The town of Ayagoz was established more than 90 years ago. The current name of the town is the same as the nearby river. However, the settlement that was established nearby in the tsarist imperial period was called Sergiopol. During the Soviet times, the town was called Ayaguz. In 1994 it was renamed Ayagoz, which is the correct spelling of the Kazakh name of the river.
The modern town was established in 1931 near the village of Mamyrsu as the Soviet authorities initiated the massive construction of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway. Among many other buildings in the town, there were telegraph, schools, an oil mill, a wool-spinning manufactory, a felt boots factory, a concrete goods factory and a meat plant that was well-known in the USSR. Later, Ayagoz became the site for a big military garrison.
What locals do for a living
Until 2000 a motor vehicle repair depot, grain elevator, big construction and transport companies operated in Ayagoz. In 2022 there are only two big entities left: a railway depot and military town which includes ten military bases, missile and tank units.
The population of Ayagoz is about 38,600 people. Some residents work in the public sector, others in the agriculture, sales or service sector. Many Ayagoz residents work at Aktogay mine which is located not far from the town.
According to official data, there are 4,461 small- and medium-sized businesses in Ayagoz.
“Last year 267 citizens including large families, unemployed people, self-employed workers, people with special needs and youth received grants for the launching or developing of their businesses. Under the program Bastau-Business, the authorities have provided training for 129 residents; 89 of them have also received grants,” said Duman Baymukanuly, head of the local chamber of entrepreneurs.
As the official noted, the vast majority of those grants of $1,150 have been taken for purchasing livestock. Some residents used that financial support from the government to set up enterprises like a bakery, massage center and metal welding shop.
Brick factory and Meat-processing plant
The Ayagoz brick factory worth $591,930 was set up in 2014 under the state industrialization roadmap. However, today it is temporarily closed. According to the factory’s personnel, the factory has never operated in full and at winter seasons the factory usually stops production and makes money by selling out its stock of products. The capacity of the factory is 10 million bricks a year.
Another big project that has been discussed for seven years is a meat-processing plant. Even though the authorities have allotted a land parcel and built all necessary communications, the project has not been implemented yet. The town has even built two dozen houses in this area under the program “One-storied East.” Almost all these houses have people who live there.
In 2015 the local authorities officially announced that Ayagoz is going to be the site for a new big meat-processing plant with a capacity of 11.5 tons of products a year.
In 2018 they said that Cedar Meats Australia is going to join the project and invest several million dollars into joint company Eurasia AgroHolding. It was supposed that starting from August 2019 the new plant will be able to export high-quality lamb meat to China, the UAE, Iran, Russia, and of course, sell its products all over the country.
The joint company Eurasia AgroHolding received a land parcel with all communications, including water pipe and power grid installed by the government under the program Business Roadmap-2025 over 2020-2021. According to the local administration, they spent about $959,000 on this.
“We have drilled two wells 45 meters deep and installed two borehole pumps with a capacity of 10-20 m³ of water per hour. Also, we have installed a control station with a heat regulator for the electric heating system; two water reservoirs for 2000 m³ each; and a water-pumping station with five main and backup pumps. We’ve also done everything needed for electricity supply,” said Raikhan Shaukenova, deputy head of the department of entrepreneurship and agriculture.
However, the department of energy, housing and public utilities of the East Kazakhstan region refused to add this communication infrastructure into its books because there is no detailed plan for the project’s implementation. As a result, the authorities expect the project will be finished over 2023-2024.
This story with the project’s infrastructure has dragged on since 2017 because a contractor made several technical mistakes and was forced to fix them.
That contractor was a small company from the town of Ust-Kamenogorsk, Zhasa Story, that used to work with covering floors and walls but is now bankrupt. Even though this company had worked for 17 years, it started paying taxes only in 2015. It paid $103,855 of taxes in 2016; $32,713 in 2018; $3,350 in 2019 and $857 in 2020. Last year the Zhasa Story paid nothing. On July 14, 2021, the company was recognized as bankrupt by a local court. The company’s liabilities are $291,466 including $240, 819 of unpaid taxes.
What to see
Despite being a small town, Ayagoz has everything to make its residents happy. There are two public gardens, a town hall and a sports center. One of the interesting sights in the Zhastar public garden is a monument of Kozy Korpesh and Bayan Sulu, heroes of an old legend about true love despite obstacles, They are the Romeo and Juliet of the Kazakh steppes.
However, there are many other historical monuments and sights in the town.
For example, there is a mausoleum of Kasabay Batyr nearby Ayagoz. According to historical data, the hero was a talented commander of a Kazakh military unit of 5,000 horsemen who defeated the Dzungar army in the Anrakay battle and the battle for Sayram, an ancient city in the southern part of Kazakhstan.
In the 18th century when Kazakh khanate was forced to stand against the powerful Dzungar empire, many battles occurred right along the Ayagoz River. One of them is the battle of Mamyrsu in 1754. After a victory in that battle, Kazakh ruler Ablai Khan was able to reach a peace deal with the Chinese who invaded the Dzungar state from the east and destroyed that empire completely.
There is a lot of two-storied wooden houses in modern Ayagoz; almost all of them were built over 1930-40 and have no central heating system.
According to the local office of the mayor, there are 68 houses and other buildings which were built during Joseph Stalin’s rule.
For example, there is still a building of former Stalin’s secret police NKVD that was responsible for torture and political repression in the country. Even today locals prefer not to pass by the building at night.
Once upon a time, there was an Orthodox Church and school in Ayagoz.
To make Ayagoz more comfortable for living during cold winters, the local authorities plan to replace old two-storied houses with multi-storied apartment buildings. However, this plan requires a lot of money to build a new boiler station as the current five-boiler stations have no extra capacity.
“We need a thermoelectric plant instead of low-power boiler stations. We applied the regional energy department with this issue but failed. They said that our design specifications and estimates are outdated as the document was prepared in 2014. Now, we have to update those specifications or develop another one. The total cost of the project is about $12 million, so I am not sure we can receive such a big sum of money,” said Duman Rgaev, head of the Ayagoz department of housing and public utilities.
As he noted, some houses of the 1970s are connected to a centralized heating system, but some aren’t. Therefore, the authorities are trying to figure out how they can build a central heating plant.
According to official data, the volume of industrial products in Ayagoz in 2021 was about $405 million ($348.6 million in 2020), including the processing industry at $104.9 million ($86.5 million in 2020); agricultural products of $80 million ($69.1 million) and investments into the equity of $289.7 million ($355 million in 2020). The decrease in this rate is linked to the end of the project for expanding Aktogay mine.
The volume of construction work in 2021 was $107.4 million ($99.8 million in 2020). Last year Ayagoz companies built 73,270 m³ of housing which is 2.9fold bigger than a year earlier (25,376 m³). The volume of retail turnover in 2021 in Ayagoz was about $42.2 million ($38.9 in 2020).
“In 2021, 2,223 individuals applied to the Ayagoz employment agency while 1,711 of them were employed. Since January 1, 2022, 161 residents of Ayagoz have been registered as unemployed. According to statistics, the standard salary in the town has risen by 22.5% and reached $536 on average. Last year it was $437 on average,” reported the Ayagoz administration.
In 2021 the town earned $23 million ($19.7 million in 2020).
The yearly budget of the town is about $3.9 million.