A city of miners, of regional administrators, and people excited to live in a regional center. This is the character that lingers even though the administration is gone and the city is no longer so young and vibrant. Perhaps it is like many cities in the former Soviet Union, with an identity crisis developed through the self-destruction of the communist state.  But through the transition many people have remained, and the Arkalyk region is home to about 40,000 people. The bauxite mining operation remains the city's largest employer of citizens even though the raw material is shipped to a different city for processing into aluminum.

The city is located in the steppe of central Kazakhstan and is surrounded by man-made hills of tailings, an immediate sign that this is a mining community. Like many other areas in Kazakhstan, the Arkalyk region surrounded by natural resources. Trees are very rare here, but resources here are not so obvious . . . there is coal underground, fish in the rivers, etc. Arkalyk suffers from its remote location, far from the centers of Kazakhstan (airport is inoperative now and next large city is 15 hours away by train) and many resources are not - hmm - exploited. Perhaps this isn't so bad? However, the result is that many of the people here are left looking for jobs. Potential exists but many people have become discouraged.

Sometimes it becomes more pleasant to remember the role of the city in the past, the so-called "space port" of the Soviet/Russian space programs.  Cosmonauts returning from their missions landed near Arkalyk, and special recovery teams would rush into the steppe and bring them to their hero's welcome in Arkalyk. From this point, the cosmonauts generally went back to "space city" Baikanur and then on to Moscow.

Not all of Arkalyk's good times are in the past. Although official Soviet glories are no longer bestowed, the people are real and continue to breathe life into the city. They often speak of the past but continue to work as best they can for the future.


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The following are brief biographies of Arkalyk citizens interesting in maintaining correspondence with people from other countries.

They all share the business center's e-mail address at


 Akmaral Mazhitova Hello potential pen pal!  How are you doing? I am 19. I'm Kazakh. I'm a student of our Arkalyk Pedagogical Institute. I study English and I want to have practice a little bit writing this speech. My hobby is English. I also teach English at the Business Center (BC) once a week. When I have a free time I come to the BC to learn English more and more.  This summer I worked at my mom's cafeteria.  I hope you will write and tell me something about yourself.  Please write "penpal for Akmaral" in the subject line.
Dinara Sharip Hello, my pal-friend. I am 22 years old and a teacher of the English language.  I teach children of different ages at a school in Arkalyk.  My favorite hobbies are: reading books, listening to music, drawing and making sculptures. I also like learning foreign languages and visiting restful places in nature. I've written about myself in brief but I think that if you're interested in communicating with me we will know more about each other. Please write "penpal for Dinara S." in the subject line.













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