Trans Eurasia travel

Your virtual guide to Eurasia! Let's travel together!

Balkhash Town Museum

This is not the easiest place to find. It sits in an unmarked windowless brick building amidst the blocks of apartments which make up the Shashybaya Microdistrict immediately to the north of Tauelsizdik Square. Follow Mira Street northwards until it turns into Kadirzhanov Street. Look out for the Cinema Centre on your left. The museum lies behind this.

The displays kick off with descriptions of the leading figures of the area, including Dinmuhammed Kunaev. There is a photograph of the house in which the future First Secretary lived in Kounrad village. This is followed by displays pertaining to the natural world, stuffed animal-populated dioramas of three local environments: the south bank of Balkhash Lake, the steppe north of the town and the granite rocks of Bektauata. A side room is devoted to early history, with a selection of 7th-century balbals, some petroglyphs together with modern artworks inspired by them, and a diorama showing Bronze Age metalworkers in action. There is also a reconstruction of a Bronze Age burial in a coffin walled by flat stones. Back in the main hall the displays continue with a family tree of the Middle Zhuz, indicating its numerous sub-tribes, and items relating to the Kazakh khanates. There are also musical instruments on display, and features on local musicians such as Shashubay Koshkarbaev, who died in 1952. Photographs show him as a cheerful, while bearded accordion player. His accordion and Soviet awards are on display.

Next comes ethnography, with a life-size Kazakh village scene including a blacksmiths forge, a yurt, and the lady of the house doing some spinning outside. Then to the birth of Balkhash, with a mock-up of the study of Mikhail Uusakov, and a model of the huge, terraced, open-cast Kounrad mine. There are samples of copper from the Balkhash plant, and the awards given to those who helped develop the local copper industry. A moving display highlights some of those associated with the copper factory who fell foul of Stalin's repression in the 1930s. There are also some hard-to-comprehend models and flowcharts of the factories which make up the Balkhash complex.