Abstract:A unit of Siberian Cossacks from Omsk founded a huge fortress on the upper Ishim River in 1824. This became the town of "Akmolinsk," which became an administrative center in 1868. During the early 20th century, the town became a railway junction, causing an economic boom that lasted until t...
A unit of Siberian Cossacks from Omsk founded a huge fortress on the upper Ishim River in 1824. This became the town of "Akmolinsk," which became an administrative center in 1868. During the early 20th century, the town became a railway junction, causing an economic boom that lasted until the Russian Civil War (1917-1923).
Astana was made a provincial center in 1939, at which time its population reached 33,000. Outside Astana, there stood the Akmolinskii Camp for Wives of Traitors of the Motherland, one of the most notorious in the Gulag archipelago, which was reserved for the wives of men Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) considered "enemies of the people."
Many Russian-Germans were resettled there after being deported under Stalin at the beginning of World War II (1939-1945), when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
The city was at the center of the Virgin Lands Campaign led by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) in the 1950s, in order to turn the state into a second grain producer for the Soviet Union. In 1961, it was renamed "Tselinograd," meaning “City of the Virgin Lands,” and made capital of the Soviet Virgin Lands Territory (Tselinny Krai).
At that time, considerable building construction took place, and research and higher educational institutions were set up. The high portion of Russian immigrants in this area, which later led to ethnic tension, can be traced to the influx of agricultural workers at this time.
After Kazakhstan gained its independence in 1991, the city and the region were renamed "Aqmola." The name was often translated as "White Tombstone," but actually means "Holy Place" or "Holy Shrine." The "White Tombstone" literal translation was too appropriate for many visitors to escape notice in almost all guide books and travel accounts.
Despite the isolated location of the new capital in the center of the Kazakh Steppe, and the forbidding winter climate, Kazakhstan needed a more central location than its former location of Almaty, which lies on the far southeastern border with Kyrgyzstan. The official reasons for the move were a lack of space for expansion in Almaty, and its location in an earthquake zone. In 1994 the government began to transfer the national capital from Almaty to Aqmola (named Astana since 1998). The transfer was completed in 1997.
To some Kazakhs, the move remains controversial. Critics resent the massive expenditure of public funds to build the new government complexes, as well as the continuing cost of airfare and hotel expenses for the many government workers who still live in Almaty. Lucrative development contracts handed out to companies owned by President Nazarbayev's family members have been questioned.