There’s no surprise that Space Race stories were greeted by rumor and suspicion because of the paranoia surrounding the Cold War. The Soviets liked to keep their space program hidden. With all the secrecy, it’s conceivable that a story like that was suppressed.
Throughout the decades, conspiracy theories about the Soviet space program evolved and persisted. Some believe the Soviets sent people to space, and they never returned. Does this frightening idea hold weight? Could the men have died in space before Gagarin made it?