Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 72

With eight weeks before Kazakhstan’s new capital is officially presented to ten invited heads of state on June 10, both President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Mayor Adilbek Djakysbekov recently reconfirmed in separate press conferences that Akmola’s construction timetable is on track. (Panorama [Almaty], April 10) The move from Almaty to Akmola — 1300 km northward — was officially made on December 10 last year. The apparent strategy behind the move: seating of the capital amidst a concentration of ethnic Russians, who make up 32 percent of Kazakhstan’s population.

Nazarbaev predicted that Akmola will be "unrecognizable" by year’s end. Planned developments include a new university, a national museum in the shape of the traditional Kazakh home, and a $15 million chamber for the upper house of Kazakhstan’s parliament, donated by Saudi Arabia. Speaking a few days later, Djakysbekov stressed heavy Turkish private investment in Akmola’s construction — partly in the form of a "Hotel Intercontinental," Kazakhstan’s first, to be completed later this month, and in a forty-floor skyscraper, on which work is soon to begin.

It is hard to envision how the capital will be ready by June 10. Construction — beset by swampy land and above-ground heating pipes — has only been undertaken on the city’s eastern side. The central square still brims with construction cranes. Few government officials have yet been given their apartments, and many fear for their jobs in the ministerial downsizing accompanying the move. At least three countries — Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and China — have evinced interest in building new embassies. Most seem reluctant to move from congenial Almaty to the barren Akmola — a steppe town where winter temperatures drop to minus thirty degrees Celsius. — SC

Forgotten Casualties of Kazakhstan’s Semey Nuclear Testing Site.