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OSLO, September 14 /TASS/. A monument to Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who was the first man in space has been unveiled in the Norwegian city of Bergen, which Gagarin visited in March 1964. The 50-kilogram bust - a gift from the International Charitable Fund 'Dialogue of Cultures - United World' will stand on a square lying among the University of Bergen buildings.
Students, ordinary Norwegians, Russian compatriots residing in Bergen and Russian embassy employees attended the ceremony. Russia’s Charge d’Affaires in Norway Svetlana Ozhegova and the University of Bergen Rector Dag Rune Olsen addressed those present with a speech. Russian and Norwegian music pieces were played.
"This year will see the 55th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight. Not only did he opened the door into outer space for humanity. His feat also united people around the globe," Ozhegova told TASS. "The first cosmonaut is considered to be a hero in Russia and elsewhere in the world where he is known and revered. It is symbolical that 52 years after his visit to Bergen, which gave Gagarin a very warm welcome, the cosmonaut returned to the Norwegian city in the form of a monument. Today’s event is vital for Russian-Norwegian relations," Ozhegova said.
Surprisingly, a resident of Bergen who met Gagarin in 1964 turned out to be present at the ceremony, Tatiana Dale, the head of the Regional Council of Compatriots in Northern Europe and the Baltic States, said. He took the floor and received a miniature copy of Gagarin’s bust as a gift.
"Until today Norway has had very few monuments to our famous people," Dale told TASS earlier. "When I heard that the International Charitable Fund 'Dialogue of Cultures - United World' built such monuments (to outstanding Russians), including Gagarin’s busts, I immediately remembered that the legendary cosmonaut had been to Bergen. I once wrote about his visit in an issue of a bi-lingual journal "The Compatriot", which uses to come out in Norway in its time. Why not trying, I thought. And we tried," Dale said.
With the help of her Norwegian colleagues, Dale got in touch with the city administration and with the leadership of the Institute of Geophysics of the University of Bergen, which Gagarin visited during his trip 52 years ago. The Norwegians willingly agreed to accept the cosmonaut’s bust as a gift. They provided a decent pedestal for the monument and even paid for its installation. The Norwegian side also showed interest in the Russian compatriots’ idea to organize Gagarin’s readings at the University of Bergen.
The International Charitable Fund 'Dialogue of Cultures - United World' has unveiled Gagarin’s busts made by Sculptor Alexey Leonov in many other countries such as Bulgaria, Venezuela, Hungary, Germany, India, Italy, China, El Salvador, the United States, France and Cuba. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was the Russian prime minister at that time, attended the unveiling of the first monument to Gagarin in Le Bourget in France in June 2011.
Yuri Gagarin spent eight days in Norway in March 1964. The Scandinavian kingdom was the 39th country the cosmonaut visited on his triumphant global tour after his historic space flight. The people in Oslo, the capital of Norway; Bergen, the kingdom’s second largest city, and Trondheim, the capital of first Norwegian kings, welcomed Gagarin with delight and interest.
Newspapers wrote about a curious episode, which happened to Gagarin in Trondheim. A local car dealer, Kjell Ukkenhaug, persuaded Gagarin to travel around the city in a Volga car, which belonged to the Norwegian. Gagarin refused to have a driver and sat at the steering wheel himself. According to Ukkenhaug, Gagarin was a masterful driver. He approached the receiving side’s Mercedes, which was ahead of him, at a very close distance and joked which of the cars would endure a collision better.