Shymkent, formerly known as Chimkent until 1993, is the capital city of South Kazakhstan Province, the most populated region in Kazakhstan. It is the third most populous city in Kazakhstan behind Almaty and Astana with a population of 629,600. A major railroad junction on the Turkestan-Siberia Railway, the city is also a notable cultural centre, with an international airport. It is situated 690 km west of Almaty and 120 km to the north of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Shymkent was founded in the 12th century as a caravanserai to protect the Silk Road town of Sayram, 10 km to the east. Shymkent grew as a market center for trade between Turkic nomads and the settled Sogdians. It was destroyed several times: by Genghis Khan, soldiers from the southern Khanates, and by nomad attacks. Once part of the Khanate of Kokand, it became part of the Emirate of Bukhara in 1810 and was then annexed by the Russian Empire in 1864. It was renamed Chernyaev in 1914 and renamed Shymkent in 1924. Following the Russian conquest, Shymkent was a city of trade between nomadic Turks and sedentary Turks, and was famous for its kumis.
The name Shymkent comes from two words: shym meaning "turf, and kent meaning "city". Shymkent and Chimkent have identical translations.