Nur-Sultan, known, between 1998 and 2019, as Astana, is the capital city of Kazakhstan. In March 2019, it was renamed Nur-Sultan in honour of the departing Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Nursultan lies in the north-central part of the country, along the Ishim River, at the junction of the Trans-Kazakhstan and South Siberian railways.
It stands on the banks of the Ishim River in the northern part of Kazakhstan, within the Akmola Region, though administered as a city with special status separately from the rest of the region. A 2017 official estimate reported a population of 1,029,556 within the city limits, making it the second-largest city in the country, after Almaty, the previous capital, between 1991 and 1997.The original city of Akmola then Astana from 1998, and from 2019 Nur-Sultan became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997, and since then has developed economically into one of the most modern cities in Central Asia.On 23 March 2019, following a unanimous vote in Kazakhstan's parliament, the city was renamed Nur-Sultan, after former Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.Modern Nur-Sultan is a planned city, following the process of other planned capitals. After it became the capital of Kazakhstan, the city dramatically changed its shape. The Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa designed the master plan for Astana. As the seat of the Government of Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan 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 a range of futuristic buildings, including many skyscrapers.
In 1832, the settlement was granted a town status and renamed Akmolinsk. On 20 March 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 “white grave” or “holy city”. On 10 December 1997, Akmola replaced Almaty as the capital of Kazakhstan.
Data and Facts
- The city was founded in the 1830s as a Cossack military outpost on a key trade route between Central Asia and Western Siberia
- It is known for its futuristic buildings, including a pyramid-shaped Palace of Peace and Accord designed by British architect Norman Foster and a residential complex named “Astana’s Triumph”
- City authorities plan to build a huge bullet-shaped tower that will become Central Asia’s tallest at 1,300 feet
- Little surrounds the city for 1,200 kilometers, save a handful of provincial towns dotted across the world's largest steppe, a flat, empty expanse of grassland
- In the winter months temperatures can fall to minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit), making it the second coldest capital city in the world. In the summer, the mercury can reach up to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Since it became the country's capital, Nur-sultan’s population has more than doubled to 750,000
Kazakhstan is a unitary republic with a bicameral legislature consisting of a Senate and an Assembly . Working jointly, the two chambers have the authority to amend the constitution, approve the budget, ratify treaties, and declare war; each chamber also has exclusive powers. Legislators serve four-year terms. Two members of the Senate are elected from each oblast and major city by all legislative members of that administrative unit, with the exception of several appointed by the president. Ninety-eight members of the Assembly are elected from population-based constituencies by universal adult suffrage; nine members are elected by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, a president-appointed body intended to represent the interests of the several ethnic groups in Kazakhstan.
The president is the head of state and is directly elected for a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms. The president serves as commander in chief of the armed forces and is responsible for the country’s foreign relations.
The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court, and there also are a number of lower courts; a Constitutional Council, the members of which are appointed by the president and legislature, reviews constitutional questions. Judges serve life terms and are appointed by the president, with those of the Supreme Court also subject to confirmation by the legislature.
The constitution specifies a number of rights of the citizens of Kazakhstan, including freedom of speech, religion, and movement. Citizens have the right to work, to own property, and to form trade unions. This precipitated the drafting of the 1995 constitution, which expanded the already substantial powers granted to the president by the 1993 constitution. In 2017 a set of amendments reduced the role of the presidency and granted greater authority to the parliament.
Nur-Sultan has become a platform for high-profile diplomatic talks and summits on critical global issues. Nur-Sultan has hosted multiple rounds of talks between the Assad regime and Syrian opposition. The 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization is to be held there in 2020.
Nur-Sultan's economy is based on trade, industrial production, transport, communication and construction. The city's industrial production is mainly focused on producing building materials, foodstuff and mechanical engineering. The Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) opened in July 2018 to become a hub for financial services in Central Asia. Nur-Sultan is the headquarters of state-owned corporations such as Samruk-Kazyna, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, KazMunayGas, KazTransOil, Kazatomprom, KEGOC, Kazpost and Kazakhtelecom.
The shift of the capital has given it a powerful boost to Nur-Sultan's economic development. The city's high economic growth rate has attracted numerous investors. In the 16 years since Nur-Sultan became the capital, the volume of investments has increased by almost 30 times, the gross regional product has increased by 90 times,
and industrial output has increased by 11 times. The city's Gross Regional Product makes up about 8.5 per cent of the republic's Gross domestic product.The Nur-Sultan – New City special economic zone was established in 2001 to help develop industry and increase the attractiveness of the city to investors. The SEZ plans to commission five projects worth 20 billion KZT (around $108 million) in the Industrial Park No. 1 in 2015.The projects include construction of a plant for production of diesel engines, a fast food complex, temporary storage warehouses and a business center, a furniture factory, and production of military and civil engineering machinery.
The new Nur-Sultan /Astana International Financial Centre is due to launch on 1 January 2018. Nur-Sultan's administration is promoting the development of small and medium-sized businesses through the cooperation of the Sovereign Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazyna and National Economic Chamber. Support is provided by a special programme of crediting.
As a result, the number of small and medium-sized businesses increased by 13.7% to over 96,000 compared to the previous year as of 1 July 2015. In addition, the number of people employed in small and medium-sized business increased by 17.8% to over 234,000 people as of 1 April 2015.Nur-Sultan was included in the list of top 21 intelligent communities of the world, according to the report released by the Intelligent Community Forum in October 2016. The rating list includes the cities, regions and communities which use digital instruments for the construction of local economy and society.[In 2018, Nur-Sultan attracted more than three trillion tenge (US$7.91 billion) in foreign direct investments, a record amount for the city. The growth was achieved due to a large number of construction projects.Tourism becomes one of the factors that drive economic growth in the city. Nur-Sultan is among the top ten most attractive tourist cities in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Nur-Sultan is known for its rich history and futuristic buildings including the pyramid-shaped Palace of Peace and Accord. The Independent writes that Nur-Sultan is becoming a hype destination for travelers and suggests it could become the next hottest travel destination. Since 1997, when Kazakhstan’s capital was moved from Almaty towards the North, the population of Nur-Sultan has been bulging and their startup ecosystem has been growing right alongside.
There definitely isn’t a shortage of resources for entrepreneurs in Nur-Sultan. According to our 2019 assessment, Kazakhstan is supporting startups by offering tax preferences, grants, and a visa regime to allow foreign partners to get work visas for up to 5 years. The Digital Kazakhstan State Program is the most well-funded program in Kazakhstan and has a budget of over $1 billion. With Fintech, there are several notable Nur-Sultan-based startups. Senim, a smart wallet provider, raised $120,000 in 2018 in a Series A round. Moreover, The National Bank of Kazakhstan launched Invest Online, a blockchain-based mobile securities trading application. It acts as a free tool for people to invest in state securities. To enable growth in Fintech innovation but not diminish consumer protection in Nur-Sultan, the Astana International Financial Center implemented the Fintech Regulatory Sandbox and visa-free entry for citizens of 65 countries in 2018.
Nur-Sultan attracted more than three trillion tenge in FDI last year, a record amount for the city. “Investment growth was achieved through construction,” said Nur-Sultan Akim Bakhyt Sultanov at an April 22 government meeting. The plan involves building on the city’s strengths in attracting investment. For example, Astana Invest works to promptly solve problems faced by investors through a single-window system, and the Astana International Financial Centre operates within a special legal regime based on English common law principles, which regulates legal relationships and is aimed at the development of the financial market. Astana Invest will open a front office on the AIFC’s territory, and the city akimat recently developed a road map of cooperation in attracting investment with the AIFC.
“We also have more than 200 projects worth three trillion tenge , of which 45 are projects with foreign investors and transnational companies. This year, an investment of 120 billion tenge is planned for these projects,” said Sultanov.
The akim noted the need to expand the territory of the capital’s special economic zones to 8,000 hectares.
“There are potential investors for these zones, including 10 large companies for the construction of multi-residential complexes worth 430 billion tenge . Attracting investment of 100 billion tenge this year will only be possible through these projects,” he said.
Public transport in Nur-Sultan consists of buses and share taxis. Over 720,000 people use public transport daily. There are over 40 bus lines served by more than 1000 vehicles, with over 3000 people working in the public transport sector.Just like buses, share taxis have their own predefined routes and work on a shared basis. In 2011, Akimat of Nur-Sultan established a company to implement a series of changes and programmes in the metropolis known as the «New transport system of Nur-Sultan ».As the part of these programmes, Bus rapid transit lines were opened. Nur-Sultan Light Metro is the new light rail system. Nur-Sultan has air taxi service and the modern Astana Bike bicycle-sharing system.Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport , located 17 kilometres south-east of the city center, is the main gateway for the city's domestic and international civilian air traffic. An expected 50% increase in passenger traffic by 2017 has spurred construction of a new terminal with an area of about 40,000 square metres .Nur-Sultan is located in the center of the country, serving as a well-positioned transport node for rail and automotive networks.Astana railway station is the city's main railway station and serves approximately 7,000 people each day. A new railway station, Nurly Zhol was built during the Expo 2017 event with a customer capacity of 12,000. Tulpar Talgo is a daily express train to Almaty. Short-term plans include construction of a new railway station in the industrial district; in the vicinity of CHPP-3 a new terminal will be erected for freight cars.M-36 Chelyabinsk-Almaty and A-343 Astana-Petropavlovsk highways are routed through the city.
Nur-Sultan is uncovering success in the Smart Cities sub-sector. The Astana Innovations Challenge was created to direct focus on the Smart City concept. They organized their first Open Data Hackathon in 2018. In addition, the world’s first Smart Sustainable City acceleration hub is set to open in Nur-Sultan. The hub includes the implementation of 10 to 15 startup solutions into Kazakhstan’s infrastructure.
According to the UN, by 2050 around 70 percent of the world's population will live in urban areas. Cities will have to step up to new challenges with smart solutions. But how will these solutions affect the economy and urban tourism?
In 2018 international tourism hit 1.4 billion and with new Smart technologies, experts say that number will only rise. The World Tourism Organisation held their annual global conference in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan this year, thanks to the cities attempts to use technology to improve resident’s lives, and become a so-called «smart city».
The conference had one clear message though: attracting tourists should not come at the expense of residents.It is no coincidence that Nur-Sultan was chosen to host the UNWTO summit. Its population has tripled since the 90s and the Kazakh capital is relatively young which makes it a lot easier to begin implementing new approaches to develop the urban environment.
One example is the city’s mobile application, that in several clicks gives residents access to more than 75 services in the city - public transport, education, taxes or medical services. It has only been developed recently, but the application is already used by 1 in 5 residents of the city.So the concept that Nur-Sultan have implemented is a smart city concept that improves city life, whilst still supporting the community, bringing local engagement to the center of the conversation about economic growth and sustainability.
Social Wellness and Human Resources
As of September 2017, the population of Nur-Sultan (Astana) was 1,029,556; over double the 2002 population of 493,000.As of 2018, ethnic Kazakhs made up 78% of the city population, representing an increase from 17% during the country's independence.The ethnic makeup of the city's population as of 4 September 2014 was:
Many argue that a drive to attract ethnic Kazakhs northward was the key factor in shifting the capital, which was officially put down to lack of space for expansion in the former capital, Almaty, and its location in an earthquake zone.
Nur-Sultan would also be 'closer to the industrial center of Kazakhstan' than Almaty.In 1989, Tselinograd had a population of 281,000. The ethnic mix was about 17.7% Kazakh, 54.1% Russian and 28.2% other ethnic groups.By 2007, Astana population had more than doubled since becoming the capital, to over 600,000, and it topped 1 million in 2017. Migrant workers—legal and illegal—have been attracted from across Kazakhstan and neighbouring states such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and Astana is a magnet for young professionals seeking to build a career. This has changed the city's demographics, bringing more ethnic Kazakhs to a city that formerly had a Slavic majority.Islam is the predominant religion of the city. Other religions practiced are Christianity (primarily Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism), Judaism, and Buddhism.The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation was specially constructed in 2006 to host the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. It contains accommodations for different religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and other faiths. The metropolitan area centered upon Nur-Sultan (Astana) includes the Arshaly, Shortandy, Tselinograd and (partially) Akkol districts of Akmola Region. The area contains 1.2 million people.