Astana Travel Guide

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Bayterek tower

Bayterek tower

Astana (us-tuh NUH) is the capital of Kazakhstan. The name of the city is translated from Kazakh as ‘the capital city’. It became capital in September of 1995. The population of the city is 350 thousand people.

Like many cities in Kazakhstan, Astana changed its name several times. In the 1800s it was called Akmola, according to the most popular version it means ‘a white tomb’. The name was given by the Russians who founded a fortress with this name. By 1870s Akmola was a place where merchants from Russia, China and central Asia came to trade cattle and agricultural products. It is worth mentioning that the city is located on the legendary Silk Road.

After the Great October Socialist Revolution and establishment of the Soviet power the name was russified and Akmola became Akmolinsk. In 1961 Khrushchev insisted on changing its name to Tselinograd (the city of virgin lands) because at that time a lot of young people according to the plans of the Communist Party were sent to Northern Kazakhstan to explore the rich steppes of Kazakhstan to increase production of wheat in the Soviet Union.

In 1992 after Kazakhstan became independent, the city regained its original name Akmola, and in 1998 it received its new name Astana. The government, especially the president are trying to make Astana a true capital of the huge country. Their efforts sometimes lead to a lot of waste. The climate is very harsh; the humidity is high because of the underground waters. Therefore, special materials are needed, but it is not always considered.

Astana is still remaining just a political center of the country. It will probably take a while before it becomes a major tourist attraction. However, the potential of the former capital Almaty was almost exhausted (the valley where it is situated is too small to accommodate the growing population and business community) and transferring the capital to Astana was quite reasonable.

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