"Astana has been the capital of Kazakhstan only since 1997, three years after the country's leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, told a stunned parliament that a prosperous, independent country like Kazakhstan ought to have its capital "in the center" of the country, rather than on the border. Almaty, the old capital, was pleasantly situated in the foothills of the Tian Shan Mountain range, and was famous for its apple orchards. And Astana? It was six hundred miles to the north-that is to say, toward Russia-and bitterly cold."
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