As the center of Kazakhstan's energy sector, the city of Atyrau plays an important role in the country's economic success. But you wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at many of the city’s neighborhoods.
Kazakhstan's oil boom has drawn tens of thousands of foreign oil workers and managers, as well as many professionals from around Kazakhstan, to this provincial capital of 180,000 on the Caspian Sea. Their presence is evident in the handful of new, glassy office buildings housing the oil companies, as well as the hotels and restaurants that serve up fresh sushi, mojitos and authentic Italian pizzas (Agip, which operates one of the major oil fields, is Italian).
But in the shadow of this wealthy core is another Atyrau.
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Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.