Almaty (Алматы; formerly known as Alma-Ata, also Verny, Vyernyi (Верный) in Imperial Russia) is a city in Kazakhstan, with a population of 1,168,000. The name means "Father of Apples"; in the surrounding region, unrivalled genetic diversity among wild apples confirms that south_east Kazakhstan is where the apple is native.
A troop of Siberian cossacks from Omsk founded the fort Zailiysky 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 a devastating earthquake in 1911, almost the only large building that remained standing was the Russian Orthodox cathedral. In the 1920s, after the completion of the Turkestan-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, Kazakh State University (KazGU), as well as 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.
On December 21, 1991, the Charter that ended the Soviet Union creating the Commonwealth of Independent States was signed here.