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Baikonur, formerly known as Leninsk, is a city in Kyzylorda province of Kazakhstan, rented and administered by Russia. It was constructed to service the Baikonur Cosmodrome and was officially renamed Baikonur by Russian president Boris Yeltsin on December 20, 1995. The shape of the area rented is an ellipse, measuring 90 km east to west, by 85 km north to south, with the cosmodrome at the centre. The original Baikonur is a mining town a few hundred kilometres north-east, near Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan’s Karagandy Province. The launch site was given this name to cause confusion and keep the location secret. This town was specifically chosen because the flight path of the rockets that launched many Soviet satellites, including the first Sputnik, passed over its vicinity. The name Baikonur is Kazakh for “wealthy brown”, i.e. “fertile land with many herbs”. The fortunes of the city have varied according to those of the Soviet/Russian space program and its Baikonur Cosmodrome.
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