Karaganda is the Russian name of Karagandy City, the capital of Karagandy Province in Kazakhstan. With a total population of 471,800 in January 2010, this is the fourth most populous and most important city in Kazakhstan, next to Almaty, Astana and Shymkent. It used to be the second most populous after Almaty but more than a hundred thousand residents moved to Germany. Most residents are ethnic Germans, descendants of the Soviet Volga Germans that were forcibly deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan by Stalin.
The name of the city was derived from the caragana bushes that thrived in the area. The city today is actually located several kilometers from its original location. The Soviets moved the entire city and all its residents when they exploited the area for its rich coal deposits. Modern map points to the original location of the place as the “Old Town”. The coal mines still exist today as the city continues to rise as a major industrial hub in Central Asia. It was, in fact, a candidate for the capital when Kazakhstan recently won its sovereignty, but eventually it was beaten by the city of Astana.
Since tourism is a new phenomenon in Kazakhstan, this semi-major city does not have many tourist attractions to boast of, aside from its charm as an old, cultural yet developing city. Major landmarks at present are the Miners’ Palace of Culture, the Sports Palace, which was named after N. Abdirov, a theater named after K. Stanislavsky and S. Seyfullin, Chaika Hotel, a circus, museums and about 50 monuments of history and culture.
One of the city’s museums is the Karaganda Regional Museum of History and Local Study, which was established in 1932. The museum has over 134,810 exhibits spread in its three departments: General History, Archeology and Ethnography, and Modern History and Excursions. Another museum is the Karaganda Museum of Fine Arts, which opened in 1988. It showcases 8,000 artworks, painting, sculptures and other masterpieces that prove the artistry and creativity of the Kazakhs. A third museum is the Karaganda Museum of Environment, which focuses on the preservation and development of the country’s environmental culture. One of the museum’s aims is to educate the people on the protection and preservation of the environment. It discusses problems brought about by the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground and Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Three other city landmarks of interest are the Shakhtyor Stadium (home stadium of Kazakhstan’s national football team, FC Shakhter), Karaganda Zoo (oldest zoo in Kazakhstan and the proud home of Batyr, the famous talking elephant until he died in 1993) and the modern Karagandy State University.
Batyr, the talking elephant, is not the only popular “resident” of Karaganda. Notable Russian personalities who hailed from this steadily growing city include Nurken Abdirov (World War II hero of the former Soviet Union), Anjelika Akbar (world renowned pianist), the cosmonaut Toktar Aubakirov, chess grandmaster Boris Avrukh, Dimitri Kotschnew (popular ice hockey player), Andrei Krukov (Olympic figure skater at the 1998 Winter Olympics), Juri Litvinov (another Olympic figure skater and national champion), Valery Oisteanu (writer and artist), and Sahan Dosova, record holder as one of the oldest people that has ever lived. She was 130 years old, although disputed.