Genius Ukrainian poet and gifted painter Taras Shevchenko had to stay almost seven years (since October 17 1850 till August 2 1857) in Novopetrovsk fortification on Mangyshlak peninsula.
Rigorous climate, “stones and sand” and, first of all, captivity induced Shevchenko-the-Soldier to call this place “an open grave”, “a boundless prison”…
There are many pictures of Novopetrovsk fortification among his works. It towered over the limestone rock in the three kilometers from Caspiy (Hvalynsk) seacoast. It is destroyed now. But the house of fortification commandant Irakliy Uskov is solicitously preserved, where since 1932 the museum of Taras Shevchenko has been opened. The main goal of this museum is to show one of the hardest periods of poet’s life. Besides soldier drill, Shevchenko’s days were filled with creation and unforgettable meetings. New exposition for Shevchenko memorial museum was established by Kazakhs together with Ukrainians: painter Anatoliy Gaydamaka and specialists from Kiev national Shevchenko museum Liudmila Zinchuk and Maria Korniychuk. The exposition displays the copies and the reproductions of the paintings and drawings made by Shevchenko during his stay in Novopetrovsk fortification. The visitors could see rare life-time editions of the great Kobzar’s works, contemporary editions of his books in Ukrainian, Russian and Kazakh languages. There are also exposed other painter’s works dedicated to the poet’s sojourn in Novopetrovsk fortification and his companions there. One of the halls keeps the vase with sacred soil from his grave.
There is a park around museum, the park where Shevchenko’s spirit is hover, earth house where Shevchenko worked in solitude, a well where he took water. On the memorial museum territory there is a single remained sculpture work designed by Shevchenko – grave stone for Dima Uskov. Here stands the firsts in the world monument to Kobzar made by Kazakh Karazhusul and placed by Irakliy Uskov in Novopetrovsk fortification in 1881. In the garden everybody can see poet’s portrait sculptures of 1927 and of 1932.
Nearby is the garden. It was founded by Taras Shevchenko, who planted a willow branch on the garrison’s kitchen garden in 1850. He found that branch in the town of Gurjev. It was a great surprise for Shevchenko himself when it took a root. It was a miracle in a desert. In his “Diary” he called it “beloved”, “cherished” and the people started calling it “Taras’ willow”. In the course of time around the willow grew a real garden. This garden exists till nowadays in spite of severe climate. “Taras’ willow” stood for 150 years! Her branches became willow trees in many Ukrainian cities. Unfortunately, the old willow tree has recently died. But Ukrainians brought branches from Shevchenko’s willows from Kanev and Lviv and planted them in Kazakh land.
Museum memorial complex represents to its’ visitors invincible image of Taras Shevchenko which is of great importance not only for Ukrainians but for Kazakh people as well, because he was one of the first painters who started drawing landscapes of this country and Kazakh people, he was the first to plant a tree in Novopetrovsk fortification.
Since 1939 Kazakh town on Mangyshtau peninsula, fort Aleksandrovsky (before 1857 Novopetrovsk fortification) got the name of Ukrainian Kobzar. Now it is fort Shevchenko. This land retains in it’s memory good recollection about Taras Shevchenko.
Information from the web-site http://taras-shevchenko.in.ua