Capital: Astana (formerly Aqmola) became the official capital of Kazakhstan in 1997, succeeding Almaty (formerly Alma-Ata) and moving the national government from the far southeast to the industrial north. Other Major Cities: Almaty, Karaganda, Öskemen, Pavlodar, Shymkent, and Taraz. Independence: The recognized date of independence is December 16, 1991, when the Republic of Kazakhstan split from the Soviet Union. Public Holidays: The national holiday is October 25, Republic Day. Other holidays are International Women’s Day (March 8), Novruz (spring equinox, March 21-22), Unification Day (May 1), Victory Day (May 9), Constitution Day (August 30), and Independence Day (December 16). Russian Orthodox citizens celebrate Christmas on January 7.