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Republic of Kazakhstan

  • Қазақстан Республикасы
    Qazaqstan Respublïkası

  • Республика Казахстан
    Respublika Kazakhstan
Flag Emblem
Anthem: Менің Қазақстаным
Meniñ Qazaqstanım
My Kazakhstan
Capital Astana
51°10′N 71°25′E
Largest city Almaty
Official languages
Ethnic groups (2009)
  • 63.1% Kazakh
  • 23.7% Russian
  • 2.9% Uzbek
  • 2.1% Ukrainian
  • 1.4% Uyghur
  • 1.3% Tatar
  • 1.1% German
  • 4.5% others
Demonym Kazakh
Government Dominant-party unitary
presidential state
 -  President Nursultan Nazarbayev
 -  Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov
Legislature Parliament
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house Mazhilis
Independence from the Soviet Union
 -  Kazakh Khanate 1465 
 -  Alash Autonomy December 13, 1917 
 -  Kazakh SSR December 5, 1936 
 -  Declared December 16, 1991 
 -  Finalized December 25, 1991 
 -  Total 2,724,900 km2 ( 9th)
1,052,085 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.7
 -  01.01.2013 estimate 16,911,900 ( 62nd)
 -  2009 census 16,004,800
 -  Density 5.94/km2 ( 224th)
15.39/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $232.349 billion
 -  Per capita $13,921
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $200.6 billion
 -  Per capita $12,021
Gini (2008) 28.8
HDI (2013) Increase 0.754
high · 69th
Currency Tenge () ( KZT)
Time zone West / East ( UTC +5 / +6)
Drives on the right
Calling code +7-6xx, +7-7xx
ISO 3166 code KZ
Internet TLD
  • .kz
  • .қаз

Kazakhstan ( / ˌ k ɑː z ə k ˈ s t ɑː n / or / ˌ k æ z ə k ˈ s t æ n /; Kazakh: Қазақстан Qazaqstan, pronounced [qɑzɑqstɑ́n]; Russian: Казахстан [kəzɐxˈstan]), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a country in Central Asia, with a small portion west of the Ural River in easternmost Europe. Kazakhstan is the world's largest landlocked country by land area and the ninth largest country in the world; its territory of 2,727,300 square kilometres (1,053,000 sq mi) is larger than Western Europe. Moreover, lying on both sides of the Ural River makes Kazakhstan one of only two landlocked countries in the world lying on two continents. It is neighbored clockwise from the north by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also borders on a large part of the Caspian Sea. The terrain of Kazakhstan includes flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts. With 16.6 million people (2011 estimate) Kazakhstan has the 62nd largest population in the world, though its population density is less than 6 people per square kilometre (15 per sq. mi.). The capital was moved in 1998 from Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, to Astana.

Kazakhstan is one of the active members of the Turkic Council and the TÜRKSOY community. The national language, Kazakh, is closely related to the other Turkic languages, with which it shares strong cultural and historical ties.

For most of its history, the territory of modern-day Kazakhstan has been inhabited by nomadic tribes. By the 16th century, the Kazakhs emerged as a distinct group, divided into three jüz (ancestor branches occupying specific territories). The Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century all of Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganized several times before becoming the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936, a part of the Soviet Union.

Kazakhstan declared itself an independent country on December 16, 1991, the last Soviet republic to do so. Its communist-era leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, became the country's first supreme chancellor, a position he has retained for more than two decades. Supreme Chancellor Nazarbayev maintains strict control over the country's politics. Since independence, Kazakhstan has pursued a balanced foreign policy and worked to develop its economy, especially its hydrocarbon industry. The post-Soviet era has also been characterized by increased involvement with many international organizations, including the United Nations, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Kazakhstan is also one of six post-Soviet states who have implemented an Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO.

Kazakhstan is ethnically and culturally diverse, in part due to mass deportations of many ethnic groups to the country during Joseph Stalin's rule. Kazakhstan has a population of 16.6 million, with 131 ethnicities, including Kazakh, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Uzbek, Tatar, and Uyghur. Around 63% of the population are Kazakhs. Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion, and many different beliefs are represented in the country. It is a very tolerant country to religions like Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. Islam is the religion of about 70.2% while Christianity is practiced by 26.2% of the population. The Kazakh language is the state language, while Russian is also officially used as an equal language to Kazakh in Kazakhstan's public institutions.


While the word "Kazakh" is generally used to refer to people of ethnic Kazakh descent, including those living in China, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and other neighbouring countries, the term "Kazakhstani" ( Kazakh: қазақстандық qazaqstandyk ; Russian: казахстанец kazakhstanyets) was coined to describe all citizens of Kazakhstan, including non-Kazakhs. The ethnonym "Kazakh" is derived from an ancient Turkic word meaning "independent; a free spirit", reflecting the Kazakhs' nomadic horseback culture. The Persian suffix " -stan" (see Indo-Iranian languages) means "land" or "place of", so Kazakhstan means "land of the Kazakhs".


Kazakh Khanate

Kazakhstan has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age: the region's climate and terrain are best suited for nomads practicing pastoralism. Archaeologists believe that humans first domesticated the horse in the region's vast steppes.

Central Asia proper was originally inhabited by Indo-Iranians. The best known of those groups was the nomadic Scythians. The Turkic people began encroaching on the Iranians starting at least in the 5th century AD, possibly earlier. They became the dominant ethnic group of Central Asia. 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 13th century. Under the Mongol Empire, administrative districts were established, and these eventually came under the rule of the emergent Kazakh Khanate (Kazakhstan).

Artistic depiction of medieval Taraz situated along the Silk Road.

Throughout this period, traditionally nomadic life and a livestock-based economy continued to dominate the steppe. In the 15th 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 the 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 had 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. Khiva Khanate used this opportunity and annexed Mangyshlak Peninsula. Uzbek rule there lasted two centuries until the Russian arrival.

Inside a Kazakh yurt

During the 17th century Kazakhs fought Oirats, a federation of western Mongol tribes, including 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. The Dzungars seized the pastures of the defeated Kazakhs, taking many captives, and slaughtering entire clans. Under the leadership of Abul Khair Khan, the Kazakhs won major victories over the Dzungar at the Bulanty River in 1726, and at the Battle of Anrakay in 1729. Ablai Khan participated in the most significant battles against the Dzungars from the 1720s to the 1750s, for which he was declared a "batyr" ("hero") by the people. Kazakhs were also victims of constant raids carried out by the Volga Kalmyks. Kokand Khanate used weakness of Kazakh jüzs after Dzungar and Kalmyk raids and conquered present Southeastern Kazakhstan including Almaty, formal capital at first quarter of 19th century. Also, Emirate of Bukhara ruled Chimkent before Russian arrival.

Kazakhstan under Russian Empire rule

In the 19th century, the Russian Empire began to expand into Central Asia. The " Great Game" period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. The tsars effectively ruled over most of the territory belonging to what is now the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Traditional Kazakh wedding dress.

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 itself and the British Empire. 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 resentment by the Kazakh people, and by the 1860s, most Kazakhs resisted Russia's annexation largely because of the influence it wrought upon the traditional nomadic lifestyle and livestock-based economy, and the associated hunger that was rapidly wiping out some Kazakh tribes. The Kazakh national movement, which began in the late 19th century, sought to preserve the native language and identity by resisting the attempts of the Russian Empire to assimilate and stifle them.

Russian settlers near Petropavlovsk.

From the 1890s onwards, ever-larger numbers of settlers from the Russian Empire began colonizing 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 (Переселенческое Управление) in St. Petersburg. During the 19th century about 400,000 Russians immigrated to Kazakhstan, and about one million Slavs, Germans, Jews, and others immigrated to the region during the first third of the 20th century. Vasile Balabanov was the administrator responsible for the resettlement during much of this time.

The competition for land and water that 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 settlers and military garrisons. The revolt resulted in a series of clashes and in brutal massacres committed by both sides. Both sides resisted the communist government until late 1919.

Kazakhstan under Soviet Rule

Although there was a brief period of autonomy ( Alash 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 the Soviet Union.

Soviet repression of the traditional elite, along with forced collectivization in the late 1920s–1930s, brought mass hunger and led to unrest (see also: Soviet famine of 1932–1933). Between 1926 and 1939, the Kazakh population declined by 22% due to starvation and mass emigration. Estimates today suggest that the population of Kazakhstan would be closer to 20 million if there had been no starvation or migration of Kazakhs. 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. For example, after the German invasion in June 1941, approximately 400,000 Volga Germans were transported from Ukraine to Kazakhstan.

Young Pioneers at a Young Pioneer camp in Kazakh SSR.

Deportees were interned in some of the biggest Soviet labor camps, including ALZHIR camp outside Astana, which was reserved for the wives of men considered "enemies of the people" (see also: Population transfer in the Soviet Union, Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union). The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic 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.

World War II led to an increase in industrialisation and mineral extraction in support of the war effort. At the time of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death, however, Kazakhstan still had an overwhelmingly agriculturally 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. By 1959, Kazakhs made up 30% of the population. Ethnic Russians accounted for 43%.

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 contributed to this immensely was Lavrentii Beria's decision to test a nuclear bomb on the territory of Kazakh SSR in Semey in 1949. This had a catastrophic ecological and biological consequences that were felt generations later, and Kazakh anger toward the Soviet system escalated.

In December 1986, mass demonstrations by young ethnic Kazakhs, later called Jeltoqsan 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 aborted coup attempt in Moscow and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan declared independence on December 16, 1991. It was the 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.


Parliament of Kazakhstan.

Political system

Officially, Kazakhstan is a unitary republic. The first and only supreme chancellor is Nursultan Nazarbayev. The supreme chancellor is also 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. Serik Akhmetov has served as the Prime Minister since September 24, 2012.

Kazakhstan has a bicameral Parliament composed of the lower house (the Majilis) and upper house (the Senate). Although there are two houses, Kazakhstan is officially a unicameral federal republic. Single mandate districts popularly elect 107 seats in the Majilis; there also are 10 members elected by party-list vote rather than by single mandate districts. The Senate has 47 members. Two senators are selected by each of the elected assemblies (Maslikhats) of Kazakhstan's 16 principal administrative divisions (14 provinces, plus the cities of Astana and Almaty). The president appoints the remaining 7 senators. Majilis deputies and the government both have the right of legislative initiative, though the government proposes most legislation considered by the Parliament.


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 China, responsible in overseeing 25 polling stations in Astana, found that voting in those polls was conducted in a "transparent and fair" manner.

On August 17, 2007, elections to the lower house of parliament were held and a coalition led by the ruling Nur-Otan Party, which included Asar Party, Civil Party of Kazakhstan and Agrarian Party, won every seat with 88% of the vote. None of the opposition parties have reached the benchmark 7% level of the seats. This has led 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.

In 2010, President Nazarbayev rejected a call from constituents to hold a referendum to keep him in office until 2020 and instead insisted on presidential elections for a five-year term. In a vote held on April 3, 2011, President Nazarbayev received 95.54% of the vote with 89.9% of registered voters participating. Nazarbayev outlined the progress made by Kazakhstan in March 2011. However Kazakhstan was reported on the Economist's Democracy Index for 2010, as an authoritarian regime.

Foreign relations

Nazarbayev with Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, 2012.

Kazakhstan has stable relationships with all of its neighbors. Kazakhstan is also a member of the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It is an active participant in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Partnership for Peace program.

On April 11, 2010, Presidents Nazarbayev and Obama met at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., and discussed strengthening the strategic partnership between the United States and Kazakhstan and pledged to intensify bilateral cooperation to promote nuclear safety and non-proliferation, regional stability in Central Asia, economic prosperity, and universal values.

In April 2011, President Obama called President Nazarbayev and discussed many cooperative efforts regarding nuclear security, including securing nuclear material from the BN-350 reactor, and reviewed progress on meeting goals that the two presidents established during their bilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in 2010. President Obama also thanked President Nazarbayev for his support to foster security and prosperity in Afghanistan. In a letter to President Nazarbayev dated August 16, 2011, President Obama praised Kazakhstan as "a longtime world leader in nuclear security".

Kazakhstan is also a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Economic Cooperation Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The nations of 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. On December 1, 2007, it was revealed that Kazakhstan had been chosen to chair OSCE for the year 2010. Kazakhstan was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the first time on November 12, 2012.

Since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has pursued what is known as the "multivector foreign policy" ( Kazakh: көпвекторлы сыртқы саясат), seeking equally good relations with two large neighbors, Russia and China, and the United States and the West in general. 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 formed a customs union with Russia and Belarus which will be transformed into a common economic space soon.

Russia currently leases approximately 6,000 km² (2,300 mi²) of territory enclosing the Baikonur Cosmodrome space launch site in south central Kazakhstan, where the first man was launched into space as well as Soviet space shuttle Buran and the well known space station Mir.


Kazakhstani Republican Guard.

Most of Kazakhstan's military was inherited from the Soviet Armed Forces' Turkestan Military District. These units became the core of Kazakhstan's new military which acquired all the units of the 40th Army (the former 32nd Army) and part of the 17th Army Corps, including 6 land force divisions, storage bases, the 14th and 35th air-landing brigades, 2 rocket brigades, 2 artillery regiments and a large amount of equipment which had been withdrawn from over the Urals after the signing of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. The largest expansion of the Kazakhstan Army has been focused on armored units in recent years. Since 1990, armored units have expanded from 500 to 1,613 in 2005.

The Kazakh air force is composed mostly of Soviet-era planes, including 41 MiG-29s, 44 MiG-31s, 37 Su-24s and 60 Su-27s. A small naval force is also maintained on the Caspian Sea.

Kazakhstan sent 49 military engineers to Iraq to assist the US post-invasion mission in Iraq.

Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) was established on June 13, 1992. It includes the Service of Internal Security, Military Counterintelligence, Border Guard, several Commando units, and Foreign Intelligence (Barlau). The latter is considered as the most important part of KNB. Its director is Nurtai Abykayev.

August 2011 marked the ninth year of the joint tactical-peacekeeping exercise "Steppe Eagle" hosted by the Kazakhstan government. Steppe Eagle focuses on building coalitions and gives participating nations the opportunity to work together.


Map of Kazakhstan.
Markakol reserve in the Altai Mountains, eastern Kazakhstan.

With an area of 2,700,000 square kilometres (1,000,000 sq mi), Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country and the largest landlocked country in the world, equivalent in size to Western Europe. While part of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan lost some of its territory to China's Xinjiang and some to Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan. It shares borders of 6,846 kilometres (4,254 mi) with Russia, 2,203 kilometres (1,369 mi) with Uzbekistan, 1,533 kilometres (953 mi) with China, 1,051 kilometres (653 mi) with Kyrgyzstan, and 379 kilometres (235 mi) with Turkmenistan. Major cities include Astana, Almaty, Karagandy, Shymkent, Atyrau and Oskemen. It lies between latitudes 40° and 56° N, and longitudes 46° and 88° E. While located primarily in Asia, a small portion of Kazakhstan is also located west of the Urals in Eastern Europe.

Charyn Canyon in northern Tian Shan.
Aqmola Province in the Kazakhstan steppes.

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, Syr Darya, Charyn River and gorge, Lake Balkhash and Lake Zaysan.

The climate is continental, with warm summers and colder winters. Precipitation varies between arid and semi-arid conditions.

The Charyn Canyon is 150–300 metres deep and 80 kilometres (50 mi) long, cutting through the red sandstone plateau and stretching along the Charyn River gorge in northern Tian 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 metres. The inaccessibility of the canyon provided a safe haven for a rare ash tree that survived the Ice Age and is now also grown in some other areas. Bigach crater is a Pliocene or Miocene asteroid impact crater, 8 km in diameter and estimated at 5±3 million years old at 48°30′N 82°00′E.

Administrative divisions

Kazakhstan is divided into 14 provinces ( Kazakh: облыстар, oblıstar). The provinces are subdivided into districts ( Kazakh: аудандар, awdandar).

Almaty and Astana cities have the status of State importance and do not relate to any province. Baikonur city has a special status because it is currently being leased to Russia with Baikonur cosmodrome until 2050.

Each province is headed by an Akim (provincial governor) appointed by the president. Municipal Akims are appointed by province Akims. The Government of Kazakhstan transferred its capital from Almaty to Astana on December 10, 1997.

A clickable map of Kazakhstan exhibiting its 14 provinces.
Almaty A clickable map of Kazakhstan exhibiting its provinces.
About this image


Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world's oldest and largest operational space launch facility.

Buoyed by high world crude oil prices, GDP growth figures were comprised between 8.9% and 13.5% from 2000 to 2007 before decreasing to 1–3% in 2008 and 2009, and then rising again from 2010. Other major exports of Kazakhstan include wheat, textiles, and livestock. Kazakhstan predicted that it would become a leading exporter of uranium by 2010, which has indeed come true.

The inflation figures are high: 2005, 7.6%; 2006, 8.6%; 2007, 18.8%; 2008, 9.5%; 2009, 6.2%.

Since 2002, Kazakhstan has sought to manage strong inflows of foreign currency without sparking inflation. Inflation has not been under strict control, however, registering 6.6% in 2002, 6.8% in 2003, and 6.4% in 2004.

In 2000, Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), seven 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, 14% of GDP. There has been a noticeable reduction in the ratio of debt to GDP. 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%.

Economic growth, combined with earlier tax and financial sector reforms, has dramatically improved government finance 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.

Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.
Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city.

On November 29, 2003, the Law on Changes to Tax Code which reduced tax rates was adopted. 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 from the oil and gas basins of Kazakhstan amounted to 51.2 million tons in 2003, up 8.6% from the production 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 kilometers (480 cu mi) of gas. According to industry analysts, expansion of oil production and the development of new fields will enable the country to produce as much as 3 million barrels (480,000 m3) per day by 2015, and Kazakhstan would be among the top 10 oil-producing nations in the world. Kazakhstan's oil exports in 2003 were valued at more than $7 billion, representing 65% of overall exports and 24% of the GDP. Major oil and gas fields and recoverable oil reserves are Tengiz with 7 billion barrels (1.1×109 m3); Karachaganak with 8 billion barrels (1.3×109 m3) and 1,350 km³ of natural gas); and Kashagan with 7 to 9 billion barrels (1.4×109 m3).

Kazakhstan instituted an ambitious pension reform program in 1998. As of January 1, 2012, the pension assets were about $17 billion (KZT 2.5 trillion). There are 11 saving pension funds in the country. The State Accumulating Pension Fund, the only state-owned fund, was privatized in 2006. The country's unified financial regulatory agency oversees and regulates the pension funds. The growing demand of the pension funds 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 government of Kazakhstan studies a project to crate a unified national pension fund and transfer all the accounts from the private pension funds into it.

The banking system of Kazakhstan is developing rapidly and the system's capitalization now exceeds $1 billion. The National Bank has introduced deposit insurance in its campaign to strengthen the banking sector. Due to troubling and non-performing bad assets the bank sector yet is at risk to lose stability. Several major foreign banks have branches in Kazakhstan, including RBS, Citibank, and HSBC. Kookmin and UniCredit have both recently entered the Kazakhstan's financial services market through acquisitions and stake-building.

Despite the strength of Kazakhstan's economy for most of the first decade of the 21st century, the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 has exposed some central weaknesses in the country's economy. The year on year growth of Kazakhstan's GDP dropped 19.81% in 2008. Four of the major banks were rescued by the government at the end of 2008 and real estate prices have sharply dropped.

According to the 2010–2011 World Economic Forum in Global Competitiveness Report Kazakhstan is ranked 72nd in the world in economic competitiveness.


A new highway between Almaty and the border with China will reduce transit times from around six to three hours. Most cities are connected by railroad; high-speed trains go from Almaty (the southernmost city) to Petropavl ( Petropavlovsk, the northernmost city) in about 18 hours.


The banking industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan has experienced a pronounced boom and bust cycle over 2000s decade. After several years of rapid expansion in the mid-2000s, the banking industry collapsed in 2008. Several large banking groups, including BTA Bank J.S.C. and Alliance Bank, defaulted soon after. Since then, the industry has shrunk and been restructured, with system-wide loans dropping to 39% of GDP in 2011 from 59% in 2007. Although the Russian and Kazakh banking systems share several common features, there are also some fundamental differences. Banks in Kazakhstan have experienced a lengthy period of political stability and economic growth. Together with a rational approach to banking and finance policy, this has helped push Kazakhstan’s banking system to a higher level of development. Banking technology and personnel qualifications alike are stronger in Kazakhstan than in Russia. On the negative side, past stability in Kazakhstan arose from the concentration of virtually all political power in the hands of a single individual – the key factor in any assessment of system or country risk. The potential is there for serious disturbances if and when authority passes into new hands.


Population pyramid, 2005.
Central Asian ethnolinguistic patchwork, 1992.
Kazakhstanis on the Lake Dzhasybay beach, Pavlodar Province.
Kazakh man on a horse with golden eagle.
(Photo taken c. 1911–1914.)

The US Census Bureau International Database list the current population of Kazakhstan as 15,460,484, while United Nations sources such as the UN Population Division give an estimate of 15,753,460. Official estimates put the population of Kazakhstan at 16.455 million as of February 2011, of which 46% is rural and 54% is urban.

The 2009 population estimate is 6.8% higher than the population reported in the last census from January 1999. The decline in population that began after 1989 has been arrested and possibly reversed. Men and women make up 48.3% and 51.7% of the population, respectively.

The ethnic Kazakhs represent 63.1% of the population and ethnic Russians 23.7%, with a rich array of other groups represented, including Tatars (1.3%), Ukrainians (2.1%), Uzbeks (2.8%), Belarusians, Uyghurs (1.4%), Azerbaijanis, Poles, and Lithuanians. Some minorities such as Germans (1.1%) ( Germans who had previously settled in Russia, especially Volga Germans), Ukrainians, Koreans, Chechens, Meskhetian Turks, 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 ( Gulag) existed in the country.

Significant Russian immigration also connected with Virgin Lands Campaign and Soviet space program during Khrushchev era. In 1989, Kazakhs held a majority in only 7 of the 20 regions of the country. There is also a small but active Jewish community. Before 1991 there were one million 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. In the late 1930s thousands of Koreans in the Soviet Union were deported to Central Asia. These people are now known as Koryo-saram.

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. English gained its popularity among the youth since the collapse of USSR.

The 1990s were marked by the emigration of many of the country's Russians and Volga Germans, a process that began in the 1970s. This has made indigenous Kazakhs the largest ethnic group. Additional factors in the increase in the Kazakh population are higher birthrates and immigration of ethnic Kazakhs from China, Mongolia, and Russia.

In the early 21st 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.


Religion in Kazakhstan
religion percent

According to the 2009 Census, 70.2% of the population is Muslim, 26.6% Christian, 0.1% Buddhists, 0.2% others (mostly Jews), and 2.8% non-believers, while 0.5% chose not to answer. According to its Constitution, Kazakhstan is a secular state.

Religious freedoms were guaranteed by Article 39 of Kazakhstan’s Constitution. Article 39 clearly states: “Human rights and freedoms shall not be restricted in any way.” Article 14 prohibits “discrimination on religious basis” and Article 19 insures that everyone has the “right to determine and indicate or not to indicate his/her ethnic, party and religious affiliation.” The Constitutional Council recently affirmed these rights by ruling that a proposed law limiting the rights of certain individuals to practice their religion was declared unconstitutional.

Islam is the largest religion in Kazakhstan, followed by Russian Orthodox Christianity. After decades of religious suppression by the Soviet Union, the coming of independence witnessed a surge in expression of ethnic identity, partly through religion. The free practice of religious beliefs and the establishment of full freedom of religion led to an increase of religious activity. Hundreds of mosques, churches, synagogues, and other religious structures were built in the span of a few years, with the number of religious associations rising from 670 in 1990 to 4,170 today.

The majority of Muslims are Sunni following the Hanafi school, including ethnic Kazakhs, who constitute about 60% the population, as well as by ethnic Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Tatars. Less than 1% are part of the Sunni Shafi`i school (primarily Chechens). There are a total of 2,300 mosques, all of them are affiliated with the "Spiritual Association of Muslims of Kazakhstan", headed by a supreme mufti. The Eid al-Adha is recognized as a national holiday.

One fourth of the population is Russian Orthodox, including ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. Other Christian groups include Roman Catholics and Protestants. There are a total of 258 Orthodox churches, 93 Catholic churches, and over 500 Protestant churches and prayer houses. The Russian Orthodox Christmas is recognized as a national holiday in Kazakhstan. Other religious groups include Judaism, the Bahá'í Faith, Hinduism, Buddhism, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The front of the Nur-Astana Mosque in Astana during the morning hours. Islam is the major religion of Kazakhstan and Nur-Astana the country's largest mosque.
Russian Orthodox Christianity is the second largest religion in Kazakhstan.

According to the 2009 Census data, there are very few Christians outside the Slavic and Germanic ethnic groups:


KIMEP University, Almaty, one of Kazakhstan's top universities.

Education is universal and mandatory through to the secondary level and the adult literacy rate is 99.5%. Education consists of three main 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 levels 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 or Ph.D. 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 Ministry of Education of Kazakhstan runs a highly successful Bolashak scholarship, which is annually awarded to about 5,000 Kazakhstan citizen applicants. The scholarship funds their education and all living expenses abroad as well as transportation expenses once in a year from home to a university and back home. The choice of an institution of higher education and research as well as any corporation that provides both undergraduate and postgraduate education has no restrictions, if an applicant complies with the eligibility requirements of an institution abroad. Awarded students can study at any educational institutions such as prestigious University of Cambridge, Harvard University, King's College London, University of Toronto, University of Oxford, University College London, Purdue University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Technical University Munich, Imperial College London, University of Tokyo, University of Warwick and others. The terms of the program include mandatory return to Kazakhstan for at least five years of employment.

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