Minusinsk’s scattering of partly derelict 18th- and 19th-century buildings offers more architectural interest than Abakan, and its grand, crumbling mansions and timber dwellings come as a pleasant surprise. Virtually abandoned during the communist decades, Minusinsk’s old town is located across the protoka Minusinskaya waterway from the communist utopia of the new town, 25km east of Abakan.
Jump off marshrutka 120 beside the elegant 1803 Saviour’s Cathedral and cross the square to find the superb Martyanov Museum. Filling three distinct buildings, the countless halls crammed with local taxidermy, Bronze and Iron Age finds, Tuvan and Khakass standing stones, traditional stringed instruments and shaggy shaman costumes just keep on coming at this admirable repository of the region’s past. Away from the obvious prehistoric highlights, more off-beat exhibitions look at the construction of 1970s new Minusinsk and ethnic minorities from Europe that colonised Khakassia in the 19th century. Allow around two hours to see everything and don’t even think of veering off from the prescribed tour route.
The museum has two other small branches in town. The Lenin Museum is housed in a complex of wooden buildings just off the original main square, where Lenin often met up with fellow banished comrades (1897–1900). Earlier exiles are the theme of the Decembrist Museum in a hard-to-find location one block west from the church and three blocks north along ul Oborony.