Robert Kopack

Full-Time Faculty Member, Department of Geography

PhD, Geography, University of Toronto, 2020

My first research priority is Soviet and post-Soviet defense industrial policy. This work began in 2014 as is centered on the formerly closed and “secret cities” of Baikonur, Stepnogorsk, and Priozersk in Kazakhstan–where there was a great deal of defense investment and extensive land used for testing and development of rocket and missile technologies, biological, and chemical weapons. These remote and highly secured installations were urban-industrial enclaves of resident experts and labor that have since the early 1990s have been either been leased by the Russian Federation for commercial and or new defense applications or operated as privatized industrial enterprises for chemicals, and a variety of raw materials from rare earth minerals to uranium. My interest in these sites concern environmental degradation, the lack of transparent public policy, and currently with the further establishment of Russian hegemony in Central Asia and the former Soviet Union more broadly speaking.

My second research priority is related to the first. With the break up of the Soviet Union, commercial launch services for satellites or piloted missions to the International Space Station developed into a highly profitable global market in which the Russian Federation (through leased territory in Kazakhstan) has been a key player. With the advent of new public-private partnerships in the United States (NASA and Space X), land and infrastructure development is rapidly occurring through federal and local policy to support a new era of U.S. led space exploration. My interests lie in the often lesser analyzed tradeoffs between economic development and the social and environmental impacts of rocket facilities, assembly sites, and launch corridors on local communities.   

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