Almaty subway (almost) unveiled

The residents of Kazakshtan’s second city will soon be able to ride their own subway. Almaty’s first 8.3-km line will comprise 7 stations to link Rayimbek Avenue to Abai Avenue - the two largest transport arteries of the historic city. Work is under way at all the stations of this first line (Rayimbek station is 90% ready).

The length of travel time along the first line will total a mere 12 minutes with average train speeds of 40km per hour. The ‘deepest’ station - named after Abai, the Kazakh writer - is located 78 meters below the ground (the average station depth is 40 meters).

The subway was designed by the Kazakh company Metroproject, and is being constructed by the Kazakh developer, Almatymetrokurylys. The Department of Passenger Transport & Automobile Roads (of the Transport Ministry) acts as programme administrator. Rolling stock will be purchased from Hyundai Rotem - which won a tender in December 2007. In May this year the company will deliver 28 vehicles at a total cost of USD 86.5 million. Carrying capacity of this first line will be 341,600 passengers a day. A second subway line will be commissioned between 2011 and 2013 – and there are plans for a third line.

A subway for Almaty was first mooted back in the 1970s. A 1975 master plan for the city’s development included a raft of the first would-be route. However, this plan was never realised as the USSR government promised to finance the project only if Almaty passed the one million residents mark (the millionth resident was only registered in 1979). Actual construction was launched eventually in 1988 when the then Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Nursultan Nazarbayev, signed documents for the go-ahead. In 1994, however, work was suspended during a slump in the nascent Kazakh economy. Work was eventually resumed in 2001.




Almaty (Алматы; formerly known as Alma-Ata (Russian: Алма-Ата), also Verniy (Верный)) is the largest city in Kazakhstan, with a population of nearly one and a half million people - which represents just under 10% of the population of Kazakhstan.
Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan (and its predecessor, the Kazakh SSR) from 1929 to 1998. Despite losing its status as the capital, Almaty remains the major commercial center of Kazakhstan.
The name ‘Almaty’ derives from the Kazakh word for ‘apple’ (алма), and thus is often translated as "full of apples" (the region is thought to be the home of the apple, and the wild Malus sieversii, is considered the ancestor of the modern domestic apple).
Like all of Kazakhstan, Almaty boasts a fascinating demographic make-up: as of 2003, the population of the city consisted of 46.5 % Kazakh, 30.0 % Russian, 10.8 % Uyghur, 2.0 %Tatar, 2.0 % Korean, 1.0 % Ukrainian, 1.0 % German - and 8% identifying as ‘other’. All demographic groups – as elsewhere in Kazakhstan – live in perfect harmony.
Almaty – History
During the 10th and 9th BCE (Before the Common Era) in the Bronze Age the first farmers and cattle-breeders established settlements on the territory of Almaty. During the Saka period (from 7 BCE to the beginning of the Common Era), these lands were chosen for residence by Saka tribes and later Uisun tribes inhabiting the territory north of the Tian Shan mountains. Evidence of these times are numerous burial tumuli and ancient settlements, especially giant burial mounds of Saka tsars. The most famous archaeological finds are the Golden Man from the Issyk Kurgan (a likeness of the Golden Man crowns the Independence Monument on the central square of Almaty), Zhalauly treasure, Kargaly diadem, Zhetysu arts bronze (boilers, lamps and alters). During the period of Saka and Uisun governance, Almaty became an important education center.
The next stage of Almaty evolution is the Middle Ages (8th–10th centuries) and was characterized by the city’s cultural development, transfer to a settled way of living, farming and handicraft development, as well as the emergence of a number of towns and cities on the territory. In the 10th – 14th centuries, settlements situated on the territory became the part of trade routes of the Silk Road. Almaty thus became one of the trade, craft and agricultural centers on the Silk Road and possessed an official mint. The city was first mentioned as Almatu - in books dating back to the 13th century.
During the 15th - 18th centuries, the city became less important as trade activities contracted on this part of the Silk Road. This period, however, was marked by very important political events that had significant impact on the history of Almaty and Kazakhstan as a whole. It was a period of crucial ethnic and political transformations. The region witnessed the tragic developments related to the Dzungar intervention and rigorous efforts of Kazakhs to protect their land and preserve independence. In 1730 the Kazakh defeated the Dzungar in the Anyrakay mountains, 70km north-west from Almaty.
On 4 February 1854 the modern history of the city began with the strengthening of the Russian fort Verniy near the Zailiysky Alatau mountain range (between Bolshaya and Malaya Almatinka rivers). The construction of the Verniy Fort was almost finished by autumn 1854. It was a fenced pentagon and one of its sides was built along the Malaya Almatinka. Later, wood fencing was replaced with a wall of brick with embrasures. Main facilities were erected around the big square for training and parading.
In 1855 the first displaced Kazakh appeared in Verniy. Since 1856, Verniy started accepting Russian peasants. They founded the Bolshaya Almatinskaya Stanitsa (Cossack village) nearby the fortification. The inflow of migrants increased and led to the construction of the Malaya Almatinskaya Stanitsa and Tatarskaya (Tashkentskaya) sloboda. It was the place of settlement for Tatar mechants and craftsmen. In 1867 the Verniy Fort was transformed into a town and called Almatinsk. However, the population did not like the new name and soon the town was re-named Verniy.
According to the First City Plan, the city perimeters were 2 km on the south along th Almatinka river, and 3km on the west. The new city area was divided into residential districts. Three categories of the city buildings were distinguished; buildings of the first and second categories were a two-storied or, at least, one-storied constructions with a high semi-basement. Buildings of categories I and II were erected around and in the center, others – on the outskirts. On 28 May 1887, at 4AM, an earthquake almost totally destroyed Verniy in minutes. As a result, people were henceforth inclined to build one-storied construction made of wood or adobe.
In 1921, a sitting was summoned for the participation of the representative of government – both regional and sub-regional institutions, professional trades and the Muslim people to assign a new name to Verniy, Alma-Ata.
In 1926, the Council of Labor & Defense approved the construction of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway which was a crucial element of the Republic’s reconstruction, specifically on the east and southeast. The Turkestan-Siberia Railway construction also had a decisive economic aspect that foreordained the destiny of Alma-Ata as capital of Kazakh ASSR. In 1930 the construction of the highway and railway to the Alma-Ata station was completed. On 2 March 1927, the Central Executive Committee of the Kazakh Republic decided to transfer the capital from Kyzyl-Orda to Alma-Ata. The VI Kazakhstani Congress approved this initiative. On 29 April 1927, it was decided to transfer the capital of the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic from Kyzyl-Orda to Alma-Ata.
The Alma-Ata airport was opened in 1930 and people from the capital of Kazakhstan could fly henceforth from Alma-Ata to Moscow. Alma-Ata became the air gate to Kazakhstan. Transformation of the small town into the capital of the Republic was supplied by the large-scaled construction of new administrative and government facilities and housing.
In 1936 the Architecture & Planning Bureau elaborated the General Plan aimed at creating Alma-Ata as the new cultural capital of Kazakhstan. The Plan was based on the existing rectangular system of districts that would further be strengthened and reconstructed. During World War II the city territory was changed. To organize homes and concentrate industrial and material resources, the residential stock was compressed to ensure accommodation for 26,000 evacuated persons; Alma-Ata hosted over 30 industrial facilities from the front areas, 8 hospitals, 15 institutes, universities and technical schools and around 20 cultural institutions. Motion picture production companies from Leningrad, Kiev and Moscow were also relocated to Alma-Ata.
From 1966 to 1971, 1,400,000 square meters of public and cooperative housing were built. Annually, around 300,000 square meters of dwellings were constructed. It was the period of building earthquake-proof, multi-storied buildings. Schools, hospitals, cultural and entertainment facilities, including Lenin’s Palace, Kazakhstan Hotel, sport complex ‘Medeo’, etc. all date from this period. The Medeu Dam, designed to protect the city of Almaty and the Medeo skating rink from catastrophic mudflows, was built in 1966 and reinforced a number of times in the 1960s and ‘70s.
The supersonic transport Tupolev Tu-144 went into service on 26 December 1975, flying mail and freight between Moscow and Alma-Ata in preparation for passenger services, which commenced in November 1977.
Since 1981, the underground Almaty Metro construction project has been in development (see sidebar - left). On 16 December 1986 the Jeltoksan riot took place in response to Mikhail Gorbachev's dismissal of Dinmukhamed Kunayev (deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Kazakh SSR).
In 1991 Kazakhstan celebrated its independence from Russia and in 1993 the government made a decision to rename Alma-Ata. The new name of the city is Almaty.
In 1997, President Nazarbayev approved the Decree to transfer the capital from Almaty to Astana.
On 1 July 1998 the Law concerning the special status of Almaty as a scientific, cultural, historical, financial and industrial center was passed.

The new 2030 General Plan of Almaty was developed in 1998 and aims at forming ecologically safe, secure and socially comfortable living conditions. The main objective is to promote Almaty’s image as a garden-city. One of the components of the General Plan is to continue multi-storied and constructions, reorganize industrial territories, improve transport infrastructure and launch the Almaty Metro.
Almaty has developed an important regional financial centre - RFCA. Link to RFCA release
An aerial tramway line connects downtown Almaty with a popular recreation area on the top of Kök Töbe ('Green Hill'), a mountain just to the southeast. The city television tower, Alma-Ata Tower, is located on this hill, as well as a variety of amusement-park type attractions and touristic restaurants.
According to the city's Department of Natural Resources & Resource Use Management, the city today has 125 fountains. Among them is the 'Oriental Calendar' Fountain, whose 12 sculpture figures represent the 12 animals of the Kazakh 12-year animal cycle (similar to its Chinese counterpart).
Almaty is a university town – with the Almaty Institute of Power Engineering & Telecommunications, Kazakh-British Technical University, Kazakh National Technical University (KazNTU), Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (KazUU), Suleyman Demirel University (SDU), Kimep (Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, & Strategic Research), Kazakh-American University (KAU), Kazakh Academy of Sciences, Almaty State University (named after Abay), Turan University, Kazakhstan University of Global Relationships & Languages (КазУМОиМЯ), Central Asian University (ЦАУ) - all providing international standards of eduction to students from across Kazakhstan and beyond.
Almaty won its bid to host the 2011 Winter Asian Games and the city is working on future bids, including the 2018 Winter Olympics. Link to releases
Almaty is a bustling international and multicultural city with all imaginable amenities. Restaurants and bars contribute to a very lively nightlife scene and the magazine Time Out Almaty describes the cultural and leisure scene on a fortnightly basis under license (to Time Out Publications UK) by Media Link, also responsible for publishing Cosmopolitan Kazakhstan. Click here to access the Time Out Almaty site.