This small village north of Saumalkol is associated with the childhood of noted Kazakh traveller and ethnographer Chokan Valikhanov (see left menu). To get here from Saumalkol, head north, through pine and birch woodlands, towards the village of Svetloe. After 24km take a signposted right turn to Sirimbet, reaching the village after a further 5km.
A smart single-storey log-walled building in the village houses the Sirimbet Historical and Ethnographic Museum named after Chokan Valikhanov. This was opened in 1985 to mark the 150th anniversary of Valikhanov's birth. It occupies a building constructed in 1929, which previously housed a school. You may notice a street of old-looking wooden houses on the way to the museum, which appear to be rather better quality than the buildings in the rest of the village. Local villagers say that these old' buildings were actually constructed in 1985, along the route visiting VIPs would be taking for the opening of the museum, to make the village seem tidier and more attractive to these senior people.
The foyer houses a carpet produced by the Almaty textile factory, depicting Valikhanov, and a painting of Ablai Khan. A room to the left illustrates Valikhanov's youth, with some of his own fine drawings, including one of the Sirimbet estate which was to prove invaluable to researchers attempting to rebuild it. There is a photograph of Valikhanov at the Omsk Cadet School, 12 years old and already looking poised, and a display about his friendship with Dostoevsky. The next room contains notes and drawings made by Valikhanov as part of his research, including drawings of the Tamgaly Tas petroglyphs. A wall map displays some of his travels, including his journey to Kashgar. The next display, opposite the entrance foyer, is a yurt, with beyond that a room devoted to World War II, with a frieze on the far wall depicting young men with machine guns and riding horses, their wives collecting wheat and raising the children. The last room chronicles the history of the village, which became a grain-producing Sovkhoz farm in the early 1960s. There is a display about the work of another noted Valikhanov, Shota, who was born in Sirimbet in 1932. He became an architect responsible for a number of the notable monuments of post-independence Kazakhstan, including the State arms, the Independence Monument in Almaty, the monument to Kenesary in Astana and that to the victims of nuclear testing in Semey. The museum concludes with photographs of some of the institutions across Kazakhstan which bear the name of Chokan Valikhanov.
Sirimbet's other Valikhanov-related sight is the reconstructed estate of Aiganim, Chokan Valikhanov's grandmother. It lies outside the village, off the road back towards Saumalkol, and is clearly visible from it. Aiganim, the younger wife of Vali Khan, was not yet 40 when her husband died in 1821. She was well educated, and in widowhood became an influential local figure. She also encouraged young Chokans academic curiosity during his stays at Sirimbet, which included his holidays from the Omsk Cadet School. The estate was built for Aiganim by a decree of Tsar Alexander I in 1824 and by the order of the then Governor-General of western Siberia, Kaptsevich. The estate, of wooden buildings, included a school, mosque, guesthouse and mill. It was destroyed during the Soviet period, but has been reconstructed on the basis of drawings and descriptions and was opened as an open-air museum in 1994.
The estate comprises several log-walled buildings around a central courtyard, all within a fenced enclosure. The main building includes a smart guest room, with decorated wooden columns, and a range of furnishings linked to the family, including a beautifully decorated box, the work of a brother of Valikhanov who was a talented craftsman. The other wooden buildings are a mosque, whose tower dominates the ensemble, a banya, a school building and a store containing a display of household and agricultural implements.