Kazakhstan: Capital Astana paralysed by cold weather

Temperature drops to minus 32C in the world’s second coldest capital city.

Astana Cold
Cold weather forces schools to close in Kazakhstan. [The Associated Press]

A cold snap is gripping the capital of Kazakhstan.

Schools in Astana closed for four days in a row this week as temperatures dropped to minus 32C.

The cold snap started abruptly, when winds gusting up to 55 kilometres an hour forced the temperature to drop from a mild minus 4C, to a minus 14C. Since then, the temperatures have fallen further.

Although minus 4C might not sound particularly mild, it is for Astana and is close to the average maximum November temperature of minus 3C.

However, the temperature can be expected to drop further in the coming months.

Astana is the second coldest capital city in the world, after Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. In January, Astana’s average maximum temperature was just minus 12.5C.

Standing alongside Brasilia in Brazil and Canberra in Australia, Astana is a planned capital city.

It is far colder than Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, whose average maximum in January is a balmy minus 1C.

The capital was moved in 1997. The chosen site was Akmola, which at this point was a largely empty patch of land on the banks of the Ishim River.

Akmola was renamed Astana and the landscape was transformed.

The city is now littered with futuristic-looking buildings, with pioneering architecture and innovative designs. Little surrounds the city except hundreds of kilometres of flat, empty grassland.

More than 750,000 people now call Astana their home, despite the harsh climate.

The aggressive cold is expected to continue across the region over the next few days.