The idea of creation of a new, modern capital of Kazakhstan belongs to President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
On July 6, 1994, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan decided to move the capital from Almaty to Akmola.
On December 10, 1997, the capital was officially transferred to Akmola. In line with the Presidential Decree signed on May 6, 1998 Akmola was renamed into Astana. The new capital was unveiled internationally on June 10, 1998.
In 1999, Astana was awarded the title of the City of Peace by UNESCO. Since 2000, the capital city of Kazakhstan has been a member of the International Assembly of Capitals and Major Cities.
Astana is the northernmost capital city in Asia. At present, the territory of Astana makes up more than 722 square kilometres, its population size amounts to nearly 853,000 people. The city consists of three districts - Almaty, Saryarka and Yessil.
Astana is located in the centre of Kazakhstan in the dry steppe zone and in the grass steppe subzone. The area of the city stands above the flood plain. The Yessil River is a major waterway of the capital. The city has an extreme continental climate with cold winter and hot dry summer.
Astana’s favourable location in the centre of the Eurasian continent makes it an economically advantageous transport, communication and logistics centre, and a natural bridge between Europe and Asia.
The transfer of the capital to Astana gave a powerful impetus to its economic development. The city’s high economic growth rates attract numerous investors. The share of Astana in the overall volume of investments attracted to Kazakhstan accounts for 10 percent, while the Gross Regional Product of the city amounts to 10.2 percent.
The city’s economy is based on trade, industrial production, transport, communication and construction.
Industrial production is mainly focused on producing construction materials, food and mechanical engineering. Astana holds the leading position in Kazakhstan in the field of production of metal goods, ready-mix concrete and concrete construction products.
The largest enterprises of the city include Tselinograd railway car repair plant, Tsesna-Astyk group corporation, Talgo passenger car assembly plant, Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering helicopter assembly plant and others.
The city has become one of the largest business centres in Kazakhstan. Entrepreneurship is rapidly developing in Astana. Today there are more than 128,000 small and medium enterprises in the city. The average monthly salary of the residents of Astana accounts for 154,000 tenge.
Astana is among the leading cities of the country in terms of the volume of construction. After the city became the capital of Kazakhstan, 10 million square metres of housing facilities have been built. Hundreds of companies from Kazakhstan and abroad took part in the construction of Astana.
The architectural concept of Astana was based on the idea of Nursultan Nazarbayev implying a special Eurasian style of Astana should harmoniously combine the cultural traditions of both the East and the West. A well-known Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa became the author of the general layout of the capital city.
The major symbol and a brand of Astana is the Baiterek monument. Among other unique buildings of the capital are the Palace of Peace and Accord designed by a renowned British architect Norman Foster, the Khan Shatyr shopping mall built in the shape of a tent and Duman, the farthest oceanarium from the sea in the world.
There are also Astana Opera theatre, the largest Central Asian mosque Hazret Sultan, Cathedral of the Assumption, Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Archdiocese of the Blessed Virgin Mary, synagogue Bate Rachel - Habad Lubavitch, as well as the Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall, the Kazakh Yeli monument, the Museum of Modern Art and the Presidential Cultural Center.
The construction of the highest in Kazakhstan and Central Asia 88-storey skyscraper Abu Dhabi Plaza is scheduled for 2016.
The new sports facilities of Astana include the 30,000-seat closed stadium Astana-Arena and a unique 10,000-seat SaryArka National Cycling Centre acknowledged as the best cycling facility in the world in 2011. Another major sports facility is the Alau ice palace, which corresponds to the highest international standards.
The capital of Kazakhstan became the center of attention for students from across the country. In Astana, the country’s leading universities are located, involving Nazarbayev University, Gumilev Eurasian National University, Kazakh National University of Arts, Seifullin Kazakh Agro Technical University, as well as Kazakh branch of the Lomonosov Moscow State University and Astana Medical University.
A unique Green Belt project envisaging the forests are planted around Astana turned the city into a green oasis in the steppe.
Today Astana, located in the heart of Eurasia, is a venue for numerous international forums, congresses and large scale international events. The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the Astana Economic Forum and other forums are held regularly in the city. In December, 2010, the historical Summit of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe took place in the capital city of Kazakhstan, after which it hosted the anniversary summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. In early 2011, the city welcomed the participants and guests of the 7th Asian Winter Games. In 2017, Astana will host the international specialized exhibition EXPO-2017.
Within a few years, due to the political will of President Nursultan Nazarbayev Astana transformed into the Kazakhstani national idea and became a symbol of independence and global success of the young state.
In his keynote speech, dedicated to Astana’s 10th anniversary Nursultan Nazarbayev mentioned the significance of development of the new capital city:
«This is not simply the ancient earth of Saryarka, where the new capital was born. It is the cradle of the country’s future. The history of Astana and the future of the people of Kazakhstan are inseparable from each other. Astana embodies power, dynamical development and stability of our country. It has become a strong and prospering city that unites all residents of Kazakhstan and paves its path into the future. The capital city is the heart of our motherland, the symbol of people’s confidence in their own strength and great mission. Nowadays representatives of more than 100 nationalities live in Astana. Both Kazakhstan and its capital city are built on the basis of people’s friendship, mutual understanding and trust,” he concluded.