Almaty today is the largest city in Kazakhstan, with a current population of 1.3 million people. The city was initially called Alma-ata, from 1921 to 1993. It enjoyed the status of capital of the Kazakh ASSR (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic) from 1929 onwards, and later the capital of Kazakhstan after the fall of Soviet Russia. The capital was shifted to the Kazakh city of Astana in 1998 to ease in administrative matters, but Almaty retains its position as the country’s financial and cultural center.
Recent developments in Almaty have been largely in architecture, with the focus being on constructing earthquake proof buildings after a major earthquake in 1887 destroyed a large number of the city’s brick buildings. Other developments include railroads, the supersonic cargo delivery system, and the underground metro (established 1981, but yet to be launched).
A law passed in 1998 has officially acknowledged the status of Almaty as the country’s primary historical, cultural, financial and industrial hub.
Consequently, Almaty today is a clean, safe and modernized urban centre, much like a European capital city. It has impressive glass and steel skyscrapers, five star luxury hotels, efficient transportation networks, mesmerizing landscape – a skyline set against snow-capped mountains, and is one of the world’s fifty most expensive cities to live in.
Future plans for Almaty include the promotion of socially and environmentally responsive, eco-friendly architecture, to boost the city’s image as a “garden city”.