The idea of creation of the new, modern capital of Kazakhstan belongs to the Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The decision to shift the capital from Almaty to Akmola was adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan on July 6, 1994. The official shift of the capital happened on December 10, 1997. In accordance with the President’s Decree dated May 6, 1998 Akmola was renamed into Astana. The new capital was presented internationally on June 10, 1998.
At present Astana’s territory makes up more than 700 square kilometres, its population size as of June 1, 2012 is more than 750 thousand people. The city consists of three districts - "Almaty", "Saryarka" and "Yessil".
Astana is located to the north of Kazakhstan’s geographical centre in a zone of dry steppes, in a subzone of dry fescue-feather grass steppes. The city sits on terraces above the flood plain. Yessil river is the main waterway of the capital. The climate is extreme continental – a cold and prolonged winter, and a hot, moderately arid summer.
Astana’s favorable location in the centre of the Eurasian continent makes it an economically advantageous transport, communication and logistics centre, a unique transit bridge between Europe and Asia.
The shift of the capital has given a powerful impulse to Astana’s economic development. The city’s high economic growth rates attract numerous investors. The volume of attracted investments from the time Astana became the capital has increased by 30 times and the total regional product by 90 times. The share of the city’s GRP in the republican volume makes up about 8,5 percent.
The city’s economy is based on trade, industrial production, transport, communication and construction. The city’s industrial production is mainly focused on producing construction materials, foodstuff and mechanical engineering. Since the shift of the capital the industrial output has increased by 11 times.
The city became one of the largest business centres in Kazakhstan. Astana’s entrepreneurial culture is dynamically developing – there are more than 50 thousand small and medium businesses, in which about 170 thousand townspeople are involved. The monthly average nominal salary of the capital’s population makes up about 140 thousand tenge.
The city is a leader in terms of the volume of construction in the country. Since Astana became the capital, 10 million square metres of housing has been constructed in the city. Hundreds of construction companies participated in building of Astana. Along with local firms the new capital was erected by Turkish, Italian, French and Swiss companies. Nursultan Nazarbayev's idea of creating a special Eurasian style in the capital laid at the basis of Astana’s architectural concept. The capital’s general plan was developed by the well-known Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.
Astana is a city that clearly demonstrates capabilities of the modern architecture. A unique city with wondrous buildings has emerged in the centre of Kazakhstan’s steppes.
High technologies and innovative methods of the XXI century urban development have been widely used in building the city. The architectural style of Kazakhstan’s modern capital embraces a harmonious combination of cultural traditions of the West and the East. The well-known architects from all over the globe implemented here their best projects.
The "Bayterek" complex turned into the main symbol of the new capital and its "hallmark". There are other unique architectural constructions, including “The Palace of Peace and Accord”, designed by the well-known British architect Norman Foster and built in the form of a pyramid, "Khan Shatyr" shopping centre - the highest tent construction in the world, "Duman" oceanarium – the most remote one from the sea, "Kazakhstan" central concert hall, “Triumph of Astana” and "Polar lights" housing estates, office buildings of "KazMunayGas" and “Kazakhstan Railways” national companies.
The city’s modern sports facilities include the 30 thousand seater "Astana-Arena" stadium, the unique 10 thousand seater cycle track "Sary-Arka" that was recognized as the best one in the world in 2011. Another important sports complex is the "Alau" ice palace that meets highest international standards.
Nowadays Astana besides differing by its refined architecture is also turning into a garden city. The city’s “green belt” is getting wider and accordingly Astana is becoming a green oasis in the centre of huge steppes, being a model of non-polluting megacity. Astana’s mission is to become a cultural and intellectual centre of the Eurasian space and to play a role of the main generator of Kazakhstan’s sustainable development.
Astana is a large political-administrative, business and cultural centre of the republic. All central authorities of the country, diplomatic missions, headquarters of domestic and foreign companies, leading universities, up-to-date medical clinics and significant cultural institutions are located in this city.
The capital city is connected with more than twenty cities of the world through friendly sister city relations. In July, 1999 by the decision of UNESCO Astana was awarded the title of “World City”. Since 2000, Kazakhstan’s main city is the member of the International Assembly of Capitals and Cities.
Nowadays Astana is the centre of the Eurasian space, where various forums, congresses and other activities of international significance are conducted. For the last years the capital of Kazakhstan has repeatedly been in the focus of attention of the world community. Congresses of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the Astana Economic Forum and other internationally significant events are held in the capital city on a regular basis. In December, 2010 in Astana the historical OSCE Summit took place, later anniversary SOC and OIC summits were held. In the beginning of 2011 the city received participants and guests of the VII Winter Asian Games. At present Astana is one of the main favourites to host the international exhibition EXPO-2017.
In a short term the new capital, emerged by the will of the First President of Kazakhstan turned into a national idea and became a symbol of independence and the young state’s global success.
In his keynote speech, dedicated to Astana’s 10th anniversary Nursultan Nazarbayev has very vividly and figuratively defined the philosophy of the new capital city’s development:
«Here on the ancient earth of Sary-Arka the cradle of the country’s future has emerged. The history of Astana and the Kazakhstani’s destiny are inseparable from each other. The capital embodies power, dynamical development and stability of our country. Astana has become a bright, strong, prospering city that unites all Kazakhstanis and aspires to the future. Our capital is the heart of our motherland, the symbol of people’s belief in its power and great mission. Nowadays representatives of more than one hundred nationalities live in Astana, as well as all over the country. Astana and the new Kazakhstan are built on the basis of people’s friendship, mutual understanding and solidarity.