Kostanay city: historical and demographic study of urbanization

The article examines the urbanization processes of Kostanay in a historical retrospective, the current mood in the youth environment regarding reproductive and migration strategies of behavior, and also draws conclusions about the future prospects of urbanization, taking into account the obtained data and the general planning of the city's development until 2050. The historical component reveals data on the population of the city from 1897 to the present period, considering historical events and key trends that influenced the course of the urbanization process, its dynamics, population composition and migration motives. The research part of the article describes the results of a survey of 500 respondents, namely, students and working youth aged 16 to 26, as well as data on 1000 parents of respondents. During the survey, it was found that ethnic Kazakh youth has a greater potential for internal migration (41 %), and ethnic Russian youth — for emigration (68 %). Almost a third of the respondents are considering the possibility of emigration abroad. The average number of children per family of respondents (brothers and sisters), as well as in families of parents, was established, which amounted to 2.6 and 4.87 children, respectively. In conclusion, considering the annexation of suburbs and population growth up to 380 — 410 thousand people in the next 30 years, the prospects for the development of the city, its ability to increase the territory are emphasized.


Urbanization is the object of study of various branches of scientific knowledge, therefore, there are many different classifications according to the level of urbanization development. Here are some examples of them. In Soviet science, the level of urbanization of regions was determined on the basis of the share of the urban population in the total population of the territory [1]. In modern economic science, it is proposed to use the urbanization index to classify regions based on the achieved level of urbanization [2]. The values of this index depend on the urban structure of the region and on the share of the urban population in the total population of the region. The classification proposed by geographers-geo-urbanists uses a method of conjugate analysis of urbanization based on a set of indicators, among which the key ones are: the proportion of the urban population, its density and average population of urban settlements, the proportion of large urban population and the number of large cities [3]. As stated in the typology given in the work of A.A. Perederii [4], cities in terms of population are divided into the following groups: small (up to 50 thousand people), medium (50–100 thousand people), large (100–250 thousand people), large (250–1000 thousand people), the largest (over 1 million people).

According to the Law on the Administrative and Territorial Structure of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the cities of the country are divided into the following groups: shopping facilities; “Cities of regional subordination” — a population of over 50 thousand people, large economic and cultural centers, with a developed industrial and social infrastructure; “Cities of republican significance” — having population of over 1 million people, as well as those of particular importance for the state [5].

Based on the use of the economic-geographical method, the famous Russian urbanist G.M. Lappo reveals the diversity and originality of cities, showing their role in the territorial organization of society, the importance of economic and geographical location as a factor of development [6]. It divides cities into large, small, historical and young. G.M. Lappo puts the population size into the basis of the typology of small towns and distinguishes the following types of those: satellite towns of capitals, station, transport, electric cities, and science cities.

*Corresponding author email: tukpatullin@mail.ru


The article uses materials from theoretical and practical studies of both domestic and foreign scientists in the field of urbanization. Considering approaches to the study and assessment of demographic development, methods of analyzing the results of a survey of 500 respondents, as well as a retrospective analysis of literary sources are used. On the basis of inductive, deductive and statistical conclusions, the method of theoretical synthesis and generalization was applied.

Results and Discussions

Since its foundation in 1879, the city of Kostanay bore the unofficial name “Nikolaevsk” or “Novo- Nikolaevsk”, but already in 1895, it was approved as the city of “Kostanay”. Two years later, during the first general census of the population of the Russian Empire in 1897, 14,275 people lived in the city. The indigenous population occupied an insignificant share in the structure of the city of the Kostanay district. Even 47 years after the founding of the settlement, during the years of the first All-Union census of 1926, only 1.6 % were of indigenous origin.

The urbanization processes in Kazakhstan were seriously influenced by the political events of the early 20th century. Between 1917 and 1920 the population of Kazakhstan decreased from 6.218 million to 3.786 million people. The decline was 2.432 million people, or 39 %. The population of the republic was significantly influenced by the consequences of the surplus appropriation, famine and jute (mass loss of livestock) of 1920 and the drought of 1921. Subsequent tragic events, such as famine, “Goloshchekinskaia” collectivization, and the transition of the Kazakh nomadic population to settled life led to the leveling of demographic growth and active migration flows to the Republic. To understand the scale of the disaster, below is the dynamics of the population of Kazakhstan according to the data of the Department of National Economic Accounting of the Republic for 1930–1936: 1930 — 5.873 million people, 1931 — 5.114 million people, 1932 — 3.227 million people, 1933 — 2.4935 million people. That is, over 4 years the population decline was 58 % or 3.380 million people. According to preliminary estimates, the Kazakh people lost 2.2 million people — over 41 % of the total number of Kazakhs at that time [7].

Then, the indicators of 6.4 % of the urbanized Kazakh population of the Kostanay region during the All-Union census of 1939 are not surprising, after a significant decrease in the rural Kazakh population in the indicated tragic period [8].

In addition to these tragic events, the processes of the Union and the global scale took place, which, to one degree or another, had an impact on the course of urbanization in Kazakhstan. These processes also affected the city of Kostanay.Mass migration of the population to cities associated with forced industrialization; the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War and the associated mobilization of the population to the front and the evacuation of significant production facilities to the republic, including Kostanay; the growth of the birth rate that began after the war, the development of virgin and fallow lands led to a radical change in the composition and number of the city's population.

In 1959, the population grew to 86.4 thousand people. In 1970, the formed Turgai region reduced the number of the Kostanay region, but the regional center continued to grow rapidly [9]. By 1979, as a result of the continued high birth rate and labor migration, the population of Kostanay practically doubled (164,500 people).

By 1991, the population of the city was already 234 thousand people, and the rapid population growth (+ 40 %), due to the intensification of Kazakh students migration to cities and a particularly high birth rate among the Kazakh urban population.A separate issue is the study of the peculiarities of urbanization of the Kazakh population of the Republic. The title nation was characterized by low urbanization from the very beginning, because of the “settling” of the Kazakhs during the years of collectivization and their place of residence was the countryside. It should be noted that if in 1970 only 26 % of Kazakhs of the Kazakh SSR lived in cities, then in 1989 — 40 % [10].

The period from 1991 to 2006 was characterized by the emigration of the non-Kazakh urban and rural population outside Kazakhstan (2.9 million people), and the resettlement of the Kazakh population to cities. The population of Kostanay, in 2004, was 204 thousand people, which was 30 thousand (12.8 %) people less than 13 years earlier, despite the active migration of the rural population. The impetus for the migration of the Kazakh population to Kostanay was facilitated by the abolition of the Turgai region in 1997 (with a predominantly Kazakh population) and the annexation of part of its territory to the Kostanay region [11].

Population migration contributed not only to the reduction of urban residents, but also to ethnic replacement. According to the research results of Alekseenko A.N., a well-known specialist in the field of demography and resettlement of the peoples of Kazakhstan, the reason for the decline in urbanization processes in Kazakhstan in 1989–2009 was a decrease in the employment rate of ethnic Russians nationwide by 45.1 % and an increase in the employment of the titular nation by 46.2 %. The scientist explains this process by the beginning of the entry into the working age of young people born in the 1980s — the second generation of the population explosion in the birth rate in the 1960s [12].

Since 2004 there has been a continuous growth in the population of Kostanay. According to statistics, of July 1, 2021, 251 thousand people lived in the city. General plan approved by the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan on November 13, 2020 (No. 762), the possible population size will be for 2035 and 2050 — 320 thousand and 380 thousand people, respectively. In compliance with the plan, over 1 million sq.m. have already been commissioned housing, and it is also planned to build 158 apartment buildings and over 2 thousand houses of the private sector in 5 new micro-districts of the city: Altyn Arman, Yubileiny, Bereke, Airport and Kunai [13]. The last microdistrict will be the largest of the existing ones in the city.

In most cities of regional and district subordination, urbanization is lagging, catching up. Today, there are 89 cities on the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the number of inhabitants in which ranges from two million (Almaty) to one and a half thousand people (Zhem). At the moment, the cities of Zhem and Temir are under threat of cancellation of the status of the city, due to the outflow of the population.

Urbanization processes are actively taking place in the cities of Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent, Aktobe, Atyrau and Kyzylorda, population of which has increased over the past 10 years by 90 %, 30 %, 55 %, 40 %, 70 %, and 30 %, respectively.

Despite the growth of publications in the field of studying various aspects of urbanization, there are practically no studies on the demographic development of the city of Kostanay.

A holistic picture of the demographic development of the city cannot be formed without taking into account the age structure of the population. According to the UN Aging Scale, if the proportion of people aged 65 and over is less than 4 %, then the population is considered young; if its share is more than 7 %, then the population is considered old. In Kazakhstan, the share of the population over 65 is 7.4 %; in Kostanay it is approximately above 10 %. The vagueness is due to the fact that official statistics indicate 15 %, but men are counted from 63 years old, women from 60 years old [14].

The main sources of population growth are: natural growth, migration and administrative-territorial transformations. In this study, young people are taken as the object of the survey due to the fact that they make up the bulk of rural-urban migration. In addition, rural-urban migration generally negatively affects the demographic situation in rural settlements. Therefore, the purpose of the study is to analyze the place of youth in the system of urbanization development of the city, the current socio-demographic indicators of the younger generation in comparison with the previous generation.

The empirical base of the study was made up of materials from a survey conducted in autumn, 2020, among young people in Kostanay. The total sample was 500 people. The study used deterministic sampling methods.

The gender composition of the respondents: 137 (27.4 %) males and 363 (72.6 %) females. The bias towards the female sex is associated with the peculiarity of the methods and locations of the surveys. In the first case, the management of the research base (state universities, 295 respondents) sent a questionnaire to students by e-mail, filling it out, students had to send it to the specified e-mail address. The survey was conducted without monitoring of implementation by the university administration. The gender composition of educational institutions was without significant distortions. The next step was conducting a survey with young workers and women workers of shopping, and entertainment centers, parks, pavilions. At this stage, it was noticed that university students show greater responsibility in performing the “optional task” than male students in a ratio of more than 3 to 1 (226 versus 69). Also, the service sector of the city center is more represented by young girls — workers (137 versus 68), which indicates a high level of female emancipation in this area.

The national composition was represented by 17 ethnic groups, which speaks of ethnic diversity: 321 Kazakhs (64 %), 97 Russians (19.4 %), 28 Ukrainians (5.6 %), 17 Germans (3.4 %), 12 Tatars (2.4 %), 5 Belarusians (1 %), 4 Azerbaijanis (0.8 %), the other 13 (2 Moldovans, 2 Uzbeks; one Kumyk, Avar, Korean, Polish, Uygur, Armenian, Kurdish, Bashkir women; one girl identified herself as a mestizo) (2.6 %) and 3 are not indicated (0.6 %).

It should be noted that 66.4 % of respondents identified themselves as “urban dwellers” and 33.6 % as “villagers”, but then it turned out that only 31 % of respondents were born in the city and live right there, 29 % were born and live in the village, the remaining 39 % show migration activity, having moved from the village to the city and vice versa (36 % and 3 %, respectively).It is this stratum of respondents that is characterized by the transition from a rural mentality to an urban one, therefore, giving preference to adaptation to the urban environment, the respondents position themselves as urban residents, although the majority live in the city only during their studies.

According to migration preferences, it turned out that 294 people are not going to change their place of residence within the country,179 people are planning a move,27 people did not provide an answer.58.8 % of respondents indicated that they are not going to migrate within Kazakhstan, but it should be borne in mind that the figure is also formed from those who plan to emigrate abroad, and they are not interested in changing their place of residence within the country.It turned out that 2/3 of the respondents who had moved before (from a village to a city or vice versa), as well as 2/3 of the respondents from the village, do not plan internal migration.In addition, ethnic Russians do not plan to change their place of residence within Kazakhstan more than other ethnic groups (68 % of the total number of respondents of Russian nationality).

5.8 % of respondents are planning internal migration.Most of those who are going to move within Kazakhstan mentioned three cities: Kostanay itself, the capital city Nur-Sultan and the largest metropolis of the country — Almaty.This is due to the fact that the Northern and Southern capitals are key areas of migration for young people in cities within Kazakhstan, while Kostanay is a migration center for rural youth in the region.The Kazakhs remain the most active in changing their place of residence within the country (41.1 % of the total number of Kazakh respondents).

Half of the respondents (50.8 %) plan to move abroad. Of the most attractive destinations for immigration, respondents indicated Western Europe, Eastern Europe (including Russia), North America, Turkey, and South Korea. The highest percentage of those wishing to emigrate is observed in the Russian ethnic group — 61 % of the total. Considering that a significant number of citizens of Russian nationality live in Kostanay, the outflow of the younger generation of this ethnic group can lead to significant changes in the ethnic appearance of the city. Further, demographic growth of the indigenous population in the future will make this process more rapid.

In both cases, the desire to change their place of residence within the country or abroad is associated with the desire of young people to realize their personal potential in places with more opportunities than their place of permanent residence. Then, the comparison of indicators on external migration with internal migration appears in a different way: 29.6 % of all respondents consider Kazakhstan, and their place of residence to be sufficiently rich in opportunities for the realization of their ambitions; 27.8 % consider selfrealization impossible on the territory of Kazakhstan.

The average number of children in the respondents’ families, together with the respondents themselves, is 2.6 people, which in turn demonstrates the level of fertility of the respondents’ parents.In the families of parents, in turn, the average number of children was 4.88 — a reduction by 1.87 times.69 respondents indicated that they were alone in the family, while in the generation of their parents there were about 13 such families. This indicates a fivefold increase in families with one child. A decrease in the birth rate in the future families of the respondents will significantly reduce the rate of natural reproduction of the city at the expense of the local urban population. Higher emancipation of girls in the city will contribute to a decrease in the fertility of respondents and visitors through the influence on future generations.

Resource base for replenishing the city with new citizens was largely provided by residents of rural areas with a traditionally higher birth rate for all ethnic groups.

The breakdown of the average number of children in a family by ethnicity indicates following: Kazakhs — 2.84, Russians — 2.21, others — 2.44; Kazakhs who moved to the city — 2.72, born and live in the city — 2.27, moved from city to village — 3.18; Russians who moved to the city — 2.42, those born and living in the city — 1.9, those born and living in the countryside — 2.44.

It should be noted that all representatives of the Kazakh nation have a higher birth rate than other ethnic groups in all localities. The indicators in regions with a predominance of indigenous ethnicity are most likely even higher.


Kostanay is a “city of regional subordination”, plays a significant role in the territorial organization of society, being a factor in the development of the region. Due to the established historical tradition, the city is

now classified as “old”. However, the analysis of the current state of demographic, ethno-migration processes allowed the authors to draw a conclusion about a favorable demographic perspective. Population growth in the next 15 years is expected by 27 % and by 2050 — by more than 40 %. The state and mood of the youth of Kostanay and Kostanay region will make it impetuous.

The high emigration potential of the young Russian population will contribute to the rapid predominance of the elderly people, which, in turn, will negatively affect the birth rate in this ethnic group. Probably, the important role in this process will be played by the culture of emancipation, widespread in the urban environment, which emphasizes the personal self-realization of women and postpones the birth of the first child to a later period.

The active flow of young people from rural areas to the city will negatively affect the dynamics of the birth rate of the villagers, who are the main driver of population growth in Kostanay. A significant one-time flow of rural migration associated with a sharp deterioration in rural life, or profitable government programs for urbanization can significantly reduce the reproduction of the rural population, which, in the long term, will reduce the growth of migration to the city.

At this stage, the new quarters have considerably changed the appearance of the city, filling the empty spaces between the city of Kostanay and its suburbs, thereby creating a continuous urbanized space. The inclusion of suburbs within the city limits, the construction of shopping and entertainment infrastructure and the introduction of additional public transport routes contributed to the significant integration of the periphery into the urban environment. The next stage is the inclusion of two large suburbs adjacent to the city of Kostanay from the other bank of the river Tobol, but at some distance from it. The development of empty space on the opposite bank adjacent to the city center promotes the integration of the suburbs. Their joining will increase the population of Kostanay by 30 thousand people.



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Year: 2021
City: Karaganda
Category: History