Almaty? Alma-Ata? Capital of Tajikistan?

Posted by at 10:24

What can I say about Almaty without embarrassing myself and insulting anyone? I know the Winter Olympics were held there some time ago (aging Dutch skaters keep reminding us that they won medals there) and my wife has been there (she’s a stewardess and “bad girls go everywhere,” as the saying goes).

That’s pretty thin, I admit, so I guess I need to know more. But before I consult the Great Oracle Of Global Life Etcetera, I would like to invite you to share your own ignorance by posting questions in the comments section below. And, with a bit of luck, some kind and wise resident of Almaty will quench our thirst for knowledge and save us some embarrassment.

Let’s start by setting the record straight: Almaty is not the capital of Tajikistan, nor is it the capital of Kazakhstan (Astana took its place in 1997).  It is, however, the key commercial centre of Kazakhstan, located in the southern part of the country, near the border with Kyrgyzstan (thank you, Wikipedia). The city is also known by its former names Verny (which means “faithful”) and Alma-Ata (which means I get one point).

Jokes aside, the name Almaty derives from the words “alma” and “ata”, which respectively mean “apple” and “father” in Kazakh. The two words combined – Alma-Ata or Almaty – refer to a saint’s tomb in an apple orchard. Literally, “Father of the Apples”.

All of which brings me to a truly intriguing discovery: the region around Almaty is renowned for the many species of wild apples that grow there. Scientists from around the world come to study apples in and around Almaty, which is thought to be the ancestral home of the apples you and I (should) eat every day.

Having said all that, I’m tempted to change my title to: “Almaty: The Big Apple?” But I shall resist the temptation, because that would mean rewriting this whole piece.  Instead, I will use the time I have saved to tell you that Almaty has never hosted the Winter Olympics, which means certain Dutch skaters are lying or I have grossly misinterpreted their words.  I suspect it may be the latter, unfortunately.

I could, of course, go on regurgitating facts about Almaty and Kazakhstan, pilfered online, but that would be silly and perhaps even boring. Instead, I’ll leave you with words of wisdom from my father, who travelled the world as a salesman and claimed that one could tell a great deal about a country from the pictures on its banknotes.

This 20-tenge bill was one of the first Kazakh banknotes I came across online. Perhaps someone can tell us something about the man in the picture, and about the horse, rider and eagle on the reverse. And if you have any other interesting questions or intriguing facts about Almaty and Kazakhstan, feel free to share them below.

Meanwhile, I’m off to plan a trip to “The Big Apple”. I can’t wait to see the look on my wife’s face when we get there.

20-tenge bill reverse

31 Responses to Almaty? Alma-Ata? Capital of Tajikistan?

  1. Santusya Galimgereyeva

    nice to know not everyone associates Kazakhstan with Borat.(;

    The man on the banknote is Abay Qunanbayuli, a Kazakh poet. I suppose that the horse rider represents the traditional nomad lifestyle that was customary in Kazakhstan in the old times.

    Even we joke about the similarities between the names of ‘The Apple Town’ and ‘The Big Apple’. But the cities themselves are very different, of course.

    • Leda_duvina

      Medeo has seen many world records in all the speed skating distances from 1951 through the 1980s: 500 m, 1000 m, 1500 m, 3000 m, 5000 m and the 10000 m. In 1974 Dutch Atje Keulen Deelstra became European Champion in Alma Ata. The last great championship event on this ice rink was held in 1988 — the Men’s World Speed Skating Championship — which was won by the American skater Eric Flaim.

  2. Santusya Galimgereyeva

    nice to know not everyone associates Kazakhstan with Borat.(;

    The man on the banknote is Abay Qunanbayuli, a Kazakh poet. I suppose that the horse rider represents the traditional nomad lifestyle that was customary in Kazakhstan in the old times.

    Even we joke about the similarities between the names of ‘The Apple Town’ and ‘The Big Apple’. But the cities themselves are very different, of course.

    • Leda_duvina

      Medeo has seen many world records in all the speed skating distances from 1951 through the 1980s: 500 m, 1000 m, 1500 m, 3000 m, 5000 m and the 10000 m. In 1974 Dutch Atje Keulen Deelstra became European Champion in Alma Ata. The last great championship event on this ice rink was held in 1988 — the Men’s World Speed Skating Championship — which was won by the American skater Eric Flaim.

  3. Richard

    Thank you, Santusya! How intriguing and unusual to have a poet/composer/philospher on a banknote. According to Wikipedia, he also translated the works of Lermontov, Goethe, Lord Byron, Krylov and Pushkin. I tried in vain to find English translations of his poems online. Perhaps someone can point us in the right direction.

    Looks like my father was right about banknotes.

    • Bulatgal

      By the way if you will look to rest Kazakh banknotes you will find left or right hand of Kazakh president mr. N.Nazarbayev….That’ s really situation in this country – guy who is control everything in KZ, include each coupure…

      • Santusya Galimgereyeva

        too true! The new banknotes include the picture of right/left hand of our president. Too much vanity for doing too little, I say.

    • Santusya Galimgereyeva

      sorry, couldn’t find any translations of his works…but yes, thank U for the article.(:

  4. Richard

    Thank you, Santusya! How intriguing and unusual to have a poet/composer/philospher on a banknote. According to Wikipedia, he also translated the works of Lermontov, Goethe, Lord Byron, Krylov and Pushkin. I tried in vain to find English translations of his poems online. Perhaps someone can point us in the right direction.

    Looks like my father was right about banknotes.

    • Bulatgal

      By the way if you will look to rest Kazakh banknotes you will find left or right hand of Kazakh president mr. N.Nazarbayev….That’ s really situation in this country – guy who is control everything in KZ, include each coupure…

      • Santusya Galimgereyeva

        too true! The new banknotes include the picture of right/left hand of our president. Too much vanity for doing too little, I say.

    • Santusya Galimgereyeva

      sorry, couldn’t find any translations of his works…but yes, thank U for the article.(:

  5. Tim D-ev

    an example of how to say a lot without really saying something. too wordy

  6. Tim D-ev

    an example of how to say a lot without really saying something. too wordy

  7. Ozdoc

    Sorry lived there for 20 years and Almaty does not mean father of apples. ALmaty – is not even proper Kazakh. It probably gramatically should be Almani (which means appley place). We think Russians came up with the name Alma – ata as some vaguely correct russification of the original kazakh words (I speak Kazakh well by the way).
    The man on the 20 Tengy note is Abai – a statesman and poet revered in Kazakhstan. He lived in the 1800’s and was a key leader in helping Kazakhs adjust to their new proximity to the Russians and bridging the gap philosophically. The main street in Almaty is named after him as is one of the universities and his statue is in the centre of the city at the beginning of Abai prospect.

  8. Ozdoc

    Sorry lived there for 20 years and Almaty does not mean father of apples. ALmaty – is not even proper Kazakh. It probably gramatically should be Almani (which means appley place). We think Russians came up with the name Alma – ata as some vaguely correct russification of the original kazakh words (I speak Kazakh well by the way).
    The man on the 20 Tengy note is Abai – a statesman and poet revered in Kazakhstan. He lived in the 1800’s and was a key leader in helping Kazakhs adjust to their new proximity to the Russians and bridging the gap philosophically. The main street in Almaty is named after him as is one of the universities and his statue is in the centre of the city at the beginning of Abai prospect.

  9. Richard

    Thanks for all your interesting comments. An illustration showing the reverse side of the banknote has now been added above. I noticed that one of Abai’s poems – translated from Russian using Google – is about a horse. Could there be a link with the illustration?

  10. Richard

    Thanks for all your interesting comments. An illustration showing the reverse side of the banknote has now been added above. I noticed that one of Abai’s poems – translated from Russian using Google – is about a horse. Could there be a link with the illustration?

  11. Rustem

    that 20 tenge note is out of use now. The horse with horseman on its back are probably somehow related to the nomadic way of life, Kazakhs used to live in the past, and connected to a particular poem of Abay.

    • Rustem

      I meant, not connected to a particular poem of Abay.

  12. Rustem

    that 20 tenge note is out of use now. The horse with horseman on its back are probably somehow related to the nomadic way of life, Kazakhs used to live in the past, and connected to a particular poem of Abay.

    • Rustem

      I meant, not connected to a particular poem of Abay.

  13. Aksiheva Sofya

    Hello, Richard. I am from Almaty, so I can tell you about my country and everything you want. The person on 20 tenge bill is Kazakhstani poet and very important person in our literature, Abai Kunanbaev. He lived between 19th and 20th century and left lots of philosophical and literature works for future. You may see that in Wikipedia! :)

    • Richard

      Thank you! It would be great to read some of his work in English. I Google-translated a Russian translation of his poem about a horse, which was very descriptive but also rather garbled.

  14. Aksiheva Sofya

    Hello, Richard. I am from Almaty, so I can tell you about my country and everything you want. The person on 20 tenge bill is Kazakhstani poet and very important person in our literature, Abai Kunanbaev. He lived between 19th and 20th century and left lots of philosophical and literature works for future. You may see that in Wikipedia! :)

    • Richard

      Thank you! It would be great to read some of his work in English. I Google-translated a Russian translation of his poem about a horse, which was very descriptive but also rather garbled.

  15. Budapestkz

    Абай Кунанбаев – (29 VII (10 VIII) 1845, Чингизские горы, ныне Абайский р-н Семипалатинской обл. – 23 VI (6 VII) 1904, там же) – казах. поэт-просветитель и композитор. Поэтич. творчество и мировоззрение А. К. сформировались под воздействием передовой рус. лит-ры, классич. лит-ры Востока, казах. фольклора. А. К. пропагандировал среди казах. народа творчество А. С. Пушкина, М. Ю. Лермонтова, И. А. Крылова и др. рус. писателей, сочинял мелодии к их произв. Музыка А. К. сочетает интонации казах. и рус. мелоса. Он не записывал своих песен, а напевал их. Песни А. К., исполняемые в народе, стали записывать после Октябрьской революции А. Бимбоэс (1919), А. В. Затаевич (1920-25), начиная с 30-х гг.- Л. А. Хамиди, А. К. Жубанов, Б. Г. Ерзакович. Нек-рые песни А. К. использованы в произв. Е. Г. Брусиловского, А. К. Жубанова, С. И. Шабельского, М. А. Скорульского, В. В. Великанова, Л. А. Хамиди и др. Среди произв. А. К. – лирич. песни “Айттым сэлем, каламкас” (“Красавица, привет тебе”) и “Желсиз тунде жарык ай” (“На воде, как челнок, луна”), назидательная “Атаанага коз куаныш” (“Отца и матери услада”), сатирич. “Бойы булган” (“Хвастун, наглец”), трагическая “Ишим олген, сыртым сау” (“Креплюсь, а в сердце боль и мрак”) и др. Большой популярностью пользуются песни A. К. на стихи из “Письма Татьяны” (“Амал жоккаиттым билдирмей”) Пушкина, “Горные вершины” (“Карангы тунде таукалгып”) Лермонтова.

  16. Budapestkz

    Абай Кунанбаев – (29 VII (10 VIII) 1845, Чингизские горы, ныне Абайский р-н Семипалатинской обл. – 23 VI (6 VII) 1904, там же) – казах. поэт-просветитель и композитор. Поэтич. творчество и мировоззрение А. К. сформировались под воздействием передовой рус. лит-ры, классич. лит-ры Востока, казах. фольклора. А. К. пропагандировал среди казах. народа творчество А. С. Пушкина, М. Ю. Лермонтова, И. А. Крылова и др. рус. писателей, сочинял мелодии к их произв. Музыка А. К. сочетает интонации казах. и рус. мелоса. Он не записывал своих песен, а напевал их. Песни А. К., исполняемые в народе, стали записывать после Октябрьской революции А. Бимбоэс (1919), А. В. Затаевич (1920-25), начиная с 30-х гг.- Л. А. Хамиди, А. К. Жубанов, Б. Г. Ерзакович. Нек-рые песни А. К. использованы в произв. Е. Г. Брусиловского, А. К. Жубанова, С. И. Шабельского, М. А. Скорульского, В. В. Великанова, Л. А. Хамиди и др. Среди произв. А. К. – лирич. песни “Айттым сэлем, каламкас” (“Красавица, привет тебе”) и “Желсиз тунде жарык ай” (“На воде, как челнок, луна”), назидательная “Атаанага коз куаныш” (“Отца и матери услада”), сатирич. “Бойы булган” (“Хвастун, наглец”), трагическая “Ишим олген, сыртым сау” (“Креплюсь, а в сердце боль и мрак”) и др. Большой популярностью пользуются песни A. К. на стихи из “Письма Татьяны” (“Амал жоккаиттым билдирмей”) Пушкина, “Горные вершины” (“Карангы тунде таукалгып”) Лермонтова.

  17. Jammy

    Old post but i just went here. It’s was impressive and so different. it was one of the most different experiences i had…in a nutshell i lost everything their but gained a love :)

  18. Jammy

    Old post but i just went here. It’s was impressive and so different. it was one of the most different experiences i had…in a nutshell i lost everything their but gained a love :)

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