How people survive in the forgotten and lost in the mountains of the Kazakh village of Achisay

“Are you going to“ Afghanistan ”?” - a resident of the South Kazakhstan city of Kentau was interested in us, having learned that we are planning to go to the village of Achisay, located 30 kilometers away, in the mountains. Comparison of this settlement with a country in which the war never seems to end, of course, was conditional.

The village of Achisay is quite peaceful, and some people call it Afghanistan, probably because of half-empty and dilapidated apartment buildings, abandoned mines and other objects that create a sad picture. It seems as if there was some kind of disaster in this place. Correspondents Renat Tashkinbayev and Turar Kazangapov traveled to the “Bitter Valley” (this is how Ashysay is translated from Kazakh) and found themselves as if in a parallel reality.


In one of the streets of Achisaya we are met by a cheerful boy on a donkey. During our stay in the village, this boy will repeatedly fall into the lens of our camera.

From the first minutes, as we stopped in Achisay, we did not leave feeling as if we were on the set of some anti-utopian film with elements of the Soviet era.

But most of all we were surprised by the local Palace of Culture, aka rural club.

This object is simply huge, given that only 2,176 people live in Achisay today. But the most remarkable thing in it is the monument to Lenin erected at the entrance.

The figure of the Soviet leader looks very fresh, as if someone had carefully painted it not so long ago. As it turned out, the repair of the Palace of Culture was carried out relatively recently - in 2016.

By tradition, the organizer of the October Revolution points to a bright future.

Lenin's “future” today looks like this.

But let's look at the country club itself.

In one of the halls we found schoolchildren near the billiard table.

In addition to billiards, you can also play table tennis and work out punches on the punching bag.

The guys told us that there are sections of boxing and football.

The club also has a library and a large assembly hall.

“This prisoner of culture was once built by Japanese prisoners of war,” knowledgeable locals tell us.

They say that the descendants of those Japanese came to Achisai to take away the remains of their ancestors to their homeland.

Graves where Japanese prisoners of war are allegedly buried.

“The Japanese came in the 2000s. They wanted to pick up the remains, then to bury them in their homeland. They didn’t find it, ”say Achisayans

"The village guys are sort of digging up the remains for money."

By the way, the memory of the dead Japanese prisoners of war is also stored 30 kilometers from Achisay - in the city of Kentau.

"You see, the remains of the barracks, Japanese prisoners of war lived here once."

Near the place where the Japanese once lived, now stand at home Achisai.

In Achisay, out of 2176 people, 1182 are listed as the economically active population, that is, those who can work.

It turns out that half of the local residents, mainly pensioners and children.

334 residents have a permanent job, and 93 are officially unemployed.

65 people work on a rotational basis, leaving for other regions. And another 756 people are self-employed.

“Young people are engaged in various jobs, for example, on a rotational basis. There is no investor now, because of this there are few people in Achisai, ”says Bakhyt Rysmetov.

“I have been working on a local TV tower for 16 years. In Achisay, I like it, we have a lot of wealth, large deposits of lead, gold, silver - everything is there, it must be extracted, our Achisai can make it a truly rich region. If there are investors who will take over the mines, then Achisai will flourish, ”the man is sure.

Accompanied by the village children and the boy already familiar to us on a donkey, Bakhyt shows us the entrance to one of the abandoned mines.

By the way, the Achisay field has a very rich and ancient history. Moreover, it takes its origin long before the Soviet time. According to some reports, the first miners in this place with the help of stone hammers and miners mined oxidized ore, from which they smelted lead, silver and iron.

The chronicles describe how the first captive workers mined lead in inhuman conditions (we are talking about the XIII century). “Mining was barbaric: slaves bound in pairs under the supervision of cruel warders with primitive tools chipped away blocks of ore.She was brought to the surface in wicker baskets and wooden barrels. It was crushed by primitive millstones and smelted here, ”says the site dedicated to the history of Kentau.

“Local artisans made the simplest household utensils and jewelry from lead, but the bulk of it was sent to large cities in bullion. Lead Achisaya went to the construction of mosques, palaces, making bullets for firearms; He could be found at the enterprising merchants in China and Tibet, Samarkand and Persia, ”the author writes.

“The fate of the slaves themselves, mining and processing lead ore, was not interested by the conquerors. The miners were doomed to slow martyr death in narrow and damp faces, ”he notes.

The same article says that for hundreds of years, the Achisai deposit has been replaced by many different owners. For example, from 1915 until the Great October Socialist Revolution, "the English concessionaire Lesman, who mercilessly exploited the miners, was the undivided authority here."

“The work of the miners was truly hard labor: they were underground for 16 hours a day, working as an ordinary keel, sitting or lying on their backs in the poor light of clay plosek with lamb fat.In the narrow workings it was impossible to unfold properly, the ore was pulled out in leather bags on the shoulders, or simply on all fours, dragging a heavy load. Often there were underground collapses, burying unknown miners alive, ”the historical chronicles say.

And then came the Soviet government. Thanks to the hard labor and construction work, the Achisay has become a real oasis, which its former residents remember with warmth, especially those who left here very far. As usual, that period did not go without the Stakhanov feats, which are described in detail in the above article.

“The history of mines originates from the beginning of the 20s of the last century. My father was just one of the pioneers of the miners. And once in this place there were very dense forests, wild boars ran around. In Soviet times, Achisay, of course, thundered all over the country, all the artists came here on tour, ”says Serik Amandyk.

“Previously, more than ten thousand people lived here. Everywhere there were turning shops, wood processing shops, medical laboratories. And in general, Achisai was built with such an intention that he could provide himself during the war, ”the man said.

In the village there are a lot of two-, three- and four-storey houses of Soviet construction. As it turned out, many of them are practically uninhabited.

“It is not uncommon here when in the whole entrance only in one apartment they live. There are houses where only about five people live, ”say the locals.

In total, there are 22 such houses in Achisay, in which 123 apartments are empty.

As the mayor of the village, Kairat Kabylbekov, told us, the owners of these apartments left their homes back in the 90s. “We want these empty apartments to be transferred to the communal property through the court and give them to people who need housing. For almost 20 years, these apartments are empty. In general, their owners are there, but they have not paid taxes all this time. As a result, we identified 123 apartments as ownerless, and by law they had to stand empty for one year. This year has passed. Now we will sue in order to take them into communal ownership, ”he said.

Meanwhile, while there is no such queue for housing in Achisay. But the akim is sure that when a new production is opened in the village, demand will appear. “But in general, in budget organizations we have about 12 people working - young specialists: doctors, teachers, we will give them to them,” the mayor shares his plans.

The inscription near the entrance: "Do not give children a match."

“I worked for 33 years at the mine, now I am 80, and for more than 20 years I am retired,” says Toilen Ombaev.

“Hey, Afghanistan, Tajikistan!” - shouted a man standing on a hill.

His name is Bekbolat. He says that he himself was born here. And at one time, as a contractor, he took part in resolving the conflict on the Tajik-Afghan border.

“In 1995, I went to the Tajik-Afghan border, there were four months, we were international soldiers, fought against Wahhabism, and all that,” the man said.

“There is no work here, people are mainly engaged in cattle breeding. My parents also live here, ”says cheerful Bekbolat.

Shop in Achisay.

Apart from isolated cases, local residents in general do not complain particularly about life. School students are especially optimistic.

This is Umida and Sabrina. “Everything is good with us, soon the plant will be built,” say the girls.

The plant that the schoolgirls mentioned is a mining enterprise that they plan to put into operation by the end of this year. 120 million tenge was invested in the project, and it is expected that this production will provide work for about 200 people.

And this year they are planning to build in Achisaysports mini-platform for 4.1 million tenge (about 713 thousand rubles) and repair the road on one street for 8.8 million tenge (about one and a half million rubles).

“We also plan to repair a large wooden bridge,” said Achimiya Akim.

Especially dedicated people devote poems to their native Achisai.

Achisai ...
Dust and heat could not
Wipe you off the face of the earth.
With your lead, you defended Moscow.
But he failed to save his fate ...

Ruslan Kargasekov

The author of the poem obviously hints at the uncountable number of bullets that were cast from the Achisay lead during World War II with the line “You led Moscow with your lead”. “During the Great Patriotic War, nine out of ten bullets fired at the enemy were cast in Kazakhstan. Seven of them are from the metal of the Chimkent lead plant, ”wrote Madali Naimanbayev in her article. The village of Achisay is located in the South Kazakhstan region, near the city of Kentau.

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