At the southeastern edge of the City Park, at the corner of Kabanbai Batyr Avenue and the Korgalzhyn Highway, stands the Monument to the Victims of Political Repression. It stands on a rounded hillock, symbolising an ancient burial mound. A flight of steps leads up the eastern side of the hill. This is flanked by a wall decorated with symbolic images: a tree withering in a drought- afflicted land, oppressed people with their heads bowed forward, a list of the Stalinist internment camps on Kazakhstan's territory, and metal birds struggling to free themselves from their traps. A tall metal obelisk rises from the top of the mound. An inscription nearby lists the categories of victims commemorated by the monument, from those killed during the establishment of Soviet power, through victims of famine, epidemic, deportation and internment, political prisoners and dissidents, to the victims of the events of December 1986 in Almaty. Across the Korgalzhyn Highway from the monument, the building looking rather like a concrete spaceship is Astanas circus. Built in 2005, the building seats spectators and is equipped for ice shows as well as traditional circus acts.
Behind the Monument to the Victims of Political Repression, walking back into the park, a path runs past a line of sculptures based on balbals. To the right are a couple of mock Iron Age burial mounds. The path brings you to a prodigious number of flags: Kazakhstani flags, flags of Astana, and simply flags made out of colourful material. These, er, flag up the entrance to one of Astanas quirkier sites, Atameken: The Map of Kazakhstan.
Over a 1.7ha site, Atameken offers a 3D picture of Kazakhstan in miniature, a large map of the country over which are dotted models of the best-known historical monuments, statues and quite a few industrial enterprises.
From the entrance, a large pond stretches ahead of you. It takes a little while to work out that this represents the Caspian, viewed from the south. The pond is full of model flamingos, seals and sturgeon, the last floating on the surface like crocodiles. You enter Kazakhstan through Mangistau Region, where you can walk through a model of the Shakpak Ata underground mosque to arrive in downtown Aktau. Not all of the regions are yet as elaborately presented as Mangistau, with its artificial pink mountains and walk-through canyons, but a visit to Atameken represents a great way to get an overview of the attractions of Kazakhstan: a rocket preparing to be launched from Baikonur, the Khodja Ahmed Yassaui Mausoleum in Turkestan, and Almaty, in its glorious setting beneath the snow-covered peaks of the Tian Shan. Each region is illustrated with up to two dozen models, though the model-makers were evidently struggling for inspiration in one or two regions. Kostanai, for example, gets only eight models - and one of those is an asbestos factory. Stylised model buildings representing the different ethnic groups making up the population of Kazakhstan are also scattered around the map. The felt yurts and toy camels arranged on the astroturf surface do admittedly rather give the impression that a child has been playing there.
Right in the centre of this map of Kazakhstan is a two-storey hangar-like building with a corrugated metal roof. The top floor is devoted to a large model of Astana's left bank, running from Khan Shatyr to the Ak Orda. The pyramid-shaped Palace of Peace and Harmony does not quite fit in on its rightful spot, so has been squeezed into a corner. The right bank of Astana is demoted to a ground-level spot, just to the right of the hangar-like building.