Robert Kopack, Human Geography PhD Student


Home Campus:
U of T St. George

Human Geography (Supervisors: Robert Lewis and Matt Farish)

Other Degrees:
MS Geography--Michigan State University
BA Russian Studies and History--University of Colorado, Boulder

Honours & Awards:
International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) Fellow 2012
The National Russian Honors Society, Dobro Slovo (United States)

Contact Information:

Research Interests:

  • Cold War
  • Science and technology
  • Kazakhstan and Central Asia

My doctoral work at the University of Toronto focuses on the Cold War and specifically from the Soviet side. I am interested in the sites used for weapons testing and the development of strategic science and technology in Kazakhstan. For a dissertation project, my perspective is to contextualize Kazakhstan, both during the Soviet period and since 1991, as a ‘laboratory space’ for the realization of key military goals like nuclear weapons, space travel, and a range of ballistic missiles and other tactical armaments. The research sites that I have chosen for this study include Kurchatov (Semipalatinsk), the Baikonur Cosmodrome, and the Sary Shagan test field. My contention is that due to specific geographic planning and resource allocation, Kazakhstan was broadly used as a research space. The legacy of this and the forms of science and technology that were realized in Kazakhstan continue to play a crucial role in its post-Soviet political-economy.

Since 2009 I have been researching, working, and traveling in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. My master’s work at Michigan State University looked at the negotiation of Soviet memorial, commemorative, and symbolic landscapes and the degree to which these are maintained, relocated, or effaced. This research brought me into the sites that I have chosen for my doctoral work.