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Astana, July 5: The capital moved to Astana in December 1997. At that time the city was called Akmola. but in 1998 it was re-named Astana (meaning, “capital”), and it is from this moment that the anniversary is taken. The population of Astana has more than doubled since then, from some 300,000 to 778,200 at the beginning of 2013. In the first four months of this year the population increased by a further 10,000.

    Grand plans are in place to celebrate Astana’s 15th anniversary. These were explained this week to journalists by Zhanar Kolbasheva, the head of the media group for the celebration of the anniversary. From the outset it was considered crucial that Astana Day 2013 involved the ordinary people as much as possible; and that there would be large-scale events which would be affordable for everyone. The city authorities want to show off the capital as both a peaceful city with a safe environment and a major spiritual and cultural center.

    Preparations began back in April. These involved landscaping and transforming some 300 open spaces, turning them into playgrounds, sports areas or simply providing benches, decorative fencing and better lighting. At the same time, the mayor’s office initiated a city-wide competition, “Astana’s Choice 2013”, where residents were asked to vote for the person from any walk of life whom they feel has best contributed to the life of the city.

    Both on the anniversary and throughout the year concerts have been organized which reflect the culture of Kazakhstan and the ethnic diversity of the country and the city. 70 concerts will involve up to one million people. Theater will also play a big part in the celebrations. Theatre groups will be coming to the capital from all over Kazakhstan; Russia’s famous “Sovremennik” Theater will be performing; and there will also be foreign plays, such as “Cyrano de Bergerac”.

    There will be art exhibitions; book festivals; sporting events; circus; and a folk music festival. There will also be culinary festivals and the chance for the locals to try a variety of exotic dishes.

But it is a culinary delight which has already captured the imagination of Astana’s residents, ever since it was announced in May that a cake – possibly the world’s largest – will be displayed, then cut up and distributed to the people in the “Khan Shatyr” Entertainment Center. The exact size and weight has been kept a closely-guarded secret. For those who cannot get into the Center, more huge cakes will be on display before being cut up in other shopping and entertainment centers around the city. The day will end with a grand, festive, firework display.

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Japan©2013