Karagandy (Kazakh: Караканды / Qarakandy), formerly known as Karaganda (Russian: Караганда, until 1993), is the capital of Karagandy Province in Kazakhstan. It is the fourth most populous city in Kazakhstan, behind Almaty, Astana and Shymkent, with a population of 446,200 (as of 1 January 2006). In the 1940s up to 70% of the city’s inhabitants were ethnic Germans. Most of the ethnic Germans are descendants of Soviet Volga Germans who were collectively deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan on Stalin’s order when Hitler invaded Poland. Until the 1950s many were interned in labor camps often only due to their heritage. The population of Karaganda fell by 14% from 1989-1999, it was once Kazakhstan’s second largest city after Alma-Ata. One hundred thousand people have since emigrated to Germany. It is the home city of Kazakh World War II hero Nurken Abdirov. A statue in Abdirov’s honor is located in the center of the city.
The name «Karagandy» is derived from a «caragana» bushes (Caragana arborescens, Caragana frutex) which are abundant in the area. The original site of Karaganda is now labeled on city maps as the «Old Town,» but almost nothing remains on that site. In exploiting the rich coal deposits, the Soviets undermined the entire city, and the town had to be abandoned completely and moved several miles to the south.
Karaganda is an industrial city, built to exploit nearby coal mines using the slave work of prisoners of labor camps. Commercial extraction of coal continues to be an important activity in the region even today. In the early 1990s, it was briefly considered as a candidate for the capital of the (then) recently independent Republic of Kazakhstan, but its bid was turned down in favor of Astana.
The Miners Palace of Culture is a major landmark in Karagandy.
FC Shakhter Karagandy is a football club based in Shakhtyor Stadium. The city sent a bandy team to the Spartakiade 2009.
Karaganda State University
Karaganda was often used as the punchline in a popular joke in the former Soviet Union. Karaganda is fairly isolated in a vast area of uninhabited steppe, and is thought by many to be «the middle of nowhere». When used in the locative case (Караганде), the final syllable rhymes with the Russian word for «where» (где), as well as with a Russian obscenity used to answer to an unwanted question «Where?». Thus the exchange: «Where is it?» «In Karaganda!»
Sary-Arka Airport is located 20 kilometers south of the city.