Tom Sawyer Fest Karakol

On the eve of the 150th anniversary of Karakol, young people and its residents are launching restoration works to preserve the historical city environment.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Karakol. Karakol is one of the most beautiful cities in Kyrgyzstan. With its architecture filled with the life of the city’s people, the city has an extraordinary past of cultural diversity and the traditions of the peoples who inhabited Karakol at different times. The city’s entire history of development and formation is preserved in the architecture of its buildings and houses. Karakol counts as the country’s city most frequented by tourists, who are attracted not only by the mountains, but also by houses built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Unfortunately, much of the historical character of the city has been lost forever. Therefore, the monuments of cultural history which are still intact are of particular value.

Volunteers of our organization YVO "Leadership" and members of the initiative group for the preservation of architectural and historical heritage of Karakol are Chinara Seidimatova, Dzhamilya Asanalieva, K Kozhonova, Lola Kulinova, Rahat Zhamalova, Anastasia Stytsenko, Aman Dzhanserkeev, Altynai Zamirova, Aitilek Kanybekova, Mirgul Omurzakova and Banur Abdieva. On May 10, the initiative "Tom Sawyer Fest Karakol" was launched.

„Tom Sawyer Fest” is a grassroots initiative that brings together passionate residents, city activists and volunteers from around the world to paint and whitewash houses built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first Tom Sawyer Fest Karakol will be held in the second half of June, from 17 to 30 June (Details: In the meantime, our initiative group has started painting important houses in the city.

From May 10 to 16, 2019, we held the first stage of the Fest – with donated funds, volunteers from Karakol painted the wooden carvings on windows, gables and shutters and we whitewashed outside walls.

In a short time we collected 2300 soms and 2 cans of paint, brushes and solvents. We thank the hotel complex Karavan and the construction shop Altyn-Kul for the purchased materials, and also thank Park Hotel, Ravel Vakhitov and our volunteers Anya and Jasmine, who conducted a paid tour of the city.

The goals of Tom Sawyer Fest Karakol are:

- to restore the historical character of the city with the help of local and international volunteers;

- to popularize Karakol’s historical heritage and its preservation among local residents and foreign tourists;

- to increase the attractiveness of the city for foreign tourists and local residents;

- to create and promote the brand and identity of the city.



10 May

14:00 - 14:05      flash mob of volunteers in front of the YVO "Leadership" (Lenina Street 138/Koenkozova).

14:05 - 14:12      Introduction to "Tom Sawyer Fest Karakol". Welcome speech by members of the initiative group

14:30-15:00        Tour of the central part of the city.

15:00-18:00        Restoration works (House on Zhamansariev/Gagarin, House on Lenin/Oktyabrskaya)

18:00-18:30        Communal dinner with local dish Ashlyanfu.


May 11th

9:30 - 13:00         continuation of restoration works

13:00 - 18:00      free time/photo tour around Karakol

18:00 - 20:00      musical evening "Jubilee Karakol".


13-15 May

8:30-12:00           Painting shutters, frames, casings and whitewashing (House of Zhamansariev/Gagarin)


May 16th.

16:00-16:30        concluding the work (House on Zhamansariev/Gagarin)

17:00 - 18:30      film screening (Lenin Street, 138, Leadership office)


Official hashtags - #ТомСойерФестКаракол #каракол150 #karakol150

One of the houses we chose to paint is a teacher's house, built early 20th century, where meetings and additional classes were held. Now it is a private house. It is located in the central part of the city, not far from the local history museum.

Photos of the house:

About the work that was carried out before the launch of the first stage of Tom Sawyer Fest Karakol

"We have done a great job, held a city tour and made a list of houses to be added to the register of architectural monuments. Our first victory was the fact that the list was accepted by the deputies of the city parliament. This means that now there will be at least some control over the appearance of these buildings and the owners will be obliged to preserve the original facades, shutters and gates. We also studied the experience of the youth of Samara, who have been restoring the facades of houses built at the end of the 19th and early 20th century by attracting volunteers from all over the world for several years. Thanks to the initiative of the organizers of Tom Sawyer Fest in Samara, this initiative contributes to the preservation of historical structures in other Russian cities. We were among the first in Central Asia to sign a Memorandum of Cooperation with them and hope to make our fest an annual event in our city," says Anastasia Stytsenko, head of NGO „Leadership”.

"If we lose our architectural and historical heritage, we lose the city itself. Big things start small - join us on May 10th. All you need is your desire. Help can come in the form of personal time to carry out the work, in the form of sponsorship fees for the purchase of materials and tools, and even in the simple dissemination of information about this initiative in social networks and communities. We have inform every resident of our city," said Dzhamila Asanalieva, Associate Professor of History at Tynystanov State University, and a member of the working group.

It is very gratifying to see the cooperation and support of Karakol citizens who have not lived here for a long time. "During the last five years I have been trying to support my native land, native school and native city. On January 1 of this year I met Nastya for the first time and learned that my city is turning 150 years old and that the youth organization plans to hold such a festival. I gladly offered my help. In February we met with the city and region authorities. At this meeting we presented an approximate plan for celebrating the 150-year anniversary but, unfortunately, our ideas were not adopted. We decided to continue what we started anyway. Even if we achieve 10% of the initial plan, it will be a success", Mirgul Omurzakova says. Mirgul is the founder of the annual Eversmann Senior Scholarship scholarship for graduates of Satylganov School and head of a major development company in Almaty.

Tom Sawyer Fest in SAMARA (Source: Wikipedia)

[Tom Sawyer Fest is a] festival to restore historical structures by volunteers and sponsors. Special attention is paid to the restoration of wooden houses. Most of the objects of the festival are buildings that do not have a special protected status as an architectural monument or historical heritage.

The festival was founded in Samara in 2015 to preserve and restore the historic urban environment. The initiator is Andrey Kochetkov. Mathematician Andrei Chernov came up with the festival’s name in honor of Mark Twain's novel character, who organized to paint a fence. Volunteers clean up old buildings, returning them to the urban environment in a renovated state. The first objects for restoration were chosen on Lev Tolstoy Street. Professional architects and restorers developed the concept for restoration free of charge. A few months before the launch of the festival, the organizers of the festival won the city’s contest of ideas, secured the support of the city administration, and found sponsors who provided construction materials and tools for work.

In 2016, Tom Sawyer-Fest was mentioned as an example of effective "soft renewal" in a UNESCO report at the UN Habitat III conference on housing and sustainable urban development.

In 2016, Tom Sawyer Fest received a grant to produce the toolkit „Tom Sawyer Fest School”. In 2018, the festival won another grant “for the development of civil society”.

- 2015 was the first Tom Sawyer Fest. The facades of three houses on Leo Tolstoy Street in Samara were repaired (numbers 34, 36 and 38). Finnish actor Ville Haapasalo took part in the festival.

- 2016 - Buzuluk and Kazan joined Samara. Eight houses were repaired.

- 2017 - The festival was held in 11 cities. 17 buildings were renewed.

- 2018 - The festival was held in 26 cities and one village in Russia, and 26 objects were completed during the season.

- 2019 - It is planned to hold the festival for the first time in St. Petersburg, Ulyanovsk, Sergiev Posad, Astrakhan, Kurgan and even beyond the Arctic Circle in Labytnangi. New seasons fopr the festival are planned in Tyumen, Kimry and Nizhny Novgorod.

- 2019 - A Memorandum of Cooperation with YVO Leadership in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, was signed.



Tom Sawyer Fest Karakol is the first festival of its kind in Karakol and will be held 17-30 June 2019. This year, local and international volunteers will restore Vesovaya building based on archival materials. Fundraising for these works continues. On December 24, 2018, a charity concert was held, during which 51 450 KGS were raised. The necessary amount for the restoration of the entire structure required is about 350,000 KGS.

Details about Tom Sawyer Fest Karakol:

Join the group:


The structure of historical significance that needs to be restored is a wooden gazebo, which was built in the very heart of Karakol at the end of the 19th century. Currently, it is almost destroyed, because it is located in the middle of the largest bazar in Issyk-Kul region. Under the onslaught of merchants, the gazebo may be lost irrevocably, since the new owners have renovated it in their own way, divided it into several parts and add a second floor above it.

The project to restore the gazebo will be completed in the first year of Tom Sawyer Fest Karakol. The preliminary budget is 400 000 som.

Link to the history of the city:
For more information contact: Anastasia Stytsenko, YVO "Leadership", +996555 837225,

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