Kazakhstan is a country situated in between Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It is considered as the 9th largest country in the whole world in terms of land area. It is also said to be the one of the world’s largest landlocked countries. Kazakhstan is regarded as the only landlocked country in the whole world to be located in between two continents. Neighboring Kazakhstan are Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. It was part of the Great Silk Road during the 6th and 7th centuries AD.
This captivating and mysterious country is the largest of the states in Central Asia. It is extremely rich in mineral wealth and highly valuable in terms of natural resources. Out of the 110 elements in the periodic table of Mendeleev, 99 are found in the country, with 60 elements already being extracted. Kazakhstan is also one of the richest countries in the world when it comes to the production of gas, oil, tin, uranium, gold, magnesium and titanium. It is the world’s number one producer of tungsten; second in the production of phosphorus ores and chromium; fourth in molybdenum and lead and eighth in the production of iron ore. With its vast supply of raw resources, major industrial countries in the world, like the United States, Japan, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Western Europe are highly interested in the country. According to experts, the deposits of oil and gas in Kazakhstan are comparable to those found in the Arab emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Only areas near the western part of Kazakhstan near the Caspian Sea have been exploited, and it is projected that these are just fringe deposits, with the larger and more productive ones located near the northern section of the country along the Caspian Sea.
Aside from oil and gas, the country is also rich in gold deposits, estimated to be around 300 large deposits, of which only 173 have so far been investigated. It also produce fine-quality diamonds. So far only 1% of the estimated gold production of 100 tons per year is being mined. It would take huge investments for Kazakhstan to fully enjoy its highly valuable yield of minerals and other natural resources, including some of the rarest precious stones on earth.
Watersports, winter sports, trekking and hiking, biking and relaxing in spas are some of the activities that you could do in Kazakhstan. That is, after you have visited the country’s numerous archeological and ethnographic sites, and have spent several hours of being wowed by its beautiful and contrasting landscape, its numerous nature reserves and its rare flora and fauna.
In this Country Profile
:: History of Kazakhstan ::
Kazakhstan’s rich history goes back thousands of years ago. The country’s history is not yet fully discovered and as facts and evidences are unearthed, the fascinating origin of Kazakhstan is slowly coming to light. Some posit that the Amazons originated from the Asian country, descendants of the first steppe nomads that were ubiquitous residents of the area. Some historians believe that Genghis Khan was buried in this ancient country.
More than a million years ago, ancient men from the Lower Paleolithic age settled in the lands around Karatau where they found resources such as wild game and fruits fit for human consumption. At that time there were already evidences of settlements created by the people belonging from the Stone Age. By the Middle and Upper Paleolithic Ages passed, the people that settled in area have already mastered the conditions and environment in the region. They were known to be experts in horse breeding.
While life was generally harsh and unforgiving during those times, tribes from the Begazy-Dandybay and Andron culture survived. They were made of sterner stuff and were excellent warriors, but still displayed domestication as they engaged in activities such as cattle breeding and farming. Petroglyphs of them with horse drawn chariots engaged in battle, their gods represented by camels and bulls and sun-gods as well as their culture shown in their images and dances were carved out in several rocks. They already knew about metallurgy, evidenced by the axes, daggers and knives made of copper. They had local heroes and warriors of noble birth buried in large burial vaults and mounds. They started the development of copper as evidenced by the quarries that they have started. These tribes occupied their territories from the 17th century BC until the 9th to the 8th centuries AD. The nomadic tribes called Saks or Scythians, as the Greeks called them, ousted the original settlers in Karatau, but the tradition continued. They were excellent horsemen that could shoot arrows while riding at full speed. They established the first state in southeastern Kazakhstan. They had their own written language, mythology and a well-advanced animal-style form of art. Their skilled artisans were already creating bronze and gold masterpieces that even today would make excellent exhibition pieces in some of the world’s best museums. New evidence revealed that they spoke several languages in the prothoturkic family.
Several other tribes came and went in Kazakhstan throughout its history. Genghis Khan came in 1219, and from them on tribes of Mongol conquerors established their dynasty in Kazakhstan. By the 15th century they were divided into different khanates (political groups each headed by a khan). One of the most prominent was the Kazakh Khanate. While they were busy fending off the advances of would be conquerors, the territory was overtaken in the 17th century by the Cossacks that established their forts that eventually became cities in areas that are now known as Atyrau and Oral. The Russian colonization of Kazakhstan began in 1731 and lasted until 1917. The Russian settlers were quite lucky because the region was very fertile and mineral-rich. But their colonization wreaked havoc in the routine of the nomadic tribes that were previously free to come and go in Kazakhstan with their families and their livestock. The native inhabitants of Kazakhstan began to be greatly dispersed, leaving most of them starving and driven out of their land. Dissatisfaction with the colonizers escalated, leading to the Central Asian Revolt, also called the Basmachi Movement. It started in 1916 and lasted until 1934. The revolt became part of the First World War as well as the Russian Civil War. Although suppressed by the Tsar and the Russian armies, and getting embroiled in the ensuing wars, Kazakhstan finally declared its independence on December 16, 1991, which was finalized on Christmas Day, December 25 of the same year.
Throughout the years, Kazakhstan has evolved and developed into a rich and constantly improving country that is open and accessible for culture exchanges and tourism without having to give up their roots.
:: Geography of Kazakhstan ::
Kazakhstan is made up of steppes and mountains, with rich and fertile valleys among the mountains. Inland lakes and rivers drain to the Caspian Sea. Most of the waterways are filled by the run-offs from the mountains that are snow-capped throughout the year. The soil in Kazakhstan is very fertile and highly suitable for agriculture but its vast mineral resources make the country extremely rich. It exhibits distinct seasons while its flora and fauna and the location of its inhabitants depend on its topography and climatic zones.
Kazakhstan is mostly located in Central Asia also known as the center of Eurasian landmass. Its geographic location is 48° 00’ north and 68° 00’ east. Kazakhstan’s present capital is Astana which is located 808 miles north of Almaty, its former capital, located almost at the country’s center.
Kazakhstan occupies an area of 2,727,300 square kilometers or 1,053,000 square miles.
The country is divided into 14 provinces and two cities, Almaty and Astana. It has the largest dry steppe region in the world, which covers almost one-third of the nation. It is the largest landlocked country in the whole world, with only 1.7% of the area covered with water.
Comparative Area Size
The country is larger than Western Europe as a whole. Kazakhstan is slightly smaller than the size of the Texas in the US multiplied by four. The northern border with Russia that Kazakhstan shares is also the longest continuous bi-national border in the world at 6,846 kilometers.
Kazakhstan is a country that has several borders, that extend for 12,158 kilometers. It is bordered in the east by China for 1,533 kilometers. On the south side it is bordered for 1,224 kilometers by Kyrgyzstan and by Uzbekistan for 2,203 kilometers while 379 kilometers of border is shared with Turkmenistan. It shares borders on the north with Russia for 6,846 kilometers. , on the west by the Caspian Sea and on the north by Russia.
Being landlocked, Kazakhstan does not have a coastline but part of the country borders the Aral Sea which is now divided into two bodies of water, for 1,070 kilometers and the Caspian Sea for a length of 1,894 kilometers.
Kazakhstan does not have any maritime claims because of its landlocked position between two regions, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
Kazakhstan is one of the many countries in the world that experience extreme changes in weather characterized by abrupt highs and lows. The general climate is considered continental, characterized by arid and semi-arid climatic conditions with very hot summers and frosty winters. Kazakhstan has four distinct seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn.
Kazakhstan comprises the largest dry steppe in the world, together with some mountain ranges, deep canyons, valleys, gorges and deserts.
Kazakhstan’s lowest point is the natural depression called Vpadina Kaundy, also called Sor Kaundy or Ozero Kaundy, which is located in Zhezqazghan region in Oblysy. It is minus 132 meters below sea level. On the other hand, the highest peak is the Khan Tangiri Shyngy, also known as Pik Khan-Tengri, which rises to a height of 6,995 meters.
Kazakhstan is a country that is extremely rich in petroleum, coal, natural gas and other mineral resources like gold, iron ore, copper and zinc. It is also rich in manganese, nickel, cobalt, chrome ore, lead, bauxite, uranium and molybdenum. The country’s large oil deposits are found in western regions and in the Caspian coastal region.
Over 8.2% of Kazakhstan’s land is used as arable land where crops like wheat, maize and rice are cultivated. Permanent crops like coffee, citrus, rubber, flowering shrubs, fruit trees, nut trees, vines, wood and timber use up about 0.05% of the land. The rest or 91.67% of land includes permanent meadows, forests, woodlands, roads and the like.
The southern parts of the country are prone to earthquakes. Areas around Almaty, the previous capital city of Kazakhstan are subjected to mudslides when heavy rains fall.
Current Environmental Issues
There are quite a number of environmental issues in Kazakhstan because of the country being a semi-arid steppe. In the past, the Soviet Union used Kazakhstan as its nuclear testing site. This has contributed as one of the leading causes of sickness in humans and animals in the rural areas of the country. Industrial pollution is getting severe. The Aral Sea is drying up because the its two tributaries have been diverted for irrigation, causing the shrinking of the Aral. At the same time the drying up of the Aral Sea leaves a layer of natural salt and harmful chemical pesticides, which contribute to noxious dust storms when picked up by strong winds. Salination from wasteful practices of irrigation, poor infrastructure and the overuse of chemicals used for agriculture contribute to soil pollution. Likewise, the Caspian Sea in increasingly getting polluted.
International Environmental Agreements
The country has signed but has yet to ratify the Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol. It has entered into agreements concerning biodiversity, climate change, air pollution, desertification, environmental modification and endangered species. It has also joined in the talks and agreements for ozone layer protection, hazardous wastes, wetlands and ship pollution.
:: People of Kazakhstan ::
Residents of Kazakhstans are called Khazakhtanis, a word that is used as a noun as well as an adjective to describe them.
Based on the population estimate of 2011, Kazakhstan has a population of 16,600,000, a slight increase from the 2009 official census figure of 16.004,800. With the vastness of the country, the population density is very small, just 5.94 persons living in each square kilometer or about 15.39 for each square mile. The estimated population growth rate for 2012 is 1.235%. Despite this figures which seem small, Kazakhstan ranks 62nd in the world when it comes to population numbers. Historically populated by nomadic tribes, the Kazakhs became the most dominant of them. However, the population of the country is still divided into different ethnic groups, which, according to the 2009 census, are made up of 63.1% Kazakh, 23.7% Russian, 2.9% Uzbek and 2.1% Ukrainian. Lesser numbers make up the rest of the ethnic groups, with 1.4% Uyghur, 1.3% Tatar and 1.1% German, plus identified groups that make up the balance of 4.5%.
Nearly 60% of the population resides in urban areas. As of 2012, the estimated birth rate is 20.44 for every 1,000 residents while the death rate is estimated in 2012 to be 8.52 for every 1,000 persons. Maternal mortality is in placed at 51 for every 100,000 births in 2010.
The highest bulk of the population in Kazakhstan, according to the 2011 estimates, is at the employable and still productive years. Seventy-one percent of the population, broken down into 5,654,461 females and 5,373,755 males are within the 15 to 64 years age group. From zero to fourteen years, the ratio is 21.6%, with 1,709,929 males and 1,637,132 females. Seniors aged 65 years and over make up 7.4%, with 754,407 females and 392,689 males.
Kazakhstan has quite a young population, with the estimated median age for males to be around 28.7 years, while it is 31.9 years for females. Overall, the average is about 30.2 years, based on 2011 estimates.
Net Migration Rate
Based on 2012 estimates, net migration in Kazakhstan has already gone higher, pegged at 0.43 for every 1,000 residents.
On average, sex ratio at birth is 0.94 male/female, 1.01 male/female for residents under 15 years of age. The ratio goes down, with 0.94 male/female for those in the 15-64 years age bracket and 0.52 male/female for people 65 years and over. For the total population, the ratio is 0.92 male/female based on 2011 estimates.
Infant Mortality Rate
Total infant mortality rate is at 23.06 deaths for every 1,000 live births. Among males, there are roughly 25.83 deaths for every 1,000 live births and for females, approximately 20.46 deaths for every 1,000 live births, based on estimates done in 2012.
Life Expectancy at Birth
Life expectancy at birth in Kazakhstan is at 69.63 years in total. Among males, the average is 64.34 years and 74.59 for females, as estimated in 2012.
Kazakhstan is one of the countries with a relatively low rate for HIV/AIDS. In 1999, only 1,000 cases were registered in the country. Experts believe though that this rate has already increased tremendously as a result of poor facilities and medical equipment that could have helped HIV/AIDS prevention in the country. However, certain injectable and drugs are being used in Kazakhstan as a means of treatment for the said condition.
In 2009, it was estimated that adult prevalence of HIV /AIDS in Kazakhstan is at 0.1%, with about 13,000 living with the disease. The same estimate listed about 500 deaths due to the disease.
According to the 2009 Census, Kazakhstan is divided into two major ethnic groups namely the Kazakhs at 63.1% and the Russians, which comprise 23.7%. Other ethnic groups include the Uzbek, which make up 2.8%, Ukrainian with 2.1% and Uighur with 1.4%. Tatars make up 1.3% while Germans are about 1.1%. Identified ethnic groups make up 4.5%. Figures are based on the 1999 census.
The Kazakhstanis follow several religions. Forty-seven percent of the population is of Muslim faith. Russian Orthodox comprises 44% while Protestants make up about 2%. The rest follow other religions that they failed to identify.
Kazakh (Qazaq) 63.1%, Russian 23.7%, Uzbek 2.8%, Ukrainian 2.1%, Uighur 1.4%, Tatar 1.3%, German 1.1%, other 4.5% (1999 census)
The language that is primarily used in Kazakhstan belongs to the Turkish family of languages. They also share many different language roots from various European countries. Soon after the country declared its independence from the USSR it adopted the Kazakh language as its state language, spoken by over 40% of the population. The majority of the inhabitants of Kazakhstan still speak Russian, which is the official language for daily business transactions.
The residents of Kazakhstan are highly literate. Across the country the literary average is 99.5%. This means residents that are 15 years of age and over are able to read and write. Students stay in school for an average of 15 years.
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