The province was the site of intense coal mining during the days of the Soviet Union and also have been the site of several gulag forced labor camps. Following World War II, Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, had many ethnic Germans deported to the area. With an area of 428,000 sq. km, Karagandy Province is the largest province. Although it doesn't touch the borders of any country, it touches nearly every other province. They are: Aktobe Province to the West; Kostanay Province to the Northwest; Akmola Province to the North; Pavlodar Province to the Northeast; East Kazakhstan Province to the East; Almaty Province to the Southeast; Jambyl Province and South Kazakhstan Province to the South; and Kyzylorda Province to the Southwest. The Ishim (Esil) River, a tributary of the Irtysh River, begins in Karagandy Province. The area is arid and flat, given to plains with occasional hills and seasonal streams. Karkaralinsk Nature Park, covering 90,300 hectares, is located in the province.