Art of Baikonur


A monument depicting young Yuri Gagarin faces the new moon at Site 2 in Baikonur Cosmodrome, just meters from the site, where the first space traveler of the planet Earth spent his last night before a historic mission.

During my army service in the 1980s, at a remote site in northern Russia, I was sometimes asked to draw a propaganda poster, a leaflet or a sign for our barracks. Even though, my army-commissioned art was mostly limited to crude copying of the portraits of Vladimir Lenin or primitive exercises in typography, I found my "artistic experiments" as a great relief from exhaustion of daily service. I remembered this experience years later on one trip to Baikonur, when I saw a soldier painting a picture of a rocket on a large block of concrete, which marked the entrance into the launch facility.

When driving around Baikonur, I saw numerous walls, road signs or simply pieces of concrete touched by a brush of unknown artists. Some artwork still reminded about old ideology, intentionally or unintentionally preserved as in a time capsule, some were brand-new, poeticizing the exploration of space rather then "the party line." No doubt, the majority of this uncelebrated paintings and sculptures were created by conscript soldiers, who spend most of their two-year service in Baikonur repairing roads, laying bricks, driving trucks, guarding gates, cleaning, cooking and so on.

I tried to preserve on film as many examples of the "soldiers' art" as possible. The result was this page dedicated to those countless painters and sculptors, to their time, life, talent and often unwilling sacrifice to the exploration of space.

Known monuments of Baikonur:

Two monuments in the Soldier's Park mark graves of those, who died during the Nedelin disaster in October 1960 and in an accident with the R-9 missile exactly three years later.


A "must" for every Soviet city -- a statue of Vladimir Lenin -- by the architect N. Asatur and sculptor Posyadko was opened in 1970 at the central square of Baikonur.


A monument dedicated to Sergei Korolev by sculptor Faidush-Karandievskiy was opened in November 1970.


The monument "Science and Space" was opened in April 1974, on the eve of the Soyuz-Apollo docking mission.


In June 1980, a full-scale mockup of the Soyuz launcher was erected at Marx Street.


A monument to Shubnikov, the original chief of construction at Baikonur, was unveiled on March 8, 1983, in commemoration of his 80th birthday.


A monument to Mikhail Yangel by G. Kalchenko was opened in 1980.


A monument to Yuri Gagarin designed by private O. Pesotskiy, was unveiled in November 1983.

The monument informally known as "fisherman" greets visitors on their way from the Krainiy airport. According to local wits, the cosmonaut on the mural brags about the size of the fish he caught in the nearby Syr Darya River. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

A decade after the fall of Communism, the portrait of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, still adorned the facade of the main post office in Baikonur. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

A monument erected in the Soldier's Park in Baikonur commemorates the victims of the Nedelin's disaster of 1960. Click to enlarge: 400 x 299 / 44K Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

A monument, commemorating the world's first satellite, stands in a small park just meters away from the site where Sputnik-1 was blasted into space in 1957. Click to enlarge: 300 x 400 pixels / 52K Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

Another monument to the first satellite in residential area of Site 17 in Baikonur. Click to enlarge: 400 by 300 pixels / 39K Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak.

A mural on the wall of the propellant portal of Pad 5 at Site 1 marks the facility's 400th launch, which took place on Aug. 6, 2000. Click to enlarge: 400 x 300 pixels / 28K Copyright 2000 Anatoly Zak

The entrance sign at Site 250A depicts the first launch of the giant Energia rocket with the Polyus experimental "battle station" in May 1987. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

Another fresco at the entrance to Site 250 depicts the Energia rocket in its test configuration. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

A sign at the entrance to the Energia-Buran processing area. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

Ruins of a sign at Site 250 mention Directorate 1-1/11 led by Colonel Buturlin. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

A mural on the interior wall of the processing area at Site 254 quotes a legendary founder of the Soviet space program Sergei Korolev: "Road to Stars is Open." Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

A monument, showing the rocket circling the globe, marks the boundary of the ICBM support area at Site 71 on the "western flank" of Baikonur Cosmodrome. The propellant storage is on the background. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

The monument dedicated to the founder of the Yuzhnoe design bureau, Michael Yangel. It is located in a small park east of Zenit assembly building in Area 42. Several generations of rockets developed in Yuzhnoe bureau have been tested in this facility. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak


Unveiled in November 1983, the monument to Yuri Gagarin was created by private O. Pesotskiy, who served in Baikonur. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak