Astana is the capital and second largest city (after Almaty) of Kazakhstan, with an officially estimated population of 600,200. It is located in the north-central portion of Kazakhstan, within Akmola Province, although it is politically separate from the rest of the province, which has its own capital.
A unit of Siberian Cossacks from Omsk founded a huge fortress on the upper Ishim in 1824, which later became the town of "Akmolinsk". In 1961, it was renamed "Tselinograd" and made capital of the Soviet Virgin Lands Territory (Tselinny Krai). In 1994, the city was designated as the future capital of the newly-independent country, and again renamed to the present "Astana" after the capital was officially moved from Almaty in 1997.
Today there are many construction works under way, such as embassy buildings, representative riversides along the Ishim River, and some infrastructure for transportation and communication. In the centre of town, the Avenue of the Republic acts as the main hub of activity. It is bordered by many stores, coffee houses, restaurants, discotheques and even some casinos.