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There is an interesting literary excursion to be made from Uralsk to the village of Darinskoe, 32 km to the northeast. The attraction here is the Mikhail Sholokhov museum (10:00-18:00 Tuesday-Sunday). Sholokhov was a Soviet novelist born in 1905 in the Veshenskaya stanitsa, heartland of the Don Cossacks, although he was not himself a Cossack, His great work, started late in 1925 and completed some 14 years later, was The Quiet Don, an epic novel about the lives of the Don Cossacks from around 1912 to 1920. Its main hero, Gregor Melekhov, fights on the counterrevolutionary side in the Civil War, and the novel is strikingly objective. Fortunately for Sholokhov, Stalin liked the novel, which is available in English translation in two parts: And Quiet Flows the Don and The Don Flows Home to the Sea.

Sholokhov's later literary output never approached the standard of his masterpiece, and he became a figure of the Soviet establishment. He accompanied Khrushchev on a trip to the United States in 1959 and became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1961. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1965. The award rekindled old allegations that Sholokhov had not authored The Quiet Don, the case against him involving a combination of his youth when the epic was started, the relative weakness of the rest of his output, and his pro-regime views. Solzhenitsyn was among those to query his authorship. The Don Cossack writer Fyodor Kryukov, who had died in 1920, was identified by Sholokhov's critics as a more likely author of the work. But scientific analyses of the text, comparing this with Sholokhov's and Kryukov's confirmed outputs, have strongly supported the conclusion that Sholokhov is indeed the true author.

Sholokhov's family was evacuated here in 1942, living in Darinskoe for a little more than a year. But he returned frequently over the next 30 years for hunting trips, once commenting that he had two homelands, the quiet Don and the grey Ural. He felt himself a Cossack in the first, a Kazakh in the second. The museum was opened in 1979, in the house in which he and his family had lived. This is a modest single-storey dwelling, dwarfed by the two-storey museum extension. The family house includes many belongings linked with Sholokhov. A comfortable living room features a painting of a uniformed Sholokhov (he served as a war correspondent) surrounded by his loving family. His study centres on the desk on which Sholokhov was working on his new novel, They Fought for the Fatherland, a propagandist work which he never completed. His hunting rifle hangs on the wall. The next room focuses on Sholokhov's post-war hunting trips to the area. His tent and camping chair are displayed, and there are photographs of the writer showing off his vanquished ducks.

The ground floor of the adjoining museum building contains two halls of paintings, depicting local traditions such as Nauryz celebrations and a hard-fought game of kokpar, historical events such as the Pugachev Rebellion and Pushkin's visit in 1833, and local people. A portrait of the Logashkin family, a local farming family, is rather poignant. Grandad, his medals displayed on his chest, is seated in the centre, with younger members of his family around him. One wears a uniform, another a football shirt. None looks particularly happy. An intriguing painting in the entrance hall depicts two cattle pulling a cart on which lies an enormous beluga: the Ural River was known for its big fish, apparently.

Upstairs are a few unremarkable rooms devoted to local studies: a nature room populated by stuffed animals, an archaeology room with ceramics and knives on display, as well as some balbalsy and an ethnography room which focuses on the range of nationalities living in the area, with costumes and household items on display from different ethnic groups. The final room, devoted to the post-independence period, includes photographs of President Nazarbaev's visit to the museum in 2005, marking the 100th anniversary of Sholokhov's birth. The armchair in which the president sat is on display. There are photographs too of Sholokhov visiting the region in later life, white haired and smiling, A copy of The Quiet Don presented by Sholokhov to the people of Darinskoe is also exhibited.

Not far from Darinskoe is a holiday base named Mechta, which sits between the oxbow Lake Tyoploe and the Ural River itself. There is accommodation here, as well as a restaurant and а range of sporting facilities, though the main attraction is the opportunity to take a boat trip on the Ural River.