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|Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia, northwest of China.|
Kazakhstan is extends from the Volga to the Altai Mountains and from the plains in western Siberia to oases and desert in Central Asia.
Climate: Kazakhstan is continental, cold winters and hot summers, arid and semiarid
Kazakhs, probably more than any other Central Asian people, show the impact of nearly two centuries of close contact with Russians. Unlike Central Asians to the south of them, Kazakhs look more to Russia than to Islamic countries for inspiration in the post-Soviet period. At the same time, Kazakh scholars and other intellectuals actively work to reclaim Kazakh traditions and distinctive ways of life, including the literary and spoken language of a people whose experience emphasized Russian culture, literature, language, and ways of thinking.
Urban Kazakhs of both sexes tend to wear modern clothing, but the women of remote villages continue to wear traditional dresses and head scarves. Kazakh-made carpets are a common sight, and less-Russified Kazakhs often decorate their homes with qoshmas, bright-coloured felt rugs.
Oral epics formed the main literary genre among the largely illiterate Kazakhs until the 19th century. In the 18th century, as a series of Russian outposts arose along the border of Kazakhstan’s plains on the north, Kazakhs added other written, poetic forms to their literature. Poetry remained the primary genre until prose stories, short novels, and drama were introduced in the early 20th century, before the end of the tsarist era in 1917. Abay Ibrahim Kūnanbay-ulï (Kunanbayev) in the late 19th century laid the basis with his verse for the development of the modern Kazakh literary language and its poetry. (Aqmet) Baytūrsyn-ulï, editor of the influential newspaper Qazaq, led the advance of modern Kazakh writing in the early 20th century. Baytūrsyn-ulï, along with Aliqan Nūrmuhambet Bokeyqan-ulï, Mir Jaqib Duwlat-ulï, and, later, Maghjan Jumabay-ulï, represented the cream of Kazakh modernism in literature, publishing, and cultural politics in the reformist decades before Sovietization set in after 1920. All these figures disappeared into Soviet prisons and never returned, as a result of Joseph Stalin’s purges, which destroyed much of the Kazakh intelligentsia. An early Soviet Kazakh writer, Mukhtar Auez-ulï, won recognition for the long novel Abay, based on the life and poetry of Kūnanbay-ulï, and for his plays, including Änglik-Kebek.
Kazakhstan has a number of modern theatres and offers Uighur, Korean, and Russian musicals, opera, ballet, and puppet performances. Cinemas and art schools, dance ensembles, and music groups are active, as are radio and television broadcasting, the last being especially important in communications with distant farms and villages. Reception from outside Kazakhstan, especially from broadcasting stations in nearby Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and by way of relays from Moscow, enables listeners and viewers to follow programs from many sources.
Geography of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia and is the heartland/geographic center of Eurasia. With a surface area of 2,724,900 sq km, Kazakhstan is the 9 th largest country in the world, comparable to India and Australia.
Kazakhstan's surface is covered by 26% desert, 44% semi-desert, 6% forest and 24% steppe terrain, in addition to a few other landscapes. The South and East have great wild and mostly untouched mountain landscapes with the Tien Shan and Altai being the most prominent. The highest peak in the country is Khan Tengri at 7,013m above sea level.
The Republic of Kazakhstan lies right in between Europe and Asia, between 45° and 87° of East longitude, 40° and 55° of North latitude. It stretches from the east of the Caspian Sea and Volga plains to the mountanious Altay and from the foothills of Tien Shan in the south and southeast to the West-Siberian lowland in the north.
The size of the territory places Kazakhstan ninth in the world, after Russia, Canada, China, USA, Brasil, Australia, India and Argentina. In the east, north and northwest Kazakhstan borders with Russia (6477 kilometres). In the south it borders with the countries of Central Asia: Uzbekistan (2300 kilometres), Kyrgyzstan (980 kilometres) and Turkmenistan (380 kilometres). In the southeast it borders with China (1460 kilometres). The total extent of Kazakhstan borders is nearly 12,2 thousand kilometres, including 600 kilometres along the Caspian Sea in the west.
Kazakhstan lies in the center of the European and Asian continents, and is approximately equal distance from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. More than a quarter of the land consists of a portion of the gentle steppes that stretch from central Europe to Siberia. The rest of the republic reflects the beauty of forests, mountains, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. The natural landscape is enhanced by thousands of plant and animal varieties found from the northern forest steppes to the high southern mountains.
Kazakhstan has an extreme continental climate. It is characterized by irregular distribution of precipitation in its different regions. In separate years spring arrives from south to north over 1.5 - 2 months. When it is spring sowing in the south, the northern area is covered with snow and the blizzards blow frequently.
The land of Kazakhstan is rich in soils. The greater part of the forest-steppe zone is chernozem, which turns to dark-chestnut, light-chestnut and brown soils in the south. There are gray-soil lands in the deserts and semi-deserts, replaced by the mountain soils there.
Crossing the territory of Kazakhstan from north to south you will see many different climate zones, with all various areas having their own flora and fauna.
The desert of Kazakhstan is an arid area. Rare rainfalls and high temperature in summer and severe and intensely cold weather in winter characterize the climate of the area. Strong winds whip up sand storms. The air is extremely dry and the temperature in summer sharply varies even during a twenty-four hour period.
Mountains rise from the steppes in the south and southeast of Kazakhstan. Ridges of the Tien Shan mountain system stretch for 2,400km. The main ridges are Barlyk, Dzhungar Ala-Tau, Zailii Ala-Tau, Talas Ala-Tau and Ketmen. The highest point of the mountain system is Peak Khan-Tengri at 6,992m. The South Altai is in the east of Kazakhstan. The whole mountain system of Kazakhstan is rich in mineral springs.
There are many rivers and vast reservoirs in Kazakhstan. In the west and southwest, the territory of Kazakhstan is washed by the Caspian Sea for a distance of over 2,340km. The Ural River, along with its tributaries, flows to the Caspian Sea. East of the Caspian, in the sands, lays another huge lake. It is the Aral Sea. The main arteries of fresh water flowing into the Aral Sea are the Amudarya and Syrdarya Rivers. There are nearly 7 thousand natural lakes in the country. Among them is Balkhash Lake in the sands of Central Kazakhstan, Zaisan Lake in the east, Alakol Lake in the southeast, and Tengiz Lake in the center of Kazakhstan.
The largest rivers of Kazakhstan are the Irtysh, Ishim, Ural, Syrdarya, Ili, Chu, Tobol, and Nura.
Kazakhstan is famous for its incalculable mineral wealth. Scientists from developed countries consider Kazakhstan to be sixth in the world in terms of abundance of minerals, though this advantage is not being used effectively. The estimated value of the explored areas is 10 trillion US dollars.
Kazakhstan has enormous valuable natural resources. In short, 99 of the 110 elements on the Mendeleev periodic table are found in the depths of Kazakhstan. For the present time, 60 elements are bieng extracted and used. The estimation of Dr. Daniel Tine, specialist in natural resources and energy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), shows that in 1991, during the period of disintegration of the USSR, 90% of the chromium ore, 26% of copper, 33% of lead and zinc, and 38% of tungsten remained on the territory of Kazakhstan. In the former USSR, the share of Kazakhstan in the production of barytes was 82%, phosphorites 65%, molybdenum 29%, bauxites 22%, asbestos 20%, manganese 1З%, and coal 12%. Kazakhstan is one of the richest countries in oil, gas, titanium, magnesium, tin, uranium, gold and other non-ferrous metals production. Currently, Kazakhstan is one of the outstanding producers of tungsten, for which it takes first place in the world second place in chromium and phosphorous ores fourth in lead and molybdenum and eighth in iron ore (16.6 million tons) after Brazil, Australia, Canada, USA, India, Russia and Ukraine. It is no secret that the USA, and the countries of Western Europe, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Japan and China are all interested in Kazakhstan. That is a result of the high potential of the republic in strategic raw resources, first of all, oil and gas deposits.
There are 14 prospective areas on the territory of Kazakhstan. Only 160 deposits of gas and oil, with a combined production of 2.7 million tons, are being explored now. Thus, not all deposits and basins are being exploited. In the case of their capable usage and exploitation Kazakhstan with the oil potential can be among Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Arab Emirates.
The latest pictures from space, as well as surface investigations, show that the tapped oil deposits on the banks of the Caspian Sea in Western Kazakhstan - Tengiz, Prorva, Kalamkas, and Karazhanbas are only the "outskirts" of an enormous oil deposit, the core of which lies in the northern part of the Caspian Sea, where the total quantity of production could reach 3 - 3.5 million tons of oil and 2 - 2.5 trillion cubic meters of gas.
Kazakhstan has a considerable portion of the world's total of copper, polymetallic ores, nickel, tungsten, molybdenum, and other rare metals. Currently, Kazakhstan holds one of the leading places in the world in iron ore, manganese and chromite ore reserves.
Kazakhstan is forecasted to have nearly 300 huge deposits of gold, 173 of which have been investigated. Some of them also produce diamonds of fine quality. Serious investments in the next few years can help Kazakhstan extract 100 tons of gold per year, but for now, only 1% of the deposits are being worked, which keeps Kazakhstan at sixth place in the world. Kazakhstan has more than 100 deposits of coal. The largest are: the Ekibastuz deposit which differs from the high capacity of the brown coal stratums, and Karaganda coal, a basin with reserves of more than 50 million tons of coke coal. During the best years, only 131 million tons of coal were extracted.
Kazakhstan is rich in chemical raw material deposits. There are rich deposits of potassium salts, borates, bromine combinations, sulphates, phosphorites and various raw materials for the varnish and paint industry. Enormous amounts of sulphur ore among the polymetallic ores create the possibility of producing sulphuric acid and other chemical products which are very important for the economy. There are absolute possibilities for the production nearly of all kinds of synthetic oil and chemical products (especially ethylene, polypropylene, rubber), synthetic detergents and soap, food microbiological proteins, chemical fibers and threads, synthetic resin, plastic and cement.
Kazakhstan has rich resources of raw materials for the glass, china and pottery industries. The most rare natural precious stones, and various building and facing decorative materials lie in the depths and mountains of Kazakhstan. Mineral, medical, industrial and radiant water sources can be counted among the countless riches of Kazakhstan, though now they are not widely used.
Kazakhstan — History and Culture
Kazakhstan’s history is characterized by great conflict, first between competing nomadic tribes and then against the Soviet powers. Today, the country is relatively prosperous but suffers from political strife. Kazakh culture strongly reflects the country’s past in terms of nomadic and immigrant influences.
Kazakhstan’s history began in the 13th century with the migration of Mongols and Turkic nomads to the region. Conflict characterized the locals’ relationship with the Mongol forces, namely Genghis Khan and his fierce army, who looted and pillaged towns in an attempt to gain land.
Russian powers took control of the Kazakh region in the 18th century, but not without a fight. While initially native Kazakhs were aligned with the Russians to seek protection, they began to loosen ties as Russia’s intentions for domination were made clear. Several rebellions were staged, most notably in 1916 and then again in 1917 with the Bolshevik Revolution, an attempt to prevent complete annexation. These efforts failed as the Russian forces brutally suppressed the uprisings and Kazakhstan became a republic of the Soviet Union.
Under Soviet rule, Kazakhstan became the center for nuclear development and space exploration. The Baikonur Cosmodrome was the site of the first ever space operation, manned by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Today, visitors can tour the historic site and even witness actual launches.
With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991 and joined the Commonwealth of Independent States, a regional organization comprised of countries formerly belonging to Soviet forces. Nursultan Nazarbayev, once the only Kazakh member of the Russian parliament, and his People’s Unity Party were voted into power in 1991.
Today, the Kazakh government is characterized by nepotism and corruption although, thankfully, not the brutal authoritarianism of the past. The country has a wealth of unexploited resources, oil being the largest, and if used smartly, these assets could make Kazakhstan an economical powerhouse in the years to come.
Kazakhstan’s culture is largely influenced by the country’s history of nomadic migration. From the Turkic people to the Russian emigrants, and the introduction of Islam in the 7th century, the country has a diverse and eclectic past which can be seen in the local cuisine, music and religion.
Kazak cuisine is centered heavily on meat, which means that vegetarians may face a challenge. Horse and lamb are the most popular. Cooking techniques are reminiscent of the nomadic lifestyle of preservation, including the boiling, slating and drying of meats. Favorite dishes include shuzhuk (sausages made of horsemeat) and pilaf (meat and vegetables served on rice).
Traditional Kazakh music is based strongly on folklore which has been influenced more by the nomadic tribes than the Russian immigrants. Folkloric music is comprised mainly of vocals and traditional instruments. Russian musical influences can be seen in the orchestral traditions in the country. Most of the concert halls and opera houses were established during the Soviet era and remain a piece of history today.
Kazakhstan lies in the north of the central Asian republics and is bounded by Russia in the north, China in the east, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in the south, and the Caspian Sea and part of Turkmenistan in the west. It has almost 1,177 mi (1,894 km) of coastline on the Caspian Sea. Kazakhstan is about four times the size of Texas. The territory is mostly steppe land with hilly plains and plateaus.
The indigenous Kazakhs were a nomadic Turkic people who belonged to several divisions of Kazakh hordes. They grouped together in settlements and lived in dome-shaped tents made of felt called yurts. Their tribes migrated seasonally to find pastures for their herds of sheep, horses, and goats. Although they had chiefs, the Kazakhs were rarely united as a single nation under one great leader. Their tribes fell under Mongol rule in the 13th century and they were dominated by Tartar khanates until the area was conquered by Russia in the 18th century.
The area became part of the Kirgiz Autonomous Republic formed by the Soviet authorities in 1920, and in 1925 this entity's name was changed to the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Kazakh ASSR). After 1927, the Soviet government began forcing the nomadic Kazakhs to settle on collective and state farms, and the Soviets continued the czarist policy of encouraging large numbers of Russians and other Slavs to settle in the region.
Owing to the region's intensive agricultural development and its use as a testing ground for nuclear weapons by the Soviet government, serious environmental problems developed by the late 20th century. Along with the other central Asian republics, Kazakhstan obtained its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union in 1991. Kazakhstan proclaimed its membership in the Commonwealth of Independent States on Dec. 21, 1991, along with ten other former Soviet republics. In 1993, the country overwhelmingly approved the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. President Nursultan Nazarbayev restructured and consolidated many operations of the government in 1997, eliminating a third of the government's ministries and agencies. In 1997, the national capital was changed from Almaty, the largest city, to Astana (formerly Aqmola).
Oil Brings Hope for Prosperity
In Jan. 1999, Nazarbayev was sworn into office for another seven years, although the election was widely criticized when an opposition leader was disqualified on a technicality. Despite his authoritarianism, Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989 (when it was still part of the Soviet Union), is a widely popular leader. Kazakhstan has the potential for becoming one of central Asia's richest countries because of its huge mineral and oil resources and its liberalized economy, which encourages Western investment. In 2000, oil was discovered in Kazakhstan's portion of the Caspian Sea. It is believed to be the largest oil find in 30 years. In March 2001, a pipeline opened to transport oil from the Tengiz fields to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. In 2004, Kazakhstan signed a deal allowing China to build an oil pipeline to the Chinese border.
President Nazarbayev Continues to Consolidate Power and Stifle Opposition
But as its economic outlook blossoms, Kazakhstan's scant democratic principles continue to wither. In the past several years, the president has harassed the independent media, arrested opposition leaders, and passed a law making it virtually impossible for new political parties to form. In Dec. 2005, President Nazarbayev was reelected with 91% of the vote. In May 2007, Parliament voted to do away with term limits, thus allowing President Nazarbayev to remain in office indefinitely. In June, Nazarbayev dissolved parliament and called for elections in August, two years ahead of schedule. The opposition complained that the move did not give them adequate time to campaign.
Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov resigned in Jan. 2007, without giving a reason. He was replaced by former deputy prime minister Karim Masimov.
In Aug. 2007 parliamentary elections, the governing party, Nur Otan (Light of the Fatherland), won 88.1% of the vote and all 98 contested seats. The victory further consolidated power in the hands of Nazarbayev.
President Nazarbayev Absence Raises Concern
In April 2011, President Nazarbayev was elected to another five-year term, winning 95.5 percent of the vote. In July 2011, Nazarbayev's office reported that he was on vacation, but would not release where he was or what he was doing. Later that month, Bild, a German newspaper, reported that Nazarbayev was in Hamburg, recovering from prostate surgery. The report raised concerns about political instability in the country. Kazakhstan's government responded to the Bild's report with a one sentence statement: President Nursultan Nazarbayev is on a short-term leave.
The Bild reported that President Nazarbayev, age 71, responded well to the surgery and would soon be back on his feet. In Oct. 2011, he chaired a Security Council meeting in Astana. Still, President Nazarbayev's surgery and the mystery surrounding it raised questions of a potential successor.
2012 Election Brings Criticism and Little Change
In Nov. 2011, President Nazarbayev called for a parliamentary election. The election, which will be held in Jan. 2012, is supposed to encourage a multiparty system. However, the only other party expected to participate is also a supporter of Nazarbayev. President Nazarbayev stated that the rising global economic crisis was his reason for a quick election.
When the election was held in Jan. 2012, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the main Western-backed election monitoring group, criticized authorities for removing parties and candidates from the ballots at the last minute, denying voters those options. Other examples of voter fraud were reported. For example, Radio Liberty posted a video showing a woman voter putting multiple ballots in the ballot box. In the election, Nur Otan, the ruling party which held all elected seats before Parliament was dissolved in November 2011, received 80.7 percent of the vote, a strong majority. However, because of the new, lower election threshold, two parties also won seats in Parliament, the Communist People's Party, and Ak Zhol, a pro-business party. Both parties received just over seven percent of the vote. Seven percent was the new minimum required to receive representation in Parliament.
On September 24, 2012, Prime Minister Karim Massimov resigned after holding the position for five years. Massimov's resignation was long expected in Kazakhstan due to Nazarbayev's desire to consolidate power. First Deputy Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov was appointed to replace Massimov. Akhmetov assumed office immediately.
In a cabinet reshuffle in early April 2014, Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov resigned, President Nursultan Nazarbayev named Karim Masimov as new prime minister, and appointed Akhmetov defense minister.
The 2015 presidential election was held on April 26. President Nazarbayev won, receiving 97.7% of the vote. According to the Central Elections Commission, turnout was over 95%. Two other candidates were on the ballot, Communist People's Party Central Committee Secretary Turgun Syzdykov, and Trade Union Federation Chairman Abelgazi Kusainov.
Kazakhstan has plenty of petroleum, natural gas, and mining. It attracted over $40 billion in foreign investment since 1993 and accounts for some 57% of the nation's industrial output. According to some estimates, ⎗] Kazakhstan has the second largest uranium, chromium, lead, and zinc reserves, the third largest manganese reserves, the fifth largest copper reserves, and ranks in the top ten for coal, iron, and gold. It is also an exporter of diamonds. Kazakhstan has the 11th largest proven reserves of both petroleum and natural gas. ⎘]
Government. American legal and constitutional experts helped the Kazakhstani government write their constitution and form their government in1995. The system is a strong presidential one, with the president having the power to dissolve the parliament if his prime minister is rejected twice or if there is a vote of no confidence. The president also is the only person who can suggest constitutional amendments and make political appointments. There are some forms of checks and balances provided by a bicameral legislature called the Kenges. The Majlis, or lower house, has sixty-seven deputies
Leadership and Political Officials. The president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was the top Communist leader of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991. After independence, Nazarbayev was easily elected president in November 1991. In March 1995 he dissolved parliament, saying that the 1994 parliamentary elections were invalid. A March 1995 referendum extended the president's term until 2000, solidifying Nazarbayev's control and raising serious doubts among Kazakhstani people and international observers as to the state of Kazakhstani democracy.
Multiparty, representative democracy has tried to take hold in Kazakhstan but has been met by opposition from Nazarbayev's government. The main opposition parties are the Communist Party, Agrarian Party, Civic Party, Republican People's Party, and the Orleu, or progress movement. A number of smaller parties have formed and disbanded over the years. The opposition parties have accused Nazarbayev and his Republican Party of limiting any real power of the opposition by putting obstacles and loopholes in their way, if not actually rigging the elections.
The most notable example of suppression of political opposition has been the case of Akezhan Kazhageldin, who was Nazarbayev's prime minister from 1994 to 1997. In 1999 Kazhageldin was banned from running in the 1999 presidential elections. He and his wife were charged with tax evasion (the conviction of a crime under the Kazakhstani constitution prevents a potential candidate from running for office) and arrested in September 1999 at the Moscow airport after arriving from London. Sharp criticism by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) over how the arrest was set up and carried out allowed Kazhageldin to return to London. The end result was that he was still not registered for the October election, and Nazarbayev won easily, with more than 80 percent of the vote. The OSCE and the United States criticized the election as unfair and poorly administered.
Social Problems and Control. In urban areas, robberies and theft are common. Murder, suicide, and other violent crimes are on the rise. The system for dealing with crime in Kazakhstan is based, in theory, on a rule of law and enforced by the police and the courts. Local and state police and local and national courts are set up much as they are in the United States and much of the rest of the Western world. The problem is the lack of checks and controls on this system. There are so many police and so many different units (remnants of the Soviet apparatus still exist, such as intelligence gatherers, visa and registration officers, and corruption and anitgovernmental affairs divisions, as well regular police and border controls) that it is often that jurisdiction is unclear. The strong sense of community, with neighbors looking out for each other, acts as a deterrent against crime. Civic education and responsible citizenry is emphasized in schools, and the schools work closely with local communities in this area.
The drug trade from Afghanistan and long, hard-to-patrol borders have given rise to organized crime, putting a strain on Kazakhstan's police and border patrol.
White-collar crime, such as embezzlement, tax fraud, and abuse of power and privilege are almost daily events, which seem to be tacitly accepted.
Military Activity. The military of the Soviet Union was very strong and well-trained. The armies of the post-Soviet republics are much weaker and less supported by the government. The available Kazakhstani military manpower of males between ages fifteen and forty-nine was estimated at 4.5 million in 1999, with about 3.5 million of those available being fit for service. All males over age eighteen must serve in the military for two years. Exemptions are made for those in school and the disabled. The 1998 fiscal year expenditures on the military were $232.4 million (U.S.)—1 percent of the GDP of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is in a semiprecarious location. It has a friendly, although weakened, neighbor to the north in Russia. Recent complaints by Russians in Kazakhstan have begun to resonate in Moscow, putting some strain on relations that are for the most part friendly. Kazakhstan has a historical fear of China and thus watches its border with that country closely, but the most unstable areas for Kazakhstan involve its neighbors to the south. Movements in Afghanistan have spread to the failed state of Tajikistan, forming a center of Islamic fundamentalism not far to Kazakhstan's south. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have already dealt with attacks from rebel groups in Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan has significantly increased its military presence on its borders with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The region does not seem to be one that will readily go to war, while memories of the war in Afghanistan in the late 1970s are fresh in most people's minds.
Religion in Kazakhstan
Mainly Sunni Muslim. There are Russian Orthodox and Jewish minorities. There are 10 independent denominations of Christianity. The Kazakhs do not express their religious feelings fervently - Kazakhstan is an outlying district of the Muslim world and a meeting point of Russian, Chinese and Central Asian civilisations. Islam plays a minor role in policy and there are no significant Islamic political organisations in the country.
Social Conventions in Kazakhstan
Kazakhs are very hospitable. When greeting a guest, the host gives him/her both hands as if showing that he/she is unarmed. When addressing a guest or elder, a Kazakh may address him/her with a shortened form of the guest's or elder's name and the suffix 'ke'. For example, Abkhan may be called Abeke, Nursultan can be called Nureke. This should be regarded as indicating a high level of respect for the visitor.
At a Kazakh home, the most honoured guest, usually the oldest, is traditionally offered a boiled sheep's head on a beautiful dish as a further sign of respect. National customs forbid young people whose parents are still alive from cutting the sheep's head. They must pass the dish to the other guests for cutting. Inside mosques, women observe their own ritual in a separate room, and must cover their heads and their arms. Formal dress is often required when visiting the theatre, or attending a dinner party. Shorts should not be worn except on the sports ground.
Kazakhstan Country Profile
The largest, most powerful nation in Central Asia, Kazakhstan features a history that bridges empires while retaining its own unique, nomadic culture.
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- Capital: Astana
- Largest City: Almaty
- Population (2017): 17,926,500 (63 rd )
- Total Area: 2,724,900 km² (9 th )
- Official Languages: Kazakh, Russian
- Currency:Kazakhstani tenge ( ₸ ) (KZT)
History of Kazakhstan
While human habitation in Kazakhstan goes back thousands of years, it’s not until around the 11 th century when we can begin to paint a picture. During an age of migration and Mongol invasions, the Kazakh Khanate emerged to preside over a vast steppe-land of nomads. For centuries, the Kazakh people ruled themselves, struggling against powerful neighbours such as the Persians. Just as damaging as these prolonged struggles, in the 16th and 17th centuries European powers began to circumvent the trade routes which filled Kazakh coffers, opting instead to sail to the far east. The diminished importance of the overland trade route weakened the Khanate. By the 19 th century, the country was ripe for the taking.
During a period known as the ‘Great Game’, Russia and Britain fought for dominance amongst Afghanistan and Central Asia. In the case of Kazakhstan, it fell under the purview of the Russian tsars, who began to import Russian ideals and culture to the region – in addition to a large amount of settlers. This set off a struggle for land, which bred resentment against the Russian Empire in Kazakhstan – particularly during the Central Asian Revolt in 1916. After the collapse of the tsars, Kazakhstan found itself under communist rule by 1919.
Communism and the Soviet Union
Integrated into the communist world as an autonomous republic, Stalin’s rule was tough for Kazakhstan – with famine, widespread purges, unrest, and deportations. The country was important to the Soviet Union during the war effort (WWII) for holding prisoners of war and exiles, as well as supplying materials and minerals (the latter of which helped start some form of industrialization).
During the latter years of the Soviet Union, widespread discontent began to reach a fever pitch. Despite the efforts of Soviet troops to keep order, this feeling only became more entrenched. After declaring sovereignty in 1990, Kazakhstan declared independence in 1991 – the last Soviet republic to do so.
Independence and Modern Era
Kazakhstan’s former communist ruler, Nursultan Nazarbayev, led the independent government. His regime presided over a large boost in the country’s economic fortunes – much of it down to oil. Today he remains President – with no elections since independence considered free and fair. While there have been recent signs from the authoritarian government that some powers will be delegated to other parties and the parliament, the scope of this remains to be seen.
Prior to the ‘Russification’ of Kazakhstan, the culture was based primarily around the nomadic existence as well as the influx of Islam. Today, many of these nomadic customs persevere in one way or the other, alongside more Russian and Soviet elements.
Cuisine in Kazakhstan is based primarily around livestock and bread, while milk-based drinks are popular. Dinners are often served with many appetizers while main courses such as pilaf and beshbarmak are commonplace. Fermented mare’s milk serves as the national beverage.
Flag of Kazakhstan
Adopted following independence, the Kazakh flag consists of a sky blue background with a gold ornamental pattern on the left (horns of the ram) with a sun and soaring eagle in the centre. These images represent the sky, freedom, and the importance of grain.
Sports in Kazakhstan
There are a wide variety of sports popular throughout Kazakhstan including, but not limited to: martial arts, boxing, skiing, gymnastics, horse riding, ice hockey, weightlifting, bandy, and chess. Though not a major force in the world of soccer, the country is weighing up a bid for the 2026 World Cup.
Geography of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is a large landlocked country that rests in both Europe and Asia (using the Ural River as a divider). Within its borders you’ll stumble on massive dry steppes, vast plains, mountains, and more. There are sand dunes as well as large bodies of water including the Aral Sea and the Caspian Sea (which it borders).
Cities in Kazakhstan
Though no longer the capital, Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan with a population over 1.7 million. Located in the foothills of large mountains, it remains the cultural and commercial heart of the country. The capital is now Astana, much of which is a planned city despite its founding in the early 1800’s. While smaller than Almaty, it’s still home to almost 1 million people.
Facts about Kazakhstan
- It has one of the world’s lowest population densities
- Kazakhs were the first to domesticate and ride horses
- Whistling a song indoors will make you poor for the rest of your life
- Kazakhstan maintains a navy on the Caspian Sea, despite being landlocked
- Travelling from one side to the other is akin to travelling from London to Istanbul
- There are around 120 different ethnicities and nationalities in Kazakhstan
- The world’s largest chimney is here at 419.7 feet tall
- Almaty translates as “place full of apples”
From nomads through the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has always maintained a rich tradition and proud culture.
What lies beyond? Find out with Continental’s Countries! Your journey through Kazakhstan however is just beginning…check out our Travel Guide and Currency Spotlight here.
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