The Kazakhstan Klondike

Forget Borat. Kazakhstan is hoping to become a powerhouse in Central Asia. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has built himself a brand new capital city in the middle of the steppes as a symbol of his country’s riches.

Every evening in Astana, when the welders arrive at the construction site across the street for their night shift, Vassily Lestyev realizes that he has already lost his battle. His living room becomes bathed in pale blue light and the din from the jackhammers is even louder than it is during the day.

A new hotel is being built next door to Lestyev’s mud cottage, and its concrete skeleton is only eight meters (about 25 feet) from Kossygin Street 8 — Lestyev’s address. His house’s days are numbered. The water has already been shut off, and since bulldozers began traveling through his front yard, thumb-wide cracks have appeared in the walls.

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