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Astana is located in Kazakhstan
Location in Kazakhstan
Coordinates: 51°10′0″N 71°26′0″E / 51.166667°N 71.433333°E / 51.166667; 71.433333
Country  Kazakhstan
Founded 1830
 - Akim (mayor) Imangali Tasmagambetov
 - Total 258.41 km2 (99.8 sq mi)
Elevation 347 m (1,138 ft)
Population (1 Jan 2009)
 - Total 802,980
 Density 841/km2 (2,178.2/sq mi)
Time zone BTT (UTC+6)
Postal code 010000 - 010015
Area code(s) +7 7172[1]
ISO 3166-2 AST
License plate Z

Astana (Kazakh: Астана / Astana / استانا), formerly known as Akmola (Kazakh: Ақмола / Aqmola, until 1998), Tselinograd (Russian: Целиноград, until 1992) and Akmolinsk (Russian: Акмолинск, until 1961), is the capital and second largest city (after Almaty) of Kazakhstan, with an officially estimated population of 750,700 as of November 2008. [2] It is located in the north-central portion of Kazakhstan, within Akmola Province, though politically separate from the rest of the province.

The current mayor of Astana is Imangali Tasmagambetov. He was appointed on April 4, 2008.



The word Astana in Kazakh literally means Capital but the word itself originates from Persian (Astana, from the verb Istadan (آستان), to stand (in respect)), and literally means "threshold"--royal or sacred, (where people stand in respect or awe), implying where the court is seated (the capital city) or the body of a sacred person in interred (a shrine town). The city of Turkistan in Kazakhstan that host the body of the saint Ahmad Yasavi is also called the "astana" as is the city of Mashhad in Iran that is the burial place of the 8th Shiite Imam Reza. In fact, long before becoming the new capital of Kazakhstan, was "an astana," namely, a burial ground of a saint, whence the old name of the city, Ak Mola (Ақмола), "white mausoleum".

In June 2008, a parliamentary proposal was put forward to change the city's name to "Nursultan", in honor of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The idea was rejected by Nazarbayev himself, who said the decision of renaming the city will be for future generations.[3]



Russian and Soviet eras

A unit of Siberian cossacks from Omsk founded a huge fortress on the upper Ishim in 1824, which later became the town of "Akmolinsk". During the early 20th Century, the town became a major railway junction, causing a major economic boom that lasted until the Russian Civil War.

The Gulag once spread over the Kazakhstan steppe like a thick wreath. Eleven camps housed hundreds of thousands of prisoners and their families. Outside Astana, there once stood the ALZHIR camp, a Russian acronym for the Akmolinskii Camp for Wives of Traitors of the Motherland, one of the most notorious in the Gulag archipelago, which was reserved for the wives of men considered "enemies of the people" by the government under Joseph Stalin.[4]

In 1961, it was renamed "Tselinograd" and made capital of the Soviet Virgin Lands Territory (Tselinny Krai). The city was at the centre of the Virgin Lands Campaign led by Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s, in order to turn the state into a second grain producer for the Soviet Union. The high portion of Russian immigrants in this area, which later led to ethnic tension, can be traced to the influx of agricultural workers at this time. Additionally, many Russian-Germans were resettled here after being deported under Joseph Stalin at the beginning of World War II, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

Independent Kazakhstan

After Kazakhstan gained its independence in 1991, the city and the region were renamed "Aqmola". The name was often translated as "White Tomb", but actually means "Holy Place" or "Holy Shrine". The "White Tomb" literal translation was too appropriate for many visitors to escape notice in almost all guide books and travel accounts.

In 1994, the city was designated as the future capital of the newly-independent country, and again renamed to the present "Astana" after the capital was officially moved from Almaty in 1998[5]. Government officials cited several problems with keeping the capital in Almaty, such as the city's risk of seismic activity, insufficient room for expansion, and proximity to international borders.[6] Additionally, parts of northern Kazakhstan are populated primarily by ethnic Russians, which raised fears of possible irredentist activity. Moving the capital to this area may have been an attempt to anchor it more closely with the rest of the country.[6]

To some Kazakhs, the move remains controversial. Critics cite the city's isolated location in the center of the Kazakh steppe and the forbidding climate in winter.[7] Financially, some resent the massive expenditure of public funds to build the new government complexes, as well as the continuing cost of airfare and hotel expenses for the many government workers who still live in Almaty.[8]


New Parliament buildings

By 2007, Astana's population has more than doubled since the move, 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.[9]

In 1999, Astana had a population of 281,000. The ethnic mix was about 30% Kazakh and 70% Russian, Ukrainian and German.[10]

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. [9]

According to preliminary figures, Astana had 700,000 inhabitants in late 2007.[11]

According to the 1999 Census, 40.5% of the population is Russian, 5.7% Ukrainian, 3.0% German, 2.6% Tatar, 1.8% Belorussian and 0.8% Polish. But at 41.8%, Kazakhs outnumbered Russians and were forming the largest ethnic group, while Ingush and Korean each accounted for 0.6%. Others, mostly Uzbeks, accounted for 3.8%. [2]

Geography and climate


Astana lies within Kazakhstan, which is the largest landlocked country in the world.


Astana is located in central Kazakhstan on the Ishim River in a very flat, semi-desert steppe region which covers most of the country's territory. The elevation of Astana is at 347 metres (1,138 ft) above sea level. Astana is in a spacious steppe landscape, in the transient area between the north of Kazakhstan and the extremely thinly settled national center, because of the river Ishim. The older boroughs lie north of the river, whilst the new boroughs are located south of the Ishim.


Climatically Astana is the second coldest capital in the world (behind Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia), with temperatures of −35 °C (−31 °F) to −40 °C (−40 °F) common in the early winter. The new city is also known to regularly freeze for around six months every year. Overall, Astana has a cold semi-arid climate, with exceptionally cold winters and warm summers.

The average annual temperature in Astana is 3 degree Celsius. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of −15 °C (5 °F). July is the hottest month with an average temperature of 21 °C (70 °F).

Climate data for Astana
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 4
Average high °C (°F) -12
Daily mean °C (°F) -15
Average low °C (°F) -21
Record low °C (°F) -52
Precipitation mm (inches) 22
Astana from space
Night Frost in Astana in January 2006


Politics and government are the main economic activity in the capital, which also forms a Special Economic Zone. Since the move, Astana has seen one of the world's greatest building projects, as oil money has been spent on government buildings, a massive home for the president, a mosque, and numerous parks and monuments. The project is designed to not just make the town the centre of Kazakhstan, but of all Central Asia.


Town planning

Astana can be divided largely into a few different areas. North of the railway line, which crosses Astana in an east-west direction, are industrial and poorer residential areas. Between the railway line and the river Ishim is the city center, where at present intense building activity is occurring. To the west and east are more elevated residential areas with parks and the new area of government administration to the south of the Ishim. Here many large building projects are underway; for example, the construction of a diplomat quarter, and a variety of different government buildings. By 2030, these quarters are to be completed. The original plans for the new Astana were drawn up by the late Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. Astana's current chief planner, Vladimir Laptev, wants to build a Berlin in a Eurasian style. He has stated that a purely administrative capital such as Canberra is not one of his goals.


The old buildings that remained from the Soviet era are now being removed and replaced with totally new structures resulting in significant construction work throughout the city. President Nazarbayev pays a particular attention to Astana's architecture: most of recently completed structures had been accredited to internationally acclaimed architects and designers such as Kisho Kurokawa or Norman Foster.


File:The Bayterek - Jun 2008.jpg

Bayterek is the most famous landmark in Astana. The legend behind this tower as a symbol is that it represents a poplar tree, where the magic bird Samuruk laid its egg. In the sphere on the top of Bayterek there is an imprint of president Nursultan Nazarbayev's hand.

New buildings

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation (Pyramid of Peace)

The Pyramid under different light colors at night

The pyramid has been conceived and designed by architect Sir Norman Foster and inaugurated in September 2006. It contains accommodations for different religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and other faiths. It also houses a 1,500- seat opera house, a national museum of culture, a new “university of civilization”, a library and a research center for Kazakhstan’s ethnic and geographical groups. This diversity is unified within the pure form of a pyramid, 62 meters high with a 62 x 62-meter base. The building is conceived as a global center for religious understanding, the renunciation of violence and the promotion of faith and human equality. The Pyramid of Peace expresses the spirit of Kazakhstan, where cultures, traditions and representatives of various nationalities coexist in piece, harmony and accord. Bathed in the golden and pale blue glow of the glass (colors taken from the Kazakhstan flag), 200 delegates from the world’s main religions and faiths will meet every three years in a circular chamber — based on the United Nations Security Council meeting room in New York. ; Height: 77 m (252.62 ft), total area: 25,500 sq.m.; Accommodates: Opera Hall for 1,500 seats, The Museum of National History, The Research Center of World Religions, Library of Spiritual Religious Literature, Exhibition and conference rooms [12]

The Islamic Center

File:Islamic center .jpg
The front view of the Nur-Astana Mosque

The Islamic Center was built in 2005 and was sponsored by the Emir of Qatar. It consists of a mosque, madrasah, and a library. The mosque has 4 minarets, 63 meters each, and has a capacity of 5,000 people. The height of the mosque's dome is 43 meters.[13]

Ak Orda Presidential Palace

Ak Orda Presidential Palace

Ak Orda ( in Kazakh literally means "the white horde") is the official workplace of the President of Kazakhstan. Ak Orda Presidential Palace was built in 2004 of monolithic concrete as a five story building. The lining was performed using 20–40 cm thick Italian marble. The height of the building is 80 meters and the total area is 36,720 square meters. Ak Orda includes yurt-like hall designed of marble and granite, a marble hall for summits and official visits by foreign-country representatives, and a golden hall for negotiations and private discussions between the head of the state and the leaders of other countries.

Khan Shatyry

In December 2006, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev unveiled plans to build Khan Shatyry, a "giant, transparent tent", over an area of the city. The tent will be 150 metres high, and was designed by British architect Norman Foster.[14] It is expected to take around a year to build.[15] Foster has also designed two other buildings in the city.


In the centre of town, the Avenue of the Republic acts as the main hub of activity. It is bordered by many stores, coffee houses, restaurants, night clubs and some casinos. Worth a visit are the:

  • Modern governmental quarter
  • Ishim River waterfront
  • "Oceanarium"
  • Astana Central National Mosque
  • Islamic Center
  • Roman Catholic Cathedral
  • Market hall
  • Bayterek Tower


  • Presidential center of culture
  • Kabanbay Batyr mausoleum
  • Ethic memorial complex “Map of Kazakhstan “Atameken””
  • The S.Seifullin Museum
  • Museum of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan


  • The Gorky Russian Drama Theatre
  • The K.Kuanyshbaev Kazakh Theatre
  • The K.Bajseitova National Opera and Ballet Theatre


  • Monument Otan Korgaushylar
  • Memorial to the victims of political repressions
  • Memorial to Kazakhstan People Perished in Afghan War
  • Central Square with fountain and sculpture composition
  • Monument to Kenesary Khan

Architectural monuments

  • Church of Constantine and Yelena
  • 19th Century buildings
  • Green Mosque Fence


Astana Arena
Alexandr Koreshkov, HC Barys vs HC Dinamo Moscow match

Astana is home to FC Astana, a football (soccer) team in the Kazakhstan Premier League, which won the national championship in 2000, 2001 and 2006. The city is also home to the Astana Tigers basketball team who successfully took the 2004/2005 season title, as well as Barys Astana of the Kontinental Hockey League. In addition, Astana is a professional cycling team that competes on the UCI ProTour. They participated in the 2007 Tour de France wearing blue national uniforms, but were excluded during the race after the conviction of Alexander Vinokourov for illegal doping practises, and was banned from the 2008 race.[16] Astana returned to the Tour de France in 2009 and won the overall Team Classification, with Contador and Armstrong finishing first and third respectively.

It's decided to build an indoor bandyarena and form a bandy team by the name of Dynamo-Astana[17]

Club Sport Founded League Venue
FC Lokomotiv Astana Soccer 2009 Kazakhstan Premier League Astana Arena
Astana Cycling 2007 UCI ProTour
Astana Tigers Basketball 1999 Kazakh Basketball League
Barys Astana Ice hockey 1999 Kontinental Hockey League, Kazakh Ice Hockey League Alatau Sports Palace


Astana International Airport

Astana International Airport was, like the plan for the whole new city, designed by the late Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. The Astana Metro is a planned underground construction in Astana.

Astana Train Station is an important hub for northern Kazakhstan, served by trains to most major cities in Kazakhstan, including Talgo expresses to Almaty. International trains leave for Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, most of them with a once a week frequency. Since the summer of 2008, the schedule systems show also a direct weekly train to Urumqi (in China's Xinjiang).[18]

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Astana is twinned with:

See also



  • Schatz, Edward. Modern Clan Politics: The Power of "Blood" in Kazakhstan and Beyond. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 2004.


  2. ^ Astana city official site
  3. ^ Don't name capital after me yet, says Kazakh president AFP
  4. ^ Pope Pays Tribute to Victims of Soviet Atrocities
  5. ^ [1] BBC Kazakhstan Timeline
  6. ^ a b Schatz, 76.
  7. ^ Green, Peter (June 11, 1998). "Kazakhs Raise Curtain on Remote New Capital, but Many Ask Why". International Herald-Tribune. 
  8. ^ Kazakhstan's Capital Holds a Lavish Anniversary Celebration Euraisanet
  9. ^ a b Kazakhstan's Capital Holds A Lavish Anniversary Celebration
  10. ^ Astana
  11. ^ Astana city population count preliminary results (in Russian)
  12. ^ The Palace Of Peace and Concord (Pyramid), Astana, Kazakhstan
  13. ^ 4 минарета по 63 метра каждый... Катар достраивает в Астане Исламский культурный центр
  14. ^ "Foster + Partners". Retrieved 2009-07-11. 
  15. ^ Giant tent to be built in Astana BBC News Online
  16. ^ Tour de France organizers exclude Astana team; Alberto Contador may not defend title
  17. ^
  18. ^ Train No. 054 Astana - Urumchi
  19. ^ "Twin cities of Riga". Riga City Council. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  20. ^ "Gdańsk Official Website: 'Miasta partnerskie'" (in Polish & English). © 2009 Urząd Miejski w Gdańsku.,62,733.html. Retrieved 2009-07-11. 
  21. ^ "Miasta partnerskie Warszawy". Biuro Promocji Miasta. 2005-05-04. Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  22. ^ "Tbilisi Municipal Portal - Sister Cities". © 2009 - Tbilisi City Hall. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  23. ^ "Existing Sister Cities". City of Manila. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  24. ^ "Sister Cities". Beijing Municipal Government. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 

External links

Coordinates: 51°10′51″N 71°27′40″E / 51.1807°N 71.461°E / 51.1807; 71.461


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