This medal commemorates the flight of the first two men to orbit the Earth, Yuri Gagarin and German Titov, with a highly stylized representation of the rocket that launched them into orbit. Their names are written along the edge of the medal. Unlike most commemorative medals, this one has no design on the back.
Commemorative and medals are one way in which Russian and Soviet leaders have recognized accomplishments and individuals in the space program. Initially limited groups of people within the space program received medals. As the space programs grew in prestige and publicity, the medals increased in numbers and played an increasing role in celebrating the accomplishments of the space program. Ultimately, medals became the currency of diplomatic gifts from the Soviet Union. High government or industry officials would give these medals as gifts to their counterparts abroad, including the United States. The typical medals had the main, commemorative theme on the front and supporting statement on the reverse.
A private donor gave this medal to the Smithsonian in 1972.
Gift of Thomas W. Becker