Semey, Semipalatinsk

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"capital of Semey region, NE Kazakhstan, on the Irtysh River and the Turkistan-Siberia RR. It is a river port, rail terminus, and commercial center, with large freight depots for river and rail transport. Semey has a giant meatpacking combine; other industries include food processing, metal working, wool processing, and the manufacture of building materials. The name Semipalatinsk [seven palaces] derives from the seven-halled Buddhist temple found nearby. Beginning as a fort in 1718, the city was finally established on its present site in 1778 after flooding by the Irtysh necessitated periodic movement of the fort. During the 19th cent. the city was a center for trade between Russians and the Kyrgyz, Bukharans, and Chinese; it also lay on the caravan route from Mongolia to Europe. Dostoyevsky was exiled here from 1854 to 1859." From the Columbia Encyclopedia [external link].

"eastern Kazakstan. It is a port on the Irtysh (Ertis) River where the latter emerges into the West Siberian Plain. It was founded as a Russian fort in 1718, 11 miles (18 km) downstream from the present site, near the ruins of a Buddhist monastery consisting of seven buildings, from which it got the name Semipalatinsk, meaning "seven-halled." It was moved to its present site in 1778 to escape regular flooding in the spring. Semipalatinsk lay at the junction of caravan trails from Mongolia to Russia and from Siberia to Central Asia, and before the 1917 Revolution more than 11,000 camels passed through annually. The writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky spent the years 1854-59 in Semipalatinsk in exile as a soldier in a line battalion. The city's growth was furthered by the arrival of the railway from Siberia in 1906 and the completion of the Turk-Sib line to Central Asia in 1931. Its name was changed to Semey after Kazakstan's independence in 1991.

"The chief economic activities are food processing and other light industries. The city has one of the largest meat-packing plants in Kazakstan, as well as textile, clothing, and footwear factories and a large cement works. There are teacher-training, medical, and veterinary institutes, a theatre, and three museums. The gates of the 18th-century fort survive. " From the Encyclopaedia Britannica [external link].

"This dainty Russian-style town (pop. 318,000) near Siberia was once the destination of Russian political exiles and the site of extensive underground nuclear testing. The tests left permanent genetic mutations among the populace: Examples can be seen at the Anatomy Department of the Semey Medical Faculty next to the Irtysh Hotel. The town also has a museum honoring Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who spent five years enforced military service in the garrison at Semey, and a new museum devoted to Abay Qunanbaev, Kazakstan's leading literary light." Previously on the Gateway to Kazakhstan. [external link] is in Russian. General information, history, culture, education, architecture, photogallery, hotels, religion, museums, monuments, restaurants. Also has a map [external link].

Semey Map with Kazakh nationality (click on map to see a larger image, shows location of Kazakhs) used with permission from World Map [external link].

World66 travel guide [external link] information and pictures.

You can do an internet search for Semipalatinsk and nuclear and find many articles about the nuclear bomb testing done in the area by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. You will find articles that paint a very grim picture, and some that say the damage is no worse than that from industrial waste. To my knowledge, none of the children adopted from there have had any ill effects; however, these children may be too young to demonstrate some of the long term effects of exposure to radiation. Something else to think about: with our advanced medicine, the children will have fewer complications and suffer less than they would if they remained there.

Yahoo Group: Semey [external link] is a list for parents whose kids came from Semipalatinsk. Little activity since 2012.

Department of Theory & Practice of Translation [external link] of Semey State Shakarim University. In English and Russian.

Falling Rain [external link] has maps and current weather conditions (temperature, cloud cover and precipitation).

A Nuclear Family Vacation in Russia [external link] is a series of articles, the first two are about Semey.

Wiki: Semey [external link]

Gorodok [external link] is in Russian; history, photos, forum.

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Visit Kazakhstan [external link] has information about the area, hotels, restaurants, etc.

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Akim of the city of Semipalatinsk [external link] is in Kazakh, which Google Chrome surprisingly translates. History, map, pictures

Link recently added: [external link]: population, city coat of arms, map, history, and pictures.

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Ingvarr photo album [external link]

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  • Semey: cafe, massage, sauna.

    "February 2005, $45/night for 2 people and 1 bed; private bath with tub and shower, refer, room service, heat, phones, TV, restaurant, elevator, salon, walking distance to shopping. 'We were quite comfortable at the Hotel Semey and felt very safe. It's within walking distance to the Internet Cafe and shopping. While they don't accept credit cards, they do accept the US dollar (or tenge) ... just be sure the bills are clean (no marks) and crisp. Limited English spoken in the restuarant and they try hard to please.' "

    "July 2005, $70/person for a suite, private bath with shower, refer, air conditioned, phones, TV, coffee shop, restaurant, elevator, gift shop, salon, walking distance to shopping. Definitely not up to American standards, but seemed like the lap of luxury compared to some of the places others were staying. Rooms were clean, and cleaned on a daily basis. The coffee shop or cafe had very good food - everything was in Russian but we only found one restaurant in the entire city with an English menu and it was a little sketchy. The hotel had an excellent laundry service (very important when your there for three weeks or more.) Breakfast was included in the room charge and was very good including pancakes which were very much like crepes, eggs cooked anyway you liked, yogurt, coffee, tea, etc. There was only hot water at certian times of the day, but some of the places other families were staying never had hot water. The best amenity of all, and the one for which we were paying the high rate of $70 a night was the air conditioner. In July it was frequently above 100 degrees and extremely humid and muggy. The air conditioner made it so much more bareable. The suite included three rooms - a bedroom, a living area, and a bathroom. I was traveling alone so there was only one person, but it easily could have slept more. There was a couch and two chairs, television with many channels although few in English, large windows that looked out over the WWII memorial park and opened if you wanted fresh air (in my experience, there was little fresh air to be had by opening the windows - the outdoors was hot & stagnate & polluted - but different times of year likely have different air qualities.) Over all I was very happy with my stay here. I had some extremely rough flights over from the states and was already homesick and ready to turn around by the time I got to Semey. The Hotel Semey was such a relief to have at least of few of the amenities of home to help me acclimate and settle in for the adventure ahead. Contact Tracy [e-mail link] if you want to know more."

    "February 2005, "$50/night; private bath with tub, shower, room service, heat, TV, crib available, kitchenette, restaurant, bar, elevator, salon, walking distance to shopping, restaurant Russian/local food with menu in English, Clean, nice staff, reasonable place to stay."

  • Binar: 17 rooms.

    "$40, double bed, private bath with tub and shower, refridgerator, TV, phone, 1 restaurant with Russian and variety food, bar, walking distance to shopping, 'Nice staff, no English.' "

    "October 2001, $45/night, double bed, full bath, refer, room service, heat, phones, TV, crib, restaurant: very good Kazakh/Russian, bar/lounge, walking distance to shopping; 'Staff spoke very little English but they were accomodating. They accepted payment in US dollars, no credit cards that I was aware of. The large room had a very comfy double bed, small table with 2 chairs, storage armoire and small fridge were in separate ante-room connected to the bathroom. It was clean, comfortable and newly redecorated in the more elegant Russian-style. TV consisted of Russian stations and one English-speaking station, the BBC World News. I traveled alone and felt very safe. I've been told it is an upscale hotel. They had linen service (very cheap) and the breakfast was included in the room price. It is within walking distance to an internet cafe, some shops, restaurants, park, etc. It is located in the business district of Semey. I would recommend it, and I would stay there again.' Contact Kelly [e-mail link] for more information."

    "April/May 2004, $47/night for standard room with 1 bed, private bath with tub and shower, refer, room service, AC/heat, TV, restaurant, bar, walking distance to shopping, 'We thoroughly enjoyed staying at the Hotel Binar and felt very comfortable. The staff were very friendly and helpful.' "

  • Irtysh: 260 beds, restaurant, bar, night club, beauty salon.
  • Families: restaurant,
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Page last updated on 8 January 2016.

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