Friday, June 19, 2015

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Almaty is located in southern Kazakhstan.  With a population over 1.5 million people it is country's largest city.  Алматы used to be called Alma-Ata and it is the former capital.  Today's it's the major commercial and financial hub of Central Asia.  The city is responsible for about 20% of the country's GDP.

The area was first settled around the 10th-9th century BC during the Bronze Age.  Between the 10th-14th centuries it became an important stop along the Silk Road.

Alma-Ata was founded in 1854.  From 1929 to 1991 it was the capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic.  When Kazakhstan became independent the city remained the capital until 1997 when it was moved to Astana.  However in 1993 the the city's name was changed to Almaty.

Akimat House used to be home to the Communist Party of Kazakhstan.  After independence and once the capital moved to Astana it became a city government building.  Part of the building is Almaty City Hall.

At Independence Square is the Independence Monument.  It is the Kazakh Golden Warrior on top of a snow leopard.

The Golden Warrior

The Palace of the President was supposed to be a Lenin museum but it never happened.  You can't go inside but the gardens outside are quite nice.

Zhambyl Zhabayev was a traditional folksinger who died in 1945 and was buried in Alma-Ata.  Although he sang exclusively in Kazakh, his many patriotic, pro-Stalin songs were circulated thorough out the USSR during the 1930s.

After independence many of the street names in the city were changed but not all were.  At Shevchenko Street there is a monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.

The Lermantov State Academic Russian Drama Theatre was built in 1969.  It seats almost 850 people.

The Kazakh State Academic Drama Theatre is the country's oldest professional theater.  It opened in 1926 before moving to the capital in three years later.  In 1961 it was named after M. Auezov, a famous Kazakh writer.  I believe that the building was renovated in the 80s.

The Central State Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in Central Asia.  It opened in the 1930s and the current building was completed in 1985.

The State Museum of National Musical Instruments opened in 1980.  The wooden building it's housed in dates back to 1907.

The Ascension Cathedral is also known as Zenkov Cathedral.  It was completed in 1907 and it is the second tallest wooden building in the world.

Abai Qunanbayuli was a Kazakh poet, composer and philosopher.  He was a cultural reformer toward Europeans and Russians based on enlightened Islam.  He died in 1904 and the bronze monument was unveiled in 1961 on what used to be Lenin Street.  It is now called Abai Street. 

The Almaty TV Tower was completed in 1983.  It is 371,5 meters (1,219 feet) tall is the world's tallest free-standing tubular steel structure.  Almaty is prone to earthquakes so the tower was designed to withstand a 10.0 quake.

General Ivan Panfilov
The city's most well-known landmark is Panfilov Park.  Ivan Panfilov was the commanding general of the 316th division that, despite heavy casualties, helped prevent the Nazis from reaching Moscow in WWII.  

The park is actually named after Panfilov's Heros - 28 soldiers from Almaty who died in the fighting.  In 1975 an eternal flame was lit to honor those who died in the Russian Civil War and in the Great Patriotic War (WWII).  The granite monument depicts soldiers from all 15 Soviet Republics and was unveiled as part of the 30th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany. 

In 2011 the subway opened.  It currently only has two lines which isn't bad except that construction began in 1988.  I've never opened a subway before but 23 years does seem to be quite a long time.  On the flip side it only costs 80 Tenge (about 54¢).  And how can you not be impressed with a marble subway platform with chandeliers?

Almaty hosted the 2011 Winter Asian Games and will host the 2017 Winter University Games.  It is also in the running to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.  If it wins it will be the first Olympics ever hosted in Central Asia.  Here's the Almaty bid video I found out on YouTube.

Update:  Almaty lost out on hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing.

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