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Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a country in
Central Asia. Ranked the ninth largest country in the world, it has a
territory of 2,727,300 km² (greater than Western Europe).
Kazakhstan facts & history
My Kazakhstan directory
Map of Kazakhstan
Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
It is bordered by Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the
People's Republic of China. The country also
borders on a significant part of the Caspian Sea.
Vast in size, the land in Kazakhstan is very diverse in types of terrain:
flatlands, steppes, taigas, rock-canyons, hills, deltas, mountains,
snow-capped mountains, and deserts.
In terms of population, Kazakhstan ranks 62nd in the world, with a population
density of less than 6 people per square kilometre (15 per sq. mi.).
The total population has declined somewhat since independence, dropping
from 16,464,464 in 1989 to about 15,300,000 in 2006.
This is mostly due to the emigration of Russians and Volga Germans since
the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan, once the Kazakh SSR,
is now a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Kazakhstan has been inhabited since the Stone Age: the region's climate
and terrain are best suited for nomads practicing pastoralism.
Historians believe that humans first domesticated
the horse in the region's vast steppes.
While ancient cities Taraz (Aulie-Ata) and Hazrat-e Turkestan had long served as
important way-stations along the Silk Road connecting East and West,
real political consolidation only began with the Mongol invasion of
the early thirteenth century AD.
Under the Mongol Empire, administrative districts were established, and
these eventually came under the emergent Kazakh Khanate (Ak Horde).
Throughout this period traditional nomadic life and a livestock-based
economy continued to dominate the steppe. In the fifteenth century, a
distinct Kazakh identity began to emerge among the Turkic tribes, a process
which was consolidated by the mid-16th century with the appearance of a
distinctive Kazakh language, culture, and economy.
Nevertheless, the region was the focus of ever-increasing disputes between
the native Kazakh emirs and the neighbouring Persian-speaking peoples to the south.
By the early 17th century, the Kazakh Khanate was struggling with the impact
of tribal rivalries, which has effectively divided the population into the
Great, Middle and Little (or Small) Hordes (jüz).
Political disunion, tribal rivalries, and the diminishing
importance of overland trade routes between East and
West weakened the Kazakh Khanate.
During the 16th and 17th centuries Kazakhs fought Oirats and Dzungars.
The beginning of the 18th century marked the zenith of the Kazakh Khanate.
During this period the Little Horde participated in the 1723 - 1730 war
against the Dzungars, following their "Great Disaster"
invasion of Kazakh territories.
Under leadership Abul Khair Khan the Kazakhs won major victories
over the Dzungar at the Bulanty River (1726)
and at the Battle of Anrakay in 1729.
In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire began
to expand, and spread into Central Asia.
The "Great Game" period is generally regarded as running from
approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907.
Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second
less intensive phase followed.
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 and barracks in its effort to establish a
presence in Central Asia in the so-called "Great Game"
between it and the United Kingdom.
The first Russian outpost, Orsk, was built in 1735.
Russia enforced the Russian language in all schools
and governmental organizations.
Russian efforts to impose its system aroused the extreme
resentment by 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, and the associated
hunger which was rapidly wiping out some Kazakh tribes.
The Kazakh national movement, which began in the late 1800s,
sought to preserve the native language and identity by resisting
the attempts of the Russian Empire to assimilate and stifle them.
From the 1890s onwards ever-larger numbers of Slavic settlers
began colonising the territory of present-day Kazakhstan, in
particular the province of Semirechye.
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 in St. Petersburg.
The competition for land and water which ensued between
the Kazakhs and the newcomers 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.
The Kazakhs attacked Russian and Cossack villages,
The Russians' revenge was merciless.
A military force drove 300,000 Kazakhs to flee
into the mountains or to China.
When approximately 80,000 of them returned the next
year, many of them were slaughtered by Tsarist forces.
During the 1921-22 famine, another million
Kazakhs died from starvation.
Today, the estimates suggest that the population of
Kazakhstan would be closer to 20 million if
there was no starvation or massacre of Kazakhs.
Although there was a brief period of autonomy during
the tumultuous period following the collapse of the
Russian Empire, many uprisings were brutally suppressed,
and the Kazakhs eventually succumbed to Soviet rule.
In 1920, the area of present-day Kazakhstan
became an autonomous republic within Russia.
Soviet repression of the traditional elite, along with
forced collectivisation in late 1920s-1930s,
brought mass hunger and led to unrest.
Between 1926 and 1939, the Kazakh population
declined by 22%, due to starvation, violence
and mass emigration.
During the 1930s, many renowned Kazakh writers,
thinkers, poets, politicians and historians were
slaughtered on Stalin's orders, both as part of
the repression and as a methodical pattern of
suppressing Kazakh identity and culture.
Soviet rule took hold, and a communist apparatus
steadily worked to fully integrate Kazakhstan
into the Soviet system.
In 1936 Kazakhstan became a Soviet republic.
Kazakhstan experienced population inflows of millions
exiled from other parts of the Soviet Union during the 1930s
and 1940s; many of the deportation victims were deported
to Siberia or Kazakhstan merely due to their ethnic heritage
or beliefs, and were in many cases interned in some of the
biggest Soviet labour camps.
The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) contributed five
national divisions to the Soviet Union's World War II effort.
In 1947, two years after the end of the war, the Semipalatinsk
Test Site, the USSR's main nuclear weapon test
site was founded near the city of Semey.
The period of World War II 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 pasture lands of
Kazakhstan into a major grain-producing region for the Soviet Union.
The Virgin Lands policy brought mixed results.
However, along with later modernizations under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev,
it accelerated the development of the agricultural sector which 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.
A factor that has contributed to this immensely was Lavrentii Beria's
decision to test a nuclear bomb on the territory of Kazakh SSR in
Semipalatinsk (also known as Semey) in 1949.
This had a catastrophic ecological and biological effect which
was felt generations later, and Kazakh anger toward
the Soviet system has escalated.
In December 1986, mass demonstrations by young ethnic Kazakhs,
later called Jeltoksan riot, took place in Almaty to protest the
replacement of the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the
Kazakh SSR Dinmukhamed Konayev with Gennady Kolbin from the Russian SFSR.
Governmental troops suppressed the unrest, several people
were killed and many demonstrators were jailed.
In the waning days of Soviet rule, discontent continued to grow and
found 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 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.
It was last of the Soviet republics to declare independence.
The years following independence have been marked by significant reforms
to the Soviet-style economy and political monopoly on power.
Under Nursultan Nazarbayev, who initially came to power in 1989 as the head
of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan 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.
But, democracy has not improved much since 1991.
"In June 2007, Kazakhstan's parliament passed a law granting President
Nursultan Nazarbayev lifetime powers and privileges, including access to
future presidents, immunity from criminal prosecution, and influence over
domestic and foreign policy.
Critics say he has become a de facto "president for life."
Over the course of his ten years in power, Nazarbayev has repeatedly
censored the press through arbitrary use of "slander" laws, blocked
access to opposition web sites (9 November 1999), banned the Wahhabi
religious sect (5 September 1998), drawn criticism from Amnesty
International for excessive executions following specious trials
(March 21, 1996) and harsh prison conditions (13 August 1996), and
refused demands that the governors of Kazakhstan's 14 oblasts be
elected, rather than appointed by the president (April 7, 2000)."
Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic.
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.
The prime minister 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.
Karim Masimov has served as the Prime Minister since 10 January 2007.
Kazakhstan has a bicameral Parliament, made up of the lower house
(the Majilis) and upper house (the Senate).
Single mandate districts popularly elect 67 seats in the Majilis; there
also are ten 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.
Majilis deputies and the government both have the right of legislative
initiative, though the government proposes most
legislation considered by the Parliament.
On the December 1 of 2007, it was revealed that Kazakhstan has been chosen
to chair OSCE for the year 2010.
Elections to the Majilis 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.
On December 4, 2005, Nursultan Nazarbayev was reelected in a landslide victory.
The electoral commission announced that he had won over 90% of the vote.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concluded the
election did not meet international standards despite some improvements in
the administration of the election.
Xinhua News Agency reported that observers from the People's Republic of China,
responsible in overseeing 25 polling stations in Astana, found that voting
in those polls was conducted in a "transparent and fair" manner.
Furthermore, Western governments did not express much criticism.
On August 17, 2007, elections to the lower house of parliament were held
with the ruling Nur-Otan coalition winning every seat with 88% of the vote.
None of the opposition parties have reached the benchmark 7% level of the seats.
This has lead some in the local media to question the competence
and charisma of the opposition party leaders.
Opposition parties made accusations of serious
irregularities in the election.
Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) was
established on 13 June 1992.
It includes the Service of Internal Security, Military
Counterintelligence, Border Guard, several Commando units,
and Foreign Intelligence (Barlau).
The latter is considered by many as the most important part of KNB.
Its director is Major General Omirtai Bitimov.
Kazakhstan is divided into 14 provinces and two municipal districts:
Almaty (Taldykorgan), Almaty*, Akmola (Kokshetau), Aktobe, Astana*,
Atyrau, West Kazakhstan Province (Oral), Mangystau Province (Aktau),
South Kazakhstan Province (Shymkent), Pavlodar, Karaganda, Kostanay,
Kyzylorda, East Kazakhstan Province (Oskemen), North Kazakhstan
Province (Petropavl), Zhambyl Province (Taraz).
Note: Provinces have the same names as their administrative centres
(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 twenty years an area of 6,000
square kilometres (2,300 sq. mi); enclosing the Baikonur
Cosmodrome and the city of Baikonur.
Recently, the lease of Baikonur facilities was extended through 2050.
Each province is headed by an Akim (provincial governor)
appointed by the president.
Municipal Akims are appointed by oblast Akims.
The Government of Kazakhstan transferred its capital
from Almaty to Astana on December 10, 1997.
With an area of 2.7 million square kilometre (1.05 million sq. mi),
Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world and the
largest landlocked country in the world.
It is equivalent to the size of Western Europe.
It shares borders of 6,846 kilometre (4,254 mi) with Russia,
2,203 kilometer (1,369 mi) with Uzbekistan, 1,533 kilometer
(953 mi) with China, 1,051 kilometer (653 mi) with Kyrgyzstan,
and 379 kilometer (235 mi) with Turkmenistan.
Major cities include Astana (capital since December 1997),
Almaty (the former capital), Karaganda, Shymkent (Chimkent),
Semey (Semipalatinsk) and Turkestan.
The terrain extends west to east from the Caspian Sea
to the Altay Mountains and north to south from the plains
of Western Siberia to the oases and deserts of Central Asia.
The Kazakh Steppe(plain), with an area of around 804,500
square kilometres (310,600 sq. mi), occupies one-third of
the country and is the world's largest dry steppe region.
The steppe is characterized by large areas of
grasslands and sandy regions.
Important rivers and lakes include: the Aral Sea, Ili River,
Irtysh River, Ishim River, Ural River, Charyn River
and gorge, Lake Balkhash, and Lake Zaysan.
The climate is humid continental, with hot summers and colder winters.
Precipitation varies between arid and semi-arid conditions.
The Charyn Canyon is 150-300 metres deep and 80 kilometres long,
cutting through the red sandstone plateau and stretching along
the Charyn River gorge in northern Tien Shan 'Heavenly Mountains'
(200 km east of Almaty) at 43°21'1.16?N, 79°4'49.28?E .
The steep canyon slopes, columns and arches rise to heights of 150-300 m.
The inaccessibility of the canyon provided a safe haven for a
rare ash tree that survived the Ice Age and is
nowadays also grown in some other areas.
The government of Kazakhstan plans to double its Gross
domestic product (GDP) by 2008 and triple it by 2015 as
compared to 2000.
GDP growth has been stable in the last
five years, at a rate higher than 9%.
Buoyed by high world crude oil prices, GDP growth figures
were in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005: 9.8%, 13.2%,
9.5%, 9.2%, 9.4%, and 9.2%, respectively.
Other major exports of Kazakhstan include wheat, textile,
and livestock. Kazakhstan forecasts that it will become the
world's leading exporter of Uranium by the year 2010.
Kazakhstan's monetary policy is generally considered by
outside observers to be well-managed.
Its principal challenge since 2002 has been to manage strong
foreign currency inflows without sparking inflation.
Since that time, inflation has not been under control,
registering at 6.6% in 2002, 6.8% in 2003, and 6.4% in 2004,
higher than forecast levels of 5.3%-6.0%.
In 2000 Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet republic to
repay all of its debt to the International Monetary
Fund (IMF), 7 years ahead of schedule.
In March 2002, the U.S. Department of Commerce granted Kazakhstan
market economy status under U.S. trade law.
This 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
CIS 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, has 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.
The value added tax fell from 16% to 15%, the social tax
from 21% to 20%, and the personal income tax from 30% to 20%.
(On July 7, 2006 the personal income tax was reduced even further
to a flat rate of 5% for personal income in the form of dividends
and 10% for other personal income.)
Kazakhstan furthered its reforms by adopting a new land code on
June 20, 2003, and a new customs code on April 5, 2003.
Energy is the leading economic sector.
Production of crude oil and natural 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 than in 2002.
Gas production in Kazakhstan in 2003 amounted to 13.9 billion
cubic meters (491 billion cu. ft), up 22.7% compared to 2002,
including natural gas production of 7.3 billion cubic meters
(258 billion cu. ft); Kazakhstan holds about 4 billion tons
of proven recoverable oil reserves and 2,000
cubic kilometer (480 cu mi) 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 the 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 km³³).
Kazakhstan instituted an ambitious pension reform program in 1998.
As of January 1, 2005, the pension assets were about $4.1 billion.
There are 16 saving pension funds in the republic.
The State Accumulating Pension Fund, the only state-owned fund,
could be privatised as early as 2006.
The country's unified financial regulatory agency 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.
Raiffeisen Zentralbank and UniCredit have both recently
entered the Kazakhstan's financial services
market through acquisitions and stakebuilding.
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
square kilometres (327,000 sq. mi).
The available agricultural land consists of 205,000 square
kilometres (79,000 sq. mi) of arable land and 611,000 square
kilometres (236,000 sq. mi) of pasture and hay land.
Chief livestock products are dairy products,
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.
Kazakh agriculture still has many environmental problems
from mismanagement during its years in the Soviet Union.
Some Kazakh wine is produced in the
mountains to the east of Almaty.
Kazakhstan is thought to be part of the original home of the
apple, particularly the wild ancestor of Malus
domestica is Malus sieversii.
It has no common name in English, but is known in Kazakhstan,
where it is native, as 'alma'; in fact, the region where
it is thought to originate is called
Alma-Ata, or 'father of the apples'.
This tree is still found wild in the mountains of
Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, and Xinjiang, China.
Kazakhstan has an abundant supply of accessible mineral
and fossil fuel resources.
Development of petroleum, natural gas, and mineral
extraction has attracted most of the over $40 billion
in foreign investment in Kazakhstan since 1993 and
accounts for some 57% of the nation's industrial
output (or approximately 13% of gross domestic product).
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 and potassium.
In total, there are 160 deposits with over
2.7 billion tons of petroleum.
Oil explorations have shown that the deposits on
the Caspian shore are only a small
part of a much larger deposit.
It is said that 3.5 billion tons of oil and 2.5 trillion
cubic meters of gas could be found in that area.
Overall the estimate of Kazakhstan's oil deposits
is 6.1 billion tons.
However, there are only 3 refineries within the country,
situated in Atyrau, Pavlodar, and Shymkent.
These are not capable of processing the total crude
output so much of it is exported to Russia.
Kazakhstan has stable relationships with all of its neighbours.
Kazakhstan is also a member of the United Nations,
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,
Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and Organization
of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
It is an active participant in the North Atlantic Treaty
Organisation Partnership for Peace program.
Kazakhstan is also a member of the Commonwealth of
Independent States, the Economic Cooperation Organization
and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The nations of Kazakhstan, 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.
Since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has pursued what
is known as the multidimensional foreign policy,
seeking equally good relations with two large neighbours,
Russia and China, and the United States and the West generally.
The policy has yielded results in the oil and gas sector,
where companies from the U.S., Russia, China, and Europe
are present at all major fields, and in the
multidimensional directions of oil
export pipelines out of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan also enjoys strong, and rapidly developing,
political and economic ties with Turkey.
Kazakhstan possesses the most major Soviet cosmodrome,
where the first man was launched in space as well as
Soviet space shuttle Buran and the well-known space station Mir.
Russia currently leases approximately 6,000 km*sup2;
(2,300 mi²) of territory enclosing the Baikonur
Cosmodrome space launch site
in south central Kazakhstan.
On June 18, 2006, Kazakhstan became a space-faring
nation in its own right when its first commercial
satellite, KazSat 1, was launched from the Baikonur
Cosmodrome on a Russian-built and operated Proton rocket.
In September 2006, President Nazarbayev visited the United States.
While in Washington, President Nazarbayev unveiled the Monument of
Independence of Kazakhstan and addressed a large gathering of
the political and business elite on Kazakhstan's
approach to nuclear nonproliferation.
The population is estimated to be 63% ethnic Kazakhs and
23% ethnic Russian, with a rich array of other groups
represented, including Tatars, Uzbeks, Bashkirs,
Uyghurs and Ukrainians.
Some minorities such as Russian Germans (esp.Volga Germans),
Ukrainians and Russian political opponents of the
regime had been deported to Kazakhstan in
the 1930s and 1940s by Stalin.
Some of the bigger Soviet labour camps existed in Kazakhstan.
Significant Russian immigration also connected with
Virgin Lands Campaign and Soviet space
program during Khrushchev era.
There is also a small but active Jewish community.
Before 1991 there were one million Volga Germans in
Kazakhstan; most of them emigrated to Germany
following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Most members of the smaller Pontian Greek
minority have emigrated to Greece.
The main religious groups are Muslim
(mainly Sunni) 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%,
Protestant 2%, and other 7%.
Kazakhstan is a bilingual country: the Kazakh
language, spoken by 64.4% of the population,
has the status of the "state" language, while
Russian, which is spoken by almost all Kazakhstanis,
is declared the "official" language,
and is used routinely in business.
The 1990s were marked by the emigration of many
of the country's Europeans, a process that began
in the 1970s; this was a major factor in giving
the autochthonous Kazakhs a majority along with
higher Kazakh birthrates and ethnic Kazakh
immigration from the People's Republic
of China, Mongolia, and Russia.
In the early twenty first century, Kazakhstan
has become one of the leading nations
in international adoptions.
This has recently sparked some criticism in
the Parliament of Kazakhstan, due to the
concerns about safety and treatment of the
children abroad and the questions regarding
the low level of population in Kazakhstan.
The country has historically hosted a wide variety
of ethnic groups with varying religions.
Tolerance to other societies has become a
part of the Kazakh culture.
Foundation of an Independent republic,
following the disintegration of the USSR,
has launched a great deal of changes
in every aspect of people's lives.
Religiosity of the population, as an
essential part of any cultural identity,
has undergone dynamic
transformations as well.
After decades of suppressed culture, the people
were feeling a great need for exhibiting their
ethnical identity - in part through the religion.
Quantitative research shows that for the first
years after the establishment of the new laws,
waiving any restrictions on religious beliefs
and proclaiming full freedom of confessions,
the country experienced a huge spike in
religious activity of its citizens.
Hundreds of Mosques, Synagogues', Churches,
and the likes were built in a matter of years.
All represented religions benefited from
increased number of members and facilities.
Many confessions that were absent before
independence made their way into the country,
appealing to hundreds of people.
The government supported this activity,
and has done its best to provide equality
among all religious organizations
and their followers.
In late 1990's, however, a slight
decline in religiosity occurred.
Radical religious organizations, despite a
popular belief, are of little danger
to the national security.
The few organizations that were uncovered
are being investigated thoroughly
by the proper committee.
Therefore, Kazakhstan has a very diverse,
stable, and safe religious background -
a truly exceptional occurrence.
However, some reported occurrences of
persecution against Hare Krishnas and
Jehovah's Witnesses for proselytizing
has raised concern in the
Despite popular belief, the 'persecution'
amounts to nothing more than legal action
caused by questionable documentation
related to the houses which were
built by the groups.
The Russian term Kazakhstani was coined
to describe all citizens of Kazakhstan,
The word "Kazakh" is generally used to
refer to people of actual Kazakh descent
including those living in China, Afghanistan,
Turkey, Uzbekistan and other countries.
The ethnonym Kazakh is derived from an ancient
Turkic word "independent, a free spirit".
It is the result of Kazakhs' nomadic horseback
culture and is related to the term "cossack".
The Avestan/Old Persian word "stan"
means "land" or "place of".
Education is universal and mandatory through to
the secondary level and the adult literacy rate is 99.5%.
Education consists of three main educational
phases: primary education (forms 1-4), basic
general education (forms 5-9) and senior level
education (forms 10-11 or 12) divided into continued
general education and professional education.
(Primary education is preceded by one year
of pre-school education.)
These three levels of education can be followed
in one institution or in different ones
(e.g. primary school, then secondary school).
Recently, several secondary schools, specialized
schools, magnet schools, gymnasiums, lyceums,
linguistic and technical gymnasiums, have been founded.
Secondary professional education is offered in
special professional or technical schools,
lyceums or colleges and vocational schools.
At present, there are universities, academies,
and institutes, conservatories, higher
schools and higher colleges.
There are three main levels: basic higher
education that provides the fundamentals
of the chosen field of study and leads
to the award of the Bachelor's degree;
specialized higher education after which
students are awarded the Specialist's Diploma;
and scientific-pedagogical higher education
which leads to the Master's Degree.
Postgraduate education leads to the Kandidat
Nauk (Candidate of Sciences)
and the Doctor of Sciences.
With the adoption of the Laws on Education
and on Higher Education, a private sector
has been established and several private
institutions have been licensed.
The Education Ministry of Kazakhstan runs
the highly successful "Bolashak Programme",
which annually selects approximately three
hundred exceptional school and university
graduates and sponsors their undergraduate
or postgraduate education in institutions
abroad, including the prestigious Oxbridge
and Ivy League universities.
The terms of the programme include compulsory
return to Kazakhstan for at least five years
of employment by the State or in
The objective of the programme is to provide
an opportunity for the most talented students
from Kazakhstan to receive high-caliber education,
enabling them to acquire the necessary skills
and knowledge to become the future leaders in
certain key fields such as economics, technology,
public policy, engineering, science and medicine.
Before the Russian colonisation, the Kazakhs had a
well-articulated culture based on their
nomadic pastoral economy.
Although Islam was introduced to most of the
Kazakhs in the fifteenth century, the religion
was not fully assimilated until much later.
As a result, it coexisted with
earlier elements of Tengriism.
Traditional Kazakh belief held that separate
spirits inhabited and animated the earth, sky,
water, and fire, as well as domestic animals.
To this day, particularly honoured guests in rural
settings are treated to a feast of freshly killed lamb.
Such guests are sometimes asked to bless the lamb and
to ask its spirit for permission to partake of its flesh.
Besides lamb, many other traditional foods
retain symbolic value in Kazakh culture.
Traditional moral values of Kazakhs are respect
of the elders and hospitality to strangers.
In the national cuisine, livestock meat can be
cooked in a variety of ways and is usually
served with a wide assortment of
traditional bread products.
Refreshments often include black tea and
traditional milk-derived drinks such as
ayran, shubat and kymyz.
A traditional Kazakh dinner involves a
multitude of appetisers on the table,
followed by a soup and one or two main
courses such as pilaf and besbarmak.
Because livestock was central to the Kazakhs'
traditional lifestyle, most of their nomadic
practices and customs relate
in some way to livestock.
Kazakhs have historically been very
affectionate about horse-riding.
Traditional curses and blessings invoked
disease or fecundity among animals, and
good manners required that a person ask
first about the health of a man's livestock
when greeting him and only afterward inquire
about the human aspects of his life.
Even today many Kazakhs express interest
in equestrianism and horse-racing.
Kazakhstan is home to a large number of
prominent contributors to literature,
science and philosophy: Abai Kunanbaiuli,
Al-Farabi, Mukhtar Auezov, Gabit Musrepov,
Zhambyl Zhabaev, Gabit Musrepov, Saken
Seifullin, Mukhtar Shahanov,
among many others.
Kazakhstan has developed itself as a
formidable sports-force on the world
arena in the following fields: boxing,
chess, kickboxing, skiing, gymnastics,
water-polo, cycling, martial arts,
heavy-athletics, horse-riding, triathlon,
track-hurdles, sambo, greco-roman
The following are all well-known
Kazakhstani athletes and world-championship
medallists: Bekzat Sattarhanov, Vassili Zhirov,
Alexander Vinokourov, Bulat Zhumadilov,
Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov, Olga Shishigina,
Andrey Kashechkin, Aliya Yusuppova,
Dmitriy Karpov, Darmen Sadvakassov,
Yeldos Ikhsangaliyev, Aidar Kabimollayev,
Vladimir Smirnov, among others.
Kazakhstan features a lively music culture,
evident in massive popularity of Superstar.KZ,
a local offspring of Simon Fuller's American Idol.
Almaty is considered to be the musical capital
of the Central Asia, recently enjoying concerts
by well-known artists such as Deep Purple,
Tokyo Hotel, Atomic Kitten, Dima Bilan, Loon,
Craig David, Black Eyed Peas, Eros Ramazzotti,
Jose Carreras, among others.
During the recent years, Kazakhstan has
experienced somewhat of a revival of the
Kazakh language, which is returning into
mainstream usage both in media, law,
business as well as the general society.
This is widely approved by Kazakh people and
the international organisations as a way
of preserving the national identity and
culture, but has in some cases caused
anxiety among Russian-Kazakhstanis,
Russia-sponsored special-interest groups
in Kazakhstan and some high-ranking
politicians in Russia.
The Parliament is considering the
introduction of Latin alphabet for
use in Kazakh language to replace Cyrillic.
The reasons that are popularly cited are
cultural considerations and the Turkic
nature of the Kazakh language.
Turkic languages such as Turkish and Uzbek
use the Latin alphabet.
However, the imposition of the
Latin alphabet in Kazakhstan would
involve massive costs of translation
and replacement of the
vast Kazakh literature.
For a more information about
Kazakhstan see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This page was retrieved and condensed from
see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, November 2007.
All text is available under the terms of the
GNU Free Documentation License
Copyrights for details).
This information was correct in November 2007. E. & O.E.
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