UNESCO World Heritage and Ecotourism. What Do You Know About Talgar?

Tiny stories about a tiny town 25 km outside of Almaty

In 1858 Russian Cossacks chose Tian Shan for their village Sofiyskaya. After 101 years, the village was transformed into the town of Talgar, which is now the center of the Talgar district. However, long before Talgar, the ancient settlement of Talhiz was there. It served as an important trade and cultural site in the middle of the Silk Road. In 2014 UNESCO recognized it as a world heritage site, which puts it under the protection of the state. Thus, the Kursiv edition and Chevron Corporation continue The Real Kazakhstan series about Kazakhstan’s small towns.

Talhiz started being widely known in 2016 when Talgar authorities decided to build a road to the mountain ski resort Ak Bulak even though in 2014 the site had obtained world heritage status from UNESCO. However, once the media became aware of the ancient settlement and the new road, it raised an outcry among the public.

World Heritage 25 kilometers from Almaty

As a result, prominent human rights advocate Sergei Kuratov and other volunteers managed to stop the road construction. However, by that time the southern part of the ancient settlement was destroyed. Another problem was cattle, which had grazed on the territory of Talhiz and posed a serious threat to its historical and cultural value. In 2019 the site was closed by a fence, with no excursions allowed.

Ancient town of Talhiz in winter. Photo credit: Zhanna Baytelova

Many locals have known the site where Talhiz is located as Marakany, but few people can explain why that is. Currently, the information about Talhiz is a part of the school program. Moreover, UNESCO has included Talhiz in the list of historical sites that were located on the Changan-Tian Shan corridor of the Great Silk Road. 

The Historical Architectural Design by Zenkov

One of the most interesting buildings in Talgar is Svyato Nikolsky Cathedral, which was built in 1900 by Andrey Zenkov, a prominent architect of the Tsar period. This is one of the oldest Orthodox churches in the entire region. A similarly significant site is Nikolsky Cathedral in Almaty, which was also built by Zenkov.

Svayto Nikolsky Cathedral. Photo: Zhanna Baytelova

During Soviet rule, the church was almost destroyed and had been used as a local club, warehouse and even cinema. However, on May 22, 1995, the cathedral commenced operations again.

National Park and Ecotrails

There is the Almaty National Park in Talgar district, which was formed in 1931 on the northern slopes of the Zailiyskiy Alatau, which is the geographical center of the Tian Shan. In the early 1950s, it was closed and then reopened. Currently, it includes more than 71,700 hectares of virgin land.

Photo: Saltore Saparbayev

The park is a homeland for many types of trees, for example, for the rare Sievers apple tree and the Schrenk’s spruce, as well as for many birds, insects and animals, including Tian Shan brown bear, Turkestan lynx, snow leopard, marten, golden eagle, bearded vulture, sicklebill, Himalayan griffon and others.

If someone wants to see these animals up close, he can visit a nature museum where about 3,000 items are on display. It has been working since 1967 and is located in the Melioratormicrodistrict of Talgar. The ticket price is about $0.60 for an adult.


Photo: Saltore Saparbayev

According to Zhanerke Bigazinova, head of the Department of Environmental Education, there are three eco-trails in the park. The excursions begin in June when the peak of ticks’ activity is over. The Right Talgar eco-trail is 10.5 km long and takes from three to eight hours to reach the waterfall at the end of the route.

Another trail named Left Talgar runs along the Left Talgar gorge through many bridges and exotic rocks. The route’s length is 6.5 km and it usually takes 3-4 hours to finish. The third trail Issyk runs along the Issyk gorge, one of the most beautiful gorges of the Zailiyskiy Alatau. As a prize for tourists, the last point of the route is the lake of Issyk. Excursion cost: for Kazakhstanis – 1200 tenge ($2.83), for foreigners 1550 tenge ($3.54) + 250 tenge ($0.59) in park fees.

Photo: Saltore Saparbayev

However, because of the flow of visitors, the park has limited the number of guests.

«Many people complain that we refuse them to visit. But this is the park, we have to limit the total figure of visitors to 1200 people per year,» Bigazinova said.

135 Years of Alcohol Production

One of the oldest distilling plants in Kazakhstan still operates in Talgar. It was built in 1886 by Nikita Pugasov, a prominent merchant of that time. Now, the Talgar Spirt company is a big business that works at full capacity, which is not common for Talgar these days. The plant employs 164 people and produces 860,000 decaliters of alcohol per year.


Photo credit: Talgar distilling plant

As CEO of Talgar Spirt Sergey Naleikin noted, customers of the plant are everywhere in Kazakhstan.

«Our customers are pharmaceutical companies, alcohol beverage manufacturers, and medical institutions. Also, we sell alcohol byproducts, I mean stillage, carbon dioxide and ether-aldehyde fraction,» he said. 


Photo credit: Talgar distilling plant

The area where the distilling plant was built is called the same name Spirtzavod (distilling plant).

Knitwear from Talgar

Until recently, the Talgar Knitwear Factory had worked in the town. It was founded in 1960 but then the economic situation changed and the factory didn’t make it. As the city administration said, the factory had gone bankrupt. All that is still left is an empty building even though some small knitwear businesses still exist.


Empty building of the former factory.

The famous Kazakhstani brand Glasman, which produces suits and school uniforms, is also from Talgar. It was opened in 2008.

Another «veteran» of Talgar’s industrial sector is Talgar Experimental Foundry and Mechanical Plant, which many years ago was a main employer of the town. Moreover, this plant was also involved in housing construction and played a huge role in the city’s life.


Photo credit: the plant’s photo archive 

Its history commenced in 1967 when Talgar Machinery and Repair Plant began to build unique irrigation equipment. In 1972, once the plant became huge, it was transformed into Talgar Experimental Foundry and Mechanical Plant. The main purpose of the plant was the experimental development of the foundry of iron, steel and non-ferrous casting. In 1982, the plant began production of consumer goods. The range of products was expanding, and in 1987 it took second place at the main Soviet exhibition in Moscow.

The plant’s products for consumer sector. Plant’s photo archive.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the plant was transformed into a state joint-stock company to produce equipment for export. For example, it sold water conduits into China and currently produces wind energy equipment, thanks to prominent Almaty scientists Albert Bolotov and Valentin Nizovkin, who developed a unique design for rotary wind turbines.

If You Have Visited Kazakhstan, You Probably Used Elevators That Were Made in Talgar

In 2019, a new plant LGS Kazakhstan Elevator Group with the LGS trademark was launched in Talgar. It was built at the site of a former parking lot and now produces elevators for the domestic market.

«We have chosen this location because it’s close to Almaty. Local authorities support our business and we have no obstacles to grow. However, amid the pandemic the work of our production site was postponed,» said Yerzhan Igibaev, president of the National Association of Elevator Workers of Kazakhstan.

In addition to elevators and escalators, LGS produces lifts for people with disabilities. Moreover, the plant also organized a special training course for future electricians from Talgar Polytechnic College. Given the vast majority of electricians are in the age of 45-50, this specialty is quite promising.

Among other big businesses in Talgar is the well-known ZETA brand. The company produces a wide range of furniture on its production site since 2010. Currently, it is the biggest employer in the town with 700 people on staff.

As Makhsut Omarbayev, director-general of ZETA figured out, the company’s current impact on the city is about one billion tenge ($2.3 million) in terms of tax.

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