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Astana- A Jewel City

Astana- A Jewel City in Barren Steppes

There are cities, famous for their ancient architecture and there are cities that are famous for modern construction. But the capital of Kazakhstan is a city that is known for its futuristic architecture in the isolated Kazakh steppes. The city of Astana serves as the political and business centre of Kazakhstan. It is home to all the prominent institutions of the country like Supreme Court, Parliament House, Senate, Presidential Palace, etc.

After splitting from the Soviet Union, Nursultan Nazarbayev has become the undisputed leader of Kazakhstan. He tried to reaffirm the traditional Kazakh identity that was wiped out during the Soviet reign. President Nursultan Nazarbayev started speckling the capital city with Kazakh’s historical symbols. For this purpose, he shifted the capital city of Almaty and planned a new city amidst the barren steppes. This new city got its name Astana, which means capital in Kazakh’s language.

Planned capital cities are not a new phenomenon. The city of Brasilia in Brazil, Canberra in Australia, and Washington, D.C. in the USA are the finest example of planned capital cities. The capital city has some unique features in it. Astana city has a mirage likean image, as it is established in the middle of barren steppes. The city doesn’t have a single neighbouring metropolitan around 1200 km of it. It is hard to believe that 15 years earlier the city was non-existent. The population of this place starts increasing after President Nursultan Nazarbayev shifted the capital to this city. Even after having marvellous buildings, the city lacks the residential zones. With a population of less than a million, the density is around 1000 people per square kilometre. The government officials commute by plane from the former capital of Almaty. Since there is very less habitation in the city, the city looks like a ghost town.

For an outsider, the architecture of Astana seems incongruent, but there is a prominent Kazakh theme that runs through it. The central concert hall resembles the Dombra, a traditional Kazakh instrument, whereas the most enduring icon, Bayterek is inspired by a Turkic folktale of the “Tree of life”. The golden orb on the top of the building symbolises the golden egg in the story. The symbol is derived from the tale of Samruk, which is a magical bird of happiness. The capital city is ambitious to make its mark on international media. Astana is a potential city for the Kazakhstan’s bid for the 2022 winter Olympics. This year the city will host an international convention on sustainable energy options.

From barren grassland to an international city, Astana has covered a long journey. Architects from all over the world came together to build the skyline of the city. A Rome-based architect, Manfredi Nicoletti has designed the central concert hall. The internationally acclaimed architects, including British architect Norman Foster and Japanese Kisho Kurokawa, designed the other magnificent buildings. The ultra-modern design of the capital city confirms the Kazakhstan’s ambition and aspiration to stand apart from the Soviet Union and establish its cultural identity, which was mottled by Soviet rule. 

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