I think it deserves more upvotes and so far is the best answer. Also note that Gary Powers was shot down just a year earlier, so the reason the girl got scared was probably because everyone knew that a parachuter dropping in out of nowhere could be a bad thing. At least that is what I read in a book about the subject a few years ago. It might have been Assif Siddiqi's Challenge to Apollo.
    – DrZ214
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 7:23
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    A correction. ZiS-151 or ZiL-151 is not very much of a car. It's a 3-axle heavy army truck.
    – ach
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 12:03
  • @ach Indeed. Edited. Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 12:59

I'm afraid that the reality of the 1961 Soviet Union was rather different...

According e.g. to the Russian Wikipedia and its sources during Vostok-1 landing near Engels it was tracked by the local air-defence battalion. While Gagarin was still near the landing site the soldiers from that battalion arrived acompanied by some villagers from the local kolhoz. He was then taken to the battalion hq where he contacted by the phone with the commander of the air-defence division and asked him to inform the higher command about his mission success.

Meanwile a helicopter was sent from the nearest airbase with a specific order to pick up Gagarin. However they couldn't find him at the landing site and were informed by the locals that he was taken to the town. When they were flying there Gagarin was returning from the air-defense battalion in the car. The car stopped, Gagarin jumped out and started waving his hands. He was noticed and picked up by the helicopter.

Just as a sidenote, you should not imagine the "farmer" as an owner of some private landholding. While such still existed in the Soviet Union at the time their possessions were rather small and they constituted small percentage of the countryside population. The majority were members of agricultural cooperatives i.e. kolhoz. So it was much more likely for him to get a large meal with a kolhoz chairman rather then some farmer's grandma...

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    Needs citations / sources. If he landed near a town, I can see how some peasants would be his first contact, before any type of military forces could drive out to the location.
    – user26470
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 23:49

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