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Home - Culture Legacy - Cultural institutions - OTRAR STATE ARCHAEOLOCICAL PRESERVATION MUSEUM


Widely known across the Orient, the medieval city of Otrar stands at the point where several branches of the Great Silk Road crossed this region from 3rd century B.C. on. It became famous as a birth place of Abu Nasr al-Farabi, an outstanding encyclopedic scientist. Otrar was a large political, economical, cultural and trade centre which played an important role in the history of Central Asia. In the 6-8th centuries Otrar-Farab was the capital of a big early feudal domain in the middle confluence of the Syrdaria. In the 9th-12th centuries Otrar became the principal town of the region. In the 13th-15th centuries it was one of the biggest towns of South Kazakhstan and in the 16th-18th centuries it was the political and economic centre of the Kazakh Khanate.

Medieval Arab and Persian historians and geographers wrote in their works about this town as a political, trade and cultural centre in the south of Kazakhstan which played an important role in the history of Central Asia. As regards the role and significance of the town, it was greatly due to its advantageous geographical position. At the confluence of the Arys and the Syrdaria Otrar was a large farming position. Situated at the foothills of Karatau, Otrar was a stronghold of the nomads. A.N.Bernshtam, a well-known orientalist and archaeologist noted that it had been difficult to find a more auspicious and more dangerous position in Central Asia.

Otrar was the principal, but not the only town in the middle Syrdaria. The region of Otrar or Farab included the towns of Keder, Vesidzh and Borukh. At present there is nothing left of them, like many other towns and townships, whose names have not come down to us, but mounds conceiling a kind of “archives” of material culture of the past.

According to the sources the inhabitants of Otrar moved to Turkestan, Shymkent, and Shilik. By the 18th century Otrar had become desolate and it lay in ruins turning into a rain-eroded mound which the local inhabitants called Otrartobe. The ruins of Otrar and other towns and settlements had long been drawing the attention of explorers. The first topographical plan of Otrar was completed in 1903. In 1904, A.A.Cherkasov and A.K.Clare, members of the Turkestan Society of Amateur Archaeologists, carried out the first archaeological excavations. Large scale excavations here took place in 1969, especially in 1971. Expeditions were headed by the first Kazakh archaeologists Kemal Akyshev. As a result medieval Otrar became an archaeological centre of Kazakhstan and Central Asia. On the 11 May 1979, on the base of the present museum, it was established Otrar state archaeological preservation-museum which was the first scientific and educational organization devoted to the preservation of this historical site. In 1982, the museum opened its doors to the public.

The total area of the reserve museum is about 11546 ha. The museum is responsible for the protection of Monuments and sites situated in the territory of the Otrar region including 3 sites of national significance and 72 sites of local significance. The Museum has 6 departments, devoted respectively to Archaeology, Protection historical monuments, Restoration and conservation, Ethnography, Fund, Literature and Art, and the Museum - library “Otrar Rukhaniyaty”. The ruins of Otrar, and the Arystanbab burial memorial and the Otrar State archaeological preservation-museum’s exhibition have always attracted the attention of visitors and researchers. In the future nine new touristy points on the route of the Great Silk Road will appear. The main aim is to collect study and preserve our cultural heritage for present and future generations.