Almaty is hardly known as a tourist destination, and that’s how I like it. Even though it lies at the far eastern edge of Central Asia, it has a very European feel to it, as evidenced by its grand leafy boulevards, impressive buildings, and the many monuments that seem to lie around every corner. I had hoped to visit some cemeteries while here, but as they lay at the edge of the city, I had to make do with the memorials instead.
The first place I went to was the Park of 28 Panfilov Guardsman. It’s near the Ascension Cathedral, another major site in the city.
It’s named after 28 soldiers who died fighting the Germans during WWII (or the Great Patriotic War, as it is known in Russia and other former Soviet republics). Panfilov was the general of the 316th division, and it was believed that his soldiers were able to delay the German advance on Moscow. It features an eternal flame, and a large monument featuring soldiers from all 15 Soviet republics.
This park was originally a cemetery, which was destroyed in 1921. At the time it was known as Starokladbischensky Park (or Old Cemetery Park). It changed its name multiple times over the years (Pushkin Garden, Park of the Fallen Heroes, Local Park named after Lenin, Gubkompomarma Garden, Federation of Soviet Republics), until it got its current name in 1942.
There are other memorials within the park, including a long walkway with the names of soldiers on them. I’m not absolutely certain if these are the 28 who died and for whom the park is named, but it seems the most likely.
In my strolls throughout the city I also came across the Monument to Manshuk Mametova and Aliya Moldagulova. Both were Kazakh soldiers in WWII who were awarded with bravery awards. They both died in fighting near Leningrad and apparently many streets in Kazakhstan are named after them. Manshuk Mametova was machine gunner originally from Almaty. During her last stand (just before her 21st birthday), she manned 3 machine guns to protect the retreat of her unit, killing 70 Germans, before she was fatally wounded. Alia Moldagulova, with a record 91 confirmed kills, was killed at 19 on the battlefield and buried in a mass grave south of Leningrad.
The final memorial I came across was in a park just south of the hotel I was staying at. It honours the victims of the 1931-33 famine, which was due to the Soviet government’s farm collectivization campaign. At least 1.5 million Kazakhs died during this famine (which similarly affected other regions in the USSR, including Ukraine, western Siberia, the Norther Caucasus, the Volga region and part of the Ural mountains. In fact, Ukrainians consider it an act of genocide on the part of the Soviets). In Kazakhstan May 31st is the Day of Commemoration of the Victims of Political Repressions. This is a simple but striking statue of an emaciated woman holding a starving boy. It’s in one end of a park that is clearly used by locals, although none seem to linger in the part of the park.
Monuments: Numerous statues and other memorials scattered throughout the city. Some are standard portraits of the deceased, others are a bit more striking.
Grounds: Almaty is a flat city and it is easy to get around the parks.
Visitors: The Panfilov park had quite a number of visitors, the other parks were lightly used by locals.
Notes: During the summer it is hot and sunny, so conditions are contrasty.
Hours: All parks are open 24 hours a day.
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