During the Stalin years Malinovka (also called Akmol), 35km west of Astana, housed ALZhIR, a notorious camp for wives and children of men who were interned elsewhere as ‘betrayers of the motherland’.
The Museum of Victims of Repression (10am-5pm Tue-Sun) conveys something of life in the camp and documents Soviet repression in Kazakhstan. A memorial alley behind the museum is lined by plaques with the prisoners’ names.
Further west past Malinovka, Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve is a Unesco World Heritage Site (part of the Steppe and Lakes of Saryarka), with numerous steppe lakes at the crossroads of two major bird migration routes. The more than 300 bird species recorded here include pelicans and cranes, and from April to September salty Lake Tengiz supports the world’s most northerly flamingo colony (several thousand of these birds migrate to the Caspian Sea during winter).
A good new visitors centre in the small town of Korgalzhyn, 130km from Astana, has a cafe, a library and exhibits on birds, migration and the local area. The town also has a community ecotourism program offering simple but clean homestays and guided birdwatching trips outside the reserve itself but still with plenty of lakes and interesting birdlife.
For further information and other sights to see around Astana check the links in the left column menu.