The history of urbanization processes in the single-industry towns of Lisakovsk and Arkalyk of Kostanay region: similarities and differences, prospects for further development

The article considers the urbanization processes in two single-industry towns of Kostanay region: Lisakovsk and Arkalyk. Both cities were created during the Soviet period for the development of mining. Lisakovsk has always been a regional city, while Arkalyk has been the center of the Turgay region for a long time. However, Arkalyk has been steadily losing its population since 1991, when the decline was up to 40 % percent, and until now. The closure of the leading enterprise of the city, a branch of JSC «Aluminum of Kazakhstan» TBOM may lead to a further increase in the outflow of population, which in the long run may lead to the loss of the city status. In contrast, the population of Lisakovsk continued to grow even during the period of economic instability after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The city had a special economic zone status, which contributed to the momentum of food development. The article also traces the development of cities from their foundation to their current situation. The differences in the goals and methods used by the Soviet leadership for the formation of future single-industry towns are shown. The critical problem stages in the transition period of the 90s of the XX century are described.


There are 27 single-industry towns in Kazakhstan in this period, 16 of which are administrative centers, and the other 11 are cities of regional subordination. According to the development program of singleindustry towns of Kazakhstan, it is required to optimize single-industry towns, with an emphasis on constantly operating industrial capacities. It is necessary in order to develop those areas that are already resilient. In addition, it is necessary to diversify the economy of single-industry towns, i.e., to increase the share of the contribution of small and medium-sized businesses to the budget and employment of citizens. Create conditions for remote employment to maintain infrastructure within the actual population. [1]

Two single-industry towns Lisakovsk and Arkalyk are cities of regional subordination of the Kostanay region. These cities have approximately the same population and formation period. The history of urbanization of these single-industry towns during the Soviet period, the adaptation of industrial enterprises and citizens to changes in the socio-economic agenda after the independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan led them to diametrically opposite results. Currently, the city of Lisakovsk is included in the list of singleindustry towns with a favorable economic situation, the city of Arkalyk has an unfavorable situation.

Thus, the study of cities’ history and their population is closely connected to the solution of modern socio-economic, demographic, cultural, and other problems of Kazakhstan as a whole due to the scientific- theoretical and practically applied tasks of the development of Kazakhstan's society in the conditions of accelerated modernization.

Research methodology and methods

The article uses the materials of theoretical and practical studies of domestic and foreign scientists in urbanization. When considering approaches to the study and assessment of demographic development, methods of retrospective analysis of literary sources are used. Based on inductive, deductive, and statistical conclusions, theoretical synthesis and generalization were used.

*Corresponding author’s e-mail: (T.S. Tukpatullin)


In the 20th century, new cities appeared on the territory of Kazakhstan, such as Shu (1928), Alga (1939), Abay (1949), Arkalyk (1956), Derzhavinsk (1956), Karatau (1963), Zhanatas (1964), and many others, which until the specified date of foundation practically did not exist or there were minor settlements in their place, where residents were engaged, as a rule, in underdeveloped agriculture [2].

In 1956 Arkalyk became the site of the All-Union Komsomol shock construction. The city was built in less than a decade, from 1956 to 1965, on an empty site, next to the Torgai Bauxite Department. [3] In those years it produced about a fifth of all bauxite ore in the Union

According to the first all-Union census data in the history of Arkalyk in 1959, its population was 3.6 thousand [4].

However, mistakes were already made in the design. There was no natural, reliable water supply, the main goal was the city's location closer to the bauxite deposits. The energy was provided at the expense of oil fuel, which brought quite a few inconveniences. During the city’s construction quarries with the development of mines and rock dumps were located almost in a circle. [5].

In November 1970 Arkalyk became the regional center of the Trugay region, and its population reached the mark of 15 thousand people. It is worth noting that these figures relate directly to the city of Arkalyk, but do not take into account the 19 rural localities that are part of the city: 15 villages (Akkoshkar, Alua, Angarsky, Ashutasty, Vostochnoye, Ekidin, Zhanakala, Zhalgyztal, Koktau, Matrosovo, Mirnoye, Molodezhnoye, Ushtobe, Furmanovo, Tselinnoye), and two rural districts: Kayyndinsky (Kayyndy village, Kzylzhulduz village) and Rodinsky (Rodina village, Kzylzhulduz village).

This feature of Arkalyk, i.e., inclusion of 19 rural settlements, makes it the largest city in Kazakhstan. Its territory is 15.5 thousand square kilometers. For comparison, the largest city in Kazakhstan — Almaty, is about 0.6 thousand square kilometers. The nascent single-industry industrial city was located in the center of the agricultural region. This complex combination has played a prominent role in the region's inability to develop at the expense of its budget and resources. The region became subsidized [5].

The transport issue was not resolved initially and in the future. According to the plans, the city was supposed to become the region's industrial center, but the problem was that the transport infrastructure was not ready for this. There was no connection to the cities of other regions, except for Yesil. The city was at a dead-end of the railway line from Yesil to Arkalyk, a dead-end of the asphalt road from Kustanai, through Yesil to Arkalyk. There were unpaved dirt roads, which could be used to get from the administrative center to other regions at own risk and peril, but the roads were in the open steppe and were impassable in autumn through spring. In addition, no transport lines were thought out. [5].

In 1978, the former head of the Kokchetav region E.N. Auelbekov was sent to the Turgay region. He immediately organized a house-building plant, which handed over a residential five-story building for seventy apartments in each every three months. Thanks to his proven system for introducing innovative agricultural methods in the Kokchetav region, the head of Turgay increased the level of animal husbandry and created a crop rotation system with a scientific approach of 2 million hectares. What is even more surprising, advanced technologies were introduced, namely the use of satellite communication by livestock breeders [6].

However, in 1988, due to economic disadvantage, the Turgay region was disbanded. Although in two years the region was recreated again, still in 1997 it was abolished again due to economic inefficiency.

The history of the planning of the city of Lisakovsk began in 1949 when geologists discovered a deposit of oolitic brown limestone ores near the future city. However, the construction of Lisakovsk on the bank of the Tobol River dates back to 1963, with the only difference that the original settlement, formerly called Lysakovka, was laid in the 1910s.

Lisakovsk and the processing plant were laid simultaneously without any infrastructure — everything was built from scratch. On June 27, 1967, by the decision of the Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR, the urban settlement changed its former name «Lysakovka», in honor of the land distributor named Lysakov, to a more sonorous name — Lisakovsk. Since 1969, the construction of the Lisakovsky GOK has been declared a shock construction site throughout the USSR. Lisakovsk was built entirely from scratch, i.e., all residential, administrative, municipal, and infrastructure structures were built in the complex, which initially allowed the builders to coordinate all the nuances of the location and terrain features.

In 1971 by the Decree of the Presidium of the Kazakh SSR Supreme Soviet, the urban-type settlement of Lisakovsk was assigned the category of a city of regional subordination [7].

Until the mid-70s, industrial construction and the city's construction were carried out based on the requests and capabilities of the Lisakovsky GOK. Since the beginning of the settlement of miners, a characteristic problem of all cities with one specialized industrial enterprise has arisen — a catastrophic lack of jobs for the rest of the family members. Therefore, to avoid such a problem in the future, along with the city's construction and the MPP, the city dairy, bakery, reinforced concrete products factories, house-building, and expanded clay workshops were built simultaneously.

The territory of the city of Lisakovsk is not only the city itself but also two settlements located at a relatively close distance to the city: the village of Oktyabrsky and the village of Krasnogorskoye. The total area of the city with the surrounding villages is about 100 km2. Roads, together with the highway from Zhitikar to Kostanay, are about 60 km. The regional center is located at a distance of 120 km from Lisakovsk. According to statistics, as of April 2019 the city has a population of 40,709 people. [8]

The beginning of economic and social problems occurs with the collapse of the socialist social order in the countries of the former Soviet Union, including the Republic of Kazakhstan. There is an increase in migration processes. Emigration has had a powerful impact on the country's demographics and population growth. First, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and German ethnic groups returned to their historical homeland. Secondly, the active processes of intra- and inter-regional migration of the population, associated primarily with the search for work of the able-bodied population due to the economic and industrial crisis that engulfed most enterprises of the Soviet planned system. Third, the freedom to change one's residence, which was partially restricted during the Soviet era. Fourth, the availability of paid education stimulated the increased movement of young people to the cities, the so-called «educational migration». [9]

For Arkalyk, these two factors led to a 40 % loss of the population, and subsidy reduction in the 90s hit the social sphere hard. The city’s remoteness from key transport lines made it difficult for small businesses to develop. Arkalyk has become a depressed single-industry town with unresolved infrastructure problems. [5]

Along with the decline in the birth rate and socio-economic conditions, the average life expectancy has also decreased. In 1999, life expectancy was almost 65 years, but 30 years earlier, this figure was five years higher (70 years). Men's life expectancy has decreased by almost six years, women's by four years.

The significance of migration processes in Arkalyk in the first decade of independence can be traced by the number of individual ethnic groups living there in the inter-census period. From 1989 to 1999, the Kazakh population decreased by 4.5 thousand people (from 40 thousand to 36 thousand people). Out of 29 thousand Russians, by the year of the first sovereign census, the number decreased to 11.5 thousand, i.e., by 2.5 times. Similarly, the population of Ukrainians (from 7.7 thousand to 3 thousand people), Belarusians (from 2.5 thousand to 1 thousand people), Tatars (from 3.6 thousand to 1.5 thousand people), Germans (from 2 thousand to 0.7 thousand people), Bashkirs (from 2 thousand up to 0.5 thousand people) decreased significantly [9].

According to the 1999 census, the population of the city of Arkalyk was 61 thousand people [10]. The change in the population of the city of Arkalyk from 1999 to 2006 was from 61 thousand to 42 thousand people. The change in the population of the city of Arkalyk itself without adjacent settlements from 2000 to 2006 was: from 42 thousand to 26 thousand people. [11]

The collapse of the economic system of the USSR also affected the city of Lisakovsk. In 1990, Lisakovsk was home to 11 industrial enterprises in the electric power industry, ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, mechanical engineering and metalworking, building materials production, and light and food industry products. External transport consisted of road and rail transport related to the Lisakovsky motor Transport Enterprise, passenger motor transport enterprise, motor transport enterprise of the Ministry of Heavy Construction of the Kazakh SSR (the so-called «Autobase № 3»), the railway station «Mailino» and the station «Lisakovsk-kontainernayi».

Due to a sharp drop in demand for iron concentrate in the industrial centers of Kazakhstan and Russia, which was the main product of the city's largest enterprise, Lisakovsky MPP was in a crisis.

In 1992, the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan decided to assign the city the status of a free economic zone. An active search for new directions of development in the conditions of the free trade market begins. During this period, foreign capital, which had not yet understood the country's political situation and doubted the prospects for further stable development, was wary of investing in such projects, so the state itself decided to direct limited funds to the nascent local business structures.

By a special decree of the President of Kazakhstan in 1996, the city was transferred from the free economic zone to the status of the Lisakov Special Economic Zone, in which a special economic regime operated until April 1999 [7].

It is worth noting that the mayor of the city from 1995 to 2004, Albert Pavlovich Rau, made a considerable contribution to the city's construction, formation, and development. The key achievement of the period of operation of the Lisakovskaya free economic zone is overcoming the negative trends in the urban economy due to the fall in MPP production. During this period, several new production facilities were successfully created and gaining momentum, also with the participation of foreign investors. New firms and individual entrepreneurs have established the production of more than 400 items of consumer goods. Since 1999, the international metallurgical company «Ispat-Karmet» has become the Lisakovsky Mining and Processing Plant owner. The budget of Lisakovsk from 1999 to 2003 increased ten times and is replenished by 80 % with taxes from new private enterprises [7].

Despite the clear benefits from the results of the city’s work under the Lisakovskaya SSP, the government of Kazakhstan decided to suspend this state experiment.

According to the 1999 census, the population of Lisakovsk was 39 thousand people. [10] The change in the population of the city of Lisakovsk from 1999 to 2006 was from 39 thousand to 41 thousand people. The change in the population of the city of Lisakovsk itself without adjacent settlements from 2000 to 2006 was from 37 thousand to 40 thousand people. [11] The population growth is visible due to rural labor migration.

According to the data of the beginning of 2019, the number continued to decline and amounted to the following indicators: Kazakhs — 33 thousand people, Russians — 5 thousand people, Ukrainians — 800 people, Tatars — 600 people, Belarusians — 250 people, Germans — 196 people, other ethnic groups — 1.1 thousand people. 41 thousand people in total, which means that the city has shrunk by 65 % in 30 years. As of 2020, the population of the city itself was 27 thousand people [12].

The leading industrial and infrastructure enterprises of the city are a branch of JSC «Aluminum of Ka- zakhstan» TBOM, GUS «Arkalykskaya TEK», MUS «Kostanayuzhelectroservis». The company «Alumi- num Kazakhstan» accounts for almost 60 % of the city's total production, and all three enterprises employ 1372 people [13]. In 2017, the management of TBRU announced the closure of the Arkalyk branch. Within four years, the issue of employment of about 600 employees was resolved.

It is worth noting that according to the classification of single-industry towns of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the city of Arkalyk in the Kostanay region and the city of Zhanatas, an almost disappeared small town in Zhambyl region, belong to the category of cities with «low potential» [14].

In Lisakovsk, the situation is reversed. According to 2018 data, there are 450 enterprises in the city, of which four are marked as «large», 36 enterprises are created jointly with foreigners, and the rest are small and medium-sized businesses. The city at that time provided 5 % of the entire industry of the Kostanay region and produced products worth 38 billion tenge, giving jobs for 6 thousand people. Such enterprises as the branch of JSC «Aluminum of Kazakhstan» KBOM (bauxite), Lisakovsky branch of LLP «Orken» (iron ore concentrate), LLP «Shaimerden» (zinc ore) are the primary mining industries of the city. [8]


Single-industry towns of the Kostanay region were initially in a different strategic situation. The city of Lisakovsk was located in the busy economic corridor of the northern part of the region, on the line of Kostanay, Rudny, Lisakovsk lasting 100 km. Additionally, in the northern part of the region 90 % of its population lives, while in the southern part, where Arkalyk is located, only 10 %. The cities on the line were built on the bank of the Tobol River, while Arkalyk does not have its adequate water resource. The remoteness and inaccessibility of connection to power lines led to a compromise solution for installing low- efficiency technologies.

Despite the status of the administrative center during the existence of the Turgay region, Arkalyk remained a subsidized region with complex transport infrastructure surrounded by rural areas. Lisakovsk, on the contrary, had contact with the industrial centers of the region. Its proximity to the Russian-Kazakh border contributed to the development of a wide range of products during independence. This restrained the growth of unemployment and population outflow, which can not be said about Arkalyk, where the outflow of the population was estimated in the figure of ten percent.

After the closure of the city-forming enterprise of the Torgay bauxite ore management of JSC «Alumi- num of Kazakhstan» in 2021, the city is waiting for a new wave of population outflow provision of work within the company in other regions of the country. Mass migration is unlikely due to the employment of most citizens in other enterprises, the public sector, and the service sector.



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Year: 2021
City: Karaganda
Category: History