The History of Almaty

The official history of Almaty begins with the establishment of a military fortress on the Malaya Almatinka River, at the foothills of the Alatau Mountains, in the middle of the 19th century. However archaeological evidence has shown that inhabitants of the city lived in earthen houses forming small settlements. Such settlements were discovered on the northern outskirts of the city and in the area of Koktyube Mount. In 1969 the ancient Sakian mound Issyk was excavated near Almaty. The Issyk burial mound is believed to date from the 5-4th centuries BC. In 1974, the so-called Golden Man was exhibited at the Leipzig Fair where, by the way, the capital of the Soviet Kazakhstan was for the first time widely presented to the European public.

In 1938 the researcher B.X. Dublitski excavated an ancient settlement in the territory of the state farm of Gorny Gigant which gave evidence of a 140xl50-metre structure enclosed by a quadrangular clay wall with four round watch towers erected at each corner. Inside the site, Dublitski found numerous fragments of ceramic and clay tableware, an iron knife, long iron nails, beads made of red-and-brown transparent stone, and bones of domestic animals. Of greatest interest are the remains of an ancient settlement in the area of the Frontier Military College. The Vesnovka site was located in the territory of the Botanical Garden in Almaty. In 1969 during construction a number of original ceramic articles were found. Of greatest interest were certain beautiful jars coated with glazing. One of the most well-known articles also found near Almaty - the so-called "Kargaly diadem" - dates from the 2nd century BC, the period of Usun rule.

In mid-summer 1853 a Russian imperial military detachment headed by Major M. D. Peremyshlsky, a police-officer of the Great Horde, left Kopal for the ancient crossing place Oguz-Utkul, crossing the capricious Asian River III to the mountain jailyaus of Turghen and the syrts of the Central and Inner Tien Shan. Peremyshlsky was instructed to conduct diplomatic and economic negotiations with the peoples that lived there seeking to enlist their cooperation in trade and industry and to persuade them, on the whole, to enter into an alliance with Russia.

The negotiations succeeded. By the following spring a Cossack squadron led by Lieutenant Glakhyrin explored territories along the Trans-IU Alatau and constructed a bridge at thection of the rivers Kurta and Shi. There he started construction of a fortress on the banks of the Malaya Almatinka River.

The construction was carried out according to the "The Design for a Fortress beyond the Hi River, on Almaty Tract, which is in the Big Kirghiz Horde", a large-scale project drawn up by the Russian Empire's leading fortifiers, A. Telyakovski and E. Totleben. The foundation was done by the topographer E. Vorinin, the engineers L. Alexandrovski and Ts. Gumnitski. Emperor Nicolas I penciled into his copy of the resolution concerning the fortress: "I agree, but do not send the exiled to settle there for the time being."

The Fortress at Vernoye became a starting point for the the first scientific and practical expeditions into the region. It was here that Chokan Valikhanov studied the way of life, traditions, and tribal relations of the Tien Shan peoples. During the journey around Semirechye, as a member of the expedition led by M.M. Khomentovski, head of the Alatau District, Chokan Valikhanov kept a diary illustrating what he saw with still-famous pencil drawings and pictures in watercolors.

In a period of realist Russian painting when artists started to turn to the social fabric and natural beauty of the Russian Empire for inspiration, the talented Siberian painters Mikhail Znamenski and Pavel Kosharov captured the look of the new settlement on their canvases. Three of their pictures are particularly well-known. The stanitsa square is the composition center of their paintings. In the middle of the square, there is the small wooden Sofia Church consecrated by Senior Priest Yevtikhy Vysheslavski in 1858.

On 13 November 1877, the election of members of the Duma took place. Pavel M. Zenkov (1830-1915) was unanimously elected the first mayor of the town of Verny. Amazingly, the town head had been born into a family of the Ural serfs. Having no special education, he had been registered in different agencies either as a free artist or as a free architect. In autumn 1867, P.M. Zenkov with his family arrived at the town of Verny construction of which was under way. He took part in elaboration and implementation of the first development plan, and exercised supervision and control over construction operations. P.M. Zenkov's multifaceted talents did not only show in architecture, painting, and sculpture, but also in developing the music, literature, science, and public life of the land.

The Vernoye Fortress' public and civil buildings were designed by engineers of Turkestani and West-Siberian military districts, graduates of Saint-Petersburg Engineering Academy, the Institute for Civil Engineering, and the Communications Institute. Leonard Alexandrovski, Tsezar Gumnitski, Apollon Kamenogradski, Nikolai Krishtanovski, Pavel Zenkov and his son Andrei - these are the first ones. The first town architect was G. N. Serebrennikov (1839-1883), the author of the first cathedral in the name of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin. In 1934 while accomplishing the Komintern Square the Protection Cathedral was destroyed together with the churchyard. Today, Amangeldy Imanov Park is situated here.

The town merchants were the great charity-mongers of the town. Churches, institutions of warship and schools were all erected, as well as public services and amenities organized with their money. Vernoye had 11 mosques, two synagogues, a Roman-Catholic church, and Orthodox churches. Of the latter only few are functioning - Turkestan Cathedral, revived on Ascension Day in 1995, and Malostanichny Church in the name of the icon of the Kazan Blessed Virgin, the heavenly protector of Semirechye, which was constructed back in 1871 in memory of founding of the Cossack stanitsas.

Starting in 1869 the town began to extend to the south-west of Bolshaya Almatinskaya Stanitsa. The first town blocks of buildings appeared along Tashkentskaya Alley (the today's Raiymbek Avenue). The Sennaya Square (now the square attached to the Youth Theater) became the central square of the town where the grand Protection Cathedral was constructed. Yet the first construction experience proved unsuccessful and the buildings were unable to withstand the difficult forces of nature associated with Central Asian geography. On May 28, 1887 the town was completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake.

Another problem of town improvement always lay in the development of the town territories. The first general plan of 1868, drawn up by N.I. Krishtanovsky and P.M. Zenkov, was approved by general-governor of Turkistan Territory in 1874 when they had already started building the town. Besides, the land desyatinas required for estates and pastures were significantly curtailed when approving the plan and came to amount to only 443 square desyatinas for construction of the town. That is why the town's territory increased at the expense of development of the fortress of Verny (1854-1889). Bolshaya (1855-1927) and Malaya (1860-1962) Stanitsas. Tatarskaya Sloboda (1857-1962) and the town's other suburbs which constitute today Medeu District of Almaty.

According to the poet Vyacheslav Kiktenko Almaty in the past was divided into three unequal parts: up to the river, along the river, and beyond the river. Up to the river the town was grouped along one street, which has undergone a series of renamings in its history: first called the Sobornaya, it was renamed after General Kolpakovsky, and again after Lenin. Now renamed Dostyk Avenue, it connects the city's business center to the Medeu Tract suburbs. In 1875 in an open space left by a destroyed fortress wall, Almatians set up the spacious Gostiny Dvor, eventually to become a covered market. The turbulent twentieth century led to the metamorphoses of much of the city's nomenclature and landscape. Where the Eternal Fire in the City Park stands today, a large Orthodox cathedral, destroyed by earthquake, once stood. On the very day of the calamitous earthquake, May 28, 1887, the foundation trade and industrial centers of the Kuznetsovs, Pugasovs, Ivanovs, Lutmanovs, Ogorodnikovs, situated in the territory of the today's Abai Square and Avenue, also collapsed. In memory of those who perished, a chapel was built in the center of the Gostinodvorskaya Square -- which was demolished by the Bolsheviks in 1927.

The territory along the river and beyond it was the town of craftsmen and merchants. Up to forty agricultural and industrial enterprises grew on the banks of the full-flowing and rough Almatinka River (which became quieter after the mudflow of 1921, having found apparently subterranean channels) as well as along its hydro-technical canals. Working suburbs and town dachas appeared around untiring water-mills. This area beyond the river was divided by the today's Abai Avenue into lower and upper garden plots. In 1896 the banks of the mountainous river were connected with a bridge. It was constructed probably by the engineer Nikolai Naranovich. However, people's memory retained it as Pugasov Bridge after the last name of the first guild merchant, the town's benefactor Nikita Pugasov. "The bridge was gracefully bent, the crown of the merchant's notable prosperity, creaking it was, with railings", said the poet about this engineering structure of the past.

In 1978, Medeu Tract, the Plateau Kamenskoye, the territories of the farms Koktyube and Gorny Gigant were included into the city boundaries. The territory of the city increased up to 172,38 square kilometers. Nowadays the western and north-east parts of the city are directions of the most active growth of the city territory. There they construct the housing estates of Taugul, Mamyr, Kamenka, Baganashyl, Koktyube, and Gorny Gigant. Construction of the micro-district Samal where they erect monolithic 9-, 12- and 14-storied buildings will soon be completed. By 1998 Almaty had approximately 1,061,000 inhabitants: 202,8000 thousand in Almaly District, 256,000 in Auezov, 229,7000 in Bostandyk, 120,500 in Zhetysu, 137,900 in Medeu, and 114,500 in the Turksib District.

Decades in the life of the city have passed. The Big Stanitsa was destined to become the capital of the Soviet Kazakhstan. Later it turned into the "Southern Capital", into a city where the modern history of the sovereign and independent Kazakhstan began. Alma-Ata (the city of apples) was drawn in the whirlpool of political, social, and economic events as a result of which both the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics and the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic ceased to exist. On 30 August 1995, the new Constitution was adopted. Almaty became the first free city in Kazakhstan, a special administrative and territorial formation of foundational importance to the country, the center of Kazakhstan's cultural, scientific, financial, economic, and political life.


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