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Lost Cosmonauts, or Phantom Cosmonauts, is a conspiracy theory alleging that Soviet cosmonauts entered outer space, but without their existence having been acknowledged by either the Soviet orRussian space authorities.
Proponents of the Lost Cosmonauts theory concede that Yuri Gagarin was the first man to survive Human spaceflight, but claim that the Soviet Union attempted to launch two or more manned space flights prior to Gagarin's, and that at least two cosmonauts died in the attempts. Another cosmonaut, Vladimir Ilyushin, is believed to have landed off-course and been held by the Chinese government. TheGovernment of the Soviet Union supposedly suppressed this information, to prevent bad publicity during the height of the Cold War.
The evidence cited to support Lost Cosmonaut theories is generally not regarded as conclusive, and several cases have been confirmed as hoaxes. In the 1980s, American journalist James Oberg researched space-related disasters in the Soviet Union, but found no evidence of these Lost Cosmonauts. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, much previously restricted information is now available, including on Valentin Bondarenko, a would-be cosmonaut whose death during training on Earth the Soviet government covered up. Even with the availability of published Soviet archival material and memoirs of Russian space pioneers, no hard evidence has emerged to support the Lost Cosmonaut stories.