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thin the Cold War period, the Soviet Union managed to get a lot of development done within the space flight department, especially being pushed by the politically intense Space Race. Although the Soviets took a while to catch up to the speed of NASA, they managed to craft some classes of spaceships that were simply ahead of their time.

History of the Buran Program

The Buran class of Soviet Spaceships was the first operation Soviet shuttle orbiter which was meant to be launched not by a huge rocket but taken by a big plane and fly within Earth’s orbit for recognizance and other space missions (most probably for spying on the U.S.) in 1991. The Soviet Space program was controlled at Baikonur Kazakhstan, and this is the same location where the Buran program began. Since the beginning of the Buran project in 1980, the Soviet Union only managed to build two Buran class orbiter spaceships named “Buran” and “Burya”. The model being in appearance is quite similar to the legendary Challenger designed by NASA.

1989 is remembered as the last year representing the golden age of the Soviet Union and this is because communism within Eastern Europe was collapsing. Most Eastern European countries under communism whilst controlled by the Soviet Union were hit by revolts that dethroned the communist governments and chose a more democratic approach. This lead to the Soviet Union collapsing in 1991, freeing all the countries under Soviet ruling such as Kazakhstan.

Photo of Burya rusting away in a hanger near Baikonur Khastakstan, 2021 (Source: CNN)

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Space Program became quite dismantled, and all projects were dropped. This changed the destiny for Buran and Burya, crafted to fly in space and now grounded for life rotting away in a hangar. In 2002, the roof of the hangar which housed Buran collapsed, ending up destroying the spaceship. Burya suffered a similar fate in 2021, but the damages seem to be less than the first spaceship. However, Burya was disrespected by hooligans who painted with graffiti on the spaceship.

There are so many other important pieces of technology from modern history that sadly, are suffering a similar fate, they should truly be taken care of and placed in a museum if they are decommissioned.

A spaceship in exchange for a very specific human skull

This year, Russia decided that they want the legendary spaceship back for a project where they would try to restore it if possible or scavage any valuable technology out of it. Of course, since Kazakhstan and Russia are now two separate countries this had created some issues. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a businessman from Kazakhstan named Dauren Mussa bought the land on which the hangars are located, making him the owner of the spaceship. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the new democratic government sold many assets in order to rebuild the economy, including the hangars with the two spaceships.

Dauren Mussa (Source: PeoplePill)

Mussa decided that he is willing to give the spaceship to Russian, but in exchange for the skull of the last Kazakh Khan, Kenesary Kasymov. In 1847 Kasymov’s head was chopped off by a traitor from Kazakhstan and sent off to the Russian Empire. Since then the skull was in the hands of Russian and since the 1800s Kazakhstan has been in a constant fight with the Russian government to give them their Khan’s skull back.

The latest response is that they don’t even know where the skull is located nowadays. This is the same response Mussa got but he just thinks (just like every other citizen within Khasakstan) that Russia simply does not want to hand the skull. During my research, I stumbled upon only one news website from Kazakhstan which states that the skull was found this year :

“Three independent sources informed Orda.kz that the skull of Kenesary Khan was found in accordance with the accompanying documents and it would be returned to Kazakhstan after genetic examination”

However, I take this with a pinch of salt as I can’t find any other publication to post this information…

Kazakh Minister of Digital Development Bagdat Musin has sued Mussa for illegally owning the spaceships. Although Mussa did buy in an auction the land plots, he does not have certified proof of purchase.

Now as the businessman and the Khazak and Russian government are fighting in court, the spaceship is still rotting and all due to a skull that does hold a lot of significance nevertheless, but a grudge from 200 years ago should not be the reason why a piece of history is rotting away from what many consider a golden era within modern history.

The court case can take years, a time in which the spaceship could rust beyond restoration.

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