Baikonur is the city built by the USSR government from the 1950s to support the base for space exploration that it established on the steppes of Kazakhstan. It was known a Leninsk until 1995. Two museums commemorate the role of the city and the cosmodrome in the exploration of space which included the launches of the first artificial satellite, the Sputnik, in 1957, and the first human spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin (1934-68) in 1961. The area is an enclave of Russia within Kazakhstan. The base is linked with industrial centres in Russia by a specially-built railway.
The historical museum is on the third floor of the Palace of Culture in the centre of the city and was established in 1968. A succession of displays illustrate the construction of the city and the cosmodrome, much of it by veterans of the Second World War (known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia), the history of that part of Kazakhstan before the 1950s and the planets of the solar system. The final and largest section is concerned with the development of rocket technology.