The Watch

Vernacular Architecture of the Kazakh Steppe Sary-Arka

Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

2010 World Monuments Watch

Extreme environmental conditions in the vast Sary Arka steppe compelled a seminomadic way of life for the people of central Kazakhstan, with mobile housing and seasonal cattle breeding. But from generation to generation they built special structures, set on hills, in memory of their ancestors and as places of burial and worship. These necropolises and mausoleums marked the borders of land ownership andmain roads, providing texture and bearings to this endless landscape. Constructed by local craftsmen of earthen materials and fired brick, these structures date from between the 18th and 20th centuries and were of simple design and decoration. During the Soviet period, the nationalization of lands and the development of new towns and settlements forever altered the nomadic way of life, and these structures and associated traditions were abandoned. Left without attention and maintenance, these mausoleums and necropolises fell into disrepair. In the 1980s, an inventory of these heritage resources was undertaken by the Ministry of Culture, but conservation efforts were limited due to a lack of resources. Finally, in 2008, the mausoleums and necropolises of Sary-Arka were listed for protection by the state. Neglected for nearly a century, there is hope that enhanced understanding of these remarkable vestiges and renewed engagement with the community will promote their long-term conservation and stewardship.

Since the Watch

After Watch listing, the government of Kazakhstan allocated $160,000 toward conservation of two historic mausolea within this vernacular landscape Alasha Khan and Zhuchy Khan. Last update: July 2010.

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