The Russian-controlled Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is suffering from deteriorating infrastructure and financial problems, while more and more Russians are leaving. The question is how the city will survive in the future.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has complicated the situation for the space station, among other things, with relations with the West having radically deteriorated. The result has been that all visitors from the West have been banned from entering the base and that sanctions against Russia threaten the few Russian-Kazakh projects still in operation.
Baikonur was previously Russia’s main space station, but since 2016 the focus has increasingly shifted to the new Vostochny cosmodrome near the border with China.
Russia now wants to make itself less dependent on Baikonur, which the country leases from Kazakhstan for nearly a billion kroner annually. Lease arrangements make it difficult for the Russians to expand.
More recently, Russia has also faced increasing competition from the US company Space X, which offers cheap and reliable launches to the International Space Station (ISS). It challenges the monopoly Russia gained after the United States shut down its space shuttle program.
Baikonur Mayor Konstantin Busygin does not believe that the city will survive if the cosmodrome is closed in the future.
– There is no factory here. He says that when the Russian space operation leaves, there will be 7,500 fewer jobs.
“No future prospects”
In late 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree making it easier for Russians who want to leave Baikonur to obtain a home in Russia.
Today, about 57,000 people live in the city, including about 16,000 Russian citizens. One of those planning to move is 22-year-old Artur Valeev.
– More and more Kazakhs are moving here while Russians are leaving. He says there are no future prospects here.
“Falls down a lot. Internet fanatic. Proud analyst. Creator. Wannabe music lover. Introvert. Tv aficionado.”