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The Afterlives of Closed Cities in Kazakhstan
November 15, 2017 @ 12:00 pm
During the Cold War, much of was a closed area containing many strategic and clandestine military and industrial enterprises. The Soviet space program, ballistic missile testing facilities, uranium extraction and processing sites, an array of mining, and biological weapons plants include a few of the assets that were located throughout the Kazakh steppes that were highly regimented and policed. To support the activities of these industries closed and/or “secret” cities often evolved in tandem making for a lesser-known geography of the twentieth century. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, despite what has been periodically reported as decay and ruination around military-industrial sites, the infrastructural investments that were made in Kazakhstan have not all been abandoned. The “afterlives” of closed cities, defense industries, and test sites are many.
This seminar by Robert Kopack, PhD candidate at the University of Toronto will provide an overview of research conducted in 2015 and 2016 to showcase some of the general trends in Kazakhstan that are occurring in areas formerly so strategic they were cloaked by pseudonyms and found rarely on maps. The main part of the seminar will discuss the Baikonur Cosmodrome and the reconfiguration of the Soviet space program through a land lease agreement between the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan. Baikonur is the oldest, largest, and now one of the busiest commercial launch sites on Earth. How these facilities are managed underscores multiple regimes of authoritarian governance that stretch across infrastructure, society, and science.