Kazakhstan | Wilson Center


On The Move: The Story of Kazakhstan’s Capital City

In this edition of Wilson Center NOW we are joined by Maria Blackwood, Title VIII Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute.  She explains the motivations behind the relocation of Soviet Kazakhstan’s capital three times in that nation’s first decade of existence. Blackwood also discusses the abrupt resignation of President Nazarbayev after almost thirty years in power and the subsequent decision to rename the capital of Astana in his honor.



Capital Relocation and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan, 1920-1929

In the first decade of its existence, Soviet Kazakhstan had three different capitals (Orenburg, Kzyl-Orda, and Alma-Ata), and several other cities were considered as potential centers for the republic. Why did Soviet authorities undergo the difficulty and expense of relocating the administrative center of a vast, sparsely populated republic not just once, but twice within the span of nine years? Title VIII Research Scholar Maria Blackwood discussed the motivations and the extensive negotiations behind these decisions to move and the various options considered for Kazakhstan’s capital.

The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan

More than 1.5 million people perished in the Kazakh famine of 1930-33, one of the most heinous crimes of the Stalinist period. Professor Sarah Cameron's book talk examined this understudied episode, which transformed a territory the size of continental Europe. She detailed the devastating consequences of the disaster for Kazakh society and discussed how this neglected episode revises our understanding of Stalin's rule.

This book will be available for purchase at the event.

The Eurasian Union: A Political Project in an Economic Guise

Following the collapse of the USSR, Russia has largely failed to build a competitive economy. Modernizing or replacing the crumbling Soviet-era trademark offerings, such as Tupolev airliners or Lada cars, has been a protracted process that is not fully complete even today. One project that post-Soviet rulers hoped would enhance the newly divergent economies was an economic bloc of some of the former republics of the Soviet Union.

The Adventures of a Rookie in Central Asia’s Archives

A Chinese agent of influence, Yeltsin on a tank, and a bag of stationary

Before embarking to Almaty—my first destination in Central Asia—I talked to many of my Chinese colleagues about my project on the Sino-Soviet border. They all shook their heads in disapproval, believing I would not be able to get much, if any, research done. But ignorance is bliss they say, so I arrogantly brushed off all of their concerns and proceeded with my archives trip to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Looking Forward: A Conversation with Kazakhstan’s Secretary of State

Over the past 25 years, Kazakhstan has made hard-earned progress, rising from the poverty and chaos of sudden independence to become a middle-income nation. President Nazarbayev recently introduced a strategic vision for its long-term development, “Kazakhstan 2050,” outlining the key reforms necessary for Kazakhstan to become globally competitive.

Can Eurasian Energy Compete?

Cheaper oil, government interference and market dynamics jeopardize the future of Russian and Caspian energy. To be globally competitive, the big four Eurasian producers—Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan—should let the private sector play a greater role and make more decisions on commercial, rather than political grounds.