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Ablai Khan's Residence

Ablai Khan's residenceFurther to the northwest along Sutyushev Street, just as this commences its drop down to the lower town alongside the River Ishim, stands the Residence of Ablai Khan. The smart, two- storey building, with a central exterior staircase leading to the main entrance, dates from 1829. It long served as a military hospital, and was derelict and collapsing when the local authorities decided to restore it. Its significance lies in the fact that it occupies the site of a wooden building, financed by the Russian authorities under a decree of Catherine the Great, to serve as a residence for Ablai Khan, the Middle Zhuz leader soon to be recognised as ruler of all the Kazakhs. Following the establishment of a Russian fortress here in 1752, it had soon become clear that the presence of the Kazakh leader was necessary to help resolve the many squabbles arising between Russians and Kazakhs. Ablai Khan's periodic presence in the developing town was therefore important to the Russian authorities, and so they arranged somewhere for him to live.

A large equestrian statue of Ablai Khan has been placed in the courtyard in front of the residence. To the left has been constructed aAblai Khan's residence wooden banya. The building itself has been laid out as a museum to Ablai Khan, whose bust greets the visitor in the entrance hall. To the left, a room focuses on Ablai Khan's early life. There is a frieze depicting Tole Bi offering a blessing to the young man. There is a large model in the centre of the room of the Khodja Ahmed Yassaui Mausoleum in Turkestan, his hometown, and the place of his burial. A map depicts the Dzhungar incursions into Kazakhstan; the resultant years of dire hardship in the 1720s are depicted with trauma-wracked engravings. Another frieze shows Ablai's epic duel with the Dzhungar warrior Sharish. There are descriptions of other Kazakh batyrs of the period, and displays of weaponry and hunting equipment. Off this hall, two rooms have been walled with logs, providing a mock-up of Ablai Khan's bedroom and living room in his original wooden house.

To the right of the entrance hall, the displays concentrate on Ablai Khan as leader of the Kazakh people, starting with a painting of him being held aloft on a white felt carpet in 1771 on his election as Khan of all the Kazakhs. There are copies of his correspondence with the Russian authorities, including Catherine the Greats decree on the construction of the wooden house. Another display chronicles Ablai Khan's overtures to China, following the Chinese defeat of the Dzhungars, with documents describing the visits of his emissaries to Peking. The juxtaposition of these serves as a nice demonstration of the deep historical roots of contemporary Kazakhstan's approach of maintaining balance in its foreign policy. There is also a large diorama depicting one of Ablai Khan's battles against the Dzhungars, which chronologically really belongs in the other room, and a painting of the lively market in Petropavlovsk in the 18th century. There are also photographs of the decrepit state of the building before restoration. An adjacent room, again walled with logs, reconstructs the throne room of Ablai Khan's wooden house, where he would have received his official guests.