Kazakhstan's port city of Aktau on the Caspian Sea has had some ups and downs in its short history. Founded just half a century ago, it thrived as a center of the Soviet uranium and chemical industries but then plunged into decline amid the economic chaos that accompanied the collapse of Communism.
The women's faces gaze down from the walls, young and old, dark and fair, blue-eyed and brown-eyed. Some look sad, some stoical, some bitter, and some simply confused. These women, who came from all over the Soviet Union, had one thing in common: they had been incarcerated in Stalin's gulag although they were not even suspected of committing an offense themselves.
The glittery city of Astana celebrates its 10th year as capital of the Central Asian country headed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev - the country's first and only leader following its independence from the Soviet Union. In honor of his almost 20 years of leadership, Nazarbayev has been immortalized in museums, music, art and theater.