Semey city, Kazakhstan (Semipalatinsk)

The city of East Kazakhstan oblast.

Semey overview

Semey (also spelled Semei; former Semipalatinsk, renamed in 2007) is a city of East Kazakhstan oblast (region) of Kazakhstan standing on Irtysh river banks.

Semey is one the most ancient cities of Kazakhstan. Semey city is an important railway junction connecting Russia with Eastern and Southern Kazakhstan. Semey city has airport and river port.

Semey population is about 330,000 (2009).

Semey phone code - +7 7222; postal codes - 071400-071410.

Semey city coat of arms

Semey city coat of arms

Semey facts

The largest industrial plants of Semey are as follows: cement plant, meat preserving plant, tannery, machine-building and tank-repairing plants.

Semey is an important transportation juncture of Kazakhstan. A number of highways cross the territory of the city as well as Turkestano-Siberian railway. There is an airport in Semey city with inner Kazakhstan and Moscow city flights available.

In 1949-1963 huge territories were polluted by nuclear fall-out from Semipalatinsk proving ground where nuclear weapons were tested. Among the territories which were influenced by nuclear fall-out from Semipalatinsk proving ground was Semipalatinsk city located in the area of high radiation risk. The ecological situation in the region is awful.

Semey history

The name of Semipalatnaya fortress, later the city of Semipalatinsk, has come into being thanks to ruins found close to the city. Those were the ruins of the site of ancient settlement Dorzhinkit. Russian explorers knew about seven Buddhist temples of Dorzhinkit in 1616. In 1660-1670s these constructions were destroyed.

Semipalatnaya fortress was founded by commander Vasily Cheredov and his troop in 1718 about 18 km lower its current location, on Irtysh River. It was done due to Peter’s I decree on protecting eastern lands of Russian state. At present the area of location of Semipalatnaya fortress is called “Old Fortress” and is a recreation area.

The fortress gradually was becoming an important trade point between Russia and Kazakhstan, further between Russia, Middle Asia and Western China. Infrastructure of the town was developing: in 1873 the town had telegraph, in 1906 - water ways, thanks to navigation on Irtysh River, in 1910 - telephone line and water pipe supply - the first in Kazakhstan.

In 19th century Semipalatinsk was a place of political exile. In 1854-1859s the exiled Russian writer F.M.Dostoyevsky lived in the city and wrote several of his works there. In 1930s large industrial plants were constructed in Semipalatinsk city.

On August 29th, 1949, first test of nuclear weapons in USSR (a bomb of 22 kiloton) was held at Semipalatinsk nuclear testing area. For the period of 1949-1989s no less than 456 nuclear tests were held at Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground during which 616 nuclear and thermonuclear gadgets were exploded including 30 nuclear explosions on the ground and 86 ones - in the air. In 1991 Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground was closed.

In 1997 Semipalatinsk oblast was united with East Kazakhstan oblast with capital in Ust-Kamenogorsk city.

In 2007 the deputies of Semipalatinsk city Maslikhat voted for renaming the city into Semey. The reason was “steady association of the name of the city with Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground among the investors”.

Semey sceneries

Semey city street view

Semey city street view

Author: Kravtsov Vladimir

Semey city fire tower

Semey city fire tower

Author: Jabson Wheels

Semey city medical academy

Semey city medical academy

Author: Kravtsov Vladimir


Semey attractions

Semey is the old city with rich history. There are a lot of objects in the city which refer to architectural and historical monuments as well as a lot of statues to outstanding personalities linked with the city.

Literary house-memorial of Abai includes 7 halls located in the building of 19th century, 10 halls in the modern building in oriental style, a school building of Akhmet-Riza and a minaret part of a mosque.

There is literary house-museum of Dostoyevsky in Semey city.

The museum of history and local study is located in the former house of governor-general built in 1856. The museum is located in this building since 1977 and it possesses exhibits linked with the history and culture of Semey city.

Arts Museum named after the Nevzorov’s was founded in 1985 and it is one of the largest collections of pieces of art in Kazakhstan. In the museum various collections are presented: Russian art of late 18th - early 20th centuries, fine arts of Kazakhstan, a small department of West European painting and graphics of late 16th - early 20th centuries, arts of CIS states of 20th-21th centuries.

Tynybai Kaukenov mosque, one minaret and two minaret mosques located in Semey are the monuments of Moslem architecture of 19th century.

Yamyshevskiye Gate built in 1773 is the only remained (western) gate out of the three gates of Semipalatny fortress.

Orthodox Resurrection church is historical and architectural monument of the year of 1856. St. Peter and Paul cathedral is an architectural monument of late 19th century.

Monument “Stronger than Death” was opened on August 29th, 2001, on Polkovnichy Island in honor of victims of Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground.

Semey city of Kazakhstan photos

Semey views

Semey city hotel view

Semey city hotel view

Author: Kravtsov Vladimir

Semey city Irtysh river bridge

Semey city Irtysh river bridge

Author: Gleb Kamaletdinov

Semey city, Kazakhstan monument

Semey city, Kazakhstan monument

Author: S. Tsykunov


First Soviet nuclear explosion view

Semipalatinsk area nuclear explosion

Semipalatinsk area nuclear explosion

Author: unknown


The questions of our visitors

Dave asks: What is local transport in Semey?
Expert's answer:
The public transport of the city is presented by buses and minibuses.

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