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.
Arkalyk is very important for development of Central Kazakhstan. It’s the only large populated city along the flow of the Turgay river.
Despite all the city had a nice time too. In the 1980s it reached its apogee: here functioned a meat processing and packing factory, a poultry factory, a milk plant, an elevator, a ceramic factory, a sewing factory, redio details plant, they also began construction of an aero-engines plant; the Turgay bauxite mines extracted up to 20% of all bauxite ore in the USSR. But the economics was always behind compared to other regions of Kazakhstan because it was 90% agrarian.
In 1989 active citizens of Arkalyk made an organizing committee aimed at restoration of the Turgay region and thanks to them in 1990 the region was formed again, Arkalyk became the regional centre for the second time.
“Prosper our beloved city, Arkalyk!”
for the year 2006 the population of the city is 42 thousand people.
The city has an airport that can receive such planes as Tu-154, Tu-134 etc. Since the 1990s it has become almost abandoned and is used rarely now, mainly for search and rescue support of manned space vehicles.
Some amateur photos of the city: