Nur-Sultan by Javier Arcenillas
Kazakhstan renamed its capital Nur-Sultan in honour of its former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned in 2019 after holding power for three decades. Formerly known as Akmola (‘white tomb’) and then later Astana (‘the capital’), the city was first designated as the capital by Nazarbayev in 1997, replacing Almaty. Until then, it was only a remote corner of the former USSR, a region known for its icy climate and for hosting one of Stalin's notorious Gulags. Conceived by Nazarbayev, Nur-Sultan was designed to befit a country rich in minerals and oil. He recruited the talents of renowned architects such as Sir Norman Foster and over time constructed a city of concrete and glass, full of impressive futuristic buildings, huge shopping centres and enviable sports halls. What was once a forgotten and inhospitable territory is today a city of 800,000 inhabitants, as incredible and eccentric as any of its wealthier neighbours.