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Clockwise from top: The city view of mountains in background; Kok-Tobe Cableway; View of the city from Kok-Tobe; Ascension Cathedral; Presidential Palace; Panoramic view of the Independence Square.
Clockwise from top: The city view of mountains in background; Kok-Tobe Cableway; View of the city from Kok-Tobe; Ascension Cathedral; Presidential Palace; Panoramic view of the Independence Square.
Flag of Almaty
Coat of arms of Almaty
Coat of arms
Almaty is located in Kazakhstan
Location in Kazakhstan
Country Kazakhstan
Province Almaty
First settled 10–9th century BC
Founded 1854
Incorporated (city) 1867
 • Akim (mayor) Bauyrzhan Baibek
 • Total 682 km2 (263 sq mi)
Elevation 500–1,700 m (1,640–5,577 ft)
Population (2015-03-10)[1]
 • Total 1,552,349
 • Density 2,300/km2 (5,900/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+6 (UTC+6)
Postal code 050000–050063
Area code(s) +7 727[2]
ISO 3166-2 ALA
License plate 02 (A - on older plates)

Almaty (Kazakh: Алматы/Almatı; Russian: Алматы, pronounced ), formerly known as Alma-Ata (Russian: Алма-Ата) and Vernɨy (Pre-Reform Russian: Вѣрный), is the largest city in Kazakhstan.[3] Despite losing its status as the capital to Astana in 1997, Almaty remains 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.


  • Status 1
  • Toponymy 2
  • History 3
    • Prehistoric Almaty 3.1
    • Middle Ages 3.2
    • 15th–18th centuries 3.3
    • Foundation of Verniy 3.4
    • Soviet Era 3.5
      • Revolution of 1917 to World War II 3.5.1
      • World War II 3.5.2
      • Industrialisation in the Soviet period 3.5.3
    • 1945 to 2000 3.6
    • 21st century 3.7
  • Climate 4
  • Seismic activity in the territory of Kazakhstan 5
  • Demographics 6
  • Economy 7
  • Sights 8
    • Kök Töbe 8.1
    • Fountains 8.2
  • Transportation 9
  • Education 10
    • Universities 10.1
  • Sport 11
    • Olympic aspirations 11.1
  • People from Almaty 12
    • Twin towns – Sister cities 12.1
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • External links 15


From 1929 to 1936, Almaty was the capital of Kazakh ASSR. From 1936 to 1991, it was the capital of Kazakh SSR, and from 1991 to 1997, it was the capital of Kazakhstan. Almaty remains the largest, most developed, and most ethnically and culturally diverse city in Kazakhstan. The city is located in the foothills of Trans-Ili Alatau (or Zailiysky Alatau) in the extreme south-east and has a relatively mild climate with warm summers and quite cold winters. Since the city is located in a tectonically active area, there is a constant possibility of earthquakes. Although most of them do not represent any significant danger or cause damage, historically Almaty does have a record of some large destructive earthquakes.

In 1997, the capital was moved to Astana. Since then, Almaty has been referred to as the southern capital of Kazakhstan.


The name Almaty has its roots in medieval settlement Almatu, that existed near the present-day city.

There is a theory, which is disputed, that the city derives its name from the Kazakh word for 'apple' (алма), and thus is often translated as "full of apples"; alma is also 'apple' in other Turkic languages, as well as in Hungarian and Mongolian. The English version of its name—Alma-Ata.

There is great genetic diversity among the wild apples in the region surrounding Almaty; the region is thought to be the ancestral home of the apple, and the wild Malus sieversii is considered a likely candidate for the ancestor of the modern domestic apple, which could explain the "Alma Ata" name.[4]


Prehistoric Almaty

During 1000–900 BC in the Bronze Age the first farmers and cattle-breeders established settlements on the territory of Almaty. During the Saka period (from 700 BC to the beginning of the Common Era), these lands were chosen for residence by Saka tribes 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 "Golden man" 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.[5]

Middle Ages

The next stage of Almaty evolution was the period of the Middle Ages (8–10th centuries) and was characterized by the development of a city culture, a transfer 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. At that time, Almaty became one of the trade, craft and agricultural centres on the Silk Road and possessed an official mint. The city was first mentioned as Almatu in books from the 13th century.

15th–18th centuries

In the 15th–18th centuries, the city was in decline as trade activities were decreasing on this part of the Silk Road. Nevertheless, this period was saturated with very important political events that had a significant impact on the history of Almaty and Kazakhstan as a whole. It was a period of crucial ethnic and political transformations. The Kazakh state and nation were founded here, close to Almaty.

These lands also witnessed tragic developments related to the Dzungar intervention and the rigorous efforts of the Kazakh people to protect their land and preserve independence. In 1730 the Kazakhs defeated the Dzungar in the Anyrakay mountains, 70 kilometres (43 miles) north-west of Almaty.

Foundation of Verniy

Zenkov Cathedral, a 19th-century Russian Orthodox cathedral located in Panfilov Park, is the second tallest wooden building in the world.[6]

On 4 February 1854 the modern history of the city began with the strengthening of the Russian piedmont Fort Verniy near the Zailiysky Alatau mountain range between the Bolshaya and Malenkaya Almatinka rivers. The construction of the Verniy Fort was almost finished by the autumn of 1854. It was a fenced pentagon and one of its sides was built along the Malaya Almatinka. Later, the wood fence was replaced with a brick wall with embrasures. Main facilities were erected around the large square for training and parading.[7]

Panfilov's Twenty-Eight Guardsmen Park.
|Panfilov's Twenty-Eight Guardsmen Park.]]

In 1855 the first displaced Kazakhs 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 transformed into a town and called Almatinsk. However, the population did not like the new name of the town and soon the town was renamed back to Verniy.

According to the First City Plan, 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. Buildings of the first and second categories were of one or two-storied construction with a high semi-basement. Buildings of categories I and II were erected around and in the centre of the city, others on the outskirts.

Street in Almaty

On 28 May 1887, at 4 a.m., an earthquake almost totally destroyed Verniy in 11–12 minutes. Brick buildings were mostly damaged. As a result, people were afterwards inclined to build one-storied buildings made of wood or adobe.

Soviet Era

In 1918, 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 it was decided to rename Verniy to Alma-Ata, which was one of the ancient names of the area: Alma – "apple".

On 3 April 1927 the capital of the Kazak ASSR moved from Kyzylorda to Alma-Ata, within the RSFSR. This was an additional impetus for intensive development in the city. From 1936 (since the formation of the Kazakh SSR), Alma-Ata was the capital of first the Kazakh SSR, then it became capital of independent Kazakhstan.

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 the then head of the Bolshevik party, Joseph Stalin. Trotsky was expelled from Alma-Ata to Turkey in February 1929, and eventually murdered by Stalin's agents in Mexico City on 21 August 1940.

Revolution of 1917 to World War II

Turkestan-Siberia Railway connected with Trans-Siberian and Trans-Caspian Railway become economic backbone of Central Asia.

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.

Central Bazaar.

On 29 April 1927, it was officially decided to transfer the capital of the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic from Kyzyl-Orda to Alma-Ata. The Alma-Ata airport was opened in 1930, opening up a direct connection from Alma-Ata to Moscow. 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 Central Mosque of Almaty

During the transfer of the status of capital city from Kyzyl-Orda to Alma-Ata, a 1936 plan by the Architecture and Planning Bureau aimed to remodel Alma-Ata as the new cultural capital of the Kazakh SSR. The plan was based on the existing rectangular system of districts that would further be strengthened and reconstructed.

World War II

During World War II the city's territory was reshuffled quite dramatically. To better organize the home front and concentrate industrial and material resources, the residential areas were compressed to arrange accommodation for 26,000 people evacuated 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.

Over 52,000 Alma-Ata residents received the title: Gratitude for Your Self-Denying Labour. 48 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 and although it had an underdeveloped industrial base it become one of the largest industrial centres of the Soviet Union. A special role in this process was played by the location of the city, which was in the rear in relation to the conflict.

During the years 1941–1945 the industrial potential of the city increased significantly. The economically active population of the city grew from 104,000 in 1919 to 365,000 in 1968. In 1967 the city had 145 enterprises, with the bulk of these being light industrial and food industries, which was slightly different from a typical Soviet city where the bias was usually towards heavy industry and capital goods production.

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.
Almaty lights at night

1945 to 2000

Almaty lights
Almaty at night

From 1966 to 1971, 1,400,000 square metres of public and cooperative housing were built. Annually, around 300,000 square metres of dwellings were under construction, and most of the buildings made during this time were earthquake-proof multi-storey buildings. Furthermore, construction unification and type-design practice diversified architectural forms, leading to a more varied city-scape. During this period, many schools, hospitals, cultural, and entertainment facilities were constructed, including Lenin’s Palace, the Kazakhstan Hotel, and the "Medeo" sports complex.

The Medeu Dam, designed to protect the city of Almaty and the Medeo skating rink from catastrophic mudflows, was built in 1966 and reinforced a number of times in the 1960s and 1970s.

The supersonic transport Tupolev Tu-144 went into service on 26 December 1975, carrying mail and freight between Moscow and Alma-Ata in preparation for passenger services, which began in November 1977. The Aeroflot flight on 1 June 1978 was the 55th and last scheduled passenger flight of the Tu-144.

Also of note in this time period, Alma-Ata was the host city for a 1978 international conference on Primary Health Care, during which the Alma Ata Declaration was adopted, marking a paradigm shift in global public health.

On 16 December 1986 the Jeltoqsan riot took place in response to General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's dismissal of Dinmukhamed Kunayev.

Almaty Central Mosque

September 7, 1988, the subway Almaty Metro project started construction and the subway was opened on 1 December 2011 after 23 years.[8]

In 1993 the government made a decision to rename the city from Alma-Ata to Almaty.

In 1997 the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev approved the Decree to transfer the capital from Almaty to Astana.[9]

On 1 July 1998 a law was passed concerning the special status of Almaty as a scientific, cultural, historical, financial, and industrial centre.

21st century

Modern Almaty

The new General Plan of Almaty for 2030 was developed in 1998 and aims at creating ecologically safe, secure, and socially comfortable living conditions in the city. The main objective is to promote Almaty’s image as a garden-city.

One of the components of the General Plan is to continue 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 is currently under construction and is planned to open in 2015.

Al-Farabi Avenue.

The area of the city has been expanded during recent years with the suburban settlements of Kalkaman, Kok Tube, Gorniy Gigant (Mountain Giant) being added to the city. Numerous apartment blocks, and office skyscrapers have transformed the face of the town, which climbs higher and higher up the mountains.


The climate in Almaty is a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification: Dfa) with hot summers and cold winters. It is characterized by the influence of mountain-valley circulation, which is especially evident in the northern part of the city, located directly in the transition zone of the mountain slopes to the plains.

Picture taken during a temperature inversion, showing smog trapped over Almaty

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
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
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
Average precipitation mm (inches) 34
Average rainy days 4 5 11 14 15 15 15 10 9 10 8 6 122
Average snowy days 11 13 8 2 0.2 0 0 0.1 0.1 2 6 11 53.4
Average relative humidity (%) 77 77 71 59 56 49 46 45 49 64 74 79 62.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 118 119 147 194 241 280 306 294 245 184 127 101 2,356
Source #1:[10]
Source #2: NOAA (sun 1961–1990)[11]

Seismic activity in the territory of Kazakhstan

Industrially developed and densely populated areas in the south and southeast of Kazakhstan are situated in the zones where the maximum magnitudes of expected earthquakes are from 6.0 to 8.3 (the intensity of I0=8–10).

The south seismic active zone of Kazakhstan is a part of the North Tian-Shan ridge system. The main city of Almaty is located near the Zailiski Alatau mountain base. In recorded history prior to the late Nineteenth century three catastrophic earthquakes are known to have taken place there. The following are the dates of occurrence and extracts from the historical chronicles of the times:

  • 1770, "...Belovodka village was buried";
  • 1807, "a horrible catastrophe took place in Almaty";
  • 1865, Strong earthquake

Within the past 125 years three more strong destructive earthquakes occurred here, with centres not more than 20 – 130 kilometres (81 miles) from the current city location. Their magnitudes were 9 and 11 on the MSK scale – 64, and their centres were located within 100 kilometres (62 miles). Centres were located in a south and south–east directions:

  • (1887 y., K=17.14) Vernenskoe
  • (1889 y., K=19.12) Chilik,
  • (1911 y., K=18.76) Keminskoe

K – indicates the energy of the earthquake.

In each of these earthquakes the city was heavily destroyed.[12]

The Territory of the Kyrgyz State adjoins North Tian-Shan.[13]


Ethnic groups (2010)[14]

According to the USSR Census of 1989, the population of Almaty was 1,071,900; the Kazakhstan Census of 1999 reported 1,129,400.[15]


Almaty generates approximately 20 per cent of Kazakhstan's GDP (or $36 billion in 2010); Almaty is a key financial centre in Central Asia and is considered to be a Beta- Global City as of the 2012 GaWC study.[16]

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..

Currently under construction is the 'Almaty Financial District and Esentai Park'. This was designed by T.J. Gottesdiener, who designed 7 World Trade Center in New York City, Time Warner Center in New York City and Tokyo Midtown. Its publicised aim 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 and lodges offices of companies such as Ernst & Young, HSBC and Credit Suisse. The first Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kazakhstan will open by the end of 2013 in Esentai Tower.[17]

Along with professional services, media companies are concentrated in Almaty as well. 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.[18] Prior to their dissolution, Air Kazakhstan[19] and Kazakhstan Airlines[20] were also headquartered in Almaty.

The economy of Almaty city and Almaty Region is growing fast and is expected to increase at nearly 6 percent per year until 2020.[21] The city generates approximately 20 percent of the national GDP.[21] 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.[21] The Alma Transmission Project, supported by the World Bank, has helped achieve this goal.[21]


Kök Töbe

Almaty City Centre as seen from Kok Tobe

An aerial tramway line connects downtown Almaty with a popular recreation area at the top of Kök Töbe (Kazakh: Көктөбе, which means 'Green Hill'), a mountain just to the southeast. The city television tower, Almaty Tower, is located on the hill, as well as a variety of tourist attractions, such as amusement-park style rides and restaurants.


Almaty Central Park.

According to the city's Department of Natural Resources and Resource Use Management,[22] as of 2007 the city has 125 fountains. Among them is the "Oriental Calendar" Fountain, whose 12 sculptural figures represent the 12 animals of the Kazakh 12-year animal cycle (similar to its Chinese counterpart).


The closest airport to Almaty is Almaty International Airport located 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) to the northeast.

Sayran Bus Terminal provides intercity bus connections within Kazakhstan, as well as international connections to Kyrgyzstan and China and regional bus connections west of the city. Sayakhat bus terminal provides regional bus connections to places north and east of the city.[23]

Kazakhstan Temir Zholy's has two stations Almaty-1 (located 20 minutes drive from Almaty) and Almaty-2 located within the city.[24]




The historic bandy team Dinamo won the Soviet Championships in 1977[25] and 1990[26] and the European Cup in 1978. Their home ground was Medeu. Bandy was introduced for the first time at the 2011 Winter Asian Games.[27] Medeu was the main arena at the 2012 Bandy World Championship.[28] The second arena built for the championships is an alternative field at Almaty Central Stadium.[29] The Federation of International Bandy has opened an office for Asia, which is located in Almaty.[30]

Almaty will be the host of the 2017 Winter Universiade[31] with bandy on the programme.[32]

The city's primary football is FC Kairat founded in 1954 and one of the most successful Kazakh clubs.

Olympic aspirations

Almaty was a bidder to host the XXII Olympic Winter Games in 2014,[33] but was eliminated from consideration, not making the "short list" of candidate cities. Almaty won its bid to host the 2011 Winter Asian Games. It will be the 2017 Winter Universiade host.[34] The city was exploring possible future bids, such as the 2018 Winter Olympics, but did not actually submit a bid. Almaty submitted their bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in August 2013,[35][36] but lost out to Beijing.[37]

People from Almaty

Twin towns – Sister cities

Almaty is twinned with:[38]
Country City
 Egypt Alexandria
 Kyrgyzstan Bishkek
 Hungary Budapest
 South Korea Daegu
 Turkey Istanbul
 Russia Kazan
 Belarus Minsk
 Somalia Mogadishu[39]
 Russia Moscow
 France Rennes
 Latvia Riga
 Russia St. Petersburg
 Israel Tel Aviv
 United States Tucson[40]
 China Ürümqi
 Lithuania Vilnius

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Ness, Immanuel. Encyclopedia of World Cities. M E Sharpe Reference, 1999. ISBN 0-7656-8017-3. Page 19.
  7. ^ [1] Archived 7 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^
  9. ^ [2] Archived 9 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ (Baimakhan, Dashdorj, 2006)
  13. ^ (Aitmatov, Kojogulov, Nikolskaya, 1994.).
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ [3] Archived 20 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b c d
  22. ^ [4] Archived 20 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ [5]
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ [6] Archived 6 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^

External links

  • City of Almaty Official website
  • Almaty Tourism Website
  • Almaty travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Link to Almaty airport
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