Fort Shevchenko is a town on the Mangyshlak Peninsula in the Mangystau Region of West Kazakhstan. The town dates back to 1846 as a military fortification. This town had various names, such as Fort Alexander, Fort Uritsky and, in 1939, received the "final" name of Fort Shevchenko. If you are a history lover or a museum addict, then I recommend you to visit this town and discover the legacy of the famous poet Taras Shevchenko.
The town bears the name of the Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko. People found him an inspiring and brave person for his poem telling the brutal truth about the imperial regime of the Tsar and for urging people to fight for their freedom of speech. But, such a sign of courage was not greeted nicely by the state - he was sent to exile in the West of Kazakhstan, in the Mangystau Peninsula. By the order of the tsar, Taras Shevchenko was forbidden to write and draw paintings, things he lived for. But, life was gentle for him, as while in exile, he got connected with the friendly people on Kazakh soil, who helped him to pursue his artistic aspirations.
With the help of locals, he was appointed a member of several scientific expeditions throughout West Kazakhstan, where he had a chance to write and draw. Taras Shevchenko lived 47 years, 10 of which he spent in exile in Mangystau. For all his time on the Kazakh land, Taras managed to paint 356 paintings, among which were sketches devoted to the region, nature, and the people of Kazakhstan that he met during his expeditions. Ultimately, for his contributions to the development of the art and culture of the area, locals decided to honor his legacy and name the town by his name.
To learn more about Taras and the people who comforted and inspired him, it's best to visit the museum complex, placed in the park. You can start your visit with the Mangystau Ethnographic Museum, which is located right next to the park. Here you can get acquainted with the history, traditions, and everyday life of the local people. At the exit, you will enter the park, where the history of the Taras Shevchenko Museum begins. In the past, there was only a small garden which ultimately was enlarged into a park thanks to Taras Schevchenko, who was, in fact, a true hero of the area. The trees planted by the poet still greet the guests. There, you will see a cottage where the poet lived and created his works under the howling wind of Mangystau. In the park, you will also see a monument dedicated to the poet. There is also a well, which he dug himself, and during a drought saved many people from thirst.
The museum is full of exhibits, objects, and works of the poet and artist Taras Shevchenko. The museum has a lot of things that belong to the Ukrainian culture. The friends of the poet collected all the presented things, and later the museum staff continued to do so. The building consists of several rooms. The first hall is dedicated to his early works, and the second shows his sketches and drawings from the many expeditions that he had around Kazakhstan.
The Museum of Taras Svechenko is located in the park named after him. If you have a walk outside the museum in a distance of 500m, you will find the monument to the war heroes called "Isa-Dosan". It is dedicated to the heroes and victims of repression who died in the uprising against the tsarist regime. This monument is visible from anywhere in the town. As soon as you get on the hill, where it's located, you will have an astonishing view of the museum, the town, and even the sea.
Continue to walk for another 600m and you will see a lovely Armenian chapel. The chapel was built in 1893, by Armenian traders who had active trading life in this area. The chapel is closed and no longer works. However, such a structure could catch an eye of those who are into architecture.
The road from Aktau to Fort Shevchenko is 125 kilometers long. On the way to the town, you will see endless lands, as well as camel caravans, which are popularly called “ships of the desert”. The camels are the true owners of the desert, and it is an unforgettable experience to see them in the wild. Even the road to the town is a sight-seeing opportunity, so you can enjoy in natural sights while discovering the legacy of poet Taras Schevchenko in West Kazakhstan.
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