The increasingly desolate Baikonur Space Center

  Baikonur Space Center is the largest spacecraft and rocket launch test base in the former Soviet Union and Russia. It is located in the Chulatam region of Kazakhstan and was established in June 1955. For more than 50 years, Baikonur Space Center has had 13 launch pads, which can launch manned spacecraft, large launch vehicles, space shuttles and various missiles. It can be called “the world’s largest space launch base”. .
  Baikonur Space Center occupies many “firsts”. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial earth satellite here; on April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin set off from here into space, becoming the first man to fly in the sky; April 1974 On November 19, the Soviet Union launched the first human space station “Salute” 1 here; on November 15, 1988, the Soviet Union’s first space shuttle “Blizzard” took off from here; on November 20, 1998, the International Space Station The first capsule “Dawn” function module was also launched from here.
  After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the Baikonur launch site was placed under the ownership of Kazakhstan, but due to financial difficulties, Kazakhstan could not guarantee the normal operation of the launch site at all. In 1994, Russia and Kazakhstan signed a lease agreement for the Baikonur launch site with a term of 20 years and an annual lease fee of $115 million. Russia will continue to lease the Baikonur launch site for 50 years in a series of agreements signed at a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana, Kazakhstan, January 9, 2004. , but the rent has not increased.
  In the context of the “Cold War” and the arms and space race in the past, the Baikonur launch site has been under highly strict military control and protection. However, with the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the continuation of Russian privatization and the The commercial launch of rockets is becoming more and more frequent, the launch site is also moving towards privatization, and the degree of openness has also been greatly improved, and after being managed by Roscosmos, the number of military personnel at the launch site has decreased, and the mysterious halo is gradually fading. Coupled with the embarrassing status of the leased land, the “good days” here seem to be gone, and it has begun to show a decline. Not long ago, Irina Poblova, a female reporter from the Moscow Komsomolskaya newspaper, went to this area to conduct an interview and wrote an article titled “Desolate Cosmodrome”, revealing the story of Baikonur. The veil of mystery also describes its current state.
  
  This was paradise. The old man who
  
  participated in the construction of the Baikonur launch site said: “Baikonur is communism”, which is not false at all.
  Even now, prices in Baikonur are much lower than elsewhere. 80 rubles for a haircut, 150 rubles for a meal in a restaurant, and 5 rubles for a round at the casino. Even the taxi fare is fixed, and you only need to pay 20 rubles for a lap around the city. As long as city residents have jobs, they have houses to live in. There are no big shopping malls or high-end clothing stores here, only some dilapidated markets; local residents are not afraid of the police, because there is no extortion and no underworld activities; there are no self-funded schools and hospitals, no beggars, homeless people, and no sobering up Therefore, there are no queues and traffic jams. There are not many high-end cars. The leaders of the unit take the public “Volga” brand car, and the common people take the small train to commute to get off work.
  The whole city of Baikonur can be visited in 3 hours. There are few trees here, and the roads are hot asphalt. Kazakhstan cannot build a garden city because it has a typical continental climate, and it takes a lot of human and financial resources to keep the trees alive. But Baikonur has 16 parks and street gardens. It is said that the city leaders at the time ordered every soldier serving in the space center to plant a tree, hang a small sign with the owner’s name on the tree, and connect the lawn to water pipes. If any tree dies, its owner is criticized at the meeting.
  In Baikonur, almost all streets are named after astronauts and test pilots. At present, there are more than 20 monuments in the city, among which are the memorial statues of Sergei Korolev, the famous chief designer of rockets and aerospace systems in the former Soviet Union, and Yuri Gagarin, the world’s first astronaut. People usually date next to memorial statues.
  
  Secret City No Longer Secret
  
  In the past , Baikonur was a secret city with gates at the entrance to allow pedestrians to be checked. Before leaving, the female reporter Poblova was reminded that to go to Baikonur, you must first apply for a temporary pass with a duration of 4 days, otherwise she will be deported or even put in prison; Hotels are also problematic. What Poblova did not expect, however, was that the temporary pass had little effect, because no one had ever seen her pass, and she had only shown her ID when crossing the Russian-Kazakh border. This secret city is no longer secret, because the neighboring Kazakhs “opened up” many trails leading to Baikonur in the former Soviet Union, and sometimes they can get a bottle of wine from their vegetable gardens. Bring anyone into this top-secret city. Taxi drivers in Baikonur are not far behind, as long as they can get 100 to 200 rubles more, they can take anyone through the pass checkpoint with speed. It is said that even the local workers themselves do not abide by these regulations – Baikonur has no secrets anyway, so some people are happy to make some small money.
  Today, the city of Baikonur operates a dual law – Russian and Kazakh law, with their own customs, courts, police and marriage registries. In the past, the city was quite safe and could be said to be truly “closed at night”, but now everything has changed. Since the 1990s, all kinds of people have entered the city, and many officers have died in drunken fights. In addition, farmers from neighboring Kazakhstan are increasingly pouring into the city, and there are more cases of burglary and burglary. Passers-by are also robbed from time to time. Some people have even been stolen several times. Carpets, clothes, fur coats And electrical appliances were swept away, making everyone in danger, not even dare to leave home for vacation. Even the astronauts’ flight suits have been lost – taken by the staff at the launch site as gifts to relatives in Novosibirsk.
  
  Russians “flee” to Russia
  
  Today, few people in the city can remember the construction of Baikonur and the first few launches, and no one has seen how the astronauts gorged on black caviar and various delicacies. The vast majority of the elderly left in the early 1990s – with the collapse of the former Soviet Union, Baikonur’s “paradise” life is gone.
  Since the Baikonur Cosmodrome was placed under Kazakhstan in 1992, the shops here have been extremely scarce. It even got to the point of absurdity: people came to the bakery and threw money directly into the fence in exchange for bread. The soldiers in the barracks also lacked food, and Baikonur had several thousand soldiers at the time, and they were responsible for water, electricity, housing and facility management, and city sanitation. In February 1992, a group of young people stormed the launch site to vent their grievances.
  The residents of Baikonur, who once lived like a paradise, have fled this once-ideal city. Every day, more than 20 containers full of furniture and clothing are sent to Russia, and more than 20 families leave the launch every day. In the center, there are even people who want to set foot on Russian soil one day earlier, even at the expense of the wealth they have accumulated over the years. A man is said to have threw away five televisions at home because he didn’t want to carry the burden.
  By 1994, the number of Baikonur residents had dropped sharply from 112,000 to 60,000. At the same time, villagers from the surrounding Kazakh countryside began to move into the cities, and thousands of fishermen, shepherds and farmers flocked to the city. In this way, the residents who originally lived on the grasslands of Kazakhstan moved directly to the houses that were no longer inhabited but had a lot of furniture, and easily got the items left by the original owners. In addition to moving whole boxes of carpets, quilts, saddles and robes into the new house, they also drove donkeys and sheep upstairs, causing the neighbors to be reluctant to live in peace.
  Russia provides residences in various cities of the country to all residents of Baikonur with Russian nationality. As for which city they are in, it is entirely up to them to decide, but it is the most difficult to get a house in Moscow. However, the old builders in Baikonur were not in a hurry to move after they got their houses. Many people rented out their new houses, and some even put the newly allocated houses in the names of relatives, or simply sold them.
  
  The surrounding villages go into a “hibernation state”
  
  On the outskirts of Baikonur are two Kazakh villages, Akay and Chulatam, both of which belong to Kazakhstan.
  The streets of the village of Akay are dusty and stagnant. It can be seen that these Kazakh villages are not only stagnant, but have simply entered a “hibernation state”, and it is difficult to see the prospect of revival. But in the former Soviet Union, Akay village used to have a large meat processing factory, specializing in the production of high-quality sausages. Today, those well-equipped sausage-producing workshops are nothing but memories, with the gates locked and a sign on it that says, “The evil dog inside is hurting people.” A former brewery near the Meatpacking Plant is now in decline. Foreigners still don’t understand, how can beer be brewed on the grasslands of Kazakhstan? Because brewing beer requires pure water, and Baikonur has never had such a source of water.
  So, what are the residents of Akay doing now? According to the villagers, they have no jobs and even have a problem eating because they cannot find jobs in Baikonur, where Kazakhs are not welcome. Still, the residents of Akay Village aspire to be an astronaut. They firmly believe that the launch site will soon be handed over to them, when each of them has the potential to go into space and become “big money”.
  However, villagers in the adjoining village of Chulatam have a different view. They think that without the Russians, they would have been beggars long ago. Jobs in Kazakhstan are hard to find, wages are low, and once the Russians leave Baikonur, they can’t find a buyer even if they want to start a small business. The Russians, they say, are their saviour, and it is thanks to the Russians that they can make ends meet.