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City of Astana
Downtown Astana with a view of the tower of Bayterek.
Downtown Astana with a view of the tower of Bayterek.
Flag of Astana
Coat of arms of Astana
Coat of arms
Astana is located in Kazakhstan
The location of Astana, Kazakhstan
Coordinates: 51°10′0″N 71°26′0″E / 51.16667°N 71.43333°E / 51.16667; 71.43333
 • Akim (mayor)Imangali Tasmagambetov
 • Total722 km2 (279 sq mi)
Elevation347 m (1,138 ft)
Population (February 2013)[1]
 • Total780,880
 • Density1,081.5/km2 (2,801/sq mi)
Time zoneBTT (UTC+6)
Postal code010000–010015
Area code(s)+7 7172[2]
ISO 3166-2AST
License plate01, Z
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City of Astana
Downtown Astana with a view of the tower of Bayterek.
Downtown Astana with a view of the tower of Bayterek.
Flag of Astana
Coat of arms of Astana
Coat of arms
Astana is located in Kazakhstan
The location of Astana, Kazakhstan
Coordinates: 51°10′0″N 71°26′0″E / 51.16667°N 71.43333°E / 51.16667; 71.43333
 • Akim (mayor)Imangali Tasmagambetov
 • Total722 km2 (279 sq mi)
Elevation347 m (1,138 ft)
Population (February 2013)[1]
 • Total780,880
 • Density1,081.5/km2 (2,801/sq mi)
Time zoneBTT (UTC+6)
Postal code010000–010015
Area code(s)+7 7172[2]
ISO 3166-2AST
License plate01, Z
Astana as seen from space

Astana (Kazakh: Астана), formerly known as Akmola (Kazakh: Ақмола / Aqmola) until 1998, Tselinograd (Russian: Целиноград) until 1992 and Akmolinsk (Russian: Акмолинск) until 1961), has been the capital of Kazakhstan since 1997, and is the country's second largest city (after Almaty, the former capital) with an officially estimated population of 814,500 as of February 14, 2014.[3] It is located in the north portion of Kazakhstan, within Akmola Province, though administrated separately from the province as a federal city area.

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


The word Astana in Kazakh literally means Capital.

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.[4] Despite this,[5] some commentators think that the generic name Astana was deliberately chosen so that it would be renamed in honour of Nazarbayev after his death.


Russian and Soviet eras[edit]

A unit of Siberian Cossacks from Omsk founded a huge fortress on the upper Ishim River 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.[citation needed]

In the Stalinist era, Kazakhstan hosted a series of gulag-like labour camps; in total, 11 camps that housed up to hundreds of thousands of internees 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 spouses of those considered "enemies of the people" by the government under Joseph Stalin.[6]

In 1961, it was renamed "Tselinograd" ("Virgin Lands City"[7]) 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,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Independent Kazakhstan[edit]

After Kazakhstan became independent in 1991, the city and the region were renamed Akmola, literally meaning "White Temple".

In 1995, the city was designated as the future capital of the newly independent country, and the capital was officially moved from Almaty on 10 December 1997.[7] The new name, Astana, was bestowed in 1998.[8]

Government officials cited several problems with retaining the capital in Almaty, such as the city's risk of seismic activity, insufficient room for expansion, and proximity to international borders.[9] Additionally, parts of northern Kazakhstan are populated primarily by ethnic Russians, which raised fears of possible irredentist activity. With Almaty positioned 300 km (186 mi) from the Chinese border, moving the capital to this area may possibly have been an attempt to anchor it more closely with the rest of the country.[9]

To some Kazakhs, the move remains controversial with critics citing the city's isolated location in the center of the Kazakh steppe and the forbidding climate in winter.[10] 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.[11]

Geography and climate[edit]

Satellite view of Astana
Astana in the winter of 2006


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. The elevation of Astana is 347m (1,138ft) 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 river Ishim. 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 1998. 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 °C (−22 °F) to −35 °C (−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). 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),[12] 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 °F). July is the hottest month with an average temperature of 20.8 °C (69 °F).

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: WMO[13]
Climate data for Astana
Record high °C (°F)3.4
Average high °C (°F)−9.9
Daily mean °C (°F)−14.2
Average low °C (°F)−18.3
Record low °C (°F)−51.6
Precipitation mm (inches)16
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Mean monthly sunshine hours102.3146.9192.2237.0300.7336.0334.8294.5231.0136.499.093.02,503.8
Source #1:[14]
Source #2: Hong Kong Observatory (sun and precipitation days)[15]

Population and demographics[edit]

As of 1 July 2010, Astana has a population density of 958 people per km2 and a population of about 814,897,[11][16] 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.[citation needed]

In 1999, Astana had a population of 281,000. The ethnic mix was about 30% Kazakh and 70% Russian, Ukrainian and German.[17]

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.[11]

Many[who?] 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.[18] Kazakhstani official statistical service estimates city population 691,529 (1 March 2010[19]). 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%.


Central Downtown Astana

Politics and government are the main economic activities 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 make the town the centre of not only Kazakhstan, but all of Central Asia.


"Merry Dancers" Dwelling House in Astana

Town planning[edit]

Astana is divided into several large areas.

Almaty District[edit]

Almaty District was created on 6 May 1998 by presidential decree. The district's territory encompasses an area of 21,054 hectares (52,025 acres or 81 sq mi) with a population of approximately 321,400 people. The district has five villages.

Yesil District[edit]

Yesil District was created on 5 Aug 2008 by presidential decree. The district's territory encompasses an area of 31,179 hectares (77,045 acres or 120 sq mi) with a population of approximately 180,000 people.

Saryarka District[edit]

Saryarka District was created on 6 May 1998 by presidential decree. The district's territory encompasses an area of 19,202 hectares (47,449 acres or 74.139 sq mi) 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 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 Radisson Hotel in Astana


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 or Norman Foster.

Central Astana in 2013: The wavelike building on the left is the Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall. The domed building in the middle is the Ak Orda Presidential Palace.

Green Water Boulevard[edit]

The tower of Bayterek

Green Water Boulevard (also called Norzol in Kazakh: "the shining Path") is the national boulevard of Kazakhstan located in Astana.

Tower of Bayterek[edit]

The tower of Bayterek is the most famous landmark in Astana. The legend behind the tower as a symbol is that it represents a poplar tree where the magic bird, Samruk, laid its egg. An imprint of President Nursultan Nazarbayev's hand can be found in the sphere at the top of the tower.

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.[20]

New buildings[edit]

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation (Pyramid of Peace)[edit]

A night view of the Pyramid of Peace under different lighting

The pyramid has been conceived and designed by architect Sir Norman Foster and engineers Buro Happold and inaugurated in September 2006. It contains accommodations for different religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism 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, 62m (203ft) high with a 62x62m (203x203ft) 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 peace, 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)p 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 [21]

Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall[edit]

The Concert Hall has been conceived and designed by Italian architect Manfredi Nicoletti as a result of an International Competition and inaugurated by president Nursultan Nazarbayev in December 2009. The building shape is reminiscent of the petals of a flower. These "petals" create an imposing envelope which encloses and protects all the functions from the extreme climatic conditions of Astana.

It houses one of world's biggest Concert Halls for classical music with a total of 3,500 seats in vineyard conformation, two small music, cinema, and conference halls with 200 and 400 seats each, restaurants, bars, and a lobby of approximately 3,000m2 (32,292sq ft). The main music hall has been designed to adapt to all kind of performances such as classical, pop and traditional music concerts, theatre, ballet, conferences and cinema, by means of a special false ceiling design and a system of acoustic curtains.

The building is approximately 200m (656ft) long and rises up to 40m (131ft) high for a total of 55,000m2 (592,015sq ft). The structure of the external wall referred to as "petals" are reinforced concrete. The external cladding is done with blue back-painted transparent glass panels inspired by the colour of the Kazakhstan flag.

The Islamic Center[edit]

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, 63m (207ft) each, and has a capacity of 5,000 people. The height of the mosque's dome is 43m (141ft).[22]

Ak Orda Presidential Palace[edit]

Ak Orda (Kazakh, "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 constructed using 20–40cm (8–16in) thick Italian marble. The height of the building is 80m (262ft) and the total area is 36,720m2 (395,251sq ft).

Ak Orda includes a 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 Shatyr[edit]

In December 2006, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev unveiled plans to build Khan Shatyr, a "giant, transparent tent", over an area of the city. The project was completed in July 2010. The tent is 150m (492ft) high, and like the pyramid was designed by the British team of Norman Foster and Buro Happold

Transport Tower[edit]

Transport Tower is one of the tallest buildings in Kazakhstan, standing 150m (492ft) high, its 34 stories completed in 2003. The building houses various governmental agencies and organizations, namely the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications.


A view of the Ishim River

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, nightclubs and some casinos. Notable among these are the:

The Astana International Action Film Festival in 2012
The monument of Kazakh Eli




Architectural monuments[edit]


Astana is home to FC Astana and FC Astana-64, of which the latter won the national championship in 2000, 2001, and 2006. The city is also home to the BC Astana basketball team who successfully took the 2004/2005 season title, as well as Barys Astana of the Kontinental Hockey League. In addition, Astana has a professional cycling team. They participated in the 2007 Tour de France wearing uniforms in Kazakhstani national colors, but were excluded during the race after the failed test of Alexander Vinokourov for illegal doping practises, and was banned from the 2008 race.[23] Astana returned to the Tour de France in 2009 and won the overall Team Classification, with Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong finishing first and third respectively. In 2010 Contador again won the Tour de France with the Astana team, but announced in August 2010 that he would be leaving the Astana team to join the Sunguard-SaxoBank team in 2011.

A bandy team by the name of Dynamo-Astana has been formed, and an indoor bandy arena is being built for Dynamo.[24] The 2011 Asian Winter Games were partly held in the capital.

In 2014, Astana will open the National Paralympics Training Center for paralympic athletes in Kazakhstan.[25]

FC AstanaFootball2009Kazakhstan Premier LeagueAstana Arena
FC BayterekFootball2012Kazakhstan First DivisionAstana Arena
FC Astana-1964Football1964Kazakhstan First DivisionKazhimukan Munaitpasov Stadium
Astana Pro TeamCycling2007UCI ProTourSaryarka Velodrome
BC AstanaBasketball2000VTB United LeagueSaryarka Velodrome
Barys AstanaIce hockey1999Kontinental Hockey LeagueKazakhstan Sports Palace
Snezhnye BarsyIce hockey2011Minor Hockey LeagueKazakhstan Sports Palace

Public transportation[edit]

Astana International Airport was designed by late-Japanese architect, Kisho Kurokawa. The Astana Metro is a planned underground construction in Astana.

Astana Railway Station is an important hub for northern Kazakhstan, served by Qazaqstan Temir Zholy 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).[26]

Notable residents[edit]

International relations[edit]

Twin towns and sister cities[edit]

Astana is twinned with:

See also[edit]




  1. ^ Agency of statistics of the Republic of Kazakhstan: Численность населения Республики Казахстан по областям с началa 2013 года до 1 февраля 2013 года (russisch; Excel-Datei; 55 kB).
  2. ^ "Almaly district akim's administration :: It is interest". Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  3. ^ "Astana population exceeds 780 thousand people". 14 February 2013. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "AFP: Don't name capital after me yet, says Kazakh president". 2008-06-06. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  5. ^ "Astana, Kazakhstan: the space station in the steppes". The Guardian. 8 August 2010. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  8. ^ "Timeline: Kazakhstan". BBC News. 2012-01-31. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  9. ^ a b Schatz, 76.
  10. ^ Green, Peter (11 June 1998). "Kazakhs Raise Curtain on Remote New Capital, but Many Ask Why". International Herald-Tribune. 
  11. ^ a b c "Kazakhstan's Capital Holds a Lavish Anniversary Celebration". 2007-07-08. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  12. ^ Updated Central, South, Southeast, and Eastern Asian and Siberian Map of the Köppen climate classification system.
  13. ^ "World Weather Information Service - Astana". 2006-10-05. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  14. ^ "Weather and Climate-The Climate of Astana" (in Russian). Weather and Climate. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  15. ^ "Climatological Normals of Astana". 20 December 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  16. ^ [3][dead link]
  17. ^ "Astana". Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  18. ^ [4][dead link]
  19. ^ [5][dead link]
  21. ^ "The Palace Of Peace and Concord (Pyramid), Astana, Kazakhstan by BAR - 3D Warehouse". 2007-06-22. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  22. ^ "4 минарета по 63 метра каждый... Катар достраивает в Астане Исламский культурный центр | ЦентрАзия". 2003-08-26. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  23. ^ "Tour de France organizers exclude Astana team; Alberto Contador may not defend title - cycling - ESPN". 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  24. ^ "Translation result for". Yahoo!. Retrieved 15 September 2011. 
  25. ^ "National paralympic training center to be opened in Astana – News Feed – Kazakhstan news today". Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  26. ^ "Расписание поездов: Астана - Урумчи". Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  27. ^ "Kardeş Kentleri Listesi ve 5 Mayıs Avrupa Günü Kutlaması [via]" (in Turkish). Ankara Büyükşehir Belediyesi - Tüm Hakları Saklıdır. Archived from the original on 14 January 2009. Retrieved 2013-07-21. 
  28. ^ "Twin cities of Riga". Riga City Council. Retrieved 27 July 2009. 
  29. ^ "Gdańsk Official Website: 'Miasta partnerskie'" (in Polish & English). Urząd Miejski w Gdańsku. 2009. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  30. ^ "Miasta partnerskie Warszawy". Biuro Promocji Miasta. 4 May 2005. Retrieved 29 August 2008. [dead link]
  31. ^ "Tbilisi Sister Cities". Tbilisi City Hall. Tbilisi Municipal Portal. Archived from the original on 2013-07-24. Retrieved 2013-08-05. 
  32. ^ "International Cooperation: Sister Cities". Seoul Metropolitan Government. Archived from the original on 10 December 2007. Retrieved 26 January 2008. 
  33. ^ "Seoul -Sister Cities [via WayBackMachine]". Seoul Metropolitan Government (archived 2012-04-25). Archived from the original on 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  34. ^ Akimat of Astana City; Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (11 June 2004). "Agreement on establishment of bilateral relations between the Akimat of Astana City of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the City of Bangkok of Kingdom Thailand". 
  35. ^ "Existing Sister Cities". City of Manila. Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  36. ^ "Sister Cities". Beijing Municipal Government. Retrieved 23 June 2009. 

External links[edit]