Ekibastuz regional museum

  - darkometer rating:  2 -
A typical small regional museum of history and local lore in Kazakhstan. This one, however, has the extra distinction of covering more than the usual themes. In particular it also features a section about Ekibastuz's connections with the gulag system.  

>More background info

>What there is to see


>Access and costs

>Time required

>Combinations with other dark destinations

>Combinations with non-dark destinations



More background info: see under Ekibastuz.
What there is to see: the museum kicks off in a very typical manner, familiar from virtually all regional museums in Kazakhstan, namely with a bit of archaeology and prehistory. Normally, I find this rather boring, but in this case at least there were some rather captivating skeletons discovered in various burial mounds from different periods in the region.
Also predictable was the fully furnished yurt – the classic nomadic "housing" that so used to characterize all Central Asia (and Mongolia). A few more typical sections on – including the unavoidable "nature" hall with a host of stuffed animals – it finally gets more interesting in the following rooms. Here the Soviet era is covered, including the gulag history, as well as Ekibastuz's all-dominant connection with coal mining.
The latter is first introduced by means of an almost life-size mock-up of an early underground mine (whereas today mining at Ekibastuz is done in opencast pits), designed to visualize starkly the squalor endured by those early miners.
The Soviet era, on the other hand, is still portrayed in quite some glory. There are flags, medals, propaganda posters, the works. In particular, of course, the victory in the Great Patriotic War (=WWII) is highlighted. On the other hand, there are also some less glamorous artefacts on display, such as rusty ex-personal belongings of soldiers.
If these last two topics already introduced a certain dark element, then the next section does so full-on. This is the room about the gulags of Ekibastuz and, in particular, its internationally most prominent inmate: Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. Photos of him as a prisoner in Ekibastuz are followed by pictures those showing him after his expulsion from the USSR as well as some after his return to Russia (where he promoted nationalism and support for strongman Vladimir Putin – one photo even shows the two together!). Books by Solzhenitsyn are also on display, in particular, of course, copies of his gulag-related works, "The Gulag Archipelago" and "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (in their Russian originals, of course).
Moving further into modern times, we're back to coal mining, but now in its contemporary form of opencast strip-mining. There's an endearing model diorama of the Bogatyr pit, as well as loads of photos, including some of the Big Wheel, those bucket-wheel excavating monsters typical of large-scale opencast mining.
Naturally, the record-breaking monuments of electricity generating from coal are covered too: the GRES-2 power station with its chimney (tallest in the world) and the highest voltage power line – see Ekibastuz.
A different kind of world record comes up in the next room: here local hero Marat Zhilanbaev, a long-distance runner with a pronounced predilection for deserts. His endurance in successive marathons and a cross-desert run of the Sahara in the 1990s earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records. His certificate is dutifully displayed, together with a T-shirt and a pair of desert-coloured trainers once worn by the running man.
Next, and somewhat out of keeping with the other sections, is a section full of old electronics, such as various items of telecommunication gear and vintage computers – all clearly museum pieces by now in more than one sense …
Outside the exhibition proper, back on the ground floor, there was also the obligatory section celebrating independent Kazakhstan and President Nazarbayev. Local crafts are on display too here, mostly items made from felt.
The museum has a decidedly provincial feel and is apparently not very well known even in town – my local guide was surprised when we told him about it .. he clearly hadn't been aware of its existence. However, if you happen to stumble into Ekibastuz, then it's surely a worthwhile diversion to spend an hour or so in this little place. I certainly enjoyed it more than other such regional museums I visited in Kazakhstan (though that's not necessarily saying that much – cf. Pavlodar or Aralsk)
Location: at 34 Gornyakov Street, just north of the centre of Ekibastuz.
Google maps locator:[51.734,75.318]
Access and costs: fairly easy, cheap.
Details: from the town centre of Ekibastuz, the museum is easy enough to locate: from the central square and Hotel Ekibastuz head up the north-south main boulevard (formerly Lenin Street, now renamed Mashhur Zhusup Street) one block, ca. 400 yards (365 metres) , and turn left into Gornyakov Street. The museum is on the right after another couple of hundred yards, opposite a car park and some sort of market. It's a white two-storey building set back from the road behind a little garden. It simply says "Musey" (in Cyrillic) on the front facade. So far so easy. To get something out of the museum's exhibition, however, you either need to have sufficient Russian (or Kazakh) to read the labels or understand the local museum guide – or come with an interpreter. No English is spoken.
Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: 50 KZT, plus 150 KZT fee for a guided tour; photo permit: 180 KZT (video permit 300 KZT) – these at least were the prices advertised by the door. Foreigners are regularly charged a higher admission fee, though …
Time required: the guided tour we were given lasted a bit over an hour (including interpretation through my general tour guide, which obviously prolonged things a little); visitors who go independently (and a good knowledge of Russian would be required for this) are likely to get through the place a lot quicker, especially when doing without a guide and selectively concentrating on the more relevant, darker-themed sections upstairs.
Combinations with other dark destinations: in general see Ekibastuz – within easy walking distance is Ekibastuz's best relic from the Soviet days: a tall Lenin statue at the eastern end of Gornyakov Street. Everything else will require some means of transport (i.e. a car with driver/guide ideally).
Combinations with non-dark destinations: none, really – see Ekibastuz.
  • Ekibastuz museum 01 - from the outsideEkibastuz museum 01 - from the outside
  • Ekibastuz museum 02 - kicking off with a bit of archaeologyEkibastuz museum 02 - kicking off with a bit of archaeology
  • Ekibastuz museum 03 - a yurtEkibastuz museum 03 - a yurt
  • Ekibastuz museum 04 - the obligatory stuffed-animals sectionEkibastuz museum 04 - the obligatory stuffed-animals section
  • Ekibastuz museum 05 - mock-up coal mineEkibastuz museum 05 - mock-up coal mine
  • Ekibastuz museum 06 - echoes from the Soviet eraEkibastuz museum 06 - echoes from the Soviet era
  • Ekibastuz museum 07 - Soviet medalsEkibastuz museum 07 - Soviet medals
  • Ekibastuz museum 08 - WWII gloryEkibastuz museum 08 - WWII glory
  • Ekibastuz museum 09 - less glorious relicsEkibastuz museum 09 - less glorious relics
  • Ekibastuz museum 10 - gulag sectionEkibastuz museum 10 - gulag section
  • Ekibastuz museum 11 - Solzhenitsyn bookEkibastuz museum 11 - Solzhenitsyn book
  • Ekibastuz museum 12 - coalEkibastuz museum 12 - coal
  • Ekibastuz museum 13 - mining sectionEkibastuz museum 13 - mining section
  • Ekibastuz museum 14 - model Bogatyr dioramaEkibastuz museum 14 - model Bogatyr diorama
  • Ekibastuz museum 15 - big wheels celebratedEkibastuz museum 15 - big wheels celebrated
  • Ekibastuz museum 16 - the local hero marathon manEkibastuz museum 16 - the local hero marathon man
  • Ekibastuz museum 17 - his desert-dusty shoesEkibastuz museum 17 - his desert-dusty shoes
  • Ekibastuz museum 18 - international recognitionEkibastuz museum 18 - international recognition
  • Ekibastuz museum 19 - museum piece vintage electronicsEkibastuz museum 19 - museum piece vintage electronics
  • Ekibastuz museum 20 - felt merchandiseEkibastuz museum 20 - felt merchandise

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