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    ASTANA, January 10th, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent Alisher Niyazov) - Russian President Vladimir Putin, currently visiting Kazakhstan, is expected to begin the second day of his sojourn in this Central Asian republic with a tour of its new capital, Astana.

    The VIP guest will be shown some of the city's main development projects, including the Astana Baiterek monument - a 97-meter-tall stylized tree in metal, glass, and concrete. The idea of erecting the monument belongs to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who wants it to become a symbol of the independent Kazakhstan.

    Astana's center is now being redeveloped to turn what was just recently a provincial city into a modern capital. All development projects here are being personally supervised by Mr. Nazarbayev.

    The decision to transfer the Kazakh capital from Almaty to Astana was made in 1997. Astana, in northern Kazakhstan, was previously known as Akmola and Tselinograd (in the Soviet era).

    It was in 1997 that the Kazakh government made the decision to transfer their capital from Almaty to Astana (previously known as Akmola and Tselinograd, in the Soviet era), citing economic, environmental, and geographical reasons.

    Almaty, in southern Kazakhstan, is a long distance away from the republic's geographical centre. Moreover, it is located in an earthquake-prone area. By moving the capital northward, the authorities also hoped to give a boost to the economic development of Kazakhstan's northern regions, thus providing a more proportionate rise of living standards across the country.

    Astana, on the Ishym River, has evolved from a fortress founded by Russian Cossacks in 1830. The community received town status in 1862.

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