These deserted stone buildings in the Karatau mountain range were once the envy of nearby Soviet towns.
The abandoned mining town in South Kazakhstan was once a bustling place. With subsidized support from Moscow and highly profitable ore mining, many people came for food and clothing during the Soviet era. The shops were always full, and the miners’ salaries were much higher than in many of the surrounding areas.
Polymetal ore with very high lead content was shipped from the mines about 90 miles to a plant in Shymkent. According to legend, one out of every seven bullets fired during the Great Patriotic War was cast from Bayzhansay lead.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, ore mining stopped, and the town all but emptied out. The houses where miners once lived, as well as schools, baths, and administrative buildings are almost completely destroyed now. Among the dilapidated stone buildings, there’s a mosque that gets a new coat of paint every once in awhile, and a few families live in the area during the summers. Winter would leave anyone stranded.
Know Before You Go
It takes about 3.5 hours to reach the city from Shymkent. Most of the drive is paved, but once you must turn off the main roads you will take a single-lane dirt road which follows a river, on which you can only go about 30 km/h due to conditions.