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Nur-Sultan changed its name: the past and present of the extremely cold capital

  On the banks of the Ishim River in northern Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan, the world’s second-coldest capital, has now returned to its original name, Astana.
  Since its establishment for nearly 2 centuries, the name has changed from Akmola to Astana to the former Nur-Sultan. This city of “white graves” where the lowest temperature was once below -50 degrees Celsius, blows from the vast grassland in winter. The cold wind was still cold.
Change back to Astana

  On September 16 this year, when Tokayev was attending the SCO summit in neighboring Uzbekistan, the upper and lower houses of the Kazakh parliament convened a joint meeting and passed the amendment and supplementary bill recently proposed by President Tokayev.
  According to the bill, the name of the capital of Kazakhstan has changed from “Nur-Sultan”, which was renamed in 2019, to the previous “Astana”, which means “capital” in Kazakh language. Originally, it was just a fortress built by the Cossack cavalry.
  Earlier on September 2, in the Kazakh parliament, a group of parliamentarians called “New Kazakhstan” launched a proposal to change the capital’s name from Nur-Sultan back to Astana. The lawmakers said it was “not right” to name a city after a person who was still alive; they also said that changing the capital’s name back to Astana was “in line with the needs and expectations of citizens”.
  The proposal was approved by Tokayev, and the renaming of the capital was quickly put on the agenda. On September 15, the city council of Nur-Sultan held an online hearing on whether the city should change its name back. At the meeting, the deputy director of the National Institute of History said that the country’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, played an immeasurable role in the creation of the country, but with Nursultan as the name of the city “It may be sloppy”; he also said that Nazarbayev “may also understand and not get angry.”
  Interestingly, in March 2019, Nazarbayev announced his resignation as President of Kazakhstan in advance. After Tokayev took over as president of the Senate, he proposed changing the capital’s name from Astana to Nur-Sultan, the former president’s name. In his inaugural speech, Tokayev said that the construction of the national capital is a historical feat of Nazarbayev; he also proposed at the time that the Central Street of the state capitals of the country should also be marked with “Nursultan Nazar Nazarbayev” and erected a monument to Nazarbayev in the capital.

First President Nursultan Nazarbayev

  He also proposed at the time that the Central Street in the state capitals of the country should also be named “Nursultan Nazarbayev”.

  What Tokayev said was true. Astana, as one of the youngest capitals in the world, its history is indeed inseparable from Nazarbayev’s vigorous promotion of relocation during his tenure.
Move out of Almaty

  Back in 1994, Kazakhstan, which had been independent for only 3 years, passed a resolution to move the capital at the initiative of then-President Nazarbayev, and thus established the Capital Relocation Committee.
  At that time, the Republic of Kazakhstan had its capital located in Almaty in the southeast. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Almaty was the capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. As a famous industrial base and transportation hub in Central Asia, due to the irrigation of many surrounding mountains and streams, the land in Almaty is fertile, and most areas have been developed into orchards. In the southern suburbs of the city, the mountains and plains are full of apples. It has won the reputation of “Apple City”.
  Such a rich and livable place, but why was Nazarbayev deprived of its status as an administrative center? Among them, the most important practical factor is the consideration of homeland security and unity and stability.
  In Kazakhstan, the largest ethnic group is the Kazakhs, accounting for more than 60% of the country’s total population, while the country’s second largest ethnic group, the Russians, accounts for a little more than 20%.
  After the independence of Kazakhstan, the Russians did not have a strong sense of identity with the new republic, but they were mainly distributed in the northern part of Kazakhstan bordering Russia, far away from the then capital Almaty. The sense of crisis of ethnic division permeates Kazakhstan at all times, and it has become one of the main reasons for the leaders to move the capital north.
  A more realistic consideration is that, based on Soviet-era planning, most industrial and mining enterprises, state-owned farms, railway facilities and power transmission lines in Kazakhstan are concentrated in the north, far from Almaty.
  Almaty itself is located on the southeastern border of the country, and it is also doomed that its fate as the capital cannot last long. Almaty, located at the northern foot of the Alatau Mountains, has only a little plain open to the north, and the other three sides are surrounded by mountains. At the same time, it is less than 20 kilometers away from the border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and is closely connected with Fergan, where extremist forces are active. It is within a day’s drive to travel to and from the Nabasin area – which makes the rulers of Kazakhstan even more worried that violent terrorist forces, ethnic separatist forces and religious extremist forces are infiltrating the heart of the motherland.

Almaty surrounded by mountains

  Apart from human factors, in terms of geographical objective factors, Almaty belongs to the North Tianshan earthquake zone. From the early 19th century to the early 20th century, there were at least 4 strong earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter scale. Due to the poor atmospheric circulation and high air pollution caused by the mountainous terrain, the Kazakh authorities cannot make up their minds to concentrate on construction in this area.
Choose one of the four cities

  There are many reasons for moving the national capital away from Almaty, but why, the bitter cold city then known as Akmola?
  Considering the above-mentioned location factors, cities that meet the conditions of Xindu first need to maintain a geographical distance with the three northern Kazakhstan states of Pavlodar, North Kazakhstan and Kostanay.
  In the choice of the specific path for moving the capital, there is much more to be considered. In 1994, after the decision to move the capital was passed, the Kazakhstan Capital Relocation Committee formulated dozens of indicators that the new capital should meet. These include socio-economic status, climate, landform, earthquake risk, ecological environment and human resources. According to these indicators, the names of four cities appeared in the candidate list of the capital relocation committee.

  In addition to Akmora, the candidate cities for the new capital are Ultau, Karaganda and Aktobe, the capital of Aktobe.
  From a comprehensive perspective, these three cities have their own strengths, but their shortcomings are also very prominent: Ultau, as the geographical center of Kazakhstan, can play an obvious role in condensing national identity and national unity, but the city Far from water sources, development is lagging behind, and the scale of the city is insufficient; Karaganda, a heavy industry base, has relatively developed infrastructure, but the land subsidence is serious, and the ecological environment is not livable; and Aktobe City, although it is an important oil town, has more balanced development in all aspects. , but it is located in the northwest region and faces a similar embarrassment to Almaty.

  The land in Almaty is fertile, and most of the area has been turned into orchards.

  In contrast, despite the strong cold wind blowing from October to March of the following year, the location advantage of Akmola itself is unmatched by other alternative cities. Expand the map of Kazakhstan, Akmola, located in the northwest of the world’s largest landlocked country, happens to be surrounded by the three northern states of Kazakhstan, from east, north and west, and the distance from the capitals of these three states is 500 meters. within kilometers.
  As a result, after establishing the capital of Akmola, the Kazakh authorities solved the most urgent need to move the administrative center north. In addition, because Akmola is located in a semi-desert grassland area, the terrain is open, and the Ishim River runs through the city, and the water and soil resources are abundant, which is extremely beneficial for the construction of a new city in the future. On December 10, 1997, in Akmola, Nazarbayev officially declared the city to be the new and permanent capital of Kazakhstan. From this day on, Akmola set off a vigorous construction movement.
Economic center with equal emphasis on north and south

  From 1994 to 1997, when the capital was relocated, the regional governments of Kazakhstan began to undertake the corresponding share of infrastructure expenditures for the new capital.
  In order to make the new capital an international city with regional influence, Nazarbayev personally went into battle and planned and designed some government public buildings, squares and schools for the city. In the central and northern regions, a number of construction projects for civil airports, trunk roads, power hubs and industrial zones have been launched, turning the new and old capitals into economic centers with equal emphasis on the north and the south.

The 62-meter-high Peace Palace Pyramid

Gilded hand mold of Nazarbayev’s right hand

  From the warm and prosperous Almaty with a population of one million, to the small town of Akmora with a population of only 120,000 in the 1990s, Kazakhstan has invested a lot of energy and funds in the process of moving the capital to build Astana. It has become one of the most modern cities in Central Asia today. Astana’s population has also exceeded 1 million, and traffic congestion during morning and evening rush hours, a common problem in big cities, has also become a headache for the city.
  In the capital of Kazakhstan, which has now been renamed back to Astana, there has always been a local saying: Astana is the daughter of three fathers, God, Nazarbayev and British architect Norman Fu ster.
  Nazarbayev and Foster are close friends. In the international tender held by the Kazakh authorities for the urban planning of Astana, the latter relied on the idea of ​​making Astana a “city of peace and light”. The winning bid for the idea coincides with the spirit that Nazarbayev, who took the initiative to abandon nuclear weapons, hopes to convey, making the Peace Palace Pyramid and the “Tree of Life” Bayterek Observation Tower become the classic landmarks of the city.
  Although the design of the Bayterek Observation Tower was designed by Foster, its original inspiration came from Nazarbayev. After many years, Nazarbayev’s hand-painted design draft for the tree of life is still well preserved; on the top floor of this 105-meter-high sightseeing tower, there is a gilded hand mold of Nazarbayev’s right hand. . The name of the city has changed again and again, but in every corner of it, traces of Nazarbayev still remain.

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