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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakh Capital to Transfer to Akmola

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan's parliament voted Wednesday to move the capital from Almaty to Akmola, a city of 300,000 located much closer to Russia and the nation's center, news reports said. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who initiated the move, said it would be more effective to govern from Akmola, which is on the steppes of central Kazakhstan nearly 1,000 kilometers northwest of Almaty. Almaty is located in the Tien Shan Mountains near the country's southeastern corner. It also is only 30 kilometers north of Kyrgyzstan, and Nazarbayev said that from a military viewpoint the capital should be farther away from the border. The move will be done in gradual stages and will not be completed until the year 2000, Nazarbayev said. No cost estimate was available. "Transferral of the capital to Akmola will allow Kazakhstan to use in full the natural advantages stemming from its position between Europe and Asia," Nazarbayev told parliament, according to the Itar-Tass and Interfax. He said Akmola, 350 kilometers south of the Russian border, would be closer to Russia's transport network and provide easier access to world markets. Akmola was built as a Russian fortress in 1830. It was renamed Tselinograd in the 1950s, when the Soviet Union started the massive agricultural development of Kazakhstan's virgin lands. It took back its original name after the collapse of the Soviet Union two years ago. The new capital also is a major hub for Kazakhstan's railways. Nazarbayev said that Almaty, Kazakstan's capital since 1929, has been unable to expand because it is surrounded by mountains. The city's infrastructure was capable of supporting no more than 400,000 people, he said, but the population has swollen to 1.5 million.