Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - Sixth Report



  The town of Kostanai is in the north west of Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Union. It is the administrative, industrial and cultural centre of Kostanai Oblast (Region). Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan is 900 miles to the south east of Kostanai, in the foothills of the mountains on the Chinese border. Kostanai lies on the river Tobol. Kazak people were traditionally nomadic. Land around Kostanai was settled for agriculture by Russian and Ukrainian pioneers at the turn of the century. With the construction of the railway in 1913 the role of the town as an important grain trans-shipment point strengthened. Collective farms were developed in the surrounding virgin steppeland in the 1950s. Now Kostanai is at the centre of an important area for livestock and wheat production.

  The town has a number of industries including food processing, textiles, chemicals and a plant producing blocks for the construction industry. There is a very large open-cast ore mine at the nearby town of Rudni. Kostanai has a rail and air link with Moscow and most other major towns in the former Soviet Union.

  Although the town was only founded in 1879, it now has a population of nearly 270,000. There are people of many different ethnic origins in Kostanai including Russian, Kazakh, Ukrainian, Armenian, German and Korean.

  Although the town is predominantly Russian, it is becoming increasingly influenced by Kazak culture. Most schools teach in Russian, but all schools teach Kazak language and a few schools teach all subjects in Kazakh.

  Kostanai has a University, Agricultural College and College of Further Education. The Russian Orthodox Church in Kostanai has been rebuilt and a former Mosque has re-opened. There are also practising Baptists and Catholics in Kostanai.

  The town consists mainly of four or five storey buildings set out along wide streets. Most people live in blocks of flats although there are some older single storey wooden houses. Most people also have plots of land on the outskirts of the town where they can grow fruit and vegetables, these are called dachas after the summer houses built on the plots of land. Recently some private modern houses with gardens have also been built on the outskirts of Kostanai.

  Kostanai has a theatre, a concert hall, several cinemas, sporting facilities and a museum of local history.

  The climate in Kostanai is extreme. It can be as cold as (¸35oC) in Winter and as hot as (+35oC) in Summer. Snow is on the ground until April. Some years there is insufficient rainfall for the crops to mature.

  The Town Administration (previously called the Town Soviet, now called the Akimat), runs the public services in the town including Education, Housing, Highways, Public Transport, Medical Services, Welfare Services and Social Insurance, Water Supplies, the Police and Libraries, Museums and Cultural Services.

  The Head of Kostanai Town Administration or Council is Nurgali Ashimov. His post is equivalent to that of Chief Executive. Elections to Kostanai Town Council or Masluhat were held in March 1994. Candidates represented a number of political parties and organisations.

  In July 1989 the Leaders of Kirklees Council and Kostanai Town, signed the following declaration:

    "We wish to jointly work for a more secure and peaceful world, by increasing the understanding between our two Countries, through the promotion of Education, Sporting, Cultural and trade links between Kostanai and Kirklees".

  Since then exchange visits have been arranged involving school students, youth groups, teachers, journalists, musicians, medical professionals and civic officials.

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Prepared 27 July 1999