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Ақтау (Kazakh)
Skyline of Aktau
Official seal of Aktau
Aktau is located in Kazakhstan
Location in Kazakhstan
Coordinates: 43°39′N 51°09′E / 43.650°N 51.150°E / 43.650; 51.150Coordinates: 43°39′N 51°09′E / 43.650°N 51.150°E / 43.650; 51.150
Country Kazakhstan
Region Mangystau Region
Founded 1958
 • Akim (mayor)

Yedil Terekbayuly Zhanburshin

(Еділ Терекбайұлы Жаңбыршин)
 • Total 140 km2 (50 sq mi)
Elevation -8 m (−26 ft)
Population (2012)[1]
 • Total 178,187
 • Density 1,300/km2 (3,300/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+5 (UTC+5)
Postal code 130000
Area code(s) +7 7292
Vehicle registration 12, R
Website aktau.gov.kz

Aktau (Kazakh: Ақтау, Qazaq Latin Script: Aqtaw), known as Shevchenko (Russian: Шевченко) from 1964 to 1991, is one of the largest cities in western Kazakhstan, and the country's main seaport on the Caspian Sea. It is located on the Mangyshlak Peninsula and is the capital of Mangystau Region. Aktau literally means "white mountain" in Kazakh, so named after the cliffs overlooking the sea. Population: 166,962 (2009 Census results);[1] 143,396 (1999 Census results).[1]

Aktau is known for its unique block address system. The streets of the city have no names, and all addresses in Aktau consist of three numbers: the microdistrict (block) number, the building number and the apartment number. This is because Aktau was originally planned as a camp for the workers of the oil industry.[2]


The territory of what now is Aktau was once inhabited by ancient tribes of Scythians. Archeological finds in the area include old settlements and utensils.

In 1958, uranium prospectors settled the site of modern Aktau, naming the settlement Melovoye (Меловое) after the bay on which it stood.[3] After the development of the uranium deposits was started, the settlement was closed and renamed Guryev-20 (Гурьев-20).[3] In 1963, its closed status was lifted, town status was granted,[citation needed] and the name was changed to Aktau.[4] However, in 1964, it was renamed again, this time Shevchenko (Шевченко), for the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko who spent 1850–1857 in political exile in Novopetrovskoye, about 100 kilometers (62 mi) to the northwest.[4] After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Kazakhstan gaining independence, the original name Aktau was restored in 1991.[4]


Aktau was once the site of a nuclear power station. The BN-350 FBR went online in 1973, and closed in 1999. In addition to producing plutonium, BN-350 was also used to provide power and for desalination to supply fresh water to the city. The long-term plans of the Government of Kazakhstan include the construction of a new nuclear power station to be built near the current one. The current station is not considered powerful enough to supply the fresh water and energy needed when the new district Aktau-City is constructed, doubling the current area and size of the city.


Aktau has an international airport, a railway station, and a developed seaport.[5] Buses and taxis are the principal means of public transport within the city.

In 2013 Kazakhstan will halt the transit of grain through the Black Sea and instead use Aktau where cars will go through the Caspian Sea and then through Azerbaijan and Georgia to get to Turkey. This decision is due to the opening of the railway connecting Georgia and Turkey, scheduled for early 2014.[6]

Climate and leisure[edit]

Aktau experiences a desert climate (Köppen BWk), with dry summers and mild winters, with a mean January temperature of +0.5 °C (32.9 °F), and a mean July temperature of +25.55 °C (77.99 °F).

The beach season lasts from May to September, with an average sea temperature of +21 °C (70 °F). Aktau has both rocky hills and sandy beaches along the seashore. There are several modern resorts on the coast to the south of the city. The beaches of the Caspian shore are popular in the summer, due to the hot climate of the season. Tourists come mainly from other parts of Kazakhstan.

Climate data for Aktau
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 1
Average low °C (°F) −2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 8
Source: Svali.ru[7]


Aktau is a relatively young city. The architecture is a mix of modern glass business centres and residences and typical Soviet blocks of apartments. There is a lighthouse in Aktau installed on top of an apartment building.[8]

The main attraction in the city remains the Caspian Sea with its long side walks and beaches. Other sights include:

  • World War II Eternal Flame Memorial
  • MiG Monument at the Victory Mall
  • Regional Studies and History Museum
  • The Drama Theatre
  • Yntymak Square
  • Monuments of Famous people of the past: Kashagan, Zhalau Mynbayev and Taras Shevchenko
Panorama of Night Aktau
Shevchenko monument in Aktau
View of the seaside

Time capsule[edit]

In 1967 the people of Aktau erected a Time capsule to send a message to future generations of the Mangyshlak Peninsula, including names of people who helped to build the town in the desert. The letter was put in a metallic cylinder in a triangular marble urn. It is to be opened in November 2017.[2] The capsule is located in 2nd microdistrict, opposite to 'Kazakhstan Trade Center.'

Aktau city project[edit]

Entrance to the city

On September 11, 2007, President Nursultan Nazarbayev started the Aktau city project in order to develop tourism and attract investment.[9] A totally new city was to have been built to the north-west of the current city with 4 million sq. meters of residential and business buildings to be constructed. The architecture style was to have been derived from UAE's construction experience under the patronage of Sheikh Abdullah ibn Zaid Al Nahayan. In August 2013, nevertheless, the project was called off.[10]

Twin towns and sister cities[edit]

Aktau is twinned with:



  1. ^ a b c "Население Республики Казахстан" (in Russian). Департамент социальной и демографической статистики. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Ogni.kz. Aktau: Years, people, memories.... October 13, 2011
  3. ^ a b Пионеры Запада (in Russian). Np.kz. February 28, 2003. Retrieved January 23, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Pospelov, p. 25
  5. ^ "Aktau Port". Port Aktau. Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Kazakhstan to Leave Black Sea Grain Route". The Gazette of Central Asia (Satrapia). August 8, 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Svali.ru" (in Russian). Retrieved May 7, 2012. 
  8. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Kazakhstan". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  9. ^ New city project Khabar news agency
  10. ^ http://www.lada.kz/aktau_news/society/10772-aydarbaev-aktau-siti-ne-budet.html
  11. ^ [1]


  • 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.

External links[edit]