Astana Kazakh

Astana (Kazakh: Астана; former names include Akmola, Akmolinsk, Tselinograd, and Aqmola), is the capital and second largest city (behind Almaty) of Kazakhstan, with an estimated population (2007) of 577,300 [2]. It is located in the north-central portion of Kazakhstan, within Akmola Province, although it is politically separate from the rest of the province, which has its own capital.
The current mayor of Astana is Askar Mamin, formerly Minister for Transportation. He was appointed mayor on 25 September 2006.

Name

The name "Astana", which means "Capital city" in Kazakh, was allegedly chosen because it is easily pronounced in many languages[citation needed]. In Kazakh and Russian, it is pronounced "As-ta-na", while in English and many other languages, the common pronunciation is "As-ta-na".

As Kazakhstan's new capital

In 1994, the city was designated as the future capital of the newly-independent country, and again renamed to the present "Astana" after the capital was officially moved from Almaty in 1997. Despite the isolated location of the new capital in the centre of the Kazakh Steppe and the forbidding climate in winter, Kazakhstan simply needed a more central location than its former location of Almaty, which lies on the far southeastern border with Kyrgyzstan. Some speculate that it was a move to impose more control over the Russian-dominated north of the country. Other reasons include the belief that the new city project is a strategic move to position the capital further from the borders with China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, or that Almaty was limited in its development by mountains (which is objectively not the case), or that President Nursultan Nazarbayev created a "Potemkin village", either to present an image of a modern, clean Kazakhstan to entice foreign investment. Internal political concerns may have played a part: Nazarbayev, like most of the Kazakh political establishment, belongs to the Great Horde (Kazakh, ulı jüz) in whose territory Almaty lies. The move to the traditional territory of the Middle Horde may have been a gesture to the Middle and Little Hordes' political sensibilities.
To some Kazakhs, the move remains controversial. Critics 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. The lucrative development contracts handed out to companies owned by President Nazarbayev's family members also remain highly suspect.

Population/Demographics

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 per cent, up from 17 per cent in 1989.
In 1999, Astana had a population of 281,000. The ethnic mix was about 60% Kazakh and 30% Russian, Ukrainian, and German.
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.

Geography
The city is located in central Kazakhstan on the Ishim River in a very flat, semi-desert steppe region which covers most of the country's territory. The elevation of Astana is at 347 meters above sea level. Astana is in a spacious steppe landscape, in the transient 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 were located south of the Ishim.

Climate

Climatically Astana is the second coldest capital in the world (behind Ulaanbataar, Mongolia), with temperatures of -35 to -40 °C common in the late autumn. The new city is also known to regularly freeze for around six months every year. Overall however, Astana has a continental climate, with exceptionally cold winters and moderately hot summers, arid and semiarid.
The average annual temperature in Astana is 1 degree Celsius. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of -16 °C. July is the hottest month with an average temperature of 20 °C.

Economy

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

Sport

Astana is home to FC Astana, a football (soccer) team in the Kazakhstan Super League, which won the national championship in 2000, 2001 and 2006. The city is also home to the Astana-Tigers basketball team who successfully took the 2004/2005 season title, as well as Barys Astana of the Kazakh Ice Hockey League. In addition, Team Astana is a professional cycling team that competes on the UCI ProTour. They participated in the Tour de France wearing blue national uniforms, but have been excluded during the race after the conviction of Alexander Vinokourov for illegal doping practises.

Town planning

Astana can be divided largely into a few different areas. 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 diplomat quarter, and a variety of different government buildings. By 2030, these quarters are to be completed. Astana's 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.

Architecture

The architectural quality of the new buildings is, by the standards of almost all critics, quite high.

In December 2006, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev unveiled plans to build Khan Shatyry, a "giant, transparent tent", over an area of the city. The tent will be 150 metres high, and was designed by British architect Norman Foster.[4] It is expected to take around a year to build.

Sightseeing

Today there are many construction works under way, such as embassy buildings, representative riversides along the Ishim River, and some infrastructure for transportation and communication. 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, discotheques and even some casinos. Worth a visit are the:
Modern governmental quarter
Ishim banks
"Oceanarium"
Astana Central National Mosque
Islamic Center
Roman Catholic Cathedral
Market hall
Bayterek Tower

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