History of the Green Market

Updated: Nov 18

In the middle of 19th century rich and powerful merchant Sadyk Rafykov ordered to build the market to the exile polish architect Yan Kozel-Poklevsky.

At that time it had a name “Guest Yard and its merchants” or Gostiny Dvor in Russian. Here you could meet entrepreneurs and sales agents from all over Central Asia, neighboring countries and even from Japan! In terms of its trade and other qualities, the bazaar was one of the best markets of the region. Vernensky Gostiny Dvor consisted of two low pavilions stretching along the shopping street. The premises, surrounded by a wooden gallery, were divided into separate sections. Stone stairs led to the basement where the goods were stored. Trading platforms were refined - in the courtyard there was a fountain with a water supply system.

It was possible to buy all kinds of stuff: from kerosene for lamps to homemade candies. Rows of fresh vegetables and fruits, cereals, and greens were scattered in front of the buyer. There were shops selling various sorts of tea imported from China. A spontaneous market was spread around the perimeter, selling all kinds of utensils, raw materials, firewood and fuel. Some merchants sold goods directly from carts. Livestock was also traded in the Green Market. Flocks and herds of cows, pigs and sheep were presented at the back of the market. Noise, smells, smoke everywhere! People cooked here and ate here: grilled meat, noodles, dumplings. Cab drivers stood nearby, ready to deliver shoppers laden with goods to their homes.

The most successful merchants put their mansions around the perimeter of the market. From it the city began to grow to the southwest.

Market was a city’s dominant but it didn’t mean that market will always have easy noisy life.

In 1887 a major earthquake happened in Verniy and almost nothing was left from the market. It was rebuilt, but lost the former importance, as additional bazaars started to appear targeting on one type of goods: this is how hay, vegetable, equestrian and livestock markets appeared. The Green Market became primarily vegetable and fruit market with the main diamond: Aport apple.

After the revolution, private trade was banned and stopped in every possible way, which of course made the merchants – main heroes of the market – to suffer a lot.

However, people need market, and no matter what kind of political regime is on, market will rise from the any ashes: with the advent of collective farms or ‘kolkhoz’ in the second half of the 1920s, large-scale trade in agricultural products, vegetables, and fruits was resumed. In 1927, Gostiny Dvor was rebuilt and acquired the new name Central Collective Farm Market. The people more stuck the name Green Bazaar. During the war, the bazaar was the only place where they continued to sell goods for money, rather than special cards.

In the 1970s market had its strong revival: the old simple wooden market was demolished and on its place in 1975 a massive indoor building in the style of Soviet constructivism appeared. The main architect of the project was Mark Pavlov. It was one of the best market buildings in all Soviet Union.

After Soviet Union collapse market became a very raw prototype of shopping mall: state factories that produced for example clothes and shoes were closed, and people started to bring everything necessary from China and Turkey; giant illegal trading space was created here where again you could find everything just like at the middle of 19th century. Yesterday university professors, engineers and scientists turned into brave merchants and entrepreneurs in attempts to survive in fast changing world. Now you can see remains of both big epochs: the main market building from Soviet times (food) and numerous rows formed in 90s (everything else).

Nowadays with plenty of supermarkets and online shops Green Bazaar is still the heart of the city where its inhabitants come to buy vegetables & fruits from close-by villages and generally just to absorb the energy and inspiration of the warmest place in the city. People buy meat from people who sell it for 20-30 years in a row, and if you don’t like the taste you can come tomorrow and tell all your complaints to that exact person because he will be here today, tomorrow, next month, next year and basically forever just like a market itself, who goes through any obstacles of life changing a bit but remaining to be the vivid soul of the city in minds of Almaty locals.

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