In 1868, on the site of the winter pasture of Tal-Korgan, west of the Dzhungarsky Alatau Mountains, the settlement of Gavrilovka was established. Situated close to the Chinese border, it was renamed Taldykorgan in 1920. Its real development came in the 1940s, as production facilities were moved from the European part of Russia to beyond the Urals. In 1944, Taldykorgan was declared a city and the region's administrative centre at the same time. Like elsewhere in Kazakhstan, with the end of the Soviet Union decline set in during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its population decreased dramatically as many young people moved to Almaty or even directly abroad. The collapse of virtually the entire industry in the town meant there was no reason to stay in Taldykorgan-mentioning its name often brought grim, sad smiles to people's faces.
Taldykorgan Oblast (Region) was dissolved and integrated into that of Almaty. The city seemed to have been abandoned. But Taldykorgan, along with its 130,000 inhabitants, was saved from obscurity at the very last minute in 2001 President Nazarbayev took people by surprise by declaring that the city was to become the administrative centre of Almaty Region.
This provincial town was given an economic boost, new office blocks for the new administration, business accommodation, restaurants, new hotels-the change took place with incredible speed. All of a sudden, crowds of young people populate the city once more. More than 20,000 people returned to the city in the 18 months following the decree, and Taldykorgan is once again an important centre of commerce in the region, with growth expected to continue for some time to come. But it still remains a quiet place, a leafy, grid-patterned town laid out on the left bank of the Karatal River. While not a tourist destination in its own right, Taldykorgan serves as a gateway to the beautiful and little-explored mountains of the Dzhungarsky Alatau as well as to the north of the region and routes into East Kazakhstan.
The quay along the Karatal River, lit by lanterns in the evenings, has ecome the centrepoint for residents to meet, relax and enjoy their city's revival. The large expanse of the central square, straddling Tauelsizdik Street, fills much of the block between Akin Sara and Abai streets. The modern fountain in the centre of the square has seven columns of varying heights, representing the seven rivers from which the Zhetisu region takes its name. There is a rather more attractive fountain in the south-western corner of the square, with four rams supporting a large decorated bowl. The northern side of the square is flanked by a modern glass-fronted building housing the regional administration. The southern side is occupied by the Palace of Culture, named in honour of poet Ilyas Zhansugurov.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Taldykorgans airport is 14km northeast of town across the Karatal River. Zhetisu Airlines offers a daily two-hour flight to Astana in a hot and cramped Yak-40. The railway station sits a few blocks south of the centre, at the southern end of Shevchenko Street. The sleepy Taldykorgan station lies at the end of a branch line. The adjacent bus station is potentially more useful. There are frequent departures for Tekeli (one hour) and Almaty (six hours) and a couple a day to Ust-Kamenogorsk. Long-distance taxis wait outside the railway station and along Shevchenko Street in front of it.