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Monument to the 26 Baku Commissars

From the Gumdag turning, the main road from Turkmenbashy to Ashgabat bypasses the district capital of Bereket, formerly Gazandjyk, some 125km east of Balkanabat. Ten kilometres west of Bereket, the main road crosses over the railway. A kilometre west of this railway bridge, an asphalt road to the north is unpromisingly marked with a no entry sign. The purpose of the sign appears to be simply to warn of the pot-holed character of the road, and this is certainly not a side trip to attempt after dusk. But it is nonetheless an interesting detour, to the place of execution of the 26 Baku Commissars.

The road heads towards the eastern foothills of the massif known as Little Balkan, passing on the right a railway halt which still bears the name of Shaumian, the most prominent of the commissars. After reaching a small village of livestock farmers, continue for 6km, before taking a turning to the right which runs a few hundred metres down to a derelict railway station. Here stands a rectangular monument in gradually disintegrating pink-and-white tiling. Most of the lettering, which once spelled out the names of the commissars, has gone, but it is still possible to make out the main inscription, which records that the blood of the 26 Baku Commissars was shed for the happiness and freedom of the people, and was not given in vain. Once carefully tended flower beds around the monument are now full of dead bushes.

A couple of hundred metres up the line in the Balkanabat direction, on the other side of the track, stands a smaller metal monument, erected by factory workers in 1935 in memory of the commissars, 'shot by bandits'. This is a silent spot, the railway line snaking through an undulating desert scrub.