Kazakhstan (Kazakh: Қазақстан, Qazaqstan, IPA /qɑzɑqˈstɑn/; Russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstán, IPA /kɐzəxˈstɐn/), also spelled Kazakstan, is a country that stretches over a vast expanse of Asia, and a former republic of the now extinct USSR. A portion of its territory west of the Ural River is located in eastern-most Europe. It has borders with Russia, the People's Republic of China, and countries of Central Asia, such as Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and has a coastline on the Caspian Sea.
Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world by area, but its semi-deserts (steppe) make it only the 57th country in population, with approximately 6 persons per sq km (16 per sq mi). Population in 2005 was estimated at 15,100,500 , down from 16,464,464 in 1989 .
Main article: History of Kazakhstan
Nomadic tribes have been living in the region that is now Kazakhstan since the first century BC. From the fourth century AD through the beginning of the 13th century, the territory of Kazakhstan was ruled by a series of nomadic nations. Following the Mongolian invasion in the early 13th century, administrative districts were established under the Mongol Empire, which eventually became the territories of the Kazakh Khanate . The major medieval cities of Aulie-Ata and Turkestan were founded along the northern route of the Great Silk Road during this period.
Traditional nomadic life on the vast steppe and semi-desert lands was characterized by a constant search for new pasture to support the livestock-based economy. The Kazakhs emerged from a mixture of tribes living in the region in about the 15th century and by the middle of the 16th century had developed a common language, culture, and economy. In the early 1600s, the Kazakh Khanate separated into the Great, Middle and Little (or Small) Hordes—confederations based on extended family networks. Political disunion, competition among the hordes, and a lack of an internal market weakened the Kazakh Khanate. The beginning of the 18th century marked the zenith of the Kazakh Khanate. The following 150 years saw the gradual colonization of the Kazakh-controlled territories by tsarist Russia.
The process of colonization was a combination of voluntary integration into the Russian Empire and outright seizure. The Little Horde and part of the Middle Horde signed treaties of protection with Russia in the 1730s and 1740s. Major parts of the northeast and central Kazakh territories were incorporated into the Russian Empire by 1840. With the Russian seizure of territories belonging to the Senior Horde in the 1860s, the tsars effectively ruled over most of the territory belonging to what is now the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The Russian Empire introduced a system of administration and built military garrisons in its effort to establish a presence in Central Asia in the so-called "Great Game" between it and Great Britain. Russian efforts to impose its system aroused the resentment of the Kazakh people, and by the 1860s, most Kazakhs resisted Russia's annexation largely because of the disruption it wrought upon the traditional nomadic lifestyle and livestock-based economy. The Kazakh national movement, which began in the late 1800s, sought to preserve the Kazakh language and identity. From the 1890s onwards ever-larger numbers of Slavic settlers began colonising the territory of present-day Kazakhstan, in particular the province of Semirechie . The number of settlers rose still further once the Trans-Aral Railway from Orenburg to Tashkent was completed in 1906, and the movement was overseen and encouraged by a specially created Migration Department (Переселенческое Управление) in St. Petersburg. The competition for land and water which ensued between the Kazakhs and the incomers caused great resentment against colonial rule during the final years of tsarist Russia, with the most serious uprising, the Central Asian Revolt, occurring in 1916.
Although there was a brief period of autonomy during the tumultuous period following the collapse of the Russian Empire, the Kazakhs eventually succumbed to Soviet rule. In 1920, the area of present-day Kazakhstan became an autonomous republic within Russia and, in 1936, a Soviet republic.
Soviet repression of the traditional elites, along with forced collectivization in late 1920s-1930s, brought about mass hunger and led to unrest. Soviet rule, however, took hold, and a communist apparatus steadily worked to fully integrate Kazakhstan into the Soviet system. Kazakhstan experienced population inflows of thousands exiled from other parts of the Soviet Union during the 1930s and later became home for hundreds of thousands evacuated from the Second World War battlefields. The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) contributed five national divisions to the Soviet Union's World War II effort.
The period of the Second World War marked an increase in industrialization and increased mineral extraction in support of the war effort. At the time of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death, however, Kazakhstan still had an overwhelmingly agricultural-based economy. In 1953, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev initiated the ambitious "Virgin Lands" program to turn the traditional pasturelands of Kazakhstan into a major grain-producing region for the Soviet Union. The Virgin Lands policy, along with later modernizations under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, sped up the development of the agricultural sector, which to this day remains the source of livelihood for a large percentage of Kazakhstan's population.
Growing tensions within Soviet society led to a demand for political and economic reforms, which came to a head in the 1980s. In December 1986 , mass demonstrations by young ethnic Kazakhs took place in Almaty to protest the methods of the communist system . Soviet troops suppressed the unrest, and dozens of demonstrators were jailed. In the waning days of Soviet rule, discontent continued to grow and find expression under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost. Caught up in the groundswell of Soviet republics seeking greater autonomy, Kazakhstan declared its sovereignty as a republic within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) in October 1990 . Following the August 1991 abortive coup attempt in Moscow and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan declared independence on December 16, 1991.
The years following independence have been marked by significant reforms to the Soviet command-economy and political monopoly on power. Under Nursultan Nazarbayev, who initially came to power in 1989 as the head of the Kazakh Communist Party and was eventually elected President in 1991, Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward developing a market economy. The country has enjoyed significant economic growth since 2000, partly due to its large oil, gas, and mineral reserves.
Main article: Politics of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency. The president is the head of state. The president also is the commander in chief of the armed forces and may veto legislation that has been passed by the Parliament. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in office since Kazakhstan became independent, won a new 7-year term in the 1999 election that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said fell short of international standards. The prime minister, who serves at the pleasure of the president, chairs the Cabinet of Ministers and serves as Kazakhstan's head of government. There are three deputy prime ministers and 16 ministers in the Cabinet. Daniyal K. Akhmetov became Prime Minister in June 2003.
Kazakhstan has a bicameral Parliament, comprised of a lower house (the Mazhilis ) and upper house (the Senate). Single mandate districts popularly elect 67 seats in the Mazhilis; there also are 10 members elected by party-list vote rather than by single mandate districts. The Senate has 39 members. Two senators are selected by each of the elected assemblies (Maslikhats ) of Kazakhstan's 16 principal administrative divisions (14 regions, or oblasts, plus the cities of Astana and Almaty). The president appoints the remaining seven senators. Mazhilis deputies and the government both have the right of legislative initiative, though the government proposes most legislation considered by the Parliament.
Elections to the Mazhilis in September 2004 yielded a lower house dominated by the pro-government Otan party , headed by President Nazarbayev. Two other parties considered sympathetic to the president, including the agrarian-industrial bloc AIST and the Asar party , founded by President Nazarbayev’s daughter, won most of the remaining seats. Opposition parties, which were officially registered and competed in the elections, won a single seat during elections that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said fell short of international standards.
In 1999, Kazakhstan applied for observer status at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly . The official response of the Assembly was that Kazakhstan could apply for full membership, because it is partially located in Europe, but that they would not be granted any status whatsoever at the Council until their democracy and human rights records improved.
Main article: Provinces of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is divided into 14 provinces (oblystar) and the two municipal districts of Almaty and Astana. Each is headed by a Hakim (provincial governor) appointed by the president. Municipal Hakims are appointed by oblast Hakims. The Government of Kazakhstan transferred its capital from Almaty to Astana on June 10, 1998.
Kazakhstan is divided into 14 oblys and 3 cities (qala)*:
Almaty, Almaty*, Aqmola (Astana), Aqtobe , Astana*, Atyrau, Batys Qazaqstan (Oral), Bayqongyr*, Mangghystau (Aqtau; formerly Shevchenko), Ongtustik Qazaqstan (Shymkent ), Pavlodar, Qaraghandy, Qostanay , Qyzylorda , Shyghys Qazaqstan (Oskemen; formerly Ust'-Kamenogorsk), Soltustik Qazaqstan (Petropavl), Zhambyl (Taraz; known as Dzhambul in the Soviet period, but before that as Aulie-Ata )
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses); in 1995 the Governments of Kazakhstan and Russia entered into an agreement whereby Russia would lease for a period of 20 years an area of 6,000 km² enclosing the Bayqongyr (Baykonur) space launch facilities and the city of Bayqongyr (formerly Leninsk).
Main article: Geography of Kazakhstan
With an area of 2.7 million sq. km. (1.56 million sq. mi.), Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest nation in the world. It is equivalent to the size of Western Europe.
Major cities include, Astana (capital since June 1998 ), Almaty (former capital, once known as Alma-Ata and before 1917 as Verny ), Karaganda, Shymkent (Chimkent), Semey (Semipalatinsk) and Turkestan, once known as Yasi .
See Cities of Kazakhstan
The terrain extends east to west from the Caspian Sea to the Altay Mountains and north to south from the plains of Western Siberia to the oasis and desert of Central Asia.
The climate is continental with cold winters and hot summers; arid and semi-arid.
Border lengths: Russia 6,846 km., Uzbekistan 2,203 km., China 1,533 km., Kyrgyzstan 1,051 km., and Turkmenistan 379 km.
- Rivers and lakes include:
Main article: Economy of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan's economy grew by 9.2% in 2003, buoyed by high world oil prices. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 9.5% in 2002; it grew 13.2% in 2001, up from 9.8% in 2000.
Kazakhstan's monetary policy has been well managed. Its principal challenges in 2002 were to manage strong foreign currency inflows without sparking inflation. In 2003 inflation did not remain under control, registering at 6.8% instead of forecast level of 5.3%-6.0%. In 2002 inflation was 6.6%, compared to 6.4% in 2001. Because of its strong macroeconomic performance and financial health, Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2000, 7 years ahead of schedule. In March 2002, the U.S. Department of Commerce graduated Kazakhstan to market economy status under U.S. trade law. The change in status recognized substantive market economy reforms in the areas of currency convertibility, wage rate determination, openness to foreign investment, and government control over the means of production and allocation of resources.
In September 2002, Kazakhstan became the first country in the former Soviet Union to receive an investment-grade credit rating from a major international credit rating agency. As of late December 2003, Kazakhstan's gross foreign debt was about $22.9 billion. Total governmental debt was $4.2 billion. This amounts to 14% of GDP. There has been a noticeable reduction in the ratio of debt to GDP observed in past years; the ratio of total governmental debt to GDP in 2000 was 21.7%, in 2001 it was 17.5%, and in 2002 it was 15.4%.
The upturn in economic growth, combined with the results of earlier tax and financial sector reforms, dramatically improved government finances from the 1999 budget deficit level of 3.5% of GDP to a deficit of 1.2% of GDP in 2003. Government revenues grew from 19.8% of GDP in 1999 to 22.6% of GDP in 2001, but decreased to 16.2% of GDP in 2003. In 2000, Kazakhstan adopted a new tax code in an effort to consolidate these gains. On November 29, 2003 the Law on Changes to Tax Code was adopted, which reduced tax rates-- value added tax from 16% to 15%, social tax from 21% to 20%, and personal income tax from 30% to 20%. Kazakhstan furthered its reforms by adopting a new land code on June 20, 2003 and a customs code on April 5, 2003.
Oil and gas is the leading economic sector. Production of oil and gas condensate in Kazakhstan amounted to 51.2 million tons in 2003, which was 8.6% more than in 2002. Kazakhstan raised oil and gas condensate exports to 44.3 million tons in 2003, 13% higher compared to 2002. Gas production in Kazakhstan in 2003 amounted to 13.9 billion cubic meters, up 22.7% compared to 2002, including natural gas production of 7.3 billion cubic meters, Kazakhstan holds about 4 billion tons of proven recoverable oil reserves and 2,000 cubic kilometers of gas. Industry analysts believe that planned expansion of oil production, coupled with the development of new fields, will enable the country to produce as much as 3 million barrels (477,000 m³) per day by 2015, lifting Kazakhstan into the ranks of the world's top 10 oil-producing nations. Kazakhstan's 2003 oil exports were valued at more than $7 billion, representing 65% of overall exports and 24% of GDP. Major oil and gas fields and their recoverable oil reserves are Tengiz with 7 billion barrels (1.1 km³); Karachaganak with 8 billion barrels (1.3 km³) and 1,350 km³ of natural gas); and Kashagan with 7 to 9 billion barrels (1.1 to 1.4 km³).
Kazakhstan instituted an ambitious pension reform program in 1998. As of January 1, 2003 the pension assets were about $2.6 billion. There are 16 saving pension funds in the republic. State Accumulating Pension Fund is the only state fund, which is planned to be privatized in 2004. The National Bank oversees and regulates the pension funds. The pension funds' growing demand for quality investment outlets triggered rapid development of the debt securities market. Pension fund capital is being invested almost exclusively in corporate and government bonds, including Government of Kazakhstan Eurobonds. The Kazakhstani banking system is developing rapidly. The banking system's capitalization now exceeds $1 billion. The National Bank has introduced deposit insurance in its campaign to strengthen the banking sector. Several major foreign banks have branches in Kazakhstan, including ABN-AMRO, Citibank, and HSBC.
Agriculture accounted for 13.6% of Kazakhstan's GDP in 2003. Grain (Kazakhstan is the sixth-largest producer in the world) and livestock are the most important agricultural commodities. Agricultural land occupies more than 846,000 km². The available agricultural land consists of 205,000 km² of arable land and 611,000 km² of pasture and hay land. Chief livestock products are dairy goods, leather, meat, and wool. The country's major crops include wheat, barley, cotton, and rice. Wheat exports, a major source of hard currency, rank among the leading commodities in Kazakhstan's export trade. In 2003 Kazakhstan harvested 17.6 million tons of grain in gross, 2.8% higher compared to 2002.
Oil, gas, and mineral exports are key to Kazakhstan's economic success and have attracted most of the over $18.4 billion in foreign investment in Kazakhstan since 1993. Kazakhstan has significant deposits of coal, iron, copper, zinc, uranium, and gold.
Kazakhstan has stable relationships with all of its neighbors and is a member of the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and North Atlantic Cooperation Council. It also is an active participant in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Partnership for Peace program. Kazakhstan is also a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization along with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan established the Eurasian Economic Community in 2000 to re-energize earlier efforts at harmonizing trade tariffs and the creation of a free trade zone under a customs union.
Main article: Demographics of Kazakhstan
The majority of modern Kazakhstanis are currently either ethnic Kazakhs (58%) or Russians (27%), with smaller Ukrainian, Uzbek, German, and Uyghur and other minorities (15%). Religions are Sunni Muslim, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and other. Kazakhstan is a bilingual country. The Kazakh language has the status of the "state" language, while Russian is declared the "official" language. Russian is used routinely in business; 64.4% of the population speaks the Kazakh language. Education is universal and mandatory through the secondary level, and the literacy rate is 98.8%. The 1990's were marked by the emigration of much of the country's Europeans, which was a major factor in giving the autochthonous Kazakhs a majority along with higher Kazakh birthrates.
The main ethnic groups in Kazakhstan are: Kazakhs (Qazaq) 58%, Russians 27%, Ukrainians 3.0%, Germans 1.5%, Uzbeks 2.9%, Uyghur 1.6%, other 6.0% (1999). Note: Before 1991 one million Germans lived in Kazakhstan.
Main article: Culture of Kazakhstan
In part because of the country's enormous semi-arid steppe, the Soviet government used Kazakhstan as its nuclear testing site, and this, along with near-absent pollution controls , has contributed to an alarmingly high rate of disease in many rural areas. Kazakhstan has identified at least two major ecological disasters within its borders-- the shrinking of the Aral Sea and radioactive contamination at the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing facility (in fact a large zone south of Koursatov ) and along the Chinese border.
The Central Asian Regional Environmental Center is located in Kazakhstan, which fosters regional cooperation on environmental issues.
Kazakhstan possesses the Soviet equivalent to the United States' Cape Canaveral, where they have launched their version of the space shuttle and the well-known space station Mir. Russia currently leases approximately 6,000 km² of territory enclosing the Baikonur Cosmodrome space launch site in south central Kazakhstan.
Talented cyclist Alexander Vinokourov represents Kazakhstan in his cycling career for the German T-mobile team. Vinokourov has an impressive cycling record finishing third overall in the 2003 Tour de France.
Aliya Yussupova ended up 4th in Summer Olympic Games in Athens. She has been among medal winners in several previous tournaments. Currently, she is one of the top rhythmic gymnasts in the world.
Kazakh boxers are renowned for their incredible performance in Sydney, 2000. Two boxers, Bekzat Sattarkhanov and Yermakhan Ibraimov, earned gold medals. Another two boxers, Bulat Jumadilov and Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov, earned silver medals.
The name of the city of Almaty, 'Father of Apples' in English, derives from the wild apples that grow naturally in the area. Apples were first cultivated in this area, and Kazakh's apple stock is the most biologically diverse in the world.
Kazakhstan appears in the movies Air Force One (with Harrison Ford), The World Is Not Enough (James Bond), and Rollerball (with Jean Reno).