06 Nov 2008
The city of Kokshetau was founded in 1824 as a Russian administrative outpost to extend their power over the Kazakhs. However, it was not until the 1960’s that the major growth of the city occurred following the campaign led by Nikita Khrushchev to open the virgin lands to intensive agricultural production. Food processing and other manufacturing operations were built to support the agricultural industry and provide employment for those moving to the growing city. The city has a population of nearly 150,000 today.
For the most part, the population increase was from Russia, which tended to marginalize the local Kazakh populace. The “Rock of Division” symbolizes the struggle between these two groups. … One part of the huge split rock is across the street from the district offices, … the other part is some distance away in a memorial park.
Today, the division between the peoples is of little consequence. The inter-ethnic harmony is apparent in those strolling along the main street of this busy city. After independence, about 20% of the Russians, … fearing loss of jobs and political repression, … returned to their homeland. The ethnic Russians no longer dominate the resulting population.
Several monuments are located throughout the city including one to those who contributed to both the first and the second world wars. The two monuments in the cultural courtyard depict Kazakh musicians with a dombra, … the traditional two-stringed Kazakh musical instrument. The first is tied up and the dombra is broken. However, the second clearly identifies the individual as a Muslim playing the dombra; thus, symbolizing the acceptance of Islam by the Kazakh people. A younger generation, … as they climb and play on the monument, … does not appear to realize its significance in the history of their country.
Kokshetau is the administrative capital of the Akmola Oblast with offices clustered together in the central part of the city. Students often walk by these offices on their way to classes at the nearby city university. Adjacent to the government buildings is a large, well cared for park. Facing the government buildings is the statue of Ablai-Khan, one of the best known and revered Kazakh heroes. During the late 1700’s, he fought for a strong and independent Kazakh state.
The market, preferably called the bazaar, is on the edge of the city and surrounded by a residential area. The comings and goings of this place is similar to that elsewhere in the Republic. By September, fresh vegetables grown in home gardens are plentiful. Most everyone has fresh vine-ripened tomatoes for sale along with carrots, radishes, beets, cucumbers, eggs and milk. The price for tomatoes is 100 Tinges per kilo or about 35 cents per pound. Some of the fruit and vegetables have been packed in large jars for use during the long winter months. Throughout the year, vegetables are brought in from the southern part of Kazakhstan and other countries. A variety of meat products are located inside the small buildings. Packaged goods of various types can be found, … some made in Kazakhstan and others are from China or Russia.
Adjacent to the market is an elementary school where a group of kids has lined up for opening activities as they begin morning classes. Two school sessions per day are typical in Kazakhstan. These kids riding their bikes undoubtedly attend afternoon classes.
There are only a few places to worship in this area. One Orthodox Church was visible from the hill overlooking the city. An Islamic center is also here but it was originally an Orthodox church. There are no large mosques in Kokshetau even though most Kazakhs claim to be Muslim.
Homes in the residential areas are mostly older structures including large apartment buildings and an occasional traditional log home. There are very few new apartment buildings in this city. (Overlay: Pray for More House Churches) It is among these homes that local believers have succeeded in establishing a few house churches and home Bible studies. Otherwise, outreach activity is very limited. The city university has proven to be a good contact point for volunteers who can help with English as a second language. (Overlay: Pray for More ESL Classes) Many of the college students seek to learn English to help in their careers. They are also the ones who are most open to learning about the Biblical truths in God’s Word. (Overlay: Pray for Stronger Ties with the University)
While the evangelical worship activity seems small, it is growing. Yes, great things come in small packages such as the ice cream at the roadside stand. Won’t you come for a visit to Kokshetau and experience the warmth of worship with believers? (Overlay: Pray for More Volunteers to Stand in the Gap) The ice cream will be a special treat too.
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