Past Cities

Aktau, Mangystau, Kazakhstan

Aktau is a port city located on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea in the Mangystau region of Kazakhstan. Its name means "white mountain" in Kazakh, and it is known for its stunning white sand beaches and unique rock formations. Aktau has a long and rich history that is closely tied to its geography and the political environment of the region.

The history of Aktau dates back to the Bronze Age, when the area was inhabited by nomadic tribes. In the early Middle Ages, the city was part of the Khazar Khaganate, a Turkic state that controlled much of the northern Caucasus and Eastern Europe. The Khazars were eventually displaced by the Mongols in the 13th century, and the region came under the control of various local rulers.

In the 16th century, the region came under the control of the Kazakh Khanate, a state that was formed by the Kazakh people in the 15th century. The Kazakh Khanate was a loose confederation of tribes that was centered in the city of Turkestan, and it controlled much of what is now Kazakhstan, as well as parts of Siberia and China. Aktau was an important trading post on the Silk Road, which connected China with Europe and the Middle East.

In the late 18th century, the Kazakh Khanate was weakened by internal strife and external pressure from neighboring states. The Russian Empire took advantage of this instability and began to expand into the region, annexing much of Kazakhstan in the late 19th century. Aktau became part of the Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union, and its economy shifted from agriculture and trade to mining and industry.

During World War II, Aktau was an important center of the Soviet war effort. The city was home to several factories that produced weapons and other supplies for the Soviet military, and it was also a major transit point for goods and troops heading to the front lines. After the war, Aktau continued to grow and develop, and it became a major industrial center in the Soviet Union.

However, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 had a major impact on Aktau and the rest of Kazakhstan. The city's economy was heavily dependent on the Soviet system, and the transition to a market economy was difficult and painful. Many factories and businesses closed down, and unemployment soared. The city's population declined from a peak of over 200,000 in the 1980s to around 150,000 in the 2000s.

Despite these challenges, Aktau has managed to rebuild and adapt to the new political and economic environment. The city has become an important center of the oil and gas industry, with several major companies operating in the region. The city's port is also an important transit point for goods and resources heading to and from Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East.

Today, Aktau is a vibrant and dynamic city that is home to a diverse population of Kazakhs, Russians, Uzbeks, and other ethnic groups. The city's unique geography, with its white sand beaches and rocky cliffs, has made it a popular destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. The city also hosts several international events, including the Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibition and the Caspian Economic Forum.