Reportage of our (Cawa Media) visit to Astana – capital of Kazakhstan end of August 2015. Please visit the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Stockholm, Sweden for more info and reference.
Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan. It is located on the Ishim River in the north portion of Kazakhstan, within Akmola Region, though administrated separately from the region as the city with special status. The 2014 census reported a population of 835,153 within the city, making it the second-largest city in Kazakhstan.
Founded in 1830 as the settlement of Akmoly (Kazakh: Ақмолы) or Akmolinsky prikaz (Russian: Акмолинский приказ), it served as fortification of the Siberian Cossacks. In 1832, the settlement was granted a town status and renamed Akmolinsk (Russian:Акмолинск). On 20 March 1961, the city was renamed to Tselinograd (Russian: Целиноград) to mark the city’s evolution a cultural and administrative center of the Virgin Lands Campaign. In 1992, it was renamed Akmola (Kazakh: Ақмола), the modified original name meaning ”a white grave”. On 10 December 1997, Akmola replaced Almaty to become the capital of Kazakhstan. On 6 May 1998, it was renamed Astana, which means ”the capital” in Kazakh.
Astana is a planned city, such as Canberra in Australia, Washington, D.C. in the United States and Brasilia in Brazil. The master plan of Astana was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. As the seat of the Government of Kazakhstan, Astana is the site of the Parliament House, the Supreme Court, the Ak Orda Presidential Palace and numerous government departments and agencies. It is home to many futuristic buildings, hotels and skyscrapers. Astana is center for sport, healthcare and education. Astana will host the Expo 2017.
As of 4 September 2014, Astana has a population density of 958 people per km2 and a population of about 835,153, of which Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars and Germans make up 65.2%, 23.8%, 2.9%, 1.7%, 1.5% respectively. Other ethnic groups make up 4.9% of Astana’s population.
By 2007, Astana’s population has more than doubled since becoming the capital, to over 600,000, and it is estimated to top 1 million by 2030. Migrant workers – legal and illegal – have been attracted from across Kazakhstan and neighboring states such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and Astana is a magnet for young professionals seeking to build a career. This has changed the city’s demographics, bringing more ethnic Kazakhs to a city that formerly had a Slav majority. Astana’s ethnic Kazakh population has risen to some 60%, up from 17% in 1989.
Many argue that a drive to attract ethnic Kazakhs northward was the key factor in shifting the capital, which was officially put down to lack of space for expansion in the former capital, Almaty, and its location in an earthquake zone.
Astana is the second coldest capital city in the world after Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, a position formerly held by Canada’s capital, Ottawa, until Astana attained capital city status in 1997. Astana has an extreme continental climate with warm summers (featuring occasional brief rain showers) and long, very cold, dry winters. Summer temperatures occasionally reach +35 °C (95 °F) while −30 to −35 °C (−22 to −31 °F) is not unusual between mid-December and early March. The city also holds the record for the lowest air temperature ever recorded in Kazakhstan (−51 °C (−60 °F)). Typically, the city’s river is frozen over between the second week of November and the beginning of April. Astana has a well deserved reputation among Kazakhstanis for its frequent high winds, the effects of which are felt particularly strongly on the fast-developing but relatively exposed Left Bank area of the city.
Overall, Astana has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb), bordering on a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk). The average annual temperature in Astana is +3.5 °C (38.3 °F). January is the coldest month with an average temperature of −14.2 °C (6.4 °F). July is the hottest month with an average temperature of +20.8 °C (69.4 °F).
The settlement of Akmoly, also known as Akmolinsky prikaz, was established on the Ishim River in 1830 as the seat of an okrug by a unit of the Siberian Cossacks headed by Fyodor Shubin. The name was possibly given after a local landmark—Akmola literally means ”a white grave” in Kazakh—although this theory is not universally accepted. In 1832, the settlement was granted town status and named Akmolinsk. The fairly advantageous position of the town was clear as early as 1863 in an abstract from the Geographic and Statistical Dictionary of the Russian Empire. It describes how picket roads and lines connected this geographic center to Kargaly in the East, Aktau fort in the South and through Atbasar to Kokchetav in the West. In 1838, at the height of the great national and liberation movement headed by Kenesary Khan, Akmolinsk fortress was burned. After the repression of the liberation movement, the fortress was rebuilt. On 16 July 1863, Akmolinsk was officially declared an uyezd town. During the rapid development of the Russian capitalist market, the huge Saryarka areas were actively exploited by the colonial administration. To draft Regulation governing the Kazakh steppe the Government of the Russian Empire formed Steppe Commission in 1865. On 21 October 1868, Tsar Alexander II signed a draft Regulation on governing Turgay, Ural, Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk oblasts. In 1869, Akmolinsk external district and department were cancelled, and Akmolinsk became a center of newly established Akmolinsk Oblast. In 1879, major general Dubelt proposed to build a railway between Tyumen and Akmolinsk to the Ministry of Communications of Russia. In the course of the first 30 years of its existence, the population of Akmola numbered a trifle more than 2,000 people. However, over the next 30 years the city’s population increased by three times according to volosts and settlements of the Akmolinsk Oblast. In 1893, Akmolinsk was an uyezd with a 6,428 strong population, 3 churches, 5 schools and colleges and 3 factories.
During World War II, Akmolinsk served as traffic way for transportation engineering tools and equipment from evacuated plants of Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, and Russian SFSR placed in oblasts of the Kazakh SSR. Local industries were recognized for war needs, assisting the country to provide the battle and home fronts with all stuffs needed. In the post-war years, Akmolinsk became of the locators to revive the economies of the western of the Soviet Union ruined by the war. Additionally, many Russian-Germans were resettled here after being deported under Joseph Stalin rule.
In the 1950s, Northern Kazakh SSR oblasts became territory of Virgin Lands Campaign led by Nikita Khrushchev, in order to turn the region into a second grain producer for theSoviet Union. In December 1960, Central Committee made a resolution to create the Tselinniy Krai, which comprised five regions of the Northern Kazakh SSR oblasts. Akmolinsk Oblast was ceased to exist as a separate administrative entity. Its districts were directly subordinated to the new krai administration, and Akmolinsk became the krai capital, as well as the administrative seat of the new Virgin Lands economic region. On 14 March 1961, Khrushchev proposed to rename the city to name corresponding to its role in the Virgin Lands Campaign. On 20 March 1961, the Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR renamed Akmolinsk to Tselinograd. On 24 April 1961, the region was reconstituted as Tselinograd Oblast. In the 1960s, Tselinograd was completely transformed. In 1963, work on the first three new high-rise housing districts began. In addition, the city received s number of new monumental public buildings, including the Virgin Lands Palace, a Palace of Youth, a House of Soviets, a new airport, and seceral sports venues. In 1971, the Tselinniy Krai was abolished and Tselinograd became the center of the oblast.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the consequent independence of Kazakhstan, the city’s original form was restored in the modified form Akmola. On 6 July 1994, the Supreme Council of Kazakhstan accepted the decree ”On the transfer of the capital of Kazakhstan”. After the capital of Kazakhstan was moved to Akmola on 10 December 1997, the city was consequently renamed Astana in 1998. On 10 June 1998, Astana presented as the capital internationally. On 16 July 1999, Astana was awarded the medal and title of the City of Peace by UNESCO.