In the wake of Yuri’s Night celebration Russian paper Kommersant published an article that compared the compensation cosmonauts and astronauts received for their respective efforts in conquest of space. Renumeration of Yuri Gagarin’s goodies makes one wonder how communism could have possibly failed:
The first cosmonaut became a living symbol of superiority of the Soviet system, so it was impossible not to reward him. Bypassing the rank of captain, Gagarin was promoted to a major, honored as Hero of the Soviet Union and Flier-Cosmonaut, and showered with gifts an ordinary Soviet citizen could only dream about. In accordance with 18 of April, 1961 order of Sovmin USSR, Gagarin was presented with a Volga, a living abode, a four room apartment [not four bedroom, four room, — ed.] and furniture.
A 1960 Volga. Gagarin probably had a black one.
Besides that the first cosmonaut was allotted television Rubin, radio Lux, washing machine, refrigerator, carpet rugs, piano, six sets of bedsheets and two blankets. In addition Gagarin was outfitted with a winter coat, a light summer coat, raincoat, two suits (light and dark), two pairs of shoes, six shirts, two hats, six pairs of soaks, six sets of silk underwear, the same amount of underpants and undershirts, twelve handkerchiefs, six ties, two sets of military uniforms, a pair of glove, an electric razor blade and two suitcases.
Wife, children and parents of the cosmonaut were also equipped in a manner appropriate for public appearances. Gagarin’s wife was allotted six pairs of stockings, two kerchiefs, two hats, tree dresses, and so on. Aside from clothing, his parents received a three room house, TV set, radio and furniture, children were supplied with toys. Gagarin’s sister and two brothers got 1,000 rubles each. Don’t forget that during three years following the flight, Gagarin’s life turned into an endless banquet with speeches, toasts and libations. The Soviet system with its system of administrative distribution of everything, did for the first Cosmonaut everything it could from grocery allotments to variety of privileges and goods.
The first crop of astronauts, Kommersant says, became national heroes, and got a chance to make it in a private spheres, and many of them were lavishly rewarded — with book deals, endorsements, job contracts with top companies, etc. Quite a few became millionaires. Some, according to Kommersant, were losers. Among them are James Irwin and Charles Duke who became preachers. I don’t suppose Russians get it. Now that space flights no longer command the public’s attention, astronauts don’t get that much of a leg up, comments Kommersant. True. But it’s still possible to launch your wife’s political career (which will get her shot).
Because America won the space race and grew indifferent to further conquests of the final frontier. Russians, on the other hand, are nostalgic for the fleeting former glory.