The Russian fort Zailiysky was founded in 1854 at the foot of the Tien Shan mountain range, and renamed one year later as '\'Verny'', a name that remained until 1921. In the 1920s, after the completion of the Turkistan-Siberian railroad, Alma-Ata, as it was then known, become a major stopping point along the track.
In 1929, Almaty became the capital of the Kazakh SSR. In late 1991, Almaty became the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan, a designation it kept until 1998, when the capital was moved to Astana. Almaty, however, remains the largest city in Kazakhstan and the country's major commercial center.
A short bus ride into the Tien Shan mountains brings one to Medeo, a popular tourist destination, with several hotels and an olympic-size skating rink. Almaty is also home to Kazakhstan's premier university, KazGU, the Kazakh Academy of Sciences, and many other educational and government buildings, including the president's residence, built after the collapse of the Soviet Union.