Baykonur1, Baikonyr2, Baykonyr3
- colonial mistranslation of distraction sites.
'They needed water, railway line and remoteness' to build a rocket launch site.
The Kazakh name for the site - Байқоңыр/Baıqońyr/بايقوڭىر (Kazakh for "wealthy brown", i.e. "fertile land with many herbs"), which contains ambiguous letters that morphed into new colonial name identity in case of transliteration into the lingua franca of USSR. This ambiguity is two-fold - until 1929, Kazakh was written with the Arabic script; between 1929 to 1940, it was written with the Roman script; from 1940 onwards, Kazakh was written with a modified version of the Cyrillic alphabet that contains 42 letters, 33 of them taken from the Russian alphabet and 9 specifically designed to represent Kazakh sounds.
This highly colonial approach of cyrillicising the local language was common in the neighbouring countries of region speaking Turkic languages including Mongolia.
The double transliteration as an erasure of localised identity to transform the diverse nations into a pan Cyrillic universe. Thus on google maps, Байқоңыр/Baıqońyr/بايقوڭىر has got a number of various transliterated identities and three localities that are called/spelt similarly using triple transliteration to Latin script in google maps. This lack of specificity would definitely have thrown off the competing space race power.
From the perspective of digital colonialism the issue is quite clear, as Google maps have to choose what version of the name to use - the Kazakh spellt using transliterated Latin script, transliterated Cyrillic scripted Kazakh or the Russian Cyrillic version spelt phonetically (using the sounds that better represent pronunciation of a word) utilising only 33 Russian Cyrillic letters. The choice by international platforms often swings into the direction of the Cyrillic Russianised name and also a latin transliteration of that already transliterad cyrillic name making the Kazakh identity of the site invisible under the layers of hyperreal transliteration.
The future : the government of Kazakhstan started talking about a switch to a Latin-based alphabet in 1990, and has been working on such a switch in a start-and-stop manner since 2006. Due to a strong opposition to the switch, it now appears that it will not be finalized until some time in the 2020s.