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Nur-Sultan city.

Tours to Nur-Sultan city.

“The city's full of people who you just see around.” 

Terry Pratchett.

Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Astana tours.

Nur-Sultan is the capital of the republic. Since 1997 December 10 it was named Akmola, and since 1998 May 6 it was renamed in Nur-Sultan (till 1961 Akmolinsk, then Selinograd). Nur-Sultan is an important industry and cultural center of the republic, also railway auto-transport junction.
Population: 860368 on May 1 2015. Names for Astana include: Akmola, Tselinograd and Akmolinsk. This city was originally founded as a fortress in 1824 and named Akmolinsk. It was renamed Tselinograd (Russian for Virgin City) during the rule of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
The main reason for this name change was to promote more permanent agriculture in Northern Kazakstan during the Virgin Lands Program. The cities name was again changed in 1991 to Aqmola, when Kazakstan gained it's freedom. Because the name Aqmola sounded too much like "White Grave", Nazarbayev changed the name to Astana (literally "Capital") in 1998.
Astana has been an important rail junction in Northern Kazakstan. It is located along the Ishim River and they produce agricultural machinery, chemicals and has meat-packing plants.
Due to it's location in Northern Kazakstan, there is speculation, that has been officially denied, that the reason for the move of the capital to the north is to exert a more Kazak influence on the more russified Northern Kazakstan.
In 1824 it was founded as the military locality, in 1868 it had got the status of the town, and in 50s of XX century it was an important center of development of virgin and disused lands in the north of the country. 
The industry of the town is represented by agri-mechanical engineering, food industry, refining of the agricultural raw material, and transport. Earlier it was the fortification founded  by the Russian Kazak troops in 1830 on the bank of the Ishim river in Karaotkel natural boundary.
The location of Kazakhstan's capital began as nothing more than a ford across the Esil River (also Yesil, or Ishim in Russian), close to which a settlement called Akmola emerged part of a trading route that originated on a branch of the ancient Silk Road.
Akmola was used as a staging post by travellers, and trade in cattle and merchandise from China and the towns of the Central Asian steppe flourished. Scholars differ on whether the name refers to the nearby white barrows or graves (Ak Mola) or the "white abundance" of sheep's wool, cotton and mare's milk. 
Fresh excavations on nearby Lake Buzuk suggest a settlement called Ak Zhol (White Track) during the time of the Desht-Kypchak from the X to XII centuries AD. In 1830, the Russians established a fortress here and named il Akmolinsk. 
The stronghold at first served as a shelter for the Kazakhs against attacks from warlike neighbours such as the Kalmyks, Bashkirs and Cossacks, but later on its role changed to that of an outpost in Russia's campaign to colonize the nomadic steppe peoples. In 1838, it was captured and razed by Kenesary Kasymov, the leader of the largest Kazakh revolt against Russian colonialism. But Russia's ambitions could not be held back.
Akmolinsk was rebuilt, the settlement grew in size and importance and in 1862 it obtained city status. Mining became its predominant industry and it also became an important railway junction.
The city retained its name of Akmolinsk until 1961, by which time it had gone through a period of being used as a place of exile. Many Volga Germans were deported here and turned large areas into productive land, and during World War II almost 70 000 Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians were evacuated from the battle zones to the Akmolinsk region. Whoever arrived, however, was received with great hospitality according to Kazakh tradition, and most of them stayed on after the war.
The opening-up of the lands surrounding Akmolinsk was carried out on a grand scale as part of the "Virgin Lands" scheme. Tens of thousands of young people came here from Alma-Ata, Moscow and many areas of Russia and Ukraine, some voluntarily, others "delegated".
They built dozens of settlements and made the land productive, with numberless square kilometres of new land put under the plough. The city in the centre of the area was renamed "Virgin Lands Town" or Tselinograd in Russian.
In 1992, following Kazakhstan's declaration of independence, the city was given back its old name Akmola. However, in 1998 the government suddenly - and surprisingly - announced that Kazakhstan's capital status was to be shifted from Almaty to Akmola, and the city was to be renamed Astana - meaning "capital" - with immediate effect. 
(Apparently, the name Akmola was not to the liking of the city planners because its literal meaning White Tomb, or perhaps deadly winter, had negative connotations for the President's risky and hugely ambitious project.)
There are a number of reasons why charming, green Almaty, with its tremendous mountain scenery and its mild climate, had to surrender its position as the capital in favour of an incongruous town in the steppe - somewhere to which unwanted people were once banished, somewhere extremely hot in summer and gruesomely cold in winter.
As a result of the more recent history of Kazakh settlement and in particular Russia's colonization of the nomadic steppe peoples, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz had been gradually pushed towards the south, while the north was increasingly inhabited by Russians, Ukrainians and, later, Germans (Almaty being an exception).
This division triggered many economic, social and political challenges. In the middle of the 1990, almost 80 percent of the money that circulated in Kazakhstan was located in Almaty and its surrounding areas.
The shifting of the capital city farther north was intended to narrow this gap and improve the prospects for the northern provinces. Moving the capital should also bring about a better-balanced ethnic mix, a cooling of separatist tendencies among the Russian population groups in the north of Kazakhstan, more single-minded economic development in so far undeveloped parts of the country, and a halt to the exodus of human resources in the region.
Other arguments have been put forward for the shift from Almaty to Akmola/Astana, from the fact that Almaty is earthquake-prone, to increasing environmental problems in that city in recent years, in particular air pollution.
Putting greater distance between the staunchly secular Kazakhstan government and its much more religious - if not militant- Central Asian contemporaries to the south could also have been a factor.
A revamp of the ageing generation of long-established civil servants was promised in setting up the new capital, and a new cadre of young, ambitious state employees was recruited in order to fill the government's ranks in the new capital.
Moving the capital in 1998 was of course a tough ordeal for state officials who had to relocate there immediately. There were insufficient offices for the newcomers, and appropriate residences were scarce, with little worth classifying as luxurious.
Flats from the 1960s-80s dominated the city, and it was obvious that the cityscape had to change fundamentally - and fast. It has certainly done that: since 1997, building in the new capital has been taking place on a massive scale and at warp speed. The provincial airport of Akmola became the Astana International Airport, to which Air Astana, Lufthansa and KLM now fly.
The Presidential National Culture Centre, with its blue dome in the shape of a yurt, was completed in 2000; a new national university was opened, the Eurasian Gumilyov University, named after the spiritual father of the notion of a united Eurasia; and many modern architectural gems have followed.
The mix in building styles gives an impression of a capital where Western and Eastern cultures meet. Turkish and domestic construction firms have built - and continue to build - colourful skyscrapers of many different designs on the right bank of the Esil River, Seating a skyline worthy of a new metropolis.
Astana is neatly split down the middle by the Esil - but it wasn't always this way. The old town of Akmola was situated almost entirely on the river's right bank, with only the city's central park and a few roads on the left bank acting as a buffer for the open steppe to the south.
This area, however, was designated as the site for a brand-new city that would rival the ultra-modern metropolises of Dubai and Hong Kong - and so it has turned out to be. In fact, one could say that the fantastic city development plan drawn up by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa has in fact been overtaken by the reality and successes of the achievements so far.
The new Presidential Palace, the Baiterek observation tower - a landmark for the city and the country - Kazakhstan's largest mosque, the modernistic KazMunaiGaz building, many more government and business complexes with glass and steel facades, gigantic residential complexes in imperial styles, massive hotels, an exhibition centre, a monumental leisure centre, an oceanarium, a national library and archives, a special zone for diplomats.. there is no end in sight to the building boom on the Esil's southern bank.
In 2006, Sir Norman Foster's architect firm completed an inspirational glass pyramid named the Palace of Peace and Harmony that has garnered praise around the world; it was created to be a meeting place for the leading representatives of world religions.
Such was its success  that Foster's company has been commissioned again, this time to build an even bigger construction, a colossal 150-metre-high, tent-shaped cone named Khan Shatyr, which will - when it opens in 2010 - provide 10,000 of the capital's residents and visitors with a massive recreation centre protected from the elements by a transparent plastic compound that absorbs the sun and regulates the temperature inside, allowing people to sip coffee and even sunbathe by an artificial lake while it is well below freezing outside (during the cold steppe winter).
Meanwhile, flowers, shrubs and trees planted on spacious green -throughout the city attempt to reduce the effects of the extreme weather caused by Astana's continental climate. With Astana, Kazakhstan is presenting a completely new, ultra-modern face to the world, one that shows its ambitions both within the region and on the global stage, and also its economic and financial power.
Economists say that the President has allocated over US$10 billion for the construction of his new city - and that's without taking foreign investment into account. The original plan was for the President's dream of a true capital to have come to fruition by the year 2030, but the actual growth in population puts these expectations in the shade (the 500,000th resident was born in 2002, a milestone originally forecast for 2007).
In 2010, the metropolis should already have a population of a million people, and the city's area is now three times larger than it was in 1997. Wander down the river promenade and you'll be part of a vibrant scene as people go walking, skateboarding and jogging by; across the river the aqua park is full of life.
Everywhere, businesses, cafes, restaurants and hotels are emerging. A lively nightlife has developed, and most foreign embassies have now moved from Almaty to their new home. The new metropolis is being accepted, and all those banks and enterprises who initially refused to move from Almaty to the steppe have had to reconsider.

The guidebook across Kazakhstan. Authors Dagmar Schreiber and Jeremy Tredinnick. Publishing house "Odyssey".2010.

Alexander Petrov.