Astana (/əsˈtɑːnə/, US /æsˈtɑːnə/; Kazakh: Астана [astaˈna] ( listen)) is the capital city of Kazakhstan. It is located on the Ishim River in the north portion of Kazakhstan, within the Akmola Region, though administrated separately from the region as a city with special status. The 2014 census reported a population of 835,153 within the city limits, making it the second largest city in Kazakhstan, behind Almaty.
Founded in 1830 as a settlement of Akmoly (Kazakh: Ақмолы) or Akmolinsky prikaz (Russian: Акмолинский приказ), it served as a defensive fortification for the Siberian Cossacks. In 1832 the settlement was granted a town status and renamed Akmolinsk (Russian: Акмолинск). On March 20, 1961 the city was renamed Tselinograd (Russian: Целиноград) to mark the city’s evolution as a cultural and administrative center of the Virgin Lands Campaign. In 1992 it was renamed Akmola (Kazakh: Ақмола), the modified original name meaning “a white grave”. On December 10, 1997 Akmola replaced Almaty as the capital of Kazakhstan. On May 6, 1998 it was renamed Astana, which means “the capital city” in Kazakh.
Modern Astana is a planned city, like Brasília in Brazil, Canberra in Australia, Huambo in Angola and Washington, D.C. in the United States. After Astana became the capital of Kazakhstan, the city cardinally changed its shape. The master plan of Astana was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. As the seat of the Government of Kazakhstan, Astana is the site of the Parliament House, the Supreme Court, the Ak Orda Presidential Palace and numerous government departments and agencies. It is home to many futuristic buildings, hotels and skyscrapers. Astana also has extensive healthcare, sports and education systems.
Astana is the second coldest capital city in the world after Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, a position formerly held by Canada’s capital, Ottawa, until Astana attained capital city status in 1997. Astana has an extreme continental climate with warm summers (featuring occasional brief rain showers) and long, very cold, dry winters. Summer temperatures occasionally reach +35 °C (95 °F) while −30 to −35 °C (−22 to −31 °F) is not unusual between mid-December and early March. Typically, the city’s river is frozen over between the second week of November and the beginning of April. Astana has a well-deserved reputation among Kazakhs for its frequent high winds, the effects of which are felt particularly strongly on the fast-developing but relatively exposed Left Bank area of the city.
Overall, Astana has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb), The average annual temperature in Astana is +3.5 °C (38.3 °F). January is the coldest month with an average temperature of −14.2 °C (6.4 °F). July is the hottest month with an average temperature of +20.7 °C (69.3 °F).