At 7:15 a.m. on September 13, 2022, the flight carrying Pope Francis, his entourage and accredited journalists took off from Fiumicino Airport for Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. Thus began the 38th apostolic journey of Francis.
Located in Central Asia, the country borders Russia to the north and west, China to the east, and Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the south. It has an area of 2,724,900 sq km and a population of about 19 million. Located along the ancient Silk Road that connected China to the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the territory was historically inhabited by nomadic peoples, and today its population includes about 30 nationalities and ethnicities.
Part of the Soviet Republic of Turkestan from 1917 to 1925 and an autonomous republic since 1926, Kazakhstan in 1936 became a republic of the USSR, from which it gained independence in 1991, after the dissolution of the latter, becoming part of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In 1994, Nur-Sultan, when it was still called Tselinograd, was chosen as the future capital of Kazakhstan by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, for geographical, economic and environmental reasons, in place of Almaty. It officially assumed the role of capital in 1997, and in March 2019 it changed its name again to Nur-Sultan, to pay homage to former President Nazarbayev, who is also responsible for its renovation and expansion.