The region is located in the east of Kazakhstan, bordered in the east by the East Kazakhstan oblast, in the south with Zhetysu oblast, in the west with Karaganda oblast, in the northwest with Pavlodar oblast of Kazakhstan, in the north with Russia (Altai Krai), in the southeast with China (Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region).
Most of the region is occupied by the eastern part of the Kazakh hillocky area and is an undulating plain with heights of 500-700 m. In the southeast, the Tarbagatai ridge stretches up to 3,000 m high, separating Zaisan and Balkhash-Alakol basins.
The northern part of the region is covered with steppe on black soils, but desert steppe prevails in most of the region.
More than 40% of all water reserves of Kazakhstan are concentrated in the east of the country.
The main waterway of the oblast is Irtysh River, on which the Shulba HPP is located.
There are many lakes in Abai oblast, the largest of which are Alakol and Sasykkol, as well as Shulba reservoir.
The climate is extremely continental, with large daily and annual air temperature amplitudes. Winter is harsh, summer is hot. The average temperature in January is -17°C, in July +21°C, 300 mm/year of precipitation falls. The average annual wind speed is 2.3 m/s, the average annual humidity is 66%.
In the XIX century, such tribes of the Middle Zhuz lived on the territory of Abai oblast as: Naimans (Bura, Tauke, Karatai, Karakerei, Matai, Sadyr, Tortuyl famiilies), Argyns (Basentiyn, Karakesek, Tobykty families), Tarakts, Kerei and Uaks.
In 1939-1997, this territory was Semipalatinsk oblast with the administrative center in Semipalatinsk (since 2007
— Semei). Semipalatinsk oblast was established by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on October 14, 1939
and continued to exist in the Republic of Kazakhstan. On May 03, 1997
, by the Decree of President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Semipalatinsk oblast was abolished, and its territory became part of East Kazakhstan oblast.
On March 16, 2022
, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, delivered the Address to the people of Kazakhstan during a joint session of the chambers of Parliament, where he proposed to create Abai oblast:
...it is proposed to create Abai oblast in Semipalatinsk region. Semei city will become the regional center of the new oblast. This issue has long been raised by residents of this region. Now there are a lot of unresolved problems in this region, the internal infrastructure is very worn out.
The oblast has been established on June 08, 2022
in accordance with the Decree of the President of Kazakhstan of May 04, 2022.
Abai oblast includes the same territories that were part of former Semipalatinsk oblast until 1997.
According to the amendments to the Constitution approved after the referendum in June 2022, as well as the Presidential Decree of June 08, 2022
, akims of regions are elected according to the new rules, during voting in maslikhats of the regional centers, cities of republican significance, the capital.
In the process of preparation for the formation of the oblast, a number of administrative transformations were carried out:
- Tarbagatai district was divided, two districts were created in its place — Tarbagatai district of reduced size with the administrative center in Akzhar village (it remained part of East Kazakhstan oblast), as well as Aksuat district with the administrative center in Aksuat village, which was transferred to Abai oblast.
- Samara district was formed with the administrative center in Samarskoye village by separating from the Kokpektinsky district; the newly formed Samara district remained part of East Kazakhstan oblast, and the reduced Kokpektinsky district was transferred to Abai oblast.
As a result of administrative transformations, Abai oblast consists of 8 districts and 2 cities of regional subordination (city akimats):
- Abai district
- Aksuat district
- Ayagoz district
- Beskaragai district
- Borodulikhinsky district
- Zharminsky district
- Kokpektinsky district
- Urdzhar district
- Kurchatov city
- Semei city