Semey (sĕmˈā) [key] or Semipalatinsk syĭmēˌpəläˈtyĭnsk, city (1993 est. pop. 342,000), capital of Semey region, NE Kazakhstan, on the Irtysh River and the Turkistan-Siberia RR. It is a river port, rail terminus, and commercial center, with large freight depots for river and rail transport. Semey has a giant meatpacking combine; other industries include food processing, metal working, wool processing, and the manufacture of building materials. The name Semipalatinsk [seven palaces] derives from the seven-halled Buddhist temple found nearby. Beginning as a fort in 1718, the city was finally established on its present site in 1778 after flooding by the Irtysh necessitated periodic movement of the fort. During the 19th cent. the city was a center for trade between Russians and the Kyrgyz, Bukharans, and Chinese; it also lay on the caravan route from Mongolia to Europe. Dostoyevsky was exiled here from 1854 to 1859.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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