Semey formerly known as Semipalatinsk and Alash-kala, is a city in Kazakhstan, in the northeastern province of East Kazakhstan, near the border with Siberia, around 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) north of Almaty, and 700 kilometres (430 mi) southeast of the Russian city of Omsk, along the Irtysh River.
The first settlement was in 1718, when the Russians built a fort beside the river Irtysh, near a ruined Buddhist monastery. The construction of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway added to the city's importance, making it a major point of transit between Central Asia and Siberia.
In 1949, a site on the steppe 150 km (93 mi) west of the city was chosen by the Soviet atomic bomb programme to be the location for its weapons testing. For decades, Kurchatov (the secret city at the heart of the test range named for Igor Kurchatov, father of the soviet atomic bomb) was home to many of the brightest stars of Soviet weapons science.