Trans Eurasia travel

Along Lenin Street

Lenin Street runs parallel to Satpaev Street, one block to the west. The northern end of the street is dominated by unattractive nine- storey Soviet apartment buildings. A rather scruffy park on the right is however worth a look, as it serves as a repository for Soviet statuary. There is a tank on a plinth at the entrance, and then within the park a large statue of Lenin, clad in a greatcoat, and a concrete panel adorned with the resolute profiles of Lenin, Marx and Engels.

Many of Pavlodar's nicest brick-built Tsarist-era houses are situated along the next stretch of Lenin Street. Some of the buildings sport fine decorated brickwork beneath their roofs and around their windows. At the junction with Lunacharsky Street stands the Pavlodar Regional Drama Theatre (www.teatrpavlodar.ru). This is a good place to watch classical Russian dramas. There is a statue of a seated Chekhov, staring blankly behind stone spectacles, in the courtyard in front of the theatre.

The garden of the Chekhov Theatre gives an opportunity for peaceful reflection, sitting on a bench and breathing in the contemplative atmosphere, which differs strikingly from most theatre forecourts. Walk a short way south and turn right, and you're in the old riverside neighbourhood, where you can still get some idea of how romantic this place must once have been. The riverbank promenade starts here, running north with relaxing views over the broad Irtysh.

Across the street, just to the north of the theatre, the Pavlodar regional museum is housed in a pair of adjacent Tsarist-era buildings; a two-storey structure which once housed the post and telegraph office, and a showier single-storey building from 1899 which accommodated the trade centre of a merchant named Derov. The museum is named in honour of Grigory Potanin, a traveller, ethnographer and campaigner for greater autonomy for Siberia.

Palaeontological treasures, found in excavations on the banks of the Irtysh not far from the city, are displayed here: bones of antelope, giraffe, rhinoceros, sabre-tooth tiger and other species, all of whom wandered this region 12-14 million years ago.

The first hall is dominated strikingly by the large skeletons of a mammoth and of a giant deer (Megaceros giganteus), another extinct species also known as the Irish elk and characterised by the huge spread of its antlers. A smaller skeleton at the back of the hall is that of a hipparion, an extinct three-toed forerunner of the horse. Many of the finds on display come from a site known as the Gusiny Perelyot ('Goose Migration'), on the steep right bank of the Irtysh in the northwestern outskirts of Pavlodar. The hipparion, for example, was unearthed in 1929. A model shows palaeontologists at work there, excavating the face of the cliff. Two rooms of natural history follow, with dioramas depicting characteristic landscapes of the region. A room focusing on early history has a display on the work of Petr Dravert, a meteorite expert who researched the hills around Bayanaul in the 1920s, discovering near Lake Zhasybay some primitive ochre figures, drawn on the walls of a cave which is now named in his honour. Another display describes the work of archaeologist Alkei Margulan, who was born in Bayanaul District.

The next room has displays on the Turkic period and the Kazakh khanates, with a large and rather bloody modern canvas depicting local batyrs Olzhabay and Zhasybay battling against the Dzhungar invaders. Kazakh ethnography is covered with a well-appointed yurt and displays of jewellery, costumes and musical instruments. A small room showcasing some of the many ethnic groups represented in the region is followed by one on the arrival of the Russians, with a life-sized model of a Russian family in their wooden hut, photographs of Tsarist Pavlodar and a display on salt collecting from the lakes of the region. Items on the establishment of Soviet power and the tribulations of the Stalinist period give way to a World War II display, with an artillery piece in the centre of the hall.

The next room looks at the industrial development of the region, with photographs of the arrival of trainloads of agricultural workers in 1954, at the onset of the Virgin Lands Campaign, and of the tented settlements in which they initially lived. A display highlights the importance of the coal reserves at Ekibastuz in providing fuel for the many large power stations of the area, and of the high voltage power lines which take the resulting electricity onwards to market. There are displays too on the sporting and artistic stars of the region, with a golden bust of film director and actor Shaken Aimanov, the most important figure in the cinema of Kazakhstan in the post-war Soviet period.


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