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This article is about the capital of Kazakhstan. For other uses, see Astana (disambiguation).
Capital city
From top to bottom, left to right: Bayterek; Khan Shatyr; Nur-Astana Mosque; Palace of Peace and Reconciliation; Nazarbayev Center
Flag of AstanaАстана
Coat of arms of AstanaАстана
Coat of arms
AstanaАстана is located in Kazakhstan
The location of Astana in Kazakhstan
Coordinates: 51°10′N 71°26′E / 51.167°N 71.433°E / 51.167; 71.433Coordinates: 51°10′N 71°26′E / 51.167°N 71.433°E / 51.167; 71.433
Country  Kazakhstan
Established in 1830 as Akmoly[1]
Renamed in 1832 to Akmolinsk[1]
Renamed in 1961 to Tselinograd[1]
Renamed in 1992 to Akmola[1]
 • Akim Adilbek Zhaksybekov
 • Total 722 km2 (279 sq mi)
Elevation 347 m (1,138 ft)
Population (4 September 2014)[2]
 • Total 835,153
 • Density 1,081.5/km2 (2,801/sq mi)
Time zone BTT (UTC+6)
Postal code 010000–010015
Area code(s) +7 7172[3]
ISO 3166-2 AST
License plate 01, Z

Astana (/əsˈtɑːnə/,[5] US /æsˈtɑːnə/;[6] Kazakh: Астана [astaˈna]) 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. The 2014 census reported a population of 835,153 within the city, making it the second-largest city in Kazakhstan.[2]

Founded in 1830, it was known as Akmolinsk (Russian: Акмолинск) until 1961, when the name was changed 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 "white holy place" or "white abundance". On 10 December 1997, Akmola became 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.[7] The master plan of Astana was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.[7] As the seat of the government of Kazakhstan, Astana is the site of 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.[8][9][10] Astana is center for sports, healthcare and education.


Main article: History of Astana
Akmolinsk Fortress map.
Akmolinsk during the October Revolution in 1917.

The settlement of Akmoly (Russian: Акмолы), also known as Akmolinsky prikaz (Акмолинский приказ), was established on the Ishim River in 1830 as the seat of an okrug[1] by a unit of the Siberian Cossacks headed by Fyodor Shubin.[11] The name was possibly given after a local landmark—"Акмола" (Akmola) literally means a white grave in Kazakh—although this theory is not universally accepted.[1] In 1832, the settlement was granted town status and named Akmolinsk (Акмолинск).[1] In 1838, at the height of the great national and liberation movement headed by Kenesary Khan, Akmolinsk fortress was burned.[12] After the repression of the liberation movement, the fortress was rebuilt. On 16 July 1863, Akmolinsk was officially declared an uyezd town.[13] 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.[14] On 21 October 1868, Tsar Alexander II signed a draft Regulation on governing Turgay, Ural, Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk oblasts.[14] In 1869, Akmolinsk external district and department were cancelled, and Akmolinsk became a center of newly established Akmolinsk Oblast.

During the Russian Revolution, Akmolinsk became a sockpit for bolsheviks and their political opponents.[15]

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.[16]

The city was administrative and cultural center of the Virgin Lands Campaign led by Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s, in order to turn the region into a second grain producer for the Soviet Union.[17] In 1961, to commemorate the campaign, the city was renamed Tselinograd (Целиноград).[1] 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.

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.[1] On 6 July, 1994, Supreme Council of Kazakhstan accepted decree on "On the transfer of the capital of Kazakhstan".[18] After the capital of Kazakhstan was moved to Akmola on 10 December 1997, the city was consequently renamed Astana in 1998.[19] On 16 July 1999, Astana was awarded the medal and title of the City of Peace by UNESCO.[18]



Astana Central Park.

Astana is located in central Kazakhstan on the Ishim River in a very flat, semi-arid steppe region which covers most of the country's territory. It is at is at 51° 10′ north latitude and 71° 26′ east longitude, and the 50th parallel north passes through the southern parts of the city. The city encompasses 722.0 square kilometres (278.8 sq mi). The elevation of Astana is 347 m (1,138 ft) above sea level. Astana is in a spacious steppe landscape, in the transitional area between the north of Kazakhstan and the extremely thinly settled national center, because of the Ishim River. The older boroughs lie north of the river, whilst the new boroughs are located south of the Ishim.


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.[20][21] 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 freezes 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),[22] 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).


As of 4 September 2014, Astana has a population density of 958 people per km2 and a population of about 835,153,[2] 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.

In 1999, Astana had a population of 281,000. The ethnic mix was about 30% Kazakh and 70% Russian, Ukrainian and German.[25]

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.[26]

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.

According to preliminary figures, Astana had 700,000 inhabitants in late 2007. According to the 1999 Census, 40.5% of the population is Russian, 5.7% Ukrainian, 3.0% German, 2.6% Tatar, 1.8% Belarusian 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%.


KazMunayGas headquarters.

The shift of the capital has given a powerful impulse to Astana’s economic development. The city’s high economic growth rates attract numerous investors. The volume of attracted investments from the time Astana became the capital has increased by 30 times and the total regional product by 90 times.[27] The share of the city’s Gross Regional Product in the republican volume makes up about 8,5 percent.[28] The city’s economy is based on trade, industrial production, transport, communication and construction. The city’s industrial production is mainly focused on producing building materials, foodstuff and mechanical engineering. Since the shift of the capital the industrial output has increased by 11 times. Astana is home for state-owned corporation's headquarters such as Samruk-Kazyna, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, KazMunayGas, KazTransOil, Kazatomprom, KEGOC and Kazakhtelecom.

Astana - New City special economic zone was established in 2001 for industrial development and support of the investment attractiveness of the city.[29] The SEZ plans to commission five projects worth 20 billion KZT (around $108 million) in the Industrial Park #1 in 2015.[29] The projects include construction of a plant for production of diesel engines, a fast food complex, temporary storage warehouses and a business center, a furniture factory, and production of military and civil engineering machinery.[29]

Business in the city is represented by 70 significant enterprises, and more than 70 thousands of small and medium-sized businesses. Astana administration promotes the development of small and medium-sized businesses. For this, they signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Sovereign Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazyna and National Economic Chamber. Support is provided by involving in a special program of crediting. As of 1 March 2014, Over 170 thousand of people involved in small and medium enterprise in Astana.[30]


Astana is divided into several large areas. Almaty District was created on 6 May 1998 by presidential decree. The district's territory encompasses an area of 21,054 hectares (52,030 acres; 81.29 square miles) with a population of approximately 321,400 people. The district has five villages. Yesil District was created on 5 August 2008 by presidential decree. The district's territory encompasses an area of 31,179 hectares (77,040 acres; 120.38 square miles) with a population of approximately 180,000 people. Saryarka District was created on 6 May 1998 by presidential decree. The district's territory encompasses an area of 19,202 hectares (47,450 acres; 74.14 square miles) with a population of approximately 296,364 people.

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 diplomatic 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 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 has paid particular attention to Astana's architecture; most of the recently completed structures had been accredited to internationally acclaimed architects and designers such as Kisho Kurokawa, Manfredi Nicoletti or Norman Foster.

In the summer of 2010 the largest open-air art exhibition in Kazakhstan was held at the tower of Bayterek with approximately 2.2 million people attending the international exhibition of United Buddy Bears.[31]

Panorama of the left bank of Astana
View of the governmental headquarters


Main article: Sport in Astana
Astana Arena opened in 2009.

The city has a variety of sporting teams. The major association football team is the FC Astana of the Kazakhstan Premier League. Founded in 2009, Astana won one Kazakhstan Premier League title, two Kazakhstan Cups and one Kazakhstan Super Cup.[32] Their home ground is the Astana Arena, which is also serves as a home for the Kazakhstan national football team. The FC Astana-1964 is based in the Kazhimukan Munaitpasov Stadium and plays in the Kazakhstan First Division, the second tier of football in Kazakhstan. The club's most successful years were 2000s, when they won Kazakhstan Premier League for 3 times. The FC Bayterek is also plays in the Kazakhstan First Division. They were founded in 2012, to develop youth football.[33]

Astana is home for several professional ice hockey teams. The Barys Astana, a founding member of the Kontinental Hockey League in 2008.[34] The Nomad Astana and the HC Astana are play in the Kazakhstan Hockey Championship. The Snezhnye Barsy of the Junior Hockey League is a junior team of the Barys Astana.[35] All of the teams are based in the Kazakhstan Sports Palace. Astana annually hosts the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan's Cup ice hockey tournament.[36] The Barys Arena is an ice hockey venue under construction will be home arena for Barys Astana.[37]

The Astana Pro Team of the UCI World Tour, founded in 2006 to develop the brand "Astana" in the international sporting arena.[38] The team is one of the most successful teams of recent years, winning several grand tours. The BC Astana of the VTB United League and the National Basketball League is the only professional basketball team in Astana.[39] They are most crowned basketball team in Kazakhstan with 3 National Basketball League titles and 4 National Basketball Cups.[39] Their home arena is the Saryarka Velodrome, which is mainly used for track cycling events.[39] The Saryarka Velodrome hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Cup stage in 2011.[40] The Astana Arlans are an amateur boxing team competing in the World Series of Boxing.[41] Arlans became champions in the third edition of WSB in 2013.[41] The Astana Presidential Sports Club was founded in 2012, to combine the main sports teams in Astana.[42] The organization supported by Sovereign Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna.[43] The 2011 Asian Winter Games were partly held in the capital. The Alau Ice Palace is annually hosts the ISU Speed Skating World Cup.[44] The President's Cup tennis tournament annually held at the National Tennis Center Daulet.[45]


Astana schools enrolls about 103,000 students attending 83 schools, including 71 state schools and 12 private schools.[46][47] The Miras International School, established 1999, is the first private high school in Astana.[48] The Haileybury Astana private school was established in 2011 as offshoot from the Haileybury and Imperial Service College, an independent school in England. The Astana Kazakh-Turkish High Schools are run by the International KATEV foundation. They include Kazakh-Turkish High Boarding Schools for gifted boys and girls, separately and the Nur-Orda International School.[49] Astana hosts two Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS), icluding School of Physics and Mathematics and International Baccalaureate world school.[50] The QSI International School of Astana is an international school that provides an American curriculum to its students. The school is a branch of the Quality School International that started in the Middle East.[51]

Kazakh National University of Arts.

Astana has many universities and junior colleges. As of 2013/2014 academic year, Astana had a total enrollment of 53,561 students in its 14 higher educational institutions, a 10% increase from the prior year.[52] The L.N.Gumilyov Eurasian National University is the biggest university in Astana with 11,300 students and 1,678 academic staff. It was founded as the result of merging the Tselinograd Civil Engineering Institute and the Tselinograd Pedagogical Institute on 23 May 1996.[53] The oldest university in Astana is the S.Seifullin Kazakh Agro Technical University founded in 1957.[54] The Nazarbayev University is an autonomous research university, partnered with many of top universities of the world.[55] The Kazakh Humanities and Law Institute is a law university founded by initiative of Ministry of Justice in 1994.[56] The Astana Medical University is the only medical school in Astana. The Kazakh National University of Arts is the highest musical educational institution, which has provided Astana by highly qualified professional specialists in the field of Arts.[57]


Tulpar Talgo express train to Almaty.

The public transport in Astana consists of buses and minibus taxis. Over 720,000 people use public transport daily.[58] There are over 40 bus lines served by more than 1000 vehicles, with over 3000 people working in the public transport sector.[59] Just like buses, minibus taxis have their own predefined routes and work on a shared basis. There is a total of 9 minibus taxi routes. In 2011, Akimat of Astana established a company to implement a series of changes and programmes in the metropolis known as the "New transport system of Astana".[60] As the part of programmes, Bus rapid transit (BRT) lines are expected to start operating in Astana in 2016.[61] In 2014, Akimat of Astana purchased 350 Iveco buses.[62] Astana also has air taxi service, which began in 2015.[63]

Astana International Airport (IATA: TSE, ICAO: UACC), located 17 kilometers (11 mi) southeast of the city center, is the main gateway for the city's domestic and international civilian air traffic.[64] It is the second busiest airport in Kazakhstan, with 2,960,181 passengers passing through it in 2014.[65] The airport hosts 13 airlines operating regular passenger flights inside the country and internationally.[66] Air Astana maintains its second largest hub at the airport.[67] An expected 50% increase of passenger traffic by 2017 has spurred construction of a new terminal with area of about 40,000 sq. m.[68][69]

Asta Station is the city's main train station and services approximately 7,000 people each day. Short-term plans include construction of a new railway station in the industrial district; in the vicinity of CHPP-3 a new terminal will be erected for freight cars. Currently, on the order of the President and the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, akimat of the city is implementing a project titled "New transport system of the city of Astana".

Astana is located in the centre of the country, serving as a well-positioned transport node for rail and automotive networks.[70] M-36 Chelyabinsk-Almaty and A-343 Astana-Petropavlovsk highways are routed through the city. The strategic geographical positioning of Astana allows the city to serve as a transport and reload centre for cargoes formed at adjacent stations in the area.

The project activities include establishing a high-speed light rail transport system (LRT) which is to become the primary transport system of the city and will consolidate all types of public transportation.

Twin towns and sister cities[edit]

Twin towns and sister cities of Astana are:

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Е. М. Поспелов (Ye. M. Pospelov). "Имена городов: вчера и сегодня (1917–1992). Топонимический словарь." (City Names: Yesterday and Today (1917–1992). Toponymic Dictionary." Москва, "Русские словари", 1993.
  • Schatz, Edward. Modern Clan Politics: The Power of "Blood" in Kazakhstan and Beyond. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 2004. ISBN 0295984473
  • Whyte, Andy. Kisho Kurokawa, Architect and Associates: Selected and Current Works. Images Publishing. 2000. ISBN 9781864700190
  • Patrakov, Vladimir. Astana — the beginning of Eurasia (rus.). Almaty: Alash. 2012. ISBN 9786017338046

External links[edit]