Four days after Yuri Gagarin returned from his flight, the Soviet government held a press conference during which he addressed his country and the world. The speech, and his introduction by Soviet scientist A.N. Nesmeyanov were faithfully recorded by a NASA translator. We present an excerpt of the intro and all of Gagarin's speech below.
A.N. Nesmeyanov: "Everything is symbolic in this achievement. The fact that the first cosmonaut is a Soviet citizen, the fact that the first cosmic spaceship carrying Major Gagarin was named 'Vostok,' which means East or Dawn, and also the fact that the flight was completed in the morning, these are all symbolic. So this morning became the morning of a new era. From now on the day of April 12, 1961, will be connected with the achievement which was accomplished by Yuri Alekseyevitch Gagarin. The entire flight around the Earth was completed in 108 minutes, and these minutes shook the world."
Many people are interested in my biography. I have read in the newspapers that some irresponsible persons in the United States of America, who are distant relatives of the Gagarin nobility, consider that I am one of their offsprings. I will have to disillusion them. They have acted very stupidly. I am a simple Soviet man. I was born March 9, 1934, to the family of a peasant. The place of my birth was in the Smolensk region. There were no princes or nobility in my family tree. Before the revolution my parents were poor peasants. The older generation of my family, my grandfather and grandmother, were also poor peasants, and there were no princes or counts in our family. Therefore, I will be forced to disillusion my self-appointed relatives in America.
However, my oldest dream was to become a pilot. At the time of my graduation from that technicum in 1955, I simultaneously completed studies at the Saratov Aeroclub. I was next accepted to the Orenburg Aviation School, from which I graduated in 1957 and was granted the title of Air Force Fighter Pilot. I served with one of the branches of the Soviet Armed Forces.
At my own request, I was accepted as a candidate to become a cosmonaut of the Soviet Union. As you can see, after the selection I became a cosmonaut.
I passed through a proper preparation period which was designed by our scientists. This was described in detail by the president of our Academy of Sciences. I successfully passed all preparations, learned the necessary technique and was ready for a cosmic flight.
I am very happy and immensely thankful to our party and our government for entrusting me with this flight. I have completed this flight in the name of our Fatherland, in the name of the great Soviet people, and the communist party of the Soviet Union.
Before the flight I was in good health and felt very well. I had complete assurance in the success of this flight. Our technique is very reliable and I, as well as my comrades, scientists, engineers and technicians did not doubt for a minute its successful completion. [Editor's note: the photo below shows Gagarin on the bus to the launch pad.]
My state-of-being during the flight was superb. During the active portion, when the spaceship was injected into orbit, the effects of gravitation, vibration and noise, as well as other factors of the cosmic flight, did not have any bearing on my condition. I was able to work productively in accordance with the program which was assigned for this flight. After injection into orbit, when the carrier rocket was separated, a state of weightlessness began. In the beginning this feeling was somewhat unpleasant, in spite of the fact that, before the flight, I was subjected to short periods of weightlessness. However, it didn't take long at all, and as I became used to this condition, I continued to carry out the program.