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Aktau

Aktau, formerly known as Shevchenko (Russian: Шевченко, 1964–1991), is one of the biggest cities of western Kazakhstan, and the country's main seaport on the Caspian Sea. It is located on the Mangyshlak Peninsula and is the capital of Mangystau Province. Aktau literally means "white mountain" in Kazakh, so named after the cliffs overlooking the sea. Population: 170,000.

Aktau is known for its unique block address system. The streets of the city have no names, and all addresses in Aktau consist of three numbers: the microdistrict (block) number, the building number and the apartment number. This is because Aktau was originally planned as a camp for the workers of the oil industry.

The territory of Aktau was once inhabited by ancient tribes of Scythians. Archeological finds in the area include old settlements and utensils. Aktau was founded in 1961 as a covert settlement, Guriyev-20, when development of uranium deposits was started. In 1963 the settlement was open and gained status of a city. From 1963 to 1991, the city was named Shevchenko to honour the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, who was once exiled to this then remote location because of his political views. The name Aktau was given in 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed and Kazakhstan gained independence.


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