6.20.13 … Baikonur Kazakhstan (home of the Russian Space Center): “We are not ahead of the planet in anything but space” …

Russian Space Center, Bakonur Kazakhstan, NYTimes.com:  Remember the welcome home pictures of my favorite astronaut.  Maybe they were more than a nod to history.

Baikonur, in remote western Kazakhstan, was once the pride of the Soviet Union, the home of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the launching site of Sputnik, the dog Laika and the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. But today, nomadic herders from the nearby steppe are moving into abandoned buildings.

That is just one of the signs of the city’s long fade into the sunset of post-Soviet social and economic problems, which are all the more remarkable given that much of the world, including the United States, still relies on Baikonur for manned space launchings. The only other site for such liftoffs is in Jiuquan, in the Gobi Desert in China.

“It’s painful for me to think of my town,” Anna Khodakovskaya, the editor of the local newspaper, said of its glum state. The first cellphones appeared here in 2004; the first M.R.I. machine in 2011. “We are not ahead of the planet in anything but space,” she said.

Today 70 percent of Baikonur’s residents are Kazakh citizens, but the town remains a Russian enclave rented from the Kazakh government and administered under Russian jurisdiction. At the time of the Soviet breakup, the ratios were reversed: it was only about one-third Kazakh.

Along with the squatting herders, day laborers and market traders stroll the streets, with only the occasional aging Russian engineer visible.

via Russian Space Center in Kazakhstan Counts Down Its Days of Glory – NYTimes.com.

0 Responses to “6.20.13 … Baikonur Kazakhstan (home of the Russian Space Center): “We are not ahead of the planet in anything but space” …”

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