Robert Kopack, Human Geography PhD Candidate


Home Campus:
U of T St. George

Human Geography

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)

Robert Lewis & Matt Farish

Contact Information:

Personal Website:

Research Interests:

  • Military Landscapes; Deindustrialization; Wastelands; Political-Economy; Historical Geographies; Former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan

Currently I research the deindustrialization of Soviet defense sector landscapes in Kazakhstan and the social and environmental consequences of redevelopment in these areas since the end of the Cold War. My scholarship engages economic and political geographies and science and technology studies to explore problems of ruination and dereliction, toxicity and public health, and reemergent forms of authoritarian governance underwritten by market capitalism. My doctoral project investigates the afterlives of Cold War science and technology in Kazakhstan by looking at the fates of “secret cities” and their adjacent industrial landscapes, test sites, mines, and weapons ranges. For 20 months, I was based in Baikonur, Priozersk, and Stepnogorsk, single industry cities (monotowns), built to support the space, ballistic missile defense, and nuclear/bioweapons industries, respectively. These cities were emblematic of the clandestine planning and research that underwrote many of the Soviet Union’s achievements and produced geographies that were largely unknown to the outside world. In my work, I explore the ways in which the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 lead to the rapid disaggregation of military industrial properties and entire municipalities that have been abandoned, partially abandoned, or repurposed for commercial-industrial use.

Selected Publications:

Robert A. Kopack (2019) Rocket Wastelands in Kazakhstan: Scientific Authoritarianism and the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2018.1507817

Research Clusters:
Political Spaces