The Town of Coal Miners Near Karlag

The history of Shakhtinsk

Shakhtinsk is a small town in the Karaganda region, which is the center for Shakhan, Novodolinskiy and Dolinka settlements. To get to Shakhtinsk from Karaganda, people can ride bus #121 or take a taxi. Another option is the Karabas railroad station, which would require crossing 28 kilometers to get to the station.

Editor’s note: the opinion expressed by the author might be different from the official point of view of the edition or the company of Chevron.

History of the Town

From ancient ages, people have tried to settle near sources of drinking water. In the history of Shakhtinsk, all factors such as people, water and other natural resources have played their important roles.

In 1955 a workers’ settlement was built at the Tentek River. The first residents gave it the same name, Tentek. The reason workers came here was the Tentek deposit of high-grade metallurgical coal, which was discovered in 1949 by Soviet geologists Mark Fishman and Leonid Dumler. As Mr. Dumler said later, the discovery of these 40 coal layers with 4.5 billion tons of product in total at the depth of 250 meters was just a real fortune.

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Over the period from 1955 to 1961, the Tentek settlement had grown very fast. A mining company Tentekshakhtostroy and two coalmines, Tentekskaya-Naklonnaya and Tentekskaya-Vertikalnaya, were opened at that time. Also, local authorities started to build living accommodation, cinemas and even the House of Pioneers and Pupils.

On August 15, 1961, the Supreme Council of the Kazakh Soviet Republic assigned the Tentek settlement an official status of town and changed its name to Shakhtinsk. In 1989 the town’s population reached its peak of 96,654 people. As of 2021, Shakhtinsk and several settlements nearby account for 40,000 residents in total.

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Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were 11 working coal mines, a home-building factory, transportation company, consumer service center, detergent plant, new bus station, custom equipment plant, library system and 13 schools, dairy plant, etc. In 1977 the town of Shakhtinsk was recognized as the winner of the All-Union labor effectiveness competition.

The town had six movie theaters. Now there are two restaurants and one church instead of three cinemas. The other three don’t work at all. 

However, the four coalmines of Tentekskaya, Shakhtinskaya, Kazakhstanskaya and Imeni Lenina are still working. Since 1996 they have been part of the ArcelorMittal company.

What It Looks Like

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Shakhtinsk used to be split into three areas: living zone, industrial zone and service zone. The town was built with a general plan in mind; therefore there are no chaotic settlements, which are common for other mining towns.

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When you enter the town from the Karaganda side, you get into Abay Kunanbayev Avenue, a central street for the entire town. The bus station is on your right. It was built just 20 years ago, but it is in very bad condition now because of neglect. However, this year local authorities have decided to fix the building.

“Now the bus station is in public property. We’ve made a technical examination and already started to fix the utility lines. We also have to change the roof and to renovate the inside and outside of the station’s building,” said Serzhan Aymakov, the  mayor of Shakhtinsk. 

What to See in Shakhtinsk

The town’s central park is a favorite place for residents to spend their free time and relax. Here you can also find some local sights.

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For example, this is a monument called Miners Family, which was built in 2009 as a gift to the town on Coalminer’s Day by two prominent artists, Mingish Abylkasov and Victor Arendt.
 
Another sight is a memorial for Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan. It was also built in 2009 to celebrate 20 years of withdrawal of Soviet troops from that country.

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In 2011 ArcelorMittal Temirtau company’s contractor AGS Pro Engineering designed and built the Independence Public Garden. Later that year, it was decorated with a monument to Abay Kunanbayev, a Kazakh poet and thinker. In 2014 the Independence Public Garden became a venue for a monument of Victory. 

For those Shakhtinsk residents who like to do sports, a stadium is available.

The youth of the town can visit sport and health center Jaguar, local musical school or Youth Center, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Many of those, who were taught here became winners of various competitions and contests.

What Is Around the Town

The town of Shakhtinsk is an administrative center for three settlements: Shakhan, Novodolinskiy and Dolinka.

Each of these settlements has its history but Dolinka is probably the most famous of these; it’s well-known both in Kazakhstan and abroad. It hosts a renown museum devoted to victims of political repression during the Stalin regime.

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The name of the settlement Dolinka is originated from the German word “Gnadenfeld”, which means “fertile field”. Germans were the first European settlers here. Later the name was changed to the Russian equivalent.

Over the 1930s, Dolinka was the administrative center of the Karaganda labor camp or Karlag, which was established in December 1931. Later it became one of the biggest labor camps in the Soviet Union with a territory as large as the territory of modern France.

Soviet authorities used to use cheap labor of prisoners to develop coal mines and metallurgic industry in Central Kazakhstan. Even administrative buildings in Karlag were built by prisoners.

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Museum of Political Repression Victims’ Memory in the settlement of Dolinka was established in 2001 by Ex-President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s edict. If you want to get to the museum, you have to ride on bus #121 to the Dolinka bus stop and then wait for bus #5 or take a taxi to get to the museum.

It has a giant area of 2,078,645 square meters and a ticket price is $2.34 for foreigners. There are a lot of things to see: personal belongings of prisoners, photographs and documents, pictures and books. It’s easy to imagine how they lived here thanks to loads of illustrations.

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Several kilometers from the museum, there is a memorial complex called Mamochkino Kladbische (Mothers Cemetery), which used to be a cemetery for Karlag women and their children throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In 2002 some renovation work was done there. An Orthodox cross and a monument were built there. The stone monument has these words written on it: “In memory of innocent victims. It should never happen again.” 

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Another monument was opened in September 2005; it’s devoted to ethnic Ukrainians, who died in Karlag. To honor the memory of the labor camp victims, several events have been regularly organized there, including Memorial Day and Independence Day.

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Shakhtinsk is just one of the loads of small Kazakhstani towns. On the one hand, it’s similar to many others; on another hand it’s unique. So, if you decide to visit it once, you have nothing to lose.
 

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