Shortand

Shortandy is a small town near Astana having one of the largest Polish communities in central Kazakhstan. The settlement, located in the steppe surrounding the capital, is only of marginal significance in the Akmola Province.

Shortandy is a small town resembling an urbanized village. It was established in the early 20th century by the Kazakh people. Its convenient location among many small rivers and lakes which irrigate the steppe is conducive to corn growing, which is the main occupation of the local residents. Until the fall of the USSR Shortandy had a sovkhoz where a major part of the local population used to work, but as soon as Kazakhstan gained independence the state-owned farm ceased to exist and now a majority of inhabitants run modest individual farms. Some of them, however, have leased their land to companies which continue to operate in a way similar to Soviet collective farms (kolkhozes). The town has a mosque, Baptist Protestant church, Orthodox church and a Roman Catholic church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception with a Polish priest ministering to the parish. The number and diversity of churches is justified by the ethnic structure of the population, including, next to Poles and Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, and, until not long also, also Germans who repatriated in the 1990s. The Polish population came to Shortandy as a result of forced deportations from the Khmelnytskyi Oblast in Ukraine, Zhytomyr area and the Kamianets-Podilskyi area carried out by the Soviets. The displaced persons from 1936 significantly contributed to the expansion of the then settlement, which acquired the features of a small town and gained prestige in the 1950s. Most Poles, however, left Shortandy when the restrictions obliging them to stay at the place of their resettlement were abolished and moved to Astana which offered better opportunities. Chiefly representatives of elderly generation remained in the town. The Regional Union of Poles in Shortandy established in the 1990s comes under the district centre in Astana. Next to the Roman Catholic parish it is the main centre gathering people with Polish roots. The Union cares for the sense of identity of local Poles mainly through informal activities, building a sense of affiliation to one of the many local national minorities. A majority of Polish inhabitants of the town, chiefly the elderly generation, speaks the language of their predecessor well. Young people, on the other hand, can learn Polish at irregular classes organized by Polish teachers coming to Kazakhstan. Many members of the Polish community, most often young people, apply for the Polish Charter and try to leave the country and get some funds to be able to start studies or work in Poland.

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