From Kazakhstan Encyclopedia

Template:Infobox settlement

Karkaraly (Template:Lang-kz) (Template:Lang-ru, Karkaraly, Karkaralinsk) is the oldest town in Karaganda Oblast (Karaganda Region). Karkaraly is also known as Karkaralinsk. Population: Template:Kz-census2009 Template:Kz-census1999

Its history began as a small steppe village. Caravans from Central Asia would travel through Karkaraly on their way to Siberia. The name Karkaraly is derived from the word "qarqara"- a precious decorative Kazakh headpiece. According to a legend, long ago a beautiful girl dropped her Karkara in the area that is now Karkaraly. Her search was in vain and the qarqara remained on the steppe. The legend states that though the beautiful karkara was lost, the beauty of the land will remain forever. According to another legend, this is the site where the great Ablai Khan was proclaimed khan.

Karkaraly is the administrative center for Karkaraly District. By demography and economy, Karkaraly district is one of the largest in Karaganda Region. The district has an area of 35 million hectares and a population of 42,500 people. 75% of that population live outside the city limits of Karkaraly. 16 ethnic groups are represented within the Karkaraly district. Of these, the largest ethnic group is Kazakh (96.2%), followed by Russian (2.23%), and Ukrainian (0.49%).


A fortress was built here in 1824. Three years later the Cossacks took it over. In 1869 Karkaraly was given the status of a city. In the 19th century, the city was an important trade center. The famous Koyandy fair helped in the development of trade, economic relationships, and culture. During this time, Karkaraly was the regional capital of Semipalatinsk Region. Gradually, Karkaraly became a large public and political center where politicians, people in literature and art, educators, scientists and travelers came.

Among those that visited were:

  • Shokan Valikhanov - the first Kazakh scholar, ethnographer, and historian. He is regarded as the father of Kazakh historiography and ethnography.
  • Grigory Potanin - a famous Russian explorer and ethnographer. He came to Karkaraly in 1913 to study Kazakh folklore.
Abai Kunanbaev
The history of Karkaraly is connected with the great Kazakh educator, poet, and composer Abai Kunanbaev. His father was the senior sultan of the Karkaraly region and created a name for himself by erecting the town’s mosque (known as Kunanbaev Mosque) and from his other acts of charity. In his historical novel-epic, author Muhtar Auezov wrote that by virtue of “building the mosque, Kunanbai has gained respect and glory.” The house in which Abai used to live in has been preserved and is now the city's music school.

Ancient Times

In the Paleozoic Age (250–300 million years ago), this area of Kazakhstan was an inland sea. The water retreated 1.2 to 2 million years ago, when the ancient Paleozoic shield was cracked by granite. The area lifted and created the Kent and Karkaraly Mountains. The rocks and cliffs have been here ever since and for many thousands of years the untamable steppe wind and precipitation has sculpted the rocks into unique shapes.

People have lived in the Karkaraly area since ancient times. The earliest archeological finds connected with ancient people dates back to the Paleolithic (or Stone) Age. Artifacts such as knives, scrapers, and spear heads have been found within what is now Karkaraly National Park. Archeological sites from the Bronze Age have been investigated more. Artifacts and cemeteries from the Andronovo culture (18th-14th centuries BC) have been discovered. In one case, a cemetery was found with two tombs inside a stone fence. Stone coffins were found at a depth of one meter. In the tomb were also pots, items made of bronze, an axe, arrowheads, knives, female adornments, and items made of gold, bone and stone.

The Akimek Settlement in the Kent Mountains has been one of the most investigated sites in the area. It also belonged to the Andronovo people. They raised cattle and established settlements along bodies of waters. Settlements were small and usually consisted of houses erected of stone and wood. They focused mainly on raising cows, instead of sheep and horses. They had wheeled transport, including chariots. The remains of a fighting chariot have been found in the tomb of an Andronovo soldier, excavated in the Karkaraly area. The people were also engaged in hoe-mattock agriculture. The metallurgy of the Bronze Age was highly advanced. Andronovo people were of European descent and are the most ancient genetic ancestors of the Kazakh people. DNA tests have revealed that 60% of the tested remains had light hair and blue or green eyes.

During the late Bronze Age (13th–9th centuries BC), successors of the Andronovo people created the Begazy-dandybai culture. In the Kent Mountains, 12 settlements and 10 cemeteries have been uncovered. The ancient city of Kent was also uncovered. Kent is the biggest settlement from the Bronze Age known in the Republic of Kazakhstan. The settlement was 30 hectares large and was home to 1,000 people. The town was divided into streets and quarters, including a quarter for metallurgists in which copper and bronze artifacts have been found. Most likely the inhabitants of Kent were skilled metallurgists. Huge furnaces have been found for the purpose of creating bronze. Excavations of Kent have amazed archeologist with an abundance of bronze products and unusual artifacts. Researchers now guess the area was inhabited for 200–300 years. Kent is believed to have been an important political and economical regional center (ceramics found in Kent prove that the settlement had numerous commercial and political contacts with western Siberia, Central Asia, Xinjiang and Iran.[1] It is also believed that the inhabitants of Kent did not have a system of writing. The ancient city of Kent is currently located in Karkaraly National Park.

Archeological sites from the early Iron Age (8th-7th centuries BC to 1st century AD) have also been found throughout the territory of the national park, but these sites have been investigated far less.

Another famous archeological site, from more recent times, is the mid-17th century Dzungar monastery, in the Kent Mountains. The name of the monument is “Kyzyl Kensh Palace", which means "red ore" or "red city". According to scientists, the monastery was inhabited for as much as 50 years. In the 19th century an ethnographic expedition from Tsarist Russia was conducted in the Kent Mountains. During this time period, part of the complex was still standing. One two-story building was almost untouched and one could see red paint on some of the inner walls. The ceiling was propped up by six wooden columns, carved and covered with gold paint. Unfortunately, after this period, the palace was destroyed for logs and stone. The ruins are now inside Karkaraly National Park and some efforts have been made to restore the palace.

Culture and Economy


The main contributing areas to the economy are farming, ranching, mining and ecotourism.

The following ore deposits have all been found and mined in the area: barite, iron, copper, gold, molybdenum, and tungsten. In the Karkaraly mountains, nearly 100 minerals can be found, including: smoky topaz, crystal, chalcopyrite, azurite, chalcedony, and malachite. Significant reserves of building materials are also in the area: granite, marble, limestone, gypsum, gravel, pebbles and sand. Also along numerous lakes are large deposits of mud which are used medicinally in spas to quickly achieve positive sanogenetic effects in the treatment of degenerative joint (rheumatoid and artroidnyh) disease and sciatica.

However, the leading role in economic development belongs to Karkaraly National Park. The park is a geographic point of interest and a scientific and educational center. In recent years the park administration has worked on improving the tourism infrastructure and has encouraged business ventures in the area of tourism. Today there are 16 places of accommodation in and around the national park. Karkaraly National Park offers interesting landscapes, archaeological sites, rich biodiversity, and clean mountain air.

The natural scenery, natural resources, and vast areas of farm and grasslands offer a good base for future economic development.

Places of Interest

  • House of Аbai - Abai Kunanbaev (1845–1904) was a famous Kazakh poet, founder of the modern Kazakh literature, and composer. As a child, Аbai Kunanbaev traveled through this area on his way to the Koyandinsk Fair and stayed in “the dark blue house” that belonged to a local family. The house was constructed without nails. M. Auezov describes Abai’s stay in Qarqaraly in the novel “The Way of Abai.” Currently the building is the town’s music school.
  • Kunanbaya Mosque - The construction of this wooden mosque began in 1850 and ended in 1851. Permission for the construction was granted in 1847 by the heads of the 16 surrounding townships and stamped by Sultan Kusbeka Taukeuly. At the mosque a madrasas was built, which is housing for students and home for the mullahs (Islamic clergy). The mosque served as a place to educate children and the spread the word of Islam in the Karkaraly District. This mosque was financed by the father of the great Kazkah poet Abai Kunabaev, and from 1849 to 1853 was at the forefront of the social and administrative life in the Karkaraly area. Kunanbaya Mosque is perhaps one of the first mosques in the northern regions of Kazakhstan. The mosque is a wooden two-story building, made of local wood. Initially it was a log building, but later face boards were put on it. For years the mosque was the site of Muslim teachings. Here they taught moral truths, humanity, honesty, tolerance, and conducted many national ceremonies. In the Soviet period, the unique architecture and beauty of the mosque was seriously damaged. The minaret of the mosque was destroyed in 1920 and soon after the mosque was converted into a school, then a warehouse, and finally abandoned altogether. In the 1980s the mosque was restored to its previous state and today operates in its original purpose. It is considered a pilgrimage site for believers and all those who cherish the local history. Interestingly, at the time of construction, the town only had blueprints for a church. This is the reason why the mosque looks remarkably like a church in design.
  • The house where Potanin stayed - Grigory Potanin (1835–1920) was an explorer of Central and Middle Asia and Siberia. In 1913, Potanin visited the city of Karkaraly, to study Kazakh folklore, and stayed in a house that belonged to Vasily Petrovich Ryazantseva. Before it was a home, the wooden building housed a trading company named “Kuzmin and Derov”. On November 6, 1890, VP Rayzantseva bought the building for 600 rubles. In 1920 the house was purchased by the state. The building housed various Soviet institutions, including schools. The first library in Karkaraly was established in 1892 and had 626 books given to them by officials. In 2004 the library was moved to its current location: the house where Potanin stayed.
  • Monument of the 78 Communists - In the spring of 1921, after being defeated near the city of Akmola, an armed detachment of rebels led by Captain Tokarev retreated south-east to the border of China. Along the way they attacked communist party and government officials and led an anti-communism campaign, using propagandist slogans such as 'down with the appropriation of surpluses' and 'long live the soviets without the communists'. On April 6, 700 wagons carrying 2,500 people entered Karkaraly, where there were only 50 Red Army soldiers and about 60 Communists. The Communists, while gathered for an emergency meeting in the People’s House, were arrested, interrogated, tortured, and then killed. 78 people were killed in 6 days. On April 12, the rebels left town two days before the arrival of detachments from the Red Army. On April 23, the detachment, including volunteers from Pavlodar (550 bayonets and 70 swords), overtook the rebels 180 km southeast of Karkaraly. A battle took place and the rebels fled to China. In autumn of 1921, an agreement with the Chinese authorities allowed the 13th Caucasian division of the Red Army to cross the border. They defeated and captured the remaining members of the gang. In May 1922 a trail was held in Krasnoyarsk. Captain Tokarev and the other gang members were shot to death. A monument to those who were killed in Karkaraly was constructed outside the Akimat (city hall).
  • The Grieving Mother’s Memorial - The monument and obelisk “Fighting Glory” was constructed in the city park of Karkaraly. The monument consists of an obelisk in the form of a bayonet (8 meters tall) next to an eternal flame. Next to these is a woman wearing traditional dress, sadly holding her hands in front of her. Two stones in front of the memorial read in Russian and Kazakh: “Eternal glory to our local countrymen who fell in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.”
  • Folk Ensemble "Saltanat" - "Saltanat" was created in 1969 as an amateur vocal/dance group. They gained national recognition in 1970. In 1975, the ensemble was awarded the honorary title of the "People's Team of Art." In this period the group has repeatedly performed in Almaty and other cities in neighboring republics. The group was invited to the 19th International Festival, which took place in France in 1976. 27 troupes from around the world visited this festival. Karkaraly's "Saltanat" participated on behalf of the entire Soviet Union. The ensemble won 1st prize and returned with great honor. During the 1990s "Saltanat" took an active part in the cultural life of the region. During this period they qualified for an international festival in Bulgaria. The folk ensemble is still active today and is still recognized for their talents.


The town of Karkaraly is nestled against the Karkaraly Mountains. These forests and mountains have been protected, through various government agencies since 1884. In relatively recent history, this area has historically been a place where coal and metal miners from Karaganda would come to rest. In 1998, the Karkaraly National Park was formed. The park encompasses 112,120 ha of mountains, forest, and steppe. The park is separated into 4 geographic areas and covers the Karkaraly and Kent Mountains.

The Karkaraly National Park has over 150 species of birds, 46 species of mammals, 6 reptile and 2 amphibian species. Two mammals and eleven bird species are listed in Kazakhstan's Red Book of protected species. Among these are the argali, the worlds largest wild sheep, and the golden eagle.

The Karkaraly and Kent Mountains are well known for their unique rock formations and "hidden" mountain lakes. Hiking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, photo safari and cultural guides by the national park, and swimming in the mountains lakes are all popular activities for tourists.



Spring in Karkaraly begins in mid-March and lasts until the end of May. During this short period the air temperature rises to an average of 15 C. Snow cover in open areas begins to melt quickly, but in shady canyons the snow may last until the end of May. When snow melts there are numerous streams and small waterfalls, as well as dry riverbeds that fill with melt water. The surrounding nature also begins to wake up: the birds and animals arrive. The primrose, tulips, and other flowers begin to arrive. In May, the trees are covered with young leaves and the forest is filled with even more birds. Within the spring months, may is the most enjoyable


In Karkaraly, summer begins in early June. The overall average air temperature for the summer months is 18 C, and in the daytime the air warms up to an average of 25 С (on hot days to 37 C). The hottest month of the year is July. Rainfall in the summer usually comes in the form of showers and thunderstorms. The beginning of summer is characterized by the abundant flowering of plants. In the middle of summer, berries begin to ripen (strawberries, stone berry, raspberry, strawberry, currant), and edible mushrooms are abundant. The summer months are considered the most comfortable time of the year to visit Karkaraly.


Autumn is the most vivid and colorful season in the national park. It starts in mid-September and lasts until mid-November. The weather is particularly good in September, as a temperatures begin to drop. In October, there is a possibility of a freeze and there is an increase the number of cloudy days, with possible rain. In the first half of October the average daily temperature falls below 10 C. By the end of October all the migratory birds fly south. The forests in the park are saturated with colors. Many mushrooms can be found during this time of year. In late autumn, most wild animals are changing the colors of their coats and preparing for winter. In the autumn months, the most comfortable months are September and early October.


Winter in Karkaraly is cold and snowy. Negative temperatures are recorded from November to March and sustained cold weather lasts an average of 135 days. During this period, the daytime temperature does not usually rise above 0 C and nights are usually very cold. In January–February, the temperature drops to an average of – 20 to -30 C. In abnormally cold years, the temperature can drop to - 49 C. The snow cover reaches heights of 50-60 cm, and in drifts up to 1 meter or more. During the winter, locals and tourists enjoy cross-country skiing on the roads and in the forests.

Famous people from Karkaraly

  • Kazybek bi kk:Қазыбек би (1667–1763) - a composer, diplomat, and one of the authors of the first systematic set of Kazakh customs.
He was born in 1665 in the Karkaraly area. Kazybek bi mediated a truce between two fighting Khans. He fought for the consolidation of the Kazakh Khans and developed the Code of the Khan (The Seven Truths). Kazbek bi was a master with words and the people nicknamed him "the voice". He is known for his many sayings and aphorisms.
  • Madi Bapiuly ru:Мади Бапиулы (1880–1921)- poet, singer, composer. His songs were used in the first Kazakh national opera.
Madi is a prominent figure in the history of Karkaraly. He was a Kazakh folk composer and singer. His world-view and creativity were influenced by Abai Kunanbaev and others. He was familiar with the famous Kazakh musicians Birzhan Sal, Baluan Sholak, and Zhayau Musa. Madi, in his works, called for people to expose injustice and promoted equality. Because of this he was persecuted by the tsarist authorities. He was a member of the national liberation uprising in 1916, helped in the establishment of the Soviet power in Karkaraly, and was a member of the Karkaraly Soviets. Some of his widely known songs are titled: "Karakesek", "Ushkara", and "Madi". These songs were sung in Kazakh operas "Er Targyn" and "Kiz Zhibek". A street in Karkaraly has been named after Madi and a statue has been erected in his honor.
  • Alikhan Bokeikhanov (1866–1937) - a Kazakh social activist, teacher, journalist, and ethnographer. He was one of the leaders of the "Alash" party and was Commissioner of the Provisional Government of Kazakhstan (1917).
He was born in a small village outside of Karkaraly. Alikhan is a descendant of Bukeikhan, son of the great Kokzhala Barak Khan. Bukeikhan was one of the last of the Kazakh khans who occupied the Khan's throne. In 1877 Bukeikhan sent Alihan to the madrassa of Mullah Zafira in Karkaraly (Kunanbaya Mosque), which was opened in 1851 by the father of the great Kazakh poet Abai Kunabaev. After successfully completing his studies in madrasas in 1879, Alikhan attended the city school and then attended the city vocational school for four years.

In school he studied Kazakh grammar, Kazakh literature, and Russian. He especially liked the poems of Abai Kunabaev. In the Karkaraly library he was introduced to Russian world literature. After finishing school in Qarqaraly in 1886, Alikhan continued his education in the city of Omsk, which was one of the cultural and administrative centers of the Steppe Region.

Alikhan Bukeikhanov is among the most prominent political and public figures in Kazakh history. For his entire life he was devoted to the liberation of his people from social oppression.
  • Akhmet Baytursinuli (1873–1937)- author of the Kazakh alphabet, editor of the only Kazakh language newspaper in Orenburg, Russia, singer, musician, poet, scholar, teacher, translator, essayist, expert on law, and public figure.
He was born January 28, 1873 in a village in the Kostanai region of Kazakhstan to a in simple peasant family. He studied in man mullahs and schools throughout Kazakhstan before moving to Karkaraly. Years of residence in Karkaraly acquainted him with modern thinking politicians such as Alihan Bukeyhanov and others. These interactions convinced him that the country needs competent, educated people, more schools, and more books. He became the author and compiler of the primer of the Kazakh alphabet.

The 1905 Russian Revolution aroused hope for change within Ahmet. He actively took part in the popular unrest, often spoke at demonstrations, and organized a group of Kazakh intelegentia.

Between 1913 - 1917 he was editor of the newspaper "Kazakh", the only one in the Kazakh language manufactured in Orenburg. Ahmet was a versatile man, was known to be a wonderful singer, musician, even a contested in wrestling matches.
  • Zhakyr Akbaev (1876–1934)- among the first Kazakhs to have an LL.M (master of laws), outstanding historian, and a scholar with an encyclopedic knowledge.
Zhakyr Akbaev was born November 7, 1876 in a village outside of Karkaraly. His father was a fairly educated man for his time. In 1886, he was sent to school in Karkaraly and later to Omsk and Tomsk, Russia. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in St. Petersburg University and graduated in 1903 with honors. Akbaeva worked tirelessly for the people and helped expose illegal arrests and government harassment. He fought to create a basis of rule of law and equal rights.
  • Nurken Abdirov (1919–1942)- Air Force pilot and Hero of the Soviet Union
Nurken Abdirov was a sergeant in the 808th Attack Regiment, 267th Air Division for the Soviet Union. He was born in a small village outside of Karkaraly in 1919 to a peasant family. In his childhood years he moved to Karaganda and eventually graduated from aviator school.

When World War II began, Nurken Abdirov was a student in Orenburg, Russian. He was accelerated through the learning program for military attack pilots and spent training time in Tashkent and Siberia. After graduation, he was immediately sent to the front lines in the 808th Attack Regiment, 267th Air Division. In 17 battles he destroyed 18 enemy tanks, 46 trucks and carts, 3 fuel tankers, 5 anti-aircraft artillery, and a few bunkers. On December 19, 1942 Abdirov, along with a radio operator-gunner Sasha Komissarov, made his last flight. In a raid on a heavily fortified German line, Abdirov disabled 6 tanks, a few bunkers, 2 anti-aircraft artillery. But his plane was hit and caught on fire. Knowing escape was impossible, Abdirov and Komissarov drove their plane into a German tank column.

By decree of the President of the USSR on March 31, 1943 Nurken Abdirova was awarded the high title of Hero of the Soviet Union (posthumously).
  • Toktar Aubakirov (1946)- distinguished test pilot, Kazakhstan's first cosmonaut, Doctor of Technical Sciences, professor, Major General, and Hero of the Soviet Union.
  • Erlan Idrissov (April 28, 1959)- current Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States. He previously served as Foreign Minister in the Government of Kazakhstan from 1999-2002.




External links

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