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5 Jul, 2008 12:32

World’s youngest capital turns ten

This weekend Kazakhstan celebrates the tenth anniversary of its new purpose-built capital, Astana. A decade ago, the capital was moved from the south-eastern city of Almaty to what is almost the geographical centre of the Euro-Asian continent. And despite

The present-day capital of Kazakhstan has changed its name three times during its history.

After gaining independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country's president made a statement to parliament suggesting moving the then capital from the southern city of Almaty to a little town called Akmola in the middle of the steppes.

The idea was put before parliament on 6 July 1995 – the president's birthday, and two years later it became reality.

Kamal Burkhanov, MP, who voted for moving the capital to Astana together with the country's political institutions, says it was not that easy:

«99 per cent were against moving the capital here, but President Nazarbaev's initiative, and trust in the idea won in the end.»

Bulat Kuanyshev is an honoured citizen of Astana.

He came here in 1961, the same year large groups from all over the Soviet Union were sent to start building the city.

“Over the last ten years, a new capital, a new city on a grand scale has been built on the site of old Akmala and Tselinograd. Before that, there were no big buildings or infrastructure here,” Bulat says.

In Kazakhstan even the younger generation remembers the time when today's capital was only a quite and small provincial town. Ziyada Zhanatayeva, a graduate of the Eurasian State University enjoys the new opportunities the city offers and welcomes the changes.

“I’ve lived here since I was born. This space was only steppe. I like the city the way it is now,” says Ziyada.