Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan. It is located on the Ishim River in the north portion of Kazakhstan, within the Akmola Region, though administrated separately from the region as a city with special status. The 2014 census reported a population of 835,153 within the city limits, making it the second largest city in Kazakhstan.
Founded in 1830 as a settlement of Akmoly or Akmolinsky prikaz , it served as a defensive fortification for the Siberian Cossacks. In 1832 the settlement was granted a town status and renamed Akmolinsk . On March 20, 1961 the city was renamed Tselinograd to mark the city’s evolution as a cultural and administrative center of the Virgin Lands Campaign. In 1992 it was renamed Akmola, the modified original name meaning “a white grave”. On December 10, 1997 Akmola replaced Almaty as the capital of Kazakhstan. On May 6, 1998 it was renamed Astana, which means “the capital” in Kazakh.
Today’s Astana is a planned city, like Brasília in Brazil, Canberra in Australia, and Washington, D.C. in the United States. The city took its current form after the independence of Kazakhstan in 1991, under President Nazarbayev. The master plan of Astana was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.
As the seat of the Government of Kazakhstan, Astana is the site of the Parliament House, the Supreme Court, the Ak Orda Presidential Palace and numerous government departments and agencies. It is home to many futuristic buildings, hotels and skyscrapers.Astana also has extensive healthcare, sports and education systems.