Almaty, formerly known as Alma-Ata, is the largest city in Kazakhstan, with a population of 1,703,481 people, containing 9% of the country's total population. Almaty is considered a World City with a "Beta -" classification according to GaWC. It served as capital of the Kazakh state in its various forms from 1929 to 1997, under the influence of the then Soviet Union and its appointees. Alma-Ata was the host city for a 1978 international conference on Primary Health Care where the Alma Ata Declaration was adopted, marking a paradigm shift in global public health. In 1997 the government relocated the capital to Astana in the north of the country.
Almaty continues as the major commercial and cultural centre of Kazakhstan, as well as its biggest population center. The city is located in the mountainous area of southern Kazakhstan in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau at an elevation of 2,300–3,000 feet (700–900 m), where the Bolshaya and Malaya Almaatinka rivers run into the plain.
|FOUNDED :||First settled 10–9th century BC|
Incorporated (city) 1867
|TIME ZONE :||UTC+6 (UTC+6)|
|LANGUAGE :||Kazakh (Qazaq, state language) 64.4%, Russian (official, used in everyday business, designated the "language of interethnic communication") 95%|
|RELIGION :||Muslim 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, other 7%|
|AREA :||682 km2 (263 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||500–1,700 m (1,640–5,577 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||43°16′39″N 76°53′45″E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 48%|
• Female: 52%
|ETHNIC :||Kazakh (Qazaq) 63.1%, Russian 23.7%, Uzbek 2.8%, Ukrainian 2.1%, Uighur 1.4%, Tatar 1.3%, German 1.1%, other 4.5%|
|AREA CODE :|
|POSTAL CODE :||050000–050063|
|DIALING CODE :||+7 727|
|WEBSITE :||Official Website|
Almaty, in Almaty Province, is the former capital of Kazakhstan, and still its largest city and the financial and cultural center. It is an old city, once one of the main centers of the Zhetysu region along the Silk Road.
On a clear day you can see the beautifully rugged, snow-capped mountains, right at the city's doorstep to the south. The city, in general, slopes from south to north which makes navigating the streets easy. If you are traveling uphill, you're going south. There is also a small mountain range bordering the city to the east.
As an important hub, not just for Kazakhstan but for Central Asia as a whole, Almaty has a moderately large expatriate community and is on the itinerary for most tourists in the region.
Almaty is in the top 50 most expensive cities worldwide for expats according to Mercer Human Research. Although Almaty dropped from 30th place in 2007 to 44th in 2008, it's still more expensive than Toronto, Los Angeles or Hamburg. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful gateway to this undiscovered and distinctive country. Kazakh people are very kind and welcoming, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the hospitality.
If you can read English and do not have a guide-interpreter in Almaty, then you can buy Pogulay, an indispensable guidebook to the city which is printed in English and Russian and sold at newsstands. It's priced at US$3 and covers all the attractions, including photos and descriptions.
- Tourist Information Office, Kurmangazy street 33 (M. Auezov house museum). Official tourist information facility, operated by the government.
During 1000–900 BC in the Bronze Age, the first farmers and cattle-breeders established settlements in the territory of Almaty. During the Saka period (from 700 BC to the beginning of the Common Era), these lands were occupied by the Saka and later Wusun tribes, who inhabited the territory north of the Tian Shan mountain range. Evidence of these times can be found in the numerous burial mounds (tumuli) and ancient settlements, especially the giant burial mounds of the Saka tsars. The most famous archaeological finds have been the "The Golden man", also known as "The Golden Warrior", from the Issyk Kurgan; the Zhalauly treasure, the Kargaly diadem, and the Zhetysu arts bronzes (boilers, lamps and altars). During the period of Saka and Wusun governance, Almaty became an early educational centre.
During the Middle Ages (8–10th centuries), a city culture developed in Almaty. There was a transition to a settled way of living, the development of farming and handicrafts, and the emergence of a number of towns and cities in the territory of Zhetysu. In the 10–14th centuries, settlements in the territory of the so-called "Greater Almaty" became part of the trade routes of the Silk Road, which reached from China to western Asia and Europe. At that time, Almaty became one of the trade, craft and agricultural centres on the Silk Road. It had an official mint. The city was first mentioned as Almatu in books from the 13th century.
In the 15th–18th centuries, the city was in decline as trade activities were decreasing on this part of the Silk Road. European nations were conducting more trade by shipping. This period was one of crucial ethnic and political transformations. The Kazakh state and nation were founded here, close to Almaty.
The Dzungar invaded, dominating the Kazakh people for a period. The Kazakh fought to protect their land and preserve independence. In 1730 the Kazakh defeated the Dzungar in the Anyrakay mountains, 70 kilometres (43 miles) north-west of Almaty. During the eighteenth century, the city and region became part of the Russian Empire.
Foundation of Verniy
To defend its empire, Russia built Fort Verniy near the Zailiysky Alatau mountain range between the Bolshaya and Malenkaya Almatinka rivers. Construction began on 4 February 1854 and was nearly completed by the autumn of that year. The fort was a wooden palisade, shaped like a pentagon, with one side built along the Malaya Almatinka. Later, the wood fence was replaced with a brick wall with embrasures. The main facilities were erected around the large square for training and parading.
In 1855 Kazakhs displaced from their nomadic territory appeared in Verniy. Since 1856, Verniy started accepting Russian peasants. They founded the Bolshaya Almatinskaya Stanitsa (Cossack village) near the fortification. The inflow of migrants was increasing and led to construction of the Malaya Almatinskaya Stanitsa and Tatarskaya (Tashkentskaya) sloboda. It was the place of settlement for Tatar merchants and craftsmen.
In 1867 Verniy Fort was developed as a town called Almatinsk; the town soon returned to the name Verniy.
According to the First City Plan, developed by administrators of the Russian Empire, the city perimeters were 2 kilometres (1 mile) on the south along Almatinka river, and 3 kilometres (2 miles) on the west. The new city area was divided into residential parts, and the latter into districts. Three categories of city buildings were defined. Category I and II buildings were of one or two-storied construction with a high semi-basement; they were erected around and in the centre of the city, others on the outskirts.
On 28 May 1887, at 4 a.m., an earthquake almost totally destroyed Verniy in 11–12 minutes. Brick buildings were damaged the most, as they broke apart because of lack of flexibility. As a result, people were afterwards inclined to build one-storied buildings made of wood or adobe.
By 1906, the population of the city had grown to 27,000, two-thirds of whom were Russians and Ukrainians.
In 1918 following the Russian Revolution and establishment of the Bolshevik government, Soviet power was established in Verniy. The city and the region became part of the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (RSFSR). On 5 February 1921 the government decided to rename Verniy to Alma-Ata, one of the ancient names of the area.
Revolution of 1917 to World War II
In 1921, a joint consultation of regional government representatives, professional trade associations, and local faith-based groups was summoned in an effort to rename Verniy. Alma-Ata was the preferred choice.
In 1926, the Council of Labor and Defence approved the construction of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway that was a crucial element of the future growth of Kazakhstan, especially in the east and southeast of the region. The Turkestan-Siberia Railway construction also had a decisive economic impact that strongly influenced the destiny of Alma-Ata as the capital of the Kazakh ASSR. In 1930 the construction of the highway and railway to Alma-Ata was completed.
On 29 April 1927, the government decided to transfer the capital of the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic from Kyzyl-Orda to Alma-Ata, within the RFSFR. This attracted more trade and people working with the government, stimulating intensive development in the city.
On 31 January 1928, Leon Trotsky, leader of the 1917 October Revolution, accompanied by his wife Natalia Sedova and his son Lev Sedov, was exiled to Alma Ata by Joseph Stalin, then head of theBolshevik party in Moscow. Trotsky was expelled from Alma-Ata to Turkey in February 1929, and went into exile in Mexico City.
The Alma-Ata airport was opened in 1930, opening up a direct connection from Alma-Ata to Moscow, the center of the Soviet government. Alma-Ata became the main entry by air to Kazakhstan, a status which it retains today. Transformation of this small town into the capital of the Kazakh SSR was accelerated by the large-scale construction of new administrative and government facilities and housing. The Great Purge of the Stalin era extended to Kazakhstan, where numerous intellectuals, activists, leaders, teachers and others were killed. The Soviet government dominated the population. During the 1930s Kazakh nomads suffered starvation after disruption of their traditional living patterns.
In 1936 the Architecture and Planning Bureau developed a plan to enhance Alma-Ata as the new cultural capital of the Kazakh SSR. The plan was based on the existing rectangular system of districts. They were to be strengthened and reconstructed.
World War II
During World War II the government dramatically affected the city's population and structures. To better organize the home front and concentrate industrial and material resources, the government evacuated 26,000 people and numerous industries from the European theatre of war. Alma-Ata hosted over 30 industrial facilities removed from the European section of the USSR, 8 evacuated hospitals, 15 institutes, universities and technical schools; and around 20 cultural institutions. Motion picture production companies from Leningrad, Kiev, and Moscow were also moved to Alma-Ata at this time. This brought in so many ethnic Russians that the Kazakhs became a minority in the region.
Over 52,000 Alma-Ata residents received the title: Gratitude for Your Self-Denying Labour. Forty-eight residents were granted the title of Hero of The Soviet Union. Three rifle divisions were raised in Alma-Ata, including the well-known 8th Guards Rifle Division 'Panfilov' (originally the 316th rifle division), along with 2 rifle battalions and 3 aviation regiments that were raised on the bases of the air club of Alma-Ata.
Industrialisation in the Soviet period
After 1941, due to the mass evacuation of factories and workers from the European part of the Soviet Union during World War II, Alma-Ata became an administrative and trading centre. Although it had an underdeveloped industrial base it become one of the largest industrial centres of the Soviet Union. It was to the rear of the wartime fronts.
During the years 1941–1945 the industrial potential of the city increased significantly. Development increased during the postwar years. The population of the city grew from 104,000 in 1919 to 365,000 in 1968. By 1967 the city had 145 enterprises, with the bulk of these being light industrial and food industries.
The main industries in Alma-Ata were: food processing (36% of gross industrial output), based largely on locally abundant fruit and vegetable raw materials, light industry (31%), and heavy industry (33%). The main products of the region were:
- Food: Meat, flour and cereals (pasta factory), milk, wines, canned fruit, tobacco, confectionery, alcoholic spirits, beer, yeast, and tea (packaging)
- Light industry: textiles, fur, knitting, carpets, footwear, apparel, printing, and the Almaty Cotton combine.
- Heavy industry: electrical engineering, foundry engineering, car repair, bearing repair, building materials, woodworking, concrete structures and structural elements, and house-building.
The new General Plan of Almaty for 2030 was developed in 1998. It is intended to create ecologically safe, secure, and socially comfortable living conditions in the city. The main objective is to promote Almaty's image as a garden-city.
It proposes continued multi-storied and single-housing development, reorganization of industrial districts or territories, improving transport infrastructure, and expanding Almaty Metro. The first line of Almaty metro was launched on 1 December 2011, two weeks ahead of schedule. The extension of the line to Kalkaman was opened in 2015.
The climate in Almaty is a humid continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. It is characterized by the influence of mountain-valley circulation. This is especially evident in the northern part of the city, located directly in the transition zone of the mountain slopes to the plains.
Annual average air temperature is equal to 10 °C (50 °F), the coldest month is January, −4.7 °C (24 °F) (on average), the warmest month (July) 23.8 °C (75 °F) (on average). In average years frost starts on about 14 October and ends on about 18 April, with sustained extreme cold from about 19 December to about 23 February, a period of about 67 days. Weather with temperature above 30 °C (86 °F) is average for about 36 days a year. In the center of Almaty, like any large city, there is a "heat island" – average daily temperature contrast between the northern and southern suburbs of the city is 3.8% and in the coldest and 2.2% and in the hottest five days. Therefore, frost in the city center starts about 7 days later and finishes 3 days earlier than in the northern suburbs. Annual precipitation is about 650 to 700 mm (25.6 to 27.6 in). April and May are the wettest months, during which about a third of the city's annual precipitation is received.
It is not uncommon for snow and a cold snap to hit Almaty as late as the end of May. For example, in the last quarter century, such snowfalls were recorded on 13 May 1985, 1 May 1989, 5 May 1993 and 18 May 1998. The record latest snowfall in Almaty was on 17 June 1987.
Almaty sometimes experiences winter rain, despite heavy preceding snowfall and low temperatures. The most memorable winter rain took place at 16 December 1996 during a military parade to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Independence of the Republic.
Almaty Weather Station's GM mostly records south-easterly wind (30%), its resistance increases during the summer (37%) and falls in winter (19%). Wind speeds exceed 15 m/s on about 15 days a year, on average.
Climate data for Almaty
|Record high °C (°F)||18.2|
|Average high °C (°F)||0.7|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−4.7|
|Average low °C (°F)||−8.4|
|Record low °C (°F)||−30.1|
|Source #1: Pogoda.ru|
|Source #2: NOAA|
Almaty generates approximately 20 per cent of Kazakhstan's GDP (or $36 billion in 2010). The nation is the most powerful economically in Central Asia and Almaty is a key financial center. It is considered to be a Beta- Global City as of the 2012 GaWC study.
One of the largest industries in Almaty is finance, and its financial exports make it a large contributor to Kazakhstan's balance of payments. Almaty is home to BTA Bank, which is the largest bank in Central Asia,Kazkommertsbank, and other major banks. The Kazakhstan Stock Exchange is based in Almaty.
Almaty is also developing as a regional financial and business centre (RFCA).
Under construction is the 'Almaty Financial District and Esentai Park'. This was designed by T.J. Gottesdiener, who designed both World Trade Center in New York City and Time Warner Center in Tokyo Midtown, respectively. Its goal is to become the largest business centre in Central Asia. Esentai Tower, a 37-floor building in the park, is the tallest mixed-use building in Kazakhstan, housing offices of companies such as Ernst & Young, HSBC and Credit Suisse. The first Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kazakhstan opened in 2013 in Esentai Tower.
Along with professional services, media companies are concentrated in Almaty. The media distribution industry has been growing rapidly since 2006. Major broadcasting channels KTK and NTK are based in Almaty, as are several national newspapers.
There are plans to construct a Western Europe-Western China highway, passing through Almaty. A new airport in Almaty expects to handle about 45 million tonnes of cargo each year. Air Astana is headquartered in the Air Astana Centre 1 in Almaty. Prior to their dissolution, Air Kazakhstan and Kazakhstan Airlines were also headquartered in Almaty.
The economy of Almaty city and Almaty Region continues to grow, and is expected to increase at nearly 6 percent per year until 2020. The city generates approximately 20 percent of the national GDP. To mitigate the rapidly increasing electricity demand caused by this growth, the Kazakh authorities decided to upgrade the power system by building the new transmission line and modernizing the substations. The Alma Transmission Project, supported by the World Bank, has helped achieve this goal.
Free wifi is common in hotels but it may be unreliable. Some bars and restaurants offer free wifi.
- Internet (Corner of Baytursnuly & Karasay Batyr, near the OVIR). Eight computers and a telephone service but you can't use USB devices.KZT240/hour.
- Internet (In the underpass of Zhibek Zholy & Tolebaev, near the Silk Way Mall). KZT240/hour.
- Omega Sector BiG Internet Cafe (Corner of Abai & Baytursnuly, near the main station). KZT200/hour.
- Supermarket, Samal-3 micro-district, Online Club (Silk Way City).There is free Wi-Fi inside the supermarket. Best signal is on second floor in the middle.