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[b]Yuri Gagarin: The Statue[/b]
The statue of Yuri Gagarin for London was originally commissioned by Lubertsy Vocational School no 10 in l984, to celebrate what would have been Gagarin's 50th birthday. Gagarin was killed in a plane crash on 27 March l968, aged 34.
Lubertsy is a small town on the northwest fringes of Moscow. Vocational School no 10 was a trade school where young boys of poor families learned to work as foundrymen while completing their academic studies to the equivalent of GSE or 'O' levels. Gagarin entered the school in September l949, aged 15. He graduated in June l951.
The statue was paid for by local subscriptions from the town of Lubertsy and its pupils. They commissioned the sculptor Anatoly Novikov, one of the principal sculptors of the Stalingrad Memorial (now the Volgograd Memorial), to make the work. It was cast in an alloy of aluminium and zinc (similar to the statue of Eros on Piccadilly), and without its pedestal stands 12 ft high. It shows a youthful Gagarin wearing his SK-1 spacesuit ('spasatelny kostum': rescue or life costume), standing on a globe with the trajectory of his 90-minute orbit of the earth circling around it. The statue stands today at the entrance to Lubertsy Vocational School no 10, and close by, the gardens are planted with fir trees, each planted by a cosmonaut on his safe return to earth.
This statue was chosen for a number of reasons: [list][*]Logistical: height, scale, weight, proportion and movability
[*]Suitability: its proximity to other monuments on the Mall and its compatibility with the surroundings of Admiralty Arch and the Mall - it stands at more or less the same height as the statue of Captain Cook on the opposite side of the Mall; and level with the statue of Navigation seated in a specially designed niche in the wall of Admiralty Arch. The pedestal of Captain Cook is inscribed with the words 'circumnavigator of the globe'.[/list] The location for the statue was also chosen for a number of historic reasons: Admiralty House was the site where Harold MacMillan formally welcomed Gagarin to London on 13 July l961, after two days of hesitant response by the British Government over how to greet this Soviet hero. The overwhelming welcome given to Gagarin by the British people forced the government to tack an extra two days onto Gagarin's UK visit, and a lunch with Her Majesty the Queen was hastily arranged for 14 July (she gave him two dolls for his daughters, Elena and Galina). The statue appropriately sits opposite that of Captain Cook, another explorer whose discoveries radically altered our view of the planet and our place within it. Permission to install the statue of Gagarin on this site was formally granted by Westminster City Council in January 2011.
Russian monuments and memorials are rarely given permission to be moved or to leave the country and, in this 50th Anniversary year, moving a statue of Gagarin out of Russia was unthinkable. Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, was however extremely keen to help find a way of showing this statue in London, and after discussions with the Governor of Moscow Region, and with the Lubertsy authorities, it was agreed that Roscosmos would make an exhibition copy of the work, which they agreed to pay for. Moulds were taken from the original work in September 2010, and the statue was manufactured in Izhevsk in the heart of the Urals, in the town made famous for its manufacture of Kalashnikovs. Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47, still lives in the town.
The statue of Gagarin will be installed on the British Council Plaza on 14 July, where it will be mounted on a new plinth of white Portland stone. It will be unveiled officially by Elena Gagarina daughter of Yuri Gagarin.
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