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Regional Museum of History

Kostanai Regional Museum of HistoryHoused in an attractive pale green-painted two-storey building built in Tsarist times by a local merchant, and later serving as a department store, this is an interesting museum, although the labelling is in Kazakh and Russian only.

The first room, looking at regional history from the Stone Age, includes a really curious stone squatting figure, hunched and careworn, known as the Tobol Thinker. Found on the bank of the River Tobol, it is believed to date to the Bronze Age. There are displays on the fighting against the Dzhungars, Kenesary's revolt, and the 1916 uprising led by Amangeldy Imanov, focused on the Turgai steppe which lies in the remote southern part of present-day Kostanai Region. There are various swords and rifles from the uprising on display, and the score of the Amangeldy overture. The next room focuses on the arrival of Slavonic peoples into the region, with a mock- up of a log house built by immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: there's an icon in the corner, a spinning wheel, and an accordion and balalaika for jolly moments. The displays include some stiffly posed photographs of merchant families, and ladies' costumes as worn by Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians.

The displays continue upstairs with a room about the founding of Kostanai. A 1902 plan shows a grid-patterned town laid out on the north bank of the Tobol River. There are early photographs, including of a broad and muddy-looking Bolshaya ('Big') Street, the present-day Al Farabi Avenue, at the end of the 19th century. There is the mock-up of the drawing room of a merchant's house at the start of the 20th century, with the family's prized crockery carefully displayed in a glass cupboard. There are also displays on the victims of the repression of the 1930s, on the region's literary figures and sports stars, and on Kazakhstan's space programme, Kostanai Region providing one of the expanses of Kazakh steppe onto which returning cosmonauts are prone to land. US astronaut Michael Coats contributes a signed photograph addressed to the Kostanai Historical Museum: 'with appreciation'.

To the left is a room on natural history, whose stuffed animal-filled dioramas include wetland, birch woodland, pine woodland and steppe, the last featuring marmots standing quizzically on their hind legs, hedgehogs snuffling around, and a steppe eagle eating something. A description of the Naurzym State Reserve includes a set of badges and stickers from the international 'Day of the Crane' celebrations, focused on efforts to help save this remarkable bird. And, in common with almost every museum in Kazakhstan, there is a stuffed wild boar. There are displays, too, on the region's minerals wealth, with photographs of the huge, terraced, open-cast pits of the Zhitikara asbestos deposit and Sokolov-Sarbai iron-ore deposit.

Opposite the nature hall is a room focused on World War II, with a mock-up of a wartime living room, with a map in which red and black flags sketch out the front line. There are photographs both of those on the front and of those toiling in the fields and factories to support them. The next room majors on the economic achievements of the region. A display records the award of the Order of Lenin to Kostanai Oblast in 1966 for its successes in agricultural production: it repeated the feat in 1970. A plastic case contains the spools of blue thread which represent the first output of the Kostanai worsted cloth factory lumbered with the name of '23rd Session of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union'. The rather grim clothes and shoes produced in local factories in the 1970s are on display, and there is a description of the Virgin Lands programme, with photographs of Kunaev, First Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party, inspecting the wheat fields in the 1970s. Back downstairs are a couple of rooms dedicated to art with paintings and sculptures of horses.