Oldest Cities in Kazakhstan 

In this article, we’re going to learn more about some of the oldest cities in Kazakhstan. This city is best known for its rich culture, beautiful and incredibly diverse landscape, and numerous heritage sites scattered across its lands. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some of its oldest cities.

7 Oldest Cities in Kazakhstan

7. Kokshetau

Founded in: 1824
Population: 150,649
Region: Akmola Region

KokshetauPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Kokshetau is one of the oldest cities in Kazakhstan. Much like the city Petropavl, it was originally constructed as a military fortress. This city has a fascinating history, because it plays quite a crucial roles in various turning points in Kazakhstan’s history. For instance, it has seen several nomadic tribes live and thrive in the Kokshetau region. It has also been the cities where the headquarters of various kings were located as well.

Did you know?

Kokshetau means Blueish Mountain or Smoky-Blue Mountain in English.

6. Petropavl

Founded in: 1752
Population: 201,446
Region: North Kazakhstan Region

PetropavlPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Petropavl is situated near the bank of the Ishim River. It’s interesting to learn that this city was actually founded as a military fortress. When it was founded in the summer of 1752, the Senate realized that it wanted to strengthen the Russian Empire and its southern borders. Eventually, a general was ordered to begin building a series of protective structures, but faced weather problems along the way.

Eventually the structure was built. Over the next few decades, the city of Petropavl faced various struggles, such as being attacked by various armies and being invaded as well. In the present day, it is known for its rich culture and well-organized education system.

Did you know?

Petropavl was originally called Petropavlovsk. However, after Kazakhstan gained independence from Russia, it changed the city’s named to Petropavl.

5. Semey

Founded in: 1718
Population: 350,967
Region: Abai Region

SemeyPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Unlike some of the cities mentioned on our list, Semey hasn’t been around for several thousand years! However, this city is a few centuries old, and has existed since the year 1718. This city is known for its warm summers and freezing cold winters.

The first settlers in this city were actually the Russians, who built a fort along the river Irtysh. In later years, the fort was renamed Semipalatinsk, which translated to “Seven-chambered City” in Russian.

Did you know?

Semey has a street and a museum that is named after the writer Dostoyevsky.

4. Oral

Founded in: 1584
Population: 330,000
Region: West Kazakhstan Region

OralPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Oral is another of the oldest cities in Kazakhstan. It is located close to the Russian border, between the Ural and Chagan rivers. It might interest you to know that Oral is considered to be the capital of the West Kazakhstan Region.

In terms of the people that live in this area, the majority of the population consists of native Kazakh people, who make up around 70% of the population. Since Oral is located so close to Russia, around 25% of the population is Russian.

Did you know?

Oral is considered to be geographically in Europe, since it is located near Russia.

3. Shyment

Founded in: 3rd or 2nd Century BCE
Population: 1,200,000
Region: South-central Kazakhstan

ShymentPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Shymkent has also existed for several centuries in Kazakhstan. This city is one of the oldest in the country and it is the only one of three cities to have been given the status of being its own region. Shymkent is also one of the top three most populated cities in Kazakhstan, with a population of more than a million people.

When this city was first founded, it was founded as what is known as a caravanserai. A caravanserai was a resting place for people traveling caravans. It was built for the sole purpose of protecting a Silk Road town that was only ten kilometers away, and eventually grew into a market town. Although it was destroyed several times over the years by rulers like Genghis Khan and the Russians, it was restored, and has since become what it is today.

Did you know?

Shymkent was originally spelled Chimkent, which came from two Sogdian words. Chim meant turf, and kent meant city. When translated literally, it means city in the turf or grass.

2. Turkistan

Founded in: 4th Century
Population: 550,000
Region: Turkistan Region

TurkistanPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Turkistan is the second oldest city in Kazakhstan, as indicated by historical records! Based on the data that researchers have found, this city has existed since the 4th century, if not earlier. One of the most notable features of Turkistan is the the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, which was commissioned by Timur, the famous Turco-Mongol conqueror.

It’s interesting to note that when this city was created, it was considered to be a commercial hub, particularly after the city of Otrar declined. For a significant portion of time, this city used to be referred to as Shavgar or Iasy, but its name was later changed to Hazrat or Turkistan. The reason that its name was changed was to honor a Sufi Sheikh named Khoja Akhmet Yassawi.

Did you know?

Turkistan was named Spiritual Capital of the Turkic World by the Organization of Turkic States.

1. Taraz

Founded in: 36 BCE
Population: 428,000
Region: Jambyl Region

TarazPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Taraz is the oldest city in Kazakhstan and also the fastest-growing city in the country! This stunning place has existed since ancient times, making it a place with a rich inner history. When this city was first created, it was built and eventually populated by a ground of people called the Sogdians.

It’s interesting to note that this city has existed since the bronze epoch. The reason that we know this today is that archaeologists discovered various historical artefacts, like bronze statues of various kings, chest ornaments, and pieces from different ceramic products in the river Talas. These findings indicate that this city had been around for several centuries, and that it was thriving even in the Bronze age.

Did you know?

Taraz was originally recorded as a city called Talas in the year 568 BCE, by a man who was known as Menander Protector.


When we were researching this article, we realized that we spent way too much time reading about each of these cities and the roles they played in world history. One of the best things about writing an article like this is getting to learn so much about an entirely new country! We hope that you enjoyed reading this article as much as we enjoyed writing it, and hope that you will further your own research by reading more about Kazakhstan.

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