Modern Astana is a planned city, like Brasília in Brazil, Canberra in Australia and Washington, D.C. in the United States. After Astana became the capital of Kazakhstan, the city cardinally changed its shape. The master plan of Astana was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. As the seat of the Government of Kazakhstan, Astana is the site of the 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. Astana also has extensive healthcare, sports and education systems.
The settlement of Akmoly, also known as Akmolinsky prikaz, was established on the Ishim River in 1830 as the seat of an okrug by a unit of the Siberian Cossacks headed by Fyodor Shubin. The name was possibly given after a local landmark—Akmola literally means "a white grave" in Kazakh—although this theory is not universally accepted. In 1832, the settlement was granted town status and named Akmolinsk. The fairly advantageous position of the town was clear as early as 1863 in an abstract from the Geographic and Statistical Dictionary of the Russian Empire. It describes how picket roads and lines connected this geographic centre to Kargaly in the East, Aktau fort in the South and through Atbasar to Kokchetav in the West. In 1838, at the height of the great national and liberation movement headed by Kenesary Khan, Akmolinsk fortress was burned. After the repression of the liberation movement, the fortress was rebuilt. On 16 July 1863, Akmolinsk was officially declared an uyezd town. 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. On 21 October 1868, Tsar Alexander II signed a draft Regulation on governing Turgay, Ural, Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk Oblasts. In 1869, Akmolinsk external district and department were cancelled, and Akmolinsk became the centre of the newly established Akmolinsk Oblast. In 1879, Major General Dubelt proposed to build a railway between Tyumen and Akmolinsk to the Ministry of Communications of Russia. In the course of the first 30 years of its existence, the population of Akmola numbered a trifle more than 2,000 people. However, over the next 30 years the city's population increased by three times according to volosts and settlements of the Akmolinsk Oblast. In 1893, Akmolinsk was an uyezd with a 6,428 strong population, 3 churches, 5 schools and colleges and 3 factories.
During World War II, Akmolinsk served as a route for the transport of engineering tools and equipment from evacuated plants in the Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, and Russian SFSR located in the oblasts of the Kazakh SSR. Local industries were appointed to respond to war needs, assisting the country to provide the battle and home fronts with all materials needed. In the post-war years, Akmolinsk became a beacon of economic revival in the west of the Soviet Union ruined by the war. Additionally, many Russian-Germans were resettled here after being deported under Joseph Stalin's rule.
In the 1950s, Northern Kazakh SSR oblasts became a territory of the Virgin Lands Campaign led by Nikita Khrushchev, in order to turn the region into a second grain producer for the Soviet Union. In December 1960, Central Committee made a resolution to create the Tselinniy Krai, which comprised five regions of the Northern Kazakh SSR oblasts. Akmolinsk Oblast was ceased to exist as a separate administrative entity. Its districts were directly subordinated to the new krai administration, and Akmolinsk became the krai capital, as well as the administrative seat of the new Virgin Lands economic region. On 14 March 1961, Khrushchev proposed to rename the city to name corresponding to its role in the Virgin Lands Campaign. On 20 March 1961, the Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR renamed Akmolinsk to Tselinograd. On 24 April 1961, the region was reconstituted as Tselinograd Oblast. In the 1960s, Tselinograd was completely transformed. In 1963, work on the first three new high-rise housing districts began. In addition, the city received a number of new monumental public buildings, including the Virgin Lands Palace, a Palace of Youth, a House of Soviets, a new airport, and several sports venues. In 1971, the Tselinniy Krai was abolished and Tselinograd became the centre of the oblast.
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. On 6 July 1994, the Supreme Council of Kazakhstan accepted the decree "On the transfer of the capital of Kazakhstan". After the capital of Kazakhstan was moved to Akmola on 10 December 1997, the city was consequently renamed Astana in 1998. On 10 June 1998, Astana presented as the capital internationally. On 16 July 1999, Astana was awarded the medal and title of the City of Peace by UNESCO.
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 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 centre, 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. 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. Typically, the city's river is frozen over between the second week of November and the beginning of April. Astana has a well-deserved reputation among Kazakhs 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), 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) and record lowest is in January 1893's cold wave reaching temperatures down to −51.6 °C (−60.9 °F). July is the hottest month with an average temperature of +20.7 °C (69.3 °F).
As of 4 September 2014, Astana has a population density of 958 people per km² and a population of about 835,153, 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.
By 2007, Astana's population had more than doubled since becoming the capital, to over 600,000, and it topped 1 million in 2017. Migrant workers – legal and illegal – have been attracted from across Kazakhstan and neighbouring 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.
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 was 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 formed the largest ethnic group, while Ingush and Korean each accounted for 0.6%. Others, mostly Uzbeks, accounted for 3.8%.
Astana'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.
Astana is the headquarters of state-owned corporations such as Samruk-Kazyna, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, KazMunayGas, KazTransOil, Kazatomprom, KEGOC, Kazpost and Kazakhtelecom.
The shift of the capital has given it a powerful boost to Astana's economic development. The city's high economic growth rate has attracted numerous investors. In the 16 years since Astana became the capital, the volume of investments has increased by almost 30 times, the gross regional product has increased by 90 times, and industrial output has increased by 11 times. The city's Gross Regional Product makes up about 8.5 percent of the republic's Gross domestic product.
The Astana – New City special economic zone was established in 2001 to help develop industry and increase the attractiveness of the city to investors. The SEZ plans to commission five projects worth 20 billion KZT (around $108 million) in the Industrial Park #1 in 2015. The projects include construction of a plant for production of diesel engines, a fast food complex, temporary storage warehouses and a business centre, a furniture factory, and production of military and civil engineering machinery. The new Astana International Financial Centre is due to launch on 1 January 2018.
Astana's administration is promoting the development of small and medium-sized businesses through the cooperation of the Sovereign Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazyna and National Economic Chamber. Support is provided by a special program of crediting. As a result, the number of small and medium-sized businesses increased by 13.7% to over 96,000 compared to the previous year as of July 1, 2015. In addition, the number of people employed in small and medium-sized business increased by 17.8% to over 234,000 people as of April 1, 2015.
Astana was included in the list of top 21 intelligent communities of the world, according to the report released by the Intelligent Community Forum in October 2016. The rating list includes the cities, regions and communities which use digital instruments for construction of local economy and society.
Astana is subdivided into three districts. 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 375,938 people. The district has five villages. Yesil District, which is also called left bank of the city, 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 119,929 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 339,286 people.
In April 1998, the Government of Kazakhstan asked architects and urban planners of international renown to participate in a design competition for the new capital. On 6 October 1998, Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa was awarded the First Prize. Summary of Kurokawa's Proposal, since the 1960s, pleaded for the Paradigm shift from the age of the machine principle to the age of life principle. His work is the embodiment of Metabolism and Symbiosis, which are the two most important concepts of the age of life principle. Kurokawa's proposal aimed to preserve and redevelop the existing city, and create a new city at the south and the east sides of the Ishim River, enabling the Symbiosis of the History and the Future.
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 Ishim river is the city centre, 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 River. Here many large building projects are under way; for example, the construction of a diplomatic quarter, and a variety of different government buildings. By 2030, these quarters are to be completed. 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 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 three league titles, three Kazakhstan Cups and two Kazakhstan Super Cups. Their home ground is the Astana Arena, which is also serves as a home for the Kazakhstan national football team and the FC Bayterek. The FC Bayterek is a member of the Kazakhstan First Division. They were founded in 2012, to develop youth football. The FC Astana-1964 is based in the Kazhymukan Munaitpasov Stadium and plays in the Astana Municipal Football League. The club's most successful years were 2000s, when they won 3 league titles.
Astana is home to several professional ice hockey teams. The Barys Astana, a founding member of the Kontinental Hockey League in 2008 and based in the Barys Arena. The Nomad Astana and the HC Astana play in the Kazakhstan Hockey Championship and are based in the Kazakhstan Sports Palace. The Snezhnye Barsy of the Junior Hockey League is a junior team of the Barys Astana. Astana annually hosts the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan's Cup ice hockey tournament.
The Astana Pro Team, founded in 2007, participates in the UCI World Tour. The team is one of the most successful cycling teams of recent years, winning several grand tours. The BC Astana of the VTB United League and the Kazakhstan Basketball League is the only professional basketball team in Astana. It is the most successful basketball team in Kazakhstan with three Kazakhstan Basketball League titles and four Kazakhstan Basketball Cups. Its home arena is the Saryarka Velodrome, which is mainly used for track cycling events. The Saryarka Velodrome hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Cup stage in 2011. The Astana Presidential Sports Club was founded in 2012, to combine the main sports teams in Astana. The organization is supported by Sovereign Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna. The 2011 Asian Winter Games were partly held in the capital. The Alau Ice Palace, hosted the 2015 World Sprint Speed Skating Championships. The President's Cup tennis tournament is annually held at the Daulet National Tennis Centre.
Astana has many universities and junior colleges. as of the 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. The L.N.Gumilyov Eurasian National University is the biggest university in Astana with 16,558 students and 1,678 academic staff. It was founded as the result of merging the Akmola Civil Engineering Institute and Akmola Pedagogical Institute on 23 May 1996. The oldest university in Astana is the S.Seifullin Kazakh Agro Technical University founded in 1957. Nazarbayev University is an autonomous research university founded in 2010 in partnership with some of the world's top universities. The Kazakh University of Economics, Finance and International Trade is an economic institution in Astana. The Kazakh Humanities and Law Institute is a law university founded by initiative of Ministry of Justice in 1994. The Astana Medical University was the only medical school in Astana until the opening of the Schoolf Medecine at Nazarbayev University. The Kazakh National University of Arts is the premier music school and has provided Astana with highly qualified professional specialists in the field of Arts.
Astana schools enrolls about 103,000 students across 83 schools, including 71 state schools and 12 private schools. The Miras International School, established 1999, was the first private high school established in Astana. The Haileybury Astana school was established in 2011, as a branch of the Haileybury and Imperial Service College, an independent school in The United Kingdom. The Astana Kazakh-Turkish High Schools are run by the International KATEV foundation. In Astana, there are Kazakh-Turkish High Boarding Schools for gifted boys and girls, separately and the Nurorda International School. Astana hosts two Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS), including School of Physics and Mathematics and International Baccalaureate world school. 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 Schools International that started in the Middle East.
Public transport in Astana consists of buses and share taxis. Over 720,000 people use public transport daily. There are over 40 bus lines served by more than 1000 vehicles, with over 3000 people working in the public transport sector. Just like buses, share taxis have their own predefined routes and work on a shared basis. There are nine share taxi routes in total. 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". As the part of these programmes, Bus rapid transit (BRT) lines are expected to start operating in Astana in 2016. Astana Light Metro is a proposed light rail system. Astana also has air taxi service and the modern Astana Bike bicycle-sharing system.
Astana International Airport (IATA: TSE, ICAO: UACC), located 17 kilometres (11 mi) south-east of the city centre, is the main gateway for the city's domestic and international civilian air traffic. It is the second busiest airport in Kazakhstan, with 2,960,181 passengers passing through it in 2014. The airport hosts 13 airlines operating regular passenger flights inside the country and internationally. Air Astana maintains its second largest hub at the airport. An expected 50% increase in passenger traffic by 2017 has spurred construction of a new terminal with an area of about 40,000 sq. m.
Astana railway station is the city's main railway station and serves approximately 7,000 people each day. A new railway station, Nurly Zhol was built during the Expo 2017 event with a customer capacity of 12,000. Tulpar Talgo is a daily express train to Almaty. 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.
Astana is located in the centre of the country, serving as a well-positioned transport node for rail and automotive networks. 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.
In 1 July 2010, at the 153rd General Assembly of Bureau International des Expositions held in Paris, representatives from Astana presented the city's bid to host the Specialised Expo 2017. Kazakhs concept for the upcoming exhibition related relates to the impact of energy and social on the modern world. The theme of the Astana Expo is "Future Energy".
Expo 2017 opened to much fanfare on June 10, with Heads of State from 17 different nations in attendance. The two-millionth visitor was registered August 7. It is the first world's fair to be held in Central Asia and its central pavilion, Nur Alem, is the largest spherical building in the world.
Astana maintains official partnerships with 18 cities. Astana's twin towns and sister cities are: