Astana is the capitol of Kazakhstan, the largest landlocked country in the world. Kazakhstan adjoins Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Moreover a large part of the Eastern bank of the Caspian Sea belongs adjoins it.
Kazakhstan was the last country to become independent after the collapse of USSR. Since 1991, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ruled the country. He decided, in 1997, to move the capitol from Almaty in the South to Astana in the North, in order to balance the influx of Russians entering from Kazakh North border.
Astana, initially called Akmoly, was founded in 1830 as a settlement serving to fortify the Cossack’s within Siberia. After changing its name several times, finally in 1998 it was renamed Astana, which literally means “the capitol” in Kazakh. Moving the capitol to Astana also meant to moving all the ministries, offices, and businesses to the North along with all the people employed within the previous capital. A mass of Kazakhs left the South of the country to inhabit the freezing land of Eastern Siberia. Due to its position in the middle of steppe and its continental climate the average temperature in winter is about -30 -35 C degrees reaching peaks of -50. Astana is the second coldest capitol in the world. Despite the extreme weather, many entrepreneurs and modern pioneers inhabit Astana, migrating from all around the country to study or chase their dreams.
Becoming the capitol, Astana experienced an incredibly sharp development starting at the end of the 20th Century. This growth is the result of President Nazarbayev’s will to build a shiny, super modern city to celebrate Kazakh economic power; fuelled by vast oil, mineral and metal reserves.
The Green Boulevard, the area where most of the futuristic buildings are, was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. While the pyramid called Palace of Peace and Reconciliation was designed by British architect Norman Foster.
Along with this dramatic vision of the future, traditions are very important to Kazakh people. They are proud of their past as part of Genghis Khan’s empire and their nomadic heritage, which was the norm until a short time ago. During public holidays such as Nauryz, the Persian/Zoroastrian new year, yurtas are built around in the city and horse games are held to celebrate the ancient tradition of this country stretched between Asia and Europe which was, in years past, an important stop-over along the Silk Road route.
Even the name of one of the most futuristic buildings is a reference to this past. In fact the name of the ultra-modern entertainment center “Khan Shatyr” literally means “Tent of the Khan” and its shape is reminiscent of a tent.
Kazakhstan itself is a massive country – the 9th largest in the world – yet a still one that is relatively unknown. However its fast growth rate and the richness of natural resources such as oil and natural gas (the 11th largest reserve oil and gas in the world) is imposing Kasakhstan as one of the most important countries in the international panorama. In 2017 Astana will host the Expo, international exposition on the theme of Future Energy.
A view of the Green Boulevard designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.
A plethora of cranes can be seen in the construction site where the Expo 2017 pavilions will be built. Astana will hosting the international exposition in 2017 with the theme being future energy.
The Presidential Palace – designed to resemble the Washington D.C. White House – is located at the end of the Green Water Boulevard.
Not just shiny skyscrapers in Astana; on the Northern bank of the Ishim river, where the old city of Astana was built, tall buildings from the Soviet Era stand next to tiny houses.
Landscape of the new city disappearing in the snow.
A panoramic view of the steppe right out the centre of Astana. A short ten minute car ride from the city centre and one can find themselves lost in in the middle of nowhere.
A young boy riding a bus from Astana’s city centre to the outskirts.
Medical student Aigerim Nurova enjoying herself in a disco club called the VIP’s Room.
The dramatic development of Kazakhstan depends on its huge reserve of oil and natural gas. Kazakhstan has the 11th largest verified reserve of oil and gas in the world. Nomad oil is one of the most popular oil companies and its name plays on Kazakh pride about past and future.
The dramatic development of Kazakhstan depends on its huge reserve of oil and natural gas. In fact Kazakhstan has the 11th verified reserve of oil and gas in the world. Nomad oil is one of the most popular oil company and its name plays on Kazakh pride about past and future.
Syrymbek Toleu and his girlfriend are seen seated on a bench during one of the rare sunny morning of March. Weather temperatures in Astana can drop below 0 degrees until mid April.
Buses are the second most common means of transportation in Astana. Taxis, which are affordable and in a large quantity and mostly unauthorised are the most popular way for the people of Astana to travel.
A couple of friends walking in the snow dressed up and in high heels.
On the top floor of Khan Shatyr shopping mall there is a tropical beach. The temperature inside is about 30 degrees C while outside it can reach peaks of -50 degrees.
Madina, 23, is ready to go back to work after she had her lunch at Costa Cafe’. She likes Costa because it reminds her of the time she spent studying in the UK. Along with her office job, Madina runs her own business. She thinks there are many cultural differences between people who have lived abroad and those who never left Kazakhstan.
The inside of the newly opened Hazrat Sultan Mosque. It is considered one of the largest, if not the largest, mosque of Central Asia.
21 years old Samat celebrating his birthday. Samat is attending the last year of University and is practicing as a lawyer. He spoke of how much Astana has changed in during the last few years. Samat is only few years younger than his country.
Keruen shopping centre; a table sits empty with the left-overs of a group of teenagers, behind the wall is decorated with a caravan of camels in a “silk road style” depiction. Even though Astana looks like a city of the future the connection with the nomadic past is still very strong in Kazakh society. The Kazakh people are quite proud of their past and tradition.
Khan Shatyr is the largest tent in the world and an Astana landmark. It is a shopping mall where you can find many western brands and products. However most of them are too expensive for the Kazakh middle class since the average income per month is below $700 USD. Khan Shatyr literally means The tent of the King (Khan). It was designed by architect Sir Norman Foster.
A group of Kazakhs visit the inside of Bayterek Tower; a symbolic landmark of Astana. The man in the centre is posing while it touching the golden hand print of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The 22nd of March in Kazakhstan is Nauryz, the Persian / Zoroastrian new year. It is a tradition shared by many cultures from Persia to Central Asia and it marks the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. In this occasion Yurtas (the traditional Kazakh tents) are built and horse games are held in the city and all over the country.
A crowd of women are going to the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation to celebrate Women’s Day on the 8th of March. Like in most post Soviet Union countries women’s day is considered an important celebration and a public holiday in Kazakstan.
The palace of Peace and Reconciliation, designed by Sir Norman Foster and inaugurated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Sicilian born Eugenio Grosso moved to Milan at the age of eighteen to study his Bachelors in Design and Fine Arts at the Accademia delle Belle Arti di Brera, graduating in 2007 with honours. Eugenio has worked as a part-time commercial photographer since 2007 and as a full-time photojournalist since 2009. He is a regular contributor to Italian publications and his work has been featured in international publications like the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Financial Times, the BBC and the Washington Post. He lives and works in London.