Karaganda is the capital of Karagandy Province in Kazakhstan. It is the fourth most populous city in Kazakhstan, behind Almaty, Astana and Shymkent, with a population of 846,200 (as of 1 January 2006). In the 1940s up to 70% of the city's inhabitants were ethnic Germans. Most of the ethnic Germans are descendants of Soviet Volga Germans who were collectively deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan on Stalin's order when Hitler invaded Poland. Until the 1950s many were interned in labor camps often only due to their heritage. The population of Karaganda fell by 14% from 1989-1999, it was once Kazakhstan's second largest city after Alma-Ata. One hundred thousand people have since emigrated to Germany.
Karaganda is often used as the punchline in a popular joke in the former Soviet Union. Karaganda is fairly isolated in a vast area of uninhabited steppe, and is thought by many to be "the middle of nowhere". When used in the locative case (Караганде), the final syllable rhymes with the Russian word for "where" (где), as well as with a Russian obscenity used to answer to an unwanted question "Where?". Thus the exchange: "Where is it?" "In Karaganda!"