During the Stalin years, Akmol, 35km west of Nur-Sultan, housed ALZhIR, a notorious camp for wives and children of men who were interned elsewhere as ‘betrayers of the motherland’. The ALZhIR Museum-Memorial Complex poignantly evokes the camp's horrors, displaying a transportation wagon, a replica guard post and photos and possessions of the prisoners, as well as explanatory material in English on the Gulag system in Kazakhstan. Minibuses to Akmol (400T, one hour) leave Nur-Sultan bus station eight times daily.
Some of the most heart-rending exhibits are letters – from children to their imprisoned mothers, from mothers determined to survive and see their families again, as well as unusual possessions: a coffee grinder inscribed with 'When a man is tired of London, he's tired of life'.
A five-minute walk along the road from the museum, opposite the church, is another memorial to the prisoners of ALZhIR in the form of a broken Communist star. On the outskirts of town another memorial marks the mass grave where thousands of women who perished here are seeing out eternity.
The museum is just around the corner from the bus stop on the highway. Coming back from Akmol, you can wait for a bus or get a shared taxi (400T) behind the blue Sauda Uyi building 600m along the street from the museum entrance.