14 Half-Dead City Arkalyk

Half-Dead City Arkalyk

Posted on April 16, 2012 by team

Arkalyk is a city in central Kazakhstan, the centre of the Arkalyk district in the Kostanay region. It was founded in 1956, got the status of the city in 1965. It’s located 670 km from Astana, 480 km from Kostanay.

Today it is nearly dead…

Arkalyk is a classic victim of the Soviet economic politics. The city was built for 10 years only, in the bare steppe, near The Turgaysky bauxite mine group that used to extract 20% of all bauxite ore in the USSR. In 1980s Arkalyk was going to be turned into one of the industrial centres of the region: it even became the centre of the Turagy region, there appeared a large airport, the construction of aero-engines was started…

The collapse of the Soviet economics in the end of the 80s cancelled all these plans. After the liquidation of the Turgay region in 1988 and freezing all programs of industrial development, the city entered the period of hard social and economic decline, it lost 35% of its population and turned into a retrograde, depressive city with non-diversified industry.

It could be only the collapse of the USSR to be blamed for that, but it cannot be ignored that mechanisms of its following downfall were launched already at the stage of the city creation.

First of all, the city location was decided to be in the place that was rich with bauxite mines. They didn’t think if it was good for the city itself. Then it turned out that Arkalyk  didn’t have a realible water supply. An aluminum plant could be placed there if they had enough water. The city doesn’t have its own sources of energy. Its buildings were surrounded with bauxite mines and heaps of waste materials. So Arkalyk was destined to have a miserable existence of a typical Soviet industrial city with all its disadvantages and awful environmental conditions.

Secondly, the development program of the Turgay region was never made up. So the city with a non-diversified industry was put into the centre of the large agricaltural region. The economics of the territory couldn’t develop at the expense of its own resources, it required dotations and it became the main reason of the region abolition.

Thirdly the city didn’t have strong connections with other cities of Central and Nothern Kazakhstan. Arkalyk turned out to be the final station of the short railway spur Esil – Arkalyk, the final stop of the asphalted road (broken-down and outworn) Kostanay – Esil – Arkalyk and the starting point of the dirt road (almost impassable) Arkalyk – Zhezkazgan. Other ways of communication with the city were never offered.

Combination of these three factors in fact pronounced a sentence on the city… But the miracle is that the city didn’t disappear from the maps. Though it is on the edge of survival. Today it’s the place of permanent emergency…

No decision about the population settlement was made, quite the opposite, survival of the city is considered to be strategically important. However the reality is in the fact that some micro-districts of the city have been fully abandoned in the 1990s. Enterprising businessmen from other Kazakhstan regions took the buildings to pieces and took the construction materials away.

The most complicated problem is how to provide the city with water. When the city was built, they also built two reservoirs but they cannot be relied on. Heavy evaporation decreases water supply that is not abundant enough. Precipitation in the region are not enough too.

Arkalyk has a weak energetics based on use of mazut. Lack of water affects the chances of energetics development as well.

Though the region is quite suitable for development of solar power engineering. Here 260 days a year are clear…

As far as the city hasn’t died yet, it makes sense to pay attention to the problems of its development. Arkalyk is a complicated problem which combines unfavourable environmental conditions, mistakes of the Soviet economic planning, and the Soviet careless attitude to the environment and people.


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14 Responses to “Half-Dead City Arkalyk”

  1. Hirsh says:

    Yet another decaying testament to Soviet economic incompetence. It’s amazing it took until the ’80s for those criminals to run the country into the ground. With retrospect i’m surprised the end didn’t come sooner.

    • ayaa says:

      Lol. It was abandoned due to the POST-soviet economic crisis. So much fail in your comment.

    • (r)evolutionist says:

      Hirsh, you’re being awfully ideological in your support of an amoral, heartless system that rigidly creates classes, needs unemployment to function, causes crime through deprivation, and is responsible for violence, poverty, and misery. Look carefully at the long (and brutal) history of capitalism. Maybe you’ll come to realize Soviet Communism failed because it was diverging and acquiring capitalist characteristics, like the government overspending the people’s monies on military adventures (imperialism), and being too corrupt and bloated at the top (like the U.S. since 1980).

      • javox says:

        yup i agree….every big empire fell down coz the same….so sad they ended like that, i was such a nice nation

      • ptc says:

        Communism failed, because in every country they tried to build communist society it ended as civil war or people started to starve to death. Even Stalin know communism cannot succeed against capitalism, and when he failed to conquer all Europe in 1945, future of USSR was doomed. It take 40 years for communist society to complete collapse in 1989. Russia is not an empire anymore.

      • Fred Johnson says:

        And once again, you don’t have a clue. Capitalism lifts all people. Capitalism rescues people.
        How many people did stalin, mao, lenin, and the gargoyles in north korea murder compared to capitalism in the same period?
        Where are all these murders you speak of?? Who are these victims??

        Your soviet system failed because it simply can not work. You run out of money to take from other people. You run out of people for your slave labor. You kill the very thing that supports you.

        You’re trying to use the argument that is affecting capitalism right now. That’s actually very funny. Socialism, marxism fails EVERYwhere. It simply can not work (and until it eventually dies, it makes everybody miserable and kills millions).
        Capitalism on the other hand, gave the world the most powerful nation in the world, in the shortest amount of time, EVER. It’s called “freedom”.

        And now, IT is failing because it’s radical left wing polices are seeping into it like a disease. It’s socialism that is killing it. Not the other way around.
        Socialism, marxism, drives the urge to live from people, it kills their will to work.

        Just look to your “collective” farms. You force people to work there, for very little pay and benefits. Soon, it becomes “why work”? “why bother”?? You mean, people were not thrilled when lenin came in there and basically stole all their farm equipment and land? Gee… who’d have thought!?

        High taxes (the socialism killing the USA now) is the same thing. Why work so hard, when the government comes along and takes everything? That is human nature. Not to work harder because you want to support your neighbor. You work harder because you get something out of it, you make more, get more, rise higher.

        Your system is the total, polar opposite of that. It’s a killing force. Whereas capitalism is the driving force, it’s the life blood of the economy. It’s lifts all boats, where socialism sinks all boats to the same level.

        It’s insipid socialist policies that have been killing the USA for decades. We have a truly socialist, marxist president right now, and he is doing more damage than any other president in the history of the country. According to you, it should be the other way around. We should be happier, freer, more wealthy than ever before.
        god, you can’t even open your eyes and see what’s going on out there, or you see it, but lie to yourself about what you see.

        • Chuck says:

          Even if communism is a bad system, capitalism is even worse and cannot works too, and we will soon seem how your wonderful capitalism will badly collapse by the fault of bankster, tradster, and all corrupts politicians and cupid chumps, but as you are totally blind you continue to argue the bullshit propaganda about this disease.

          Horray for the wonderful american way capitalism which the debt increase by 4 billions dollars each day!

          And yes, you have freedom! Freedom to decide who will be your dictators…

        • Kilroy Was Here says:

          Fred – I agree with you. The individuals who preach the opposite are either not informed, or they want to stir the pot. History is the proof. Thanks…

      • (r)evolutionist says:

        I’ll also add: The greatest prosperity in U.S. history for the greatest majority was in the 1950s-1960s, when UNIONS were strongest and the semi-socialist New Deal policies were fully under way. LBJ’s further government social programs reinforced the prosperity. The decline started (for the Middle Class) when Reagan and the following government pols deregulated businesses and let laissez-faire capitalism come back (like in the 1800s); The result? Many more wealthy at the top, less middle class, MORE POOR. Greater income disparity=more poverty, violence, misery. Read about the misery of the majority of Americans during the laissez-faire capitalism of the 1800s up to TR’s semi-socialist reforms. TR’s and FDR’s semi-socialist policies saved the U.S.

  2. Babysitter says:

    There was another decisive factor people don’t like to speak about because of “political correctness”. This city was populated by Russians and Volga Germans most of whom had left Kazakhstan after the fall of USSR.

  3. Guest says:

    Well, that is sad. Even more sad is the fact that on the old postcards does not look better than on photos made now…

  4. Bobble Hat says:

    Very interesting compilation of photos. They could make money from those old apartment blocks by renting them out as (cheap) prisons to European countries!

  5. Tangowolf says:

    These are beautiful pictures. It’s amazing how nature tries to reclaim what mankind has once corrupted. It’s a shame that these pictures spark stupid debates about ideology, though. Any system is perfect until you inject humans into it.

  6. Look at all that bland, mind-numbing architecture. Doubtless it was poorly built because it didnt belong to anyone. The same thing happened in the US to housing projects like Pruitt-Igoe in St Louis, though not for the same reasons.

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