The city has three cinemas (although during the Soviet era, there were a lot more), three museums, a drama theater with Russian and Kazakh (since 2000) troupes, the Boris Alexandrov Sports Palace.
The city was founded in 1720 at the confluence of the Irtysh and Ulba rivers as a fort and trading post named Ust-Kamennaya. It was established according to the order of the Russian Emperor Peter the Great, who sent a military expedition headed by major Ivan Vasilievich Likharev in the search of Yarkenda gold. Likharev’s expedition directed up the Irtysh River to Zaysan Lake. There, at the confluence of the Ulba and the Irtysh rivers the new fortress was laid – the Ust-Kamennaya Fortress. The Ust-Kamennaya Fortress appeared on the map of the Russian Empire, the very southern end of the Irtysh line. In 1868 the city became the capital of the Semipalatinsk Oblast. It was the site of Georgy Malenkov's 30-year internal exile, during which he managed a local hydroelectric plant.
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