Monument to Yuri Gagarin – Barskoon, Kyrgyzstan - Atlas Obscura

Monument to Yuri Gagarin

Barskoon, Kyrgyzstan

A boulder carved into the shape of the cosmonaut's head.  


On the south shores of lake Issyk-Kul in Barskoon, in the northeastern corner of Kyrgyzstanis a giant face carved directly into a massive rock. Specifically, it is the giant head of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. 

While the giant face of the first man to journey into outer space, complete with cosmonaut helmet, is carved directly from solid rock, the story behind its creation is less certain. It seems that Yuri visited the area just shortly after his historic spaceflight. He may have even stood on this very rock. At which point, everyone was so psyched about the whole first man in space thing, the boulder was promptly carved into his likeness. Later, in a meta tribute to the first monument, a second more standard bust was erected.

A local rumor has an more whimsical version of the rock’s origin. The rumor says that this was in fact where Yuri touched down, a fact which was covered up by the USSR because it was nowhere near the intended landing spot. While almost certainly untrue (Yuri did eject from his capsule landing near the village of Smelovka, in the Ternovsky District) it makes for a wonderful origin story. 

Know Before You Go

While unconfirmed this may in fact be a recreation of the first big Yuri rock head, which is said to have been broken up and smeared with concrete after the fall of the Soviet Union. This newer restoration is said to have been paid for by Moscow.The monument can be found driving up the gorge from Barskoon into the mountains.

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