Shymkent or Chimkent, city (1993 est. pop. 404,000), S Kazakhstan, on the Turkistan-Siberia RR. It has large zinc and lead smelters and machine, chemical, and food-processing industries. Founded in the 12th cent., Shymkent was a Kokand fortress before it was taken by Russia in 1864.
Shymkent (Шымкент) 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 561,200, with one of the largest greater-metropolitan-area populations in Kazakhstan. It is a major railroad junction on the Turkestan-Siberia Railway and a notable cultural center and has also 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, 10km to the east. Shymkent grew as a market center for trade between nomads and the settled people. It was destroyed several times: by Genghis Khan, soldiers from the souther 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 Chimkent in 1924.

The name of the city came from two words, Shym meaning turf, and Kent meaning city. Shymkent and Chimkent have identical translations in Kazakh and Uzbek, respectively.

After Kazakhstan gained independence, the city was renamed to its original name Shymkent in 1993 as part of the government’s campaign to apply Kazakh names to cities. This created an ambiguity in the city's name in the Russian language. (The formal spelling of Шымкент (Shymkent) as codified in Kazakhstan's Constitution goes against the Russian spelling rules of never having the letter ы follow the letter ш.) As a result, the new name Шымкент (Shymkent) is used only in Kazakhstan, while Russia and some other countries using Russian language keep using the original Uzbek spelling Чимкент (Chimkent).



Formerly dominated by lead mining, industrial growth began in the 1930s and the city has industries producing refined lead and zinc, processed karakul pelts, textiles, foodstuffs, and pharmaceuticals. Also, the city has a medium size refinery. The Shymkent Refinery is owned and operated by PetroKazakhstan.


  • Ordabasy circle, site of Friday Mosque and MIG Memorial
  • Regional Studies & History Museum
  • Victory Park
  • Central Park
  • Museum of Repression
  • Afghan War Memorial
  • Arboretum
  • Nauryz/Navruz Holiday Celebrations over Spring Solstice
  • Al-Farabi Square


Sister Cities


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