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Exploring Petropavl

Along Constitution of Kazakhstan Street Many of Petropavl's oldest buildings and most interesting sights are strung along Constitution of Kazakhstan Street, a pedestrian thoroughfare which runs through the centre of town from southeast to northwest. Locals claim that, at more than 3km, it is longer than Moscow's famous pedestrian street, Arbat. It is referred to henceforth as Constitution Street, for brevity.

Around the regional akimat building Constitution Street's beginnings, at the southeastern edge of the town centre, are unimpressive. It heads off, almost apologetically, from a scruffy road junction. At the corner with Osipenko Street stands a Baptist church, occupying a three-storey brick building dating from the Tsarist era, a church spire just visible behind. Walking along Constitution Street, after four short blocks, take a detour to the right along Vasilev Street. The ugly pebble-dashed building on your right is the Regional Puppet Theatre, which serves up a menu of Russian fairy tales, Winnie the Pooh and the occasional Kazakh folk story.

Back on Constitution Street, you pass on your left a Roman Catholic church, dating from the early 20th century, with a facade of sweeping curves, rather Italianate in feel. The interior of this heavily restored building is modern. Immediately beyond is a war memorial, preceded by two tiled columns on which are inscribed the names of the region's Heroes of the Soviet Union, in Russian and Kazakh. A tree-lined path leads up to the war memorial itself, a tall, four-sided obelisk which appears to be constructed of metal pipes. A wooded park spreads out behind.

The large seven-storey bulk of the regional akimat building, just beyond on the right, its facade punctuated by air conditioners serving just a few of its offices, stands opposite a modern statue of Abai and Pushkin, celebrating the joint year of the two poets commemorated in 2006. Each places his hand against a tree standing between them. The monument is surrounded by a semi-circular arcade, to give it greater gravitas. One block further on, at the entrance to the Central Park, stands a decidedly battered bust of Vladimir Shatalov, a cosmonaut born in Petropavlovsk and twice Hero of the Soviet Union, who flew on three missions of the Soyuz programme. The first was in 1969 with Soyuz 4, whose docking with Soyuz 5 represented the first successful docking of two manned spacecraft.

Further to the northwest, Constitution Street ends in rather more impressive fashion than it began, at the blue-glass building of the Russian Drama Theatre. The square in front of this is dominated by a monument which, following its installation in 1999, has become one of the symbols of Petropavl: the statue of Karasai and Agyntai batyrs. This commemorates the two Kazakh warriors of different tribes who fought together against the Dzhungars in the 17th century, and who are buried together in the southern part of North - Kazakhstan Region. The monument provides a symbol of strength through unity. The two warriors, their chests puffed out, stand side by side, their sinewy forearms horizontal as they hold up their lances. With their other arms they jointly hold a shield in front of them like a badge.

To the right of this statue rests a faded monument from another political era, a large concrete war memorial honouring the people of North Kazakhstan Region killed in World War II. Four differently coloured triangular panels, like large sails, converge on an eternal flame which, however, has been extinguished. To the left of the monument to the two batyrs, in a stretch of park, stands an abstract monument to the Victims of Political Repression: a pyramid, spikes protruding from its sides, stands beneath a triangular lattice tower.