Trans Eurasia travel

Bukhar Zhirau Avenue

A walk northwards along Bukhar Zhirau Avenue from the railway station gives a good feel of the city centre, and takes in some interesting monuments. There is a statue of Bukhar Zhirau himself, wearing the traditional Kazakh cloak and tall hat, in the park in front of the railway station, as if welcoming new arrivals to the city. Bukhar Zhirau was a poet and adviser to Ablai Khan, the 18th-century khan of the Middle Horde who achieved military successes against the Dzhungars and who strove to create a strong, independent Kazakh state.

A couple of blocks further to the northwest along Bukhar Zhirau Avenue, just beyond the Hotel Karaganda, is a monument to a very different local hero. Nurken Abdirov was a young pilot of World War II, posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union when his plane was damaged by enemy fire above Stalingrad in 1943. Rather than attempt to save their own lives, he and gunner Alexandr Komissarov steered the stricken plane to crash into a German column. The drama- packed statue depicts Abdirov, expression defiant, gripping the steering wheel of his plane as one might a bucking bronco.
A block further on, past the line of modern new shopping malls, and a large video screen flashing out adverts, the cityscape reverts to a more Soviet feel. In front of the building housing the headquarters of Mittal Steel's coal operation stands a statue of Lenin, greatcoated against the cold, his hand resting on the stone plinth as if in mid-oration. The Soviet theme continues across Bukhar Zhirau Avenue, in the mirror-image buildings housing the regional trades' union office and the geology department. Built in the 1960s, these feature mosaic friezes of industrial workers and geologists. Outside the geology department building stand a couple of large rocks from deposits in the region: one of iron ore, the other of greenish copper porphyry ore.

Continuing northwards along Bukhar Zhirau Avenue, after a further block you reach a statue of two coal miners, which has become something of a symbol of Karaganda. The two proud men raise a huge block of coal high above their heads like weightlifters. The path behind this statue takes you to the main entrance of Karaganda's large and attractive central park. Facing the statue across Bukhar Zhirau Avenue is the Miners' Culture House, built by Japanese prisoners of war to a neo-classical design. Its facade is topped by seven statues, ranging from miner, through soldier and agricultural worker to musician.


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