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House Museum of Mukhtar Auezov

From the Central Museum, take Furmanov Street a block-and- a-half north, turning right at Abai Avenue. The first road on your left is the peaceful, leafy, Tulebaev Street, its presence marked by a seated statue of the dinner-jacketed Mukan Tulebaev, looking every inch the classical conductor. The numerous plaques affixed to buildings along this street naming leading writers, scientists and politicians attest that this quiet lane in central Almaty was once a favoured address of the Soviet elite.

The House Museum of Mukhtar Auezov is a fascinating place to visit even if you know nothing about the work of this important post-war Kazakh writer, for the insight it offers into the living standards of the intellectual elite in the Soviet Union of the 1950s. Auezov (1897-1961) survived the purges of the Kazakh intelligentsia in the late 1930s. His four-volume The Path of Abai, completed in 1956, served to build the image of the 19th-century Kazakh writer as well as Auezovs reputation. It gave Auezov great standing in the Soviet Union, as well as internationally.

Auezov himself had a hand in the design of this delightful two-storey house, with apple trees in the back garden and decorated borders around the arched windows. He lived here for a decade, from 1951-61, when ill health forced him to seek medical treatment in Moscow. The downstairs rooms, starting with the columned hall, are designed to impress. His dining table extends to accommodate 30 people. The dinner service is from Germany. Various souvenirs from his trips to India and Japan are on display. The third and fourth volumes of The Path of Abai were written in the comfortable-looking study, whose bookcases hold 6,000 tomes. Also downstairs is the pink-walled bedroom of his widowed sister.

The rooms upstairs are more modest. The bedroom of Auezov and his (third) wife Valentina features Chinese ornaments. Their daughter Leila's room is identified by a painting of the girl in a yellow dress. Leila went on to marry Askar Kunaev, the President of the Academy of Sciences and brother of the then First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. The bedroom of their son Irnar, a keen ornithologist, is decorated with stuffed birds. An ugly concrete administrative block around the back of the house contains a permanent exhibition of Auezov's life and work. There are photographs of the young Auezov, a collection of his medals, and a display of the many foreign-language editions of The Path of Abai. There is a photograph of President Nazarbaev with Kyrgyz writer Chinghiz Aitmatov opening the exhibition hall in 1997, on the 100th anniversary of Auezovs birth. Aitmatov's presence is a reminder of Auezovs role in popularising the Kyrgyz epic poem Manas.

Continuing northwards along Tulebaev Street, take the first road to your right, Kurmangazy Street. The first building on the right was built in the early 1970s to house the Kazakh Society of Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. Its circular conference hall apes the form of a yurt. The place had a brief moment of fame on 21 December 1991 as the venue for the meeting of the Heads of State of former constituent parts of the Soviet Union, who signed the agreement on the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States here. The building now houses the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan.