Kazakhstan Moves Capital CityDateline: 06/29/98 (Rev. 02/06/99)
Kazakhstan, which has kept cartographers busy over the past few years by changing their name from Kazakhstan to Kazakstan and back again to Kazakhstan, formally dedicated and renamed their capital city on June 12. Akmola, which means "white tombstone" in Kazakah was renamed Astana, which means "capital."
President Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to move the country's capital city from Almaty to Akmola in December 1997. Over one-half of a billion U.S. dollars has been spent to upgrade Astana, which had an estimated population of approximately 900,000 in 1991.
The President and government are vague regarding the reasons for the move but the capital has been moved to the interior and places the focus of Kazakhstan in an area which is inhabited by a large Russian minority population. The old capital was located in the southern part of the country, near the Kazakhstan's border with Kyrgyzstan and China.
While millions of dollars were spent, Astana is still not a well connected city. International flights do not fly directly into the city, roads to Astana is not well-maintained, and a train ride from Almaty, which does have international connections, takes one full day. Most embassies do not plan to move to the new capital.
Once a province of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan became a independent country when the USSR fell in late 1991. Kazakhstan is the world's ninth largest country in area and has a population of approximately 17 million.
Read the Christian Science Monitor's article, Puzzle over capital move in Central Asia.
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