Site Logo  Ust Kamenogorsk
Ust Kamenogorsk, known as Oskemen by Kazakhs, represents another side of Kazakhstan, one of the many, in that it is a unique town in the far east of the country. Kazakh cities have their similarities but each of them is different from the next. Ust Kamenogorsk is not only unlike Shymkent and Atyrau but also unlike Pavlodar and Astana.

The town is massively Russian, with very few other ethnic groups in extensive evidence, possibly owing to the local industries in which predominantly the Slavic majority work. It is modernising, not quite to the degree of Astana but to a reasonable degree, while the older parts of town are still flourishing, in a sense, just outside the town centre. Getting around town is easier than in other places, the trams being frequent and quick, and there being little in the way of congestion.

The main attraction is probably the confluence of the two rivers, Irtysh and Ulba which meet just outside the town centre where acres of water head slowly north-west towards Semipalatinsk and on to Pavlodar. The river seems to be a recreational attraction, not so much for swimming, which I suspect would be a little dangerous, but for fishing and simply walking along the miles of river bank.

Aside the river, the roads are kept spotlessly clean, and there are plenty of retail outlets, although nothing to compare with the nature of that we get in the two capitals. Ust Kamenogorsk is what you might call a nice little town, offering a version of everything for everybody. There doesn’t seem to be a dearth of young adults and again no threatening looking gatherings of embittered disenfranchised youths, the likes of whom plague many western cities. Two days there does not leave the uninformed observer overly well placed to judge, but people there seem happy with life and content to get on with their day.
Kazakhstan is highly multi-ethnic and proud of it, with the government keen for tolerance to pervade society. The cities across the whole country are mixed, some more than others, leading to a very nice balance. Ust Kamenogorsk may be predominantly Russian but this as part of a nation state which does not consider any ethnic group to be more important than others.