ALMATY is the largest scientific, cultural, financial and industrial center of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The city area is more than 340 square kilometers and the population exceeds 1.6 million. The city is a large transportation hub and accommodates food, consumer goods and heavy industries as well as head offices of Kazakhstan’s leading banks.
Almaty is situated in the heart of the Eurasian continent, in the southeast of the Republic of Kazakhstan in longitude 77 East and latitude 43 North at the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau, the most northern mountain range of the Tien Shan. The Almaty climate is extremely continental.
You can see city streets running northward from a height of up to 500 meters to the steppes and semi-desert of the hot Muyunkums, and in the residential areas in the south located at heights of 1,500 to 1,700 meters above sea level in the Medeu Mountain Area and on the Kamensky Plateau you can feel the breath of glaciers.
The first farmers and cattle breeders established settlements on the territory of Almaty in the Bronze Age, 1000-900 B.C. From the 7th century BC to the beginning of the Common Era, these lands were chosen for residence by Saka tribes and later by Wusun tribes. During the period of Saka and Wusun governance, the territory of Almaty became the centre of an early state formation in Kazakhstan. The 8th-10th centuries A.D. were characterized by the development of a city culture. At that time, the territory of Zhetysu witnessed transfer to a settled way of living, development of farming and handicrafts, and emergence of numerous settlements and towns.
In the 10th-14th centuries, Almaty turned into one of the trade, craft and agricultural centers on the Great Silk Road possessing an official mint. This is testified to by two silver dirhems dating back to the 13th century found in the city territory, which first mentioned the city name as Almatu.
In the 15th-18th centuries, the city was in decline as trade activities were decreasing on this segment of the Great Silk Road. Notwithstanding the fact, this period was saturated with highly important political events that had a significant impact on the history of Almaty and Kazakhstan on the whole. It was a period of crucial ethnic and political transformations that shaped the unique culture of Zhetysu. The Kazakh state and nation were formed here, in areas 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 Dzungars in the Anyrakai Mountains, 70 kilometers northwest of Almaty. It was a critical moment in the Patriotic War of the Kazakhs against the Dzungars.
In February 1854, the modern history of the city began with the establishment of a Russian fortress, Fort Vernoye, near the Trans-Ili Alatau Mountain range, between the Big and Small Almaty rivers. In 1867, Fort Vernoye was transformed into a town and called Almatinsk. However, the name would not persist and the same year the town was renamed to Verny. It became the center of the Verny District and the Zhetysu Region.
The 1917 Revolution did not change the town appearance. On March 2, 1918, Soviet power was established in Verny. On February 5, 1921, it was decided to rename Verny to Alma-Ata.
The construction of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway had a decisive economic impact that strongly influenced the destiny of Alma-Ata as the capital of Kazakhstan, and on March 2, 1927, it was officially decided to transfer the capital of the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic from Kyzyl-Orda to Alma-Ata.
In 1930, an airport was opened in Alma-Ata thus allowing the capital of Kazakhstan to have a direct air connection with Moscow. Alma-Ata became the main entry gate to Kazakhstan by air.
During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), Alma-Ata hosted over 30 industrial facilities removed from the near-front zone, 8 evacuation hospitals, 15 higher education institutions and technical schools, around 20 research institutes, and over 20 cultural establishments. Motion picture production companies from Leningrad, Kiev, and Moscow were also moved to Alma-Ata at that time.
Over 52,000 Alma-Ata residents were awarded government decorations for their self-denying labor. 48 residents were granted the distinguished title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Three rifle divisions were raised in Alma-Ata, including the well-known 8th Guards Rifle ‘Panfilov’ Division, along with 2 rifle brigades and 3 aviation regiments.
In 1993, the Government made a decision to rename the city from Alma-Ata to Almaty. In 1997, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev issued a decree to transfer the capital from Almaty to Astana. On July 1, 1998, a law was passed on the special status of Almaty as a scientific, cultural, historical, financial, and industrial centre.
The unique nature and beauty of Almaty landscapes made this city a center of tourism. Almaty’s landmark is its magnificent mountains with their tops blanketed with ice and slopes covered with ancient Tien Shan fir trees. The beauty of Almaty mountains is accentuated by a blue necklace of waterfalls and mountain lakes situated 2,000-3,000 meters above sea level.
Rich and diverse is the animal and vegetable kingdom of the Trans-Ili Alatau. The Almaty precincts are part of the Ile-Alatau National Park in the territory of which nature reserves and a wildlife sanctuary are arranged. They are the habitat of many rare birds and animals listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan. Among them is the snow leopard now embellishing the emblem of Almaty.
At the foothills of the mountains grain, melon and gourd, and tobacco plantations and vineyards are interchanged by orchards and berry fields. Gardens and parks, public gardens and boulevards occupy over 8,000 hectares of the city territory. It was here that the famous Almaty “aport” apple breed was first cultivated.
The Almaty architecture is represented by both monumental buildings of the Soviet era and modern buildings. There are also some unique buildings constructed in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. The modern city-panning concept aims at creating ecologically safe, secure, and socially comfortable living conditions in the city keeping, at the same time, the inimitable style of Almaty.
The cultural world of Almaty is rich indeed. There are a lot of unique exhibits in numerous museums. There are the National Central Museum, Gold Museum with Scythian artifacts, Archeology Museum, Almaty History Museum, and Museum of Kazakh Musial Instruments where ancient sounds of the Great Steppe may be heard. Located 80 km from Almaty is Tamgaly-Tas, a famous ancient monument featuring unique rock carvings preserved till the present day, which is included into the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Theater art is presented by the Abai Opera and Ballet Theater, Conservatorium and Philharmonic Halls, Kazakh, Russian, German and Uyghur Drama Theaters, whose repertoire includes both classic and modern plays of foreign and national writers.
In winter Almaty is a center of skiing. The Shymbulak Mountain Ski Resort is a very popular recreation place. Shymbulak is attractive for tourists not in winter alone as its three-stage rope ways go up to the mountain tops all year round.
One of the must-see sights in Almaty is an aerial tramway line that has for 46 years already been bringing tourists to the famous Kok-Tobe Mount, the highest point from which the entire city can be observed. The length of the line is 1,727 meters and it takes 6 minutes to get to the highest point.
The sports pride of Almaty is the Medeu Mountain Skating Rink located 1,700 meters above sea level. Since 1972, 120 world skating records were set there. Winter sports World Cup stages as well as regional and continental competitions are held in Almaty. It has all necessary infrastructure to arrange world level sport games.
There are spa resorts and mountain recreation centers in the city outskirts where you can have rest and improve your health with the help of mineral waters from local springs.
The Almaty transportation system is represented by an extensive network of buses, trams and trolleybuses. In total, there are more than 110 routes served by around 2,000 vehicles.
The fastest means of transportation in the city is metro. The Almaty metro ranks among the top ten most beautiful and modern metros in the world. Each station was constructed in a special style comprising exquisite mosaics, paintings, and panels made of semiprecious stones. The Almaty metro consists of 7 stations (Rayimbek, Zhybek-Zholy, Almaly, Abai, Baikonur, Auezov Theater, and Alatau). Two more stations, Sairan and Moscow, are planned to be commissioned soon.
There are many great places for recreation, shopping, and promenades in Almaty, and cozy cafes and restaurants offer a wide choice of both national and most varied world cuisine dishes.