Kostanay is the administrative center of Kostanai region, which is famous for huge harvests of crops; it is located on the Tobol River on the north of Turgay plateau.
Founded in 1897 by Russian immigrants, who were engaged in cattle breeding, horse breeding and farming. It was the usual quiet steppe town, with wooden buildings and dusty streets. By the early 20th century, it grew and became a major, for those times, trade center on the route from Asia to Russia. Here were built pharmacies, hospitals, industrial, agricultural and processing enterprises; even a brewery was built among other things by the visiting Swiss. Kostanay amazed guests with its large scale merchant hospitality and trading prowess. One of the English travelers even named it a second Chicago in his notes.
During the Soviet period - in the 50s of last century, population of the city and the region has significantly increased (223,600 people now) due to the development of virgin and fallow lands. Kostanay (until 1997 - Kustanaj) remains a very important regional center, accumulating commercial and cultural life of Northern Kazakhstan. Here are theaters (Russian and Kazakh drama), 15 libraries, and cultural centers. City has its own orchestra of folk instruments, ensembles of pop, folk and jazz music, philharmonic hall, chess club, a water park, shopping malls and cinemas.
Visitors can learn about history of the region at the Regional History Museum, it has more than 90,000 displays.
There is a Memorial museum named after the Kazakh educator I. Altynsarin, many monuments of history, architecture and culture are in the city. A monument for first workers in the virgin lands created by Moscow sculptor Smirnov in 1984 now it is taken under the protection of UNESCO.
Townspeople are proud of the first and only “Toy Museum” in Kazakhstan, where toys from different countries and different times are gathered.