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City of Astana
Астана қаласы
From top to bottom, left to right: Nur Zhol Boulevard; KazMunayGas Headquarters; Ishim River; L.N.Gumilyov Eurasian National University; Triumph of Astana
From top to bottom, left to right: Nur Zhol Boulevard; KazMunayGas Headquarters; Ishim River; L.N.Gumilyov Eurasian National University; Triumph of Astana
Flag of Astana
Coat of arms of Astana
Coat of arms
Astana is located in Kazakhstan
The location of Astana in Kazakhstan
Country  Kazakhstan
Established 1830 as Akmolinsk[1]
Renamed 1961 as Tselinograd[1]
Renamed 1992 as Akmola[1]
Renamed 1998 as Astana[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
The rest of the fortress in Akmolinsk, 1911.

Astana (,[4] US ;[5] Kazakh: Астана) is the capital city of Kazakhstan. It is located on the Ishim River in the north portion of Kazakhstan, within Akmola Province, though administrated separately from the province as a federal city area. The 2014 census reported a population of 835,153 within the city, making it the second-largest city in Kazakhstan.[2]

Founded in 1830 as Akmolinsk (Russian: Акмолинск) and renamed as Tselinograd (Russian: Целиноград) in 1961, the city has evolved into a cultural and administrative centre of Virgin Lands Campaign.[1] In 1992, it was renamed as Akmola (Kazakh: Ақмола), the original name meaning "white holy place" or "white abundance".[1]

On 10 December 1997, Akmola became the capital of Kazakhstan. On 6 May 1998, it received the name of Astana, which means "the capital" in Kazakh.[1] Since becoming the capital, Astana has undergone tremendous growth.[6] It is home to many futuristic buildings, hotels and skyscrapers.[7][8][9] In addition to serving as government headquarters, Astana is center for industry, sports, healthcare and education.


  • History 1
    • Etymology 1.1
    • Russian and Soviet eras 1.2
    • Independent Kazakhstan 1.3
  • Geography 2
    • Climate 2.1
  • Demographics 3
  • Economy 4
  • Cityscape 5
  • Sports 6
  • Education 7
  • Public transportation 8
  • Notable people 9
  • Twin towns and sister cities 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
    • Bibliography 12.1
    • Notes 12.2
  • External links 13



The word Astana in Kazakh literally means Capital. It originates from Persian root -stan ("place of", "land"), that can be also found in the name of the country. This root in turn originates from Proto-Indo-European root *stā- ("to stand") .

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.[10] Despite this,[11] 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

Historical Affiliations

Russian Empire 1830–1917
Soviet Union 1917–1991
Kazakhstan 1991–present

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.

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.[12]

In 1961, it was renamed "Tselinograd" ("Virgin Lands City"[13]) 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 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.[13] The new name, Astana, was bestowed in 1998.[14]

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.[15] 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.[15]

To some Kazakhs, the move remains controversial with critics citing the new capital's isolated location in the center of the [17]


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 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 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 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). 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),[18] 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 data for Astana
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
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) 5.3 4.3 3.2 4.7 6.3 6.1 6.6 5.6 4.4 7.3 6.0 5.3 65.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 102.3 146.9 192.2 237.0 300.7 336.0 334.8 294.5 231.0 136.4 99.0 93.0 2,503.8
Source #1:[19]
Source #2: Hong Kong Observatory (sun and precipitation days)[20]
Climate chart ()
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: WMO[21]


As of 1 July 2010, Astana has a population density of 958 people per km2 and a population of about 814,897,[17] 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.[22]

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.[17]

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%.


Astana Downtown.

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 city the center not only of Kazakhstan but of all Central Asia.


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 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 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.[23]

Panorama of the Left Side of Astana.


Astana Arena is the home for FC Astana and FC Bayterek.

The city has a variety of sporting teams. The major association football teams are FC Astana and FC Astana-1964. FC Astana competes in the Kazakhstan Premier League and based in Astana Arena. Founded in 2009, Astana won two Kazakhstan Cups and one Kazakhstan Super Cup.[24] FC Astana-1964 is based in 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. FC Bayterek is also plays in the Kazakhstan First Division. They were founded in 2012, to develop youth football in partnership with Olé Brasil Futebol Clube.[25] In 2013, Astana bidded to host UEFA Euro 2020 matches.[26]

Astana is home to several professional ice hockey teams. Barys Astana is the only Kazakhstan team in the Kontinental Hockey League.[27] Nomad Astana and HC Astana are play in the Kazakhstan Hockey Championship. Snezhnye Barsy of the Junior Hockey League is a junior team of Barys Astana.[28] All of the teams based in Kazakhstan Sports Palace. Astana annually hosts President of the Republic of Kazakhstan's Cup ice hockey tournament.[29] Barys Arena is an ice hockey venue under construction will be home arena for Barys Astana.[30]

Samruk-Kazyna.[36] The 2011 Asian Winter Games were partly held in the capital. Alau Ice Palace annually hosts the ISU Speed Skating World Cup.[37] International President's Cup tennis tournament annually held at the National Tennis Center Daulet.[38] In 2014, Astana will open the National Paralympics Training Center for paralympic athletes in Kazakhstan.[39]


Studying at the Haileybury Astana.
Kazakh National University of Arts.

Astana schools enrolls about 103,000 students attending 83 schools, including 71 state schools and 12 private schools.[40][41] Miras International school, established 1999, is the first private high school in Astana.[42] Haileybury Astana private school was established in 2011 as offshoot from Haileybury and Imperial Service College, an independent school in England. 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 Nur-Orda International School.[43] Astana hosts two Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS), icluding School of Physics and Mathematics and International Baccalaureate world school.[44] Quality School International of Astana (QSI Astana) is an international school that provides an American curriculum to its students. The school is a branch of Quality School International that started in the Middle East.[45]

Astana have 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.[46] 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 Tselinograd Civil Engineering Institute and Tselinograd Pedagogical Institute on 23 May 1996.[47] The oldest university in Astana is S.Seifullin Kazakh Agro Technical University founded in 1957.[48] Nazarbayev University is an autonomous research university, partnered with many of top universities of the world.[49] Kazakh Humanities and Law Institute is a law university founded by initiative of Ministry of Justice in 1994.[50] Astana Medical University is the only medical school in Astana. 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.[51]

Public transportation

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).[52]

Notable people

Twin towns and sister cities

Twin towns and sister cities of Astana are:

See also



  • Schatz, Edward. Modern Clan Politics: The Power of "Blood" in Kazakhstan and Beyond. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 2004. ISBN 0295984473
  • Patrakov, Vladimir. Astana - the beginning of Eurasia (rus.). Almaty: Alash. 2012. ISBN 9786017338046


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  5. ^ Oxford Dictionary: definition of Astana (American English)
  6. ^ Colin Berlyne. "Astana: City with a Future". Edge KZ. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
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External links

  • Official website
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