«The history of Astana is the history of independent Kazakhstan» Nursultan Nazarbayev
President of the Republic of Kazakhstan

The year of 2016 is notable for the celebration of the
25th Anniversary of Kazakhstan’s historical declaration of independence.
“Astana: The Capital of Independence”
web-documentary highlights
one of the most important events of the past years,
since 1991 up to 2016.
Republic of Kazakhstan

in 2016
Republic of Kazakhstan
The National Anthem of the Republic of Kazakhstan:
Emblem of
Flag of
9th largest in
the world
2,724,900 sq. km
98,25 %
1,75 %
  • Karaganda Region

    Capital — Karaganda city

    Area: 427 982 sq. km

  • Aktobe Region

    Capital — Aktobe city

    Area: 300 629 sq. km

  • East Kazakhstan Region

    Capital — Oskemen city

    Area: 283 226 sq. km

  • Almaty Region

    Capital — Taldykorgan city

    Area: 223 911 sq. km

  • Kyzylorda Region

    Capital — Kyzylorda city

    Area: 226 019 sq. km

  • Kostanay Region

    Capital — Kostanay city

    Area: 196 001 sq. km

  • Mangystau Region

    Capital — Aktau city

    Area: 165 642 sq. km

  • West Kazakhstan Region

    Capital — Oral city

    Area: 151 339 sq. km

  • Akmola Region

    Capital — Kokshetau city

    Area: 146 219 sq. km

  • Jambyl Region

    Capital — Taraz city

    Area: 144 264 sq. km

  • Pavlodar Region

    Capital — Pavlodar city

    Area: 124 755 sq. km

  • South Kazakhstan Region

    Capital — Shymkent city

    Area: 117 249 sq. km

  • Atyrau Region

    Capital — Atyrau city

    Area: 118 631 sq. km

  • North Kazakhstan Region

    Capital — Petropavlovsk city

    Area: 97 993 sq. km

  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • Astana

    Capital — Astana city

    Area: 710 sq. km

  • 19
  • Almaty

    Capital — Almaty city

    Area: 682 sq. km

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  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30
  • 31
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  • 33
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  • 35
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Adilbek Dzhaksybekov
Umirzak Shukeyev
Imangali Tasmagambetov
Temirkhan Dosmukhambetov
Askar Mamin
Asset Issekeshev
1991 1993
The Early Years of Independence
The Republic of Kazakhstan
has declared its Independence on December 16, 1991.

Ever since that historical date, Kazakhstan has become
politically autonomous with its multinational way of life.

A fabulous southern city of Almaty with a population of approximately 1 134 000 people was the capital of the nation in 1991.

Meanwhile, cold northern soon-to-be capital Tselinograd had a population of almost 300 000 people.

In the end of the 20th century, many thought that it was virtually impossible to build a brand new modern city on the site of the soon-to-be capital in the heart of severe steppes that were barely habitable before the Virgin Lands Campaign. Yet the exact same place back in the 16th century was boiling: caravan routes between Siberia and Central Asia had been crossing the modern territory of Astana.

Archaeologists have discovered a medieval settlement of Bozok 5 km away from Astana in 1998. Bozok was one of the important sacred religious sites in Kipchak Khanate. According to records, 1830 was the year of establishment of the military fort of Akmola in the territory of modern Astana in Karaotkel. Cossack village Akmolinsk got its city charter in May 1862.

The city’s convenient geographical location made it well-known already by 1863. Trading crossroads linking China, Russia and Central Asia have enabled establishing Akmolinsk as an important trade hub in Kazakhstan and Southern Siberia as a whole. Trade contributed to population growth in the area.

Virgin Lands Campaign has become an important stage of the city development. In 1953, volunteers from all over the USSR started to rally up in Northern Kazakhstan. 270 thousand people arrived in Akmolinsk region just between 1953 and 1958.

In 1960, Akmolinsk had a population of about 100 thousand people; the city has become the centre of Virgin Lands, which included all the northern regions of Kazakhstan. Akmolinsk became Tselinograd (literally, the City of Virgin Lands) in 1961.

The Palace of Virgin Land workers, early 60s
A fragment from the movie "Akmola - the city on the Ishim" (Boris Mamayev, Vladimir Gundaryev)
Nursultan Nazarbayev
President Nazarbayev notes in his book “The Kazakhstan’s Way” that the establishment of sovereign Kazakhstan has started in outer space. Events such as Toktar Aubakirov’s spaceflight, the Declaration of Sovereignty on October 25, 1990 and the Declaration of Independence on December 16, 1991: all these was considered as a starting point for the history of new independent Kazakhstan.
Toktar Aubakirov
The first Kazakh and the last Soviet cosmonaut Toktar Aubakirov traveled into space and worked on board of the orbital space complex for more than a week in October of 1991 – almost two months before the declaration of Independence.
The year 1992 is the first year in the history of independent Kazakhstan. It was the time, when the new state created its army and made its first international appearance. Kazakhstan established its Republican Guard and Internal Security Troops in January. Later young Kazakhstan joined OSCE on January 30, United Nations on March 3 and UNESCO on May 22.

The renaming of Tselinograd in 1992 back to its 1830s name of Akmola
was a tribute to its history.

Kazakhstan voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons inherited from the USSR during the formation of its army.
After the collapse of the Union, Kazakhstan possessed world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal. However, the country decided to abandon it for the sake of the World Peace.

Kazakhstan joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
as a non-nuclear state in May of 1992, during the official visit
of President Nazarbayev to Portugal.

«The idea of building a new capital for sovereign Kazakhstan had been around for quite a while. For various reasons, Almaty was no more capable to match the role of the capital for the new independent state. Almaty’s population was already over 1 million, while the city’s initially planned capacity was only
400 000». (Nursultan Nazarbayev, «The Heart of Eurasia»)
In 1993, President Nazarbayev started seriously considering the idea of moving the capital from Almaty
and studying information on the issue although he makes no official announcements yet.
1994 1999
The Birth of The New Capital
«I was personally convinced that the moving to a new capital would play a big role in confirming Kazakhstan as an independent state. It would strengthen our geopolitical standing, by reaffirming the comprehensiveness of our peace-loving policy towards the rest of the world. It would emphasize our receptiveness to cooperation on the basis of equality with north and south, east and west». (Nursultan Nazarbayev,
«The Heart of Eurasia»)
During a Parliamentary session on July 6, 1994, President Nazarbayev announced his decision to move the capital
from Almaty to Akmola. The President describes the first reaction of deputies to this announcement as a “tomb-like silence”. The idea itself seemed so unbelievable, despite serious arguments from the President. Nonetheless, the decision
to move the capital to Akmola – 1 000 km up north deep into deserted steppe – was final.
Commemorative coin depicting
Abay Kunanbayev
Kazakhstan is having large-scale nationwide celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the great Abai. Almost every event
is devoted to the celebrations of the anniversary. Delegations from 25 countries of the world are visiting Kazakhstan to join the celebrations. Historical and Cultural State Memorial Complex is being opened in the homeland of the poet. Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, China and France are hosting numerous events dedicated to the poet’s anniversary.

On September 15, 1995, the President signed the Decree having the force of a law “On the Capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan”. This document instructs to form a State Committee for Relocation of the supreme authorities and central government bodies to Akmola.

«First of all, the relocation was required to strengthen Kazakhstan geopolitically. Astana is the heart of Eurasian continent that combines both European and Asian values. The city is equally open to south, east, north and west.

Secondly, safety considerations played a significant role in this decision. The capital of an independent state is supposed to be located away from its borders wherever possible, in the heart of the country.

Thirdly, the relocation was motivated by the need to revitalize Kazakhstan’ economy. It provided a multiplicative effect on the nation’s economy. Regions started their development, industries of economy specialized in production of building materials, road surfacing, energetics and mechanical engineering went back on their feet. Residential housing construction expansion is unprecedented. Astana’s development and construction provides 2% of GDP.

Fourthly, were affirmed our commitment to build a sustainable multiethnic state by relocating the capital into multiethnic region to preserve and promote interethnic friendship for everyone living in Kazakhstan.”

A boy on a camel
at the central square of Akmola, 1995
A fragment from the movie "Akmola - the city on the Ishim" (Boris Mamayev, Vladimir Gundaryev)
The new capital Akmola starts rapidly developing. Construction of housing projects for public servants and their families started on the site of today’s “Samal” district.
It was more than just switching their places of work. Populism and political apathy was a common issue among government officials after the collapse of the Soviet Union. As Nursultan Nazarbayev recalls, he clearly knew that civil servants
needed some shakeup, and the young state needed a new breed of managers at that moment.
The new capital should form that new generation of officials: strong-willed and vigorous.
“That was in the mid-1996, when Amanzhol Bulekpayev told me about his ordeals over the SEZ proposal, it was rather embarrassing to witness hopeless inactivity of the government, though I also understood that it was drowning in the sea of other problems; but the situation that had arisen was nothing less than quiet sabotage. But the idea was correct and right for the times: I concluded that it only needed some support to come into effect”. (Nursultan Nazarbayev, «The Heart of Eurasia»)
Nazarbayev’s Presidential decree had initiated the creation of Akmola Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in 1996.
It allowed raising the capital for creation of comfortable infrastructure in the city and became a powerful catalyst
in developing the Left Bank.
The success of Akmola SEZ resulted in bringing 60% of its profits into the city’s budget.
Region’s budget also benefited from 40% of SEZ profits.
On October 20, 1997, President Nazarbayev signed
a Decree on “Announcement of Akmola as the Capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan”.

All symbolic attributes of the state power: the Flag, the Emblem and
the Presidential Standard, were solemnly delivered to the new capital on November 8.
The President participated in the joint Session of both Chambers of Parliament and the Government on December 10, 1997, which meant that the capital’s relocation was a fait accompli. The city starts rapidly growing and developing
district-by-district rather than just house-by-house.
Central square of Akmola, 1998
«Hello, the capital», 1998

President Nazarbayev signed the Decree on renaming Akmola to Astana on May 6, 1998: it was the time to give a new name for
the new capital.

There were suggestions to name it after the country – Kazakhstan; there were other suggestions as well, including – Nursultan. However, one thing was true for all of them: Akmola needs renaming! Various options were suggested: Karaotkel, Yessil, Ishim, Sary-Arka. I’ve been tirelessly thinking over renaming. Once, at night, at around two o’clock, I suddenly realized that it is Astana! (Kazakh for “capital”) Capital is a capital! It is beautiful, catchy and bright and sounds great. There is no surprise that the new name instantly became so popular and widely used.

On June 10, the International Presentation of the new capital was held: Independent Kazakhstan revealed wonderful Astana to the world.

Kazakhstan carried out its first national population census between February 25 and March 4.
According to its results Kazakhstan had a population of 14 953 123 people, Astana – 319 324 people.
2000 2005
International Recognition of Astana
Independent Kazakhstan entered the 21st century with the new capital.
There are large-scale celebrations of the Millennium held in Astana and across the country.

Later, the same year, Astana joins the International Assembly of Capital and Major Cities.
Kashagan’s discovery in 2000 was one of the largest discoveries in the last 40 years and the largest offshore oil field.
Its potential equals reserves of 250 onshore oil fields. The development of Kashagan oil field is carried out
based on artificial islands.
On June 15, 2001 Master Plan of Astana Urban-Planning Development designed by
the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was adopted. More than 50 projects from different countries
participated in an open bid, but only one – the project of the Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, won the first prize.
Later on, the Master Plan underwent serious adjustments.
In April 2001, the 60-year old Dennis Tito (USA) rocketed into space from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome
and became the world’s first space tourist for 20 million dollars.
The opening ceremony of “Baiterek” Monument in Astana took place on August 30, 2002.
It became the most recognizable symbol of the new capital.
Architect Akmurza Tustambekov designed the project based on the initiative of the President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The monument is 97 meter high (symbolizing the year of 1997 –when the new capital was first announced),
and together with the sphere on top of the structure it is 105 meter.
“Baiterek” means a young, strong and growing tree; it symbolizes the state that preserved its historical background,
has a solid foundation and aimed towards prosperous future.
The President of the country initiated the first Congress of the Leaders of the World and Traditional Religions that took place in September 2003. Leaders, representatives of the world religions and honorable guests
from 13 countries of Europe, Asia and Africa have arrived in Astana.
The presentation ceremony of the new Presidential Residence – Akorda, took place on December 24, 2004.
Its construction started in 2001; the building rises as high as 86 meter, including a spire.
Akorda is one of the brightest embodiments of the nation’s new development philosophy.
A unique collection of Kazakh fine arts creates a complete artistic integrity in the residence.
Metaphorically, it reflects the steppe civilization in a mirror of the European culture.
The fifteen-millionth resident of Kazakhstan, a girl Perizat Uskembayeva, was born in Eastern Kazakhstan on May 28, 2004. Her twin brother started a marathon for sixteen-millionth resident by becoming the fifteen-million-first resident of the country.
The year of 2005 was the year of Presidential Elections in Kazakhstan.
Nursultan Nazarbayev won the nationwide presidential elections with 91.15% of votes on December 4.
2006 2010
Consolidation of Independence
A popular song called “My Kazakhstan” (“Meniñ Qazaqstanım”) written by Shamshi Kaldayakov in 1956 has become
the National Anthem of Kazakhstan on January 7, 2006. Before approval, the song underwent minor lyrical adjustments to fit its new State Anthem status.
The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is a pyramid-shaped unique architectural structure opened in late 2006 in Astana. The Pyramid symbolizes the unity of different religions and cultures. The project’s author is a prominent British architect
Sir Norman Foster. The 25 storey-building is 62 meter high and has an opera theater for 1 500 seats, a museum,
exhibition and concert halls, a library and offices for various religious confessions inside.
Kazakhstan established its National Space Agency in 2007. The new agency is engaged in management of state property and enforcement authorities in the field of research and use of space for peaceful purposes.
Since 2008, Kazakhstan celebrates a designated public holiday –
the Day of the Capital (or Astana Day) on July 6.
Introduction of The Palace of Independence harmoniously combining beauty and practicality, the past and the future,
took place on December 15, 2008. Bearing walls designed as Kazakh ‘kerege’ – yurt’s wall carcass, have become a unique architectural feature of the building. Total area of the Palace exceeds 40 thousand square meters.
Astana is the capital and the heart of Kazakhstan, where many critical issues defining the nation’s fate are being resolved,
it welcomes guests and delegations from around the world on a daily basis, and the Palace of Independence is the venue that hosts most of these meetings.
«We are witnessing a remarkable event in the life of our country: based on my instruction, it was planned to open 20 intellectual schools of the First President across Kazakhstan. We are to educate Kazakhstan’s future elite and that is why teachers and students will bear such a huge state responsibility. Only if our nation is competitive, we can build competitive Kazakhstan. Competitiveness is in knowledge. The 21st century is the century of knowledge».
(Nursultan Nazarbayev)
The first-ever intellectual school in Kazakhstan was opened on January 12, 2009 in Astana.
Unlike regular schools, this type of schools offers advanced study of certain fields depending on school’s specialization
(physics and mathematics, etc.) and they enroll particularly distinguished school students from around Kazakhstan.
Another significant monument “Kazakh Yeli” (“The Land of Kazakhs”) was opened in the Square of Independence in 2009.
The structure is 91 meter high (91 is symbolizing the year of Independence) with a mythical Samruk bird on the top of it.
The decorative bas-relief at the base of the monument depicts important historical milestones of independence.
The “Kazakh Yeli” Monument symbolizes main values of Kazakhstan’s statehood
and is one of the new symbols of the country.
«Both Chairmanship and OSCE Summit are a major triumph of foreign policy for Kazakhstan. Due to this, the whole world knows about Kazakhstan. Previously, our nation was the geographical centre of the Eurasian continent, now Kazakhstan is also a political centre of Eurasia».
(Nursultan Nazarbayev)
The first OSCE Summit in more than a decade brought national leaders and high-ranking government officials
from 38 member states to Astana on December 1-2 in 2010.
2011 2016
Astana, The City of Dreams
Kazakhstan’s 20th Anniversary of Independence was celebrated in 2011. Celebrations in December included
the opening ceremony of 20 meter high “Mangilik Yel” Triumphal Arch in Astana. Bronze sculptures, depicting an ‘aksakal’ –
a Kazakh sage, Great Woman Mother, Medieval Batyr (‘warrior’) and modern soldier, decorate recesses within the facade.
The opening ceremony of one of the most beautiful architectural structures of the capital and embodiment of
Kazakhstan’s spiritual wealth, the new “Hazrat Sultan” Cathedral Mosque, was held on July 6, 2012.
With a capacity of 10 thousand people, this is the second largest mosque in Central Asia.
Astana is still developing today in 2016, with its own unique rhythm of life, against all the odds and prejudices.
By the beginning of 2002, the population of Astana has already achieved the indicators estimated for 2010.
On July 4, Astana celebrated the birth of its millionth resident!

Astana city Statistics Department, PI

National Archive of the Republic of Kazakhstan, RSI

National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, RSI

Library of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, PI

Central State Archive of the Republic of Kazakhstan, RSI

State Archive of Astana, PI

Astana Opera State Theater of Opera and Ballet

NC Kazakhstan Temir Zholy JSC

Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Central State Archive of Cinema and Photo Documents and Audio Recordings of the Republic of Kazakhstan

National Academic Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan, RSI

National Company Astana EXPO-2017, JSC

Kazinform International information agency, LLP

Aerospace committee (Kazcosmos) of the Ministry of defense and the aerospace industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan

North Caspian Operating Company

Duman Entertainment Centre

Dixinews.kz, web portal

Assumption Cathedral

Photographers: Vassiliy Kras, Sali Sabirov, Mukhtar Kholdorbekov, Kanat Musin

Created by:

Astana city Internal Policy Office, PI

«Black&White Group», LLP

E-mail: mail@bw.com.kz

© 2016

A fragment from the movie «Mirror of time» (Channel One Eurasia)