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Republic of Kazakhstan
  • Қазақстан Республикасы  (Kazakh)
    Qazaqstan Respublïkası
  • Республика Казахстан  (Russian)
    Respublika Kazakhstan
Flag Emblem
Anthem: Менің Қазақстаным
Meniñ Qazaqstanım
My Kazakhstan
Capital Astana
51°10′N 71°25′E / 51.167°N 71.417°E / 51.167; 71.417
Largest city Almaty
Official languages
Ethnic groups (2010[2])
Demonym Kazakhstani[3]
Government Dominant-party presidential republic
 -  President Nursultan Nazarbayev
 -  Prime Minister Karim Massimov
Legislature Parliament
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house Mazhilis
Independence from the Soviet Union
 -  Declared 16 December 1991 
 -  Finalized 25 December 1991 
 -  Current constitution 30 August 1995 
 -  Total 2,724,900 km2 (9th)
1,052,085 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 1.7
 -  July 2014[3] estimate 17,948,816[3] (62nd)
 -  Density 5.94/km2 (227th)
15.39/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate
 -  Total $420.629 billion[4] (43rd)
 -  Per capita $24,143[4] (50th)
GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
 -  Total $225.619 billion[4] (50th)
 -  Per capita $12,950[4] (54th)
Gini (2008) 28.8[5]
HDI (2013) Steady 0.757[6]
high · 70th
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

Kazakhstan (Listeni/ˌkɑːzəkˈstɑːn/ or /ˌkæzəkˈstæn/; Kazakh: Қазақстан Qazaqstan, pronounced [qɑzɑqˈstɑn]; Russian: Казахстан [kəzɐxˈstan]), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a contiguous transcontinental country in Central Asia, with its smaller part west of the Ural River in Europe.[3] Kazakhstan is the world's largest landlocked country by land area and the ninth largest country in the world; its territory of 2,724,900 square kilometres (1,052,100 sq mi) is larger than Western Europe.[3][7] It has borders with (clockwise from the north) Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also adjoins 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 an estimated 17 million people as of 2013[8] Kazakhstan is the 61st most populous country in the world, though its population density is among the lowest, at less than 6 people per square kilometre (15 people per sq. mi.). The capital is Astana, where it was moved from Almaty in 1997.

The territory of Kazakhstan has historically been inhabited by nomadic tribes. This changed in the 13th century, when Genghis Khan occupied the country. Following internal struggles among the conquerors, power eventually reverted to the nomads. 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, an integral part of the Soviet Union.

Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991; the current President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been leader of the country since then. Kazakhstan pursues a balanced foreign policy and works to develop its economy, especially its dominant hydrocarbon industry.[9]

Kazakhstan is populated by 131 ethnicities, including Kazakh (who make up 63 percent of the population), Russian, Uzbek, Ukrainian, German, Tatar, and Uyghur.[10] Islam is the religion of about 70% of the population, with Christianity practiced by 26%;[11] Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion. The Kazakh language is the state language, while Russian has equal official status for all levels of administrative and institutional purposes.[3][12]


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 neighboring countries, within the country both terms "Kazakh" or "Kazakhstani" (Kazakh: қазақстандық qazaqstandyk ; Russian: казахстанец kazakhstanyets) are being used to describe all citizens of Kazakhstan, including non-Kazakhs.[13] The ethnonym "Kazakh" is derived from an ancient Turkic word meaning "independent; a free spirit", reflecting the Kazakhs' nomadic horseback culture.[citation needed] The Persian suffix "-stan" (see Indo-Iranian languages) means "land" or "place of", so Kazakhstan means "land of the Kazakhs".

In February 2014, President Nursultan Nazarbayev suggested dropping "-stan" and officially renaming the country to "Kazakh Eli", meaning "country of the Kazakhs", in order to better reflect the diverse population of the country and also to attract greater foreign investment.[14][15] However, on 13 June 2014, it was reported on the Kazakhstan website, Tengri News, that Kazakhstan would not change the name by removing the "-stan". The Foreign Minister, Yerlan Idrissov labeled such speculations as "media tricks" in an interview with Spain's centrist La Vanguardia newspaper.


Main article: History of Kazakhstan

Kazakh Khanate[edit]

While the Republic of Kazakhstan gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakh statehood dates back 550 years.[16]

Main article: Kazakh Khanate
Artistic depiction of medieval Taraz situated along the Silk Road.

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 was originally inhabited by Indo-Iranians. The best known of those groups was the nomadic Scythians.[17]

Ablai Khan served as khan of the Middle jüz from 1771 to 1781.

The Cumans entered the steppes of modern day Kazakhstan around the early 11th century, where they later joined with the Kipchaks and established the vast Cuman-Kipchak confederation. 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).

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. At its height the Khanate would rule parts of Central Asia and control the land previously known as Cumania. The Kazakhs nomads would raid people of Russian territory for slaves until the Russian conquest of Kazakhstan. From the sixteenth through the early nineteenth century, the most powerful nomadic peoples were the Kazakhs and the Oirats.[18]

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.[19] 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 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.[20] 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 Shymkent before Russian arrival.

Kazakhstan under Russian Empire rule[edit]

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.

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.[21] Vasile Balabanov was the administrator responsible for the resettlement during much of this time.

Russian settlers near Petropavlovsk

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.[22] Both sides resisted the communist government until late 1919.

Kazakhstan as part of Soviet Union[edit]

Although there was a brief period of autonomy (Alash Autonomy) during the tumultuous period following the collapse of the Russian Empire the Kazakhs eventually succumbed to Soviet rule. In 1920, the area of present-day Kazakhstan became an autonomous republic within 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: Famine in Kazakhstan of 1932–33).[23][24] The Kazakh population declined by 38%[25] due to starvation and mass emigration. Estimates today suggest that the population of Kazakhstan would be closer to 28–35 million if there had been no starvation or migration of Kazakhs.[26] During the 1930s, many renowned Kazakh writers, thinkers, poets, politicians and historians were killed 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 Western Russia 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"[27] (see also Population transfer in the Soviet Union and 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%.[28]

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 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 the 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.


On 16 December 1991, Kazakhstan became the last Soviet republic to declare independence. Its communist-era leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, became the country's first President, a position he has retained for more than two decades.

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 16 December 1991.

The capital was moved in 1998 from Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, to Astana.


Political system[edit]

Kazakhstan is a unitary republic. Its first and, to date (2015), only President is Nursultan Nazarbayev. The President may veto legislation that has been passed by the Parliament and is also the commander in chief of the armed forces. The Prime Minister chairs the Cabinet of Ministers and serves as Kazakhstan's head of government. There are three deputy prime ministers and sixteen ministers in the Cabinet.

Kazakhstan has a bicameral Parliament composed of the Majilis (the lower house) and Senate (the upper house).[29] Single-mandate districts popularly elect 107 seats in the Majilis; there also are ten members elected by party-list vote. The Senate has 47 members. Two senators are selected by each of the elected assemblies (Maslikhats) of Kazakhstan's sixteen principal administrative divisions (fourteen regions 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.

Nuclear weapons non-proliferation[edit]

When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, Kazakhstan inherited 1,410 nuclear warheads and the Semipalatinsk nuclear-weapon test site. By April 1995, Kazakhstan had returned the warheads to Russia and, by July 2000, had destroyed the nuclear testing infrastructure at Semipalatinsk.[30]

On 2 December 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Republic of Kazakhstan designated 29 August as International Day against Nuclear Tests, the same day the Semipalatinsk test site closed in 1991.[31][32]

Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said Kazakhstan will take responsibility to advance the issues on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation within the United Nations Security Council, if it is granted the place of nonentity member of the Security Council during 2017–2018.[33]

The ATOM Project (est. August 2012) is an international campaign by the Nazarbayev Center of Kazakhstan. The primary goal of the campaign is to build international support for the abolishment of nuclear testing. ATOM stands for "Abolish Testing. Our Mission." The goal is to achieve the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty through online petitions and other methods.[34]


"Kazakhstan 2030", billboard promoting the president's economic plan. 2008 photo in Almaty
Main article: Elections in Kazakhstan

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, 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.

On 4 December 2005, Nursultan Nazarbayev was reelected in a landslide victory. The electoral commission announced that he had won over 90% of the vote. The 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.[35]

On 17 August 2007, elections to the lower house of parliament were held and a coalition led by the ruling Nur-Otan Party, including the 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,[36][37] and Daan Everts, OSCE mission chief at the time, said: "It has not been a competitive race."[38]

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 3 April 2011, President Nazarbayev received 95.54% of the vote with 89.9% of registered voters participating.[39] Nazarbayev outlined the progress made by Kazakhstan in March 2011.[40]

In October 2013, the OSCE provided a series of seminars aimed at promoting political parties' development in Kazakhstan.[41] More than 120 political party representatives participated in discussions of the organizational, legislative, financial and PR aspects of party-building as well as the their representation in parliament and local self-government bodies.

Foreign relations and policies[edit]

President Nazarbayev with U.S. Barack Obama and Russian Dmitry Medvedev in 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 11 April 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.[42]

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.[43]

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 1 December 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 12 November 2012.[44]

Since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has pursued what is known as the "multivector foreign policy" (Kazakh: көпвекторлы сыртқы саясат), seeking equally good relations with its two large neighbors, Russia and China as well as with the United States and the rest of the Western world.[45][46]

Russia currently leases approximately 6,000 square kilometres (2,317 sq mi) 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.

Kazakhstan and United Nations[edit]

On 24 October 2014 the Kazakhstan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a roundtable “The United Nations and Kazakhstan: 2015 and Beyond” dedicated to two decades of Kazakhstan – UN cooperation.[47] Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev noted that the Kazakh government was bidding for a non-permanent member seat on the UN Security Council for 2017–2018. That election is to be held in November 2016 at the General Assembly in New York.[47]

Kazakhstan also actively supports UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti, the Western Sahara, Côte d'Ivoire.[48] In March 2014, the Ministry of Defense chose 20 Kazakhstani military men to participate in the UN peacekeeping missions as observers. The military personnel, ranking from captain to colonel, had to go through a specialized UN training as well as be fluent in English and be able to drive and use specialized military vehicles.[48]

Ukraine conflict[edit]

In 2014, Kazakhstan gave Ukraine humanitarian aid during the conflict with Russia. In October 2014, Kazakhstan donated $30,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross's humanitarian effort in Ukraine. In January 2015 to help ease the humanitarian crisis Kazakhstan sent $400,000 of aid to Ukraine's southeastern regions.[49] President Nazarbayev said of the war in Ukraine, “The fratricidal war has brought true devastation to eastern Ukraine, and it is a common task to stop the war there, strengthen Ukraine’s independence and secure territorial integrity of Ukraine."[50] Experts believe that no matter how the Ukraine crisis develops, Kazakhstan’s relations with the European Union will remain normal.[51] It is believed that Nazarbayev’s mediation is positively received by both Russia and Ukraine.[51]

Kazakhstan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on January 26, 2015: “We are firmly convinced that there is no alternative to peace negotiations as a way to resolve the crisis in the south-eastern Ukraine.”[52]


Main article: Military of Kazakhstan

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 six land-force divisions, storage bases, the 14th and 35th air-landing brigades, two rocket brigades, two 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. During the second Iraq War, Kazakhstani troops dismantled 4 million mines and other explosives, helped provide medical care to more than 5,000 coalition members and civilians and purified 718 cubic metres (25,356 cu ft) of water.[53]

Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (UQK) 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 as the most important part of KNB. Its director is Nurtai Abykayev.

Since 2002 the joint tactical peacekeeping exercise "Steppe Eagle" has been hosted by the Kazakhstan government. "Steppe Eagle" focuses on building coalitions and gives participating nations the opportunity to work together. During the Steppe Eagle exercises, the Kazbat peacekeeping battalion operates within a multinational force under a unified command within multidisciplinary peacekeeping operations, with NATO and the U.S. Military.[54]

In December 2013, Kazakhstan announced it will send officers to support United Nations Peacekeeping forces in Haiti, Western Sahara, Ivory Coast and Liberia.[55]


In August 2014, President Nazarbayev reorganized the Government by consolidating ministries, agencies and committees.[56] The reorganisation decreased the number of ministries by five, to 12 total; and the number of committees now totals 30, down from 54.[56]

Ministry of Investments and Development[edit]

During the reorganization of the Government a new Ministry was created: the Ministry of Investments and Development.[57] The newly formed Ministry is responsible for industrial-innovative, scientific and technological development of Kazakhstan. The head of the Ministry is Asset Issekeshev. It took over the functions of the abolished Ministry of Industry and New Technologies, Ministry of Transport and Communications, Agency for Communication and Information and National Space Agency (Kazcosmos).[57]


Map of Kazakhstan.
Markakol reserve in the Altai Mountains, eastern Kazakhstan.
Syr Darya river, one of the major rivers of Central Asia that flows through Kazakhstan.

As it extends across both sides of the Ural River, Kazakhstan is one of only two landlocked countries in the world that lies on two continents (the other is Azerbaijan).

With an area of 2,700,000 square kilometres (1,000,000 sq mi) – equivalent in size to Western Europe – Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country and largest landlocked country in the world. While it was part of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan lost some of its territory to China's Xinjiang[citation needed] 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.[58]

Charyn Canyon in northern Tian Shan.
Akmola Region in the Kazakhstan steppes.

Kazakhstan's 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. Major seas, lakes and rivers include the Aral Sea, Lake Balkhash and Lake Zaysan, the Charyn River and gorge and the Ili, Irtysh, Ishim, Ural and Syr Darya rivers.

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

The Charyn Canyon is 80 kilometres (50 mi) long, cutting through a red sandstone plateau and stretching along the Charyn River gorge in northern Tian Shan ("Heavenly Mountains", 200 km (124 mi) east of Almaty) at 43°21′1.16″N 79°4′49.28″E / 43.3503222°N 79.0803556°E / 43.3503222; 79.0803556. The steep canyon slopes, columns and arches rise to heights of between 150 and 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.[citation needed] Bigach crater, at 48°30′N 82°00′E / 48.500°N 82.000°E / 48.500; 82.000, is a Pliocene or Miocene asteroid impact crater, 8 km (5 mi) in diameter and estimated to be 5±3-million years old.

Administrative divisions[edit]

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

Almaty and Astana cities have the status of State importance and do not relate to any region. The city of Baikonur has a special status because it is currently being leased to Russia with Baikonur cosmodrome until 2050.[3]

Each region is headed by an akim (regional governor) appointed by the president. Municipal akims [akimi?] are appointed by region akims. Kazakhstan's government transferred its capital from Almaty to Astana on 10 December 1997.

West Kazakhstan Region Atyrau Region Mangystau Region Aktobe Region Kyzylorda Region South Kazakhstan Region Jambyl Region Almaty Region Karagandy Region East Kazakhstan Region Pavlodar Region Akmola Region North Kazakhstan Region Kostanay Region Astana Almaty Baykonur Oral Atyrau Aktau Aktobe Kostanay Kyzylorda Petropavl Kokshetau Shymkent Karaganda Taraz Pavlodar Taldykorgan Oskemen
A clickable map of Kazakhstan exhibiting its 14 regions. vde


Main article: Economy of Kazakhstan
Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world's oldest and largest operational space launch facility.

Kazakhstan has the largest and strongest performing economy in Central Asia. Supported by rising oil output and prices, Kazakhstan’s economy grew at an average of 8% per year over the past decade.[59] Kazakhstan was the first former Soviet Republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund, 7 years ahead of schedule.[60]

Buoyed by high world crude oil prices, GDP growth figures were 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.[61] 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.[62][63]

Kazakhstan’s fiscal situation is stable. The government has continued to follow a conservative fiscal policy by controlling budget spending and accumulating oil revenue savings in its Oil Fund – Samruk-Kazyna. The global financial crisis forced Kazakhstan to increase its public borrowing to support the economy. Public debt increased to 13.4 per cent in 2013 from 8.7 per cent in 2008. Between 2012 and 2013 the government achieved an overall fiscal surplus of 4.5 per cent.[64]

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 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.

Economic stewardship during the Global Financial Crisis
Kazakhstan weathered the global financial crisis well through a dexterous response, combining fiscal relaxation with monetary stabilization. In 2009, the government introduced large-scale support measures such as the recapitalization of banks and support for the real estate and agricultural sectors, as well as for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The total value of the stimulus programs amounted to $21 billion, or 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, with $4 billion going to stabilize the financial sector.[65] During the global economic crisis, Kazakhstan’s economy contracted by 1.2% in 2009, while the annual growth rate subsequently increased to 7.5% and 5% in 2011 and 2012, respectively.[59]

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.

On 29 November 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 7 July 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 20 June 2003, and a new customs code on 5 April 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 79.2 million tons in 2012 up from 51.2 million tons in 2003. 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 1 January 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 is studying a project to create a unified national pension fund and transfer all the accounts from the private pension funds into it.[66]

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.

According to the 2010–11 World Economic Forum in Global Competitiveness Report, Kazakhstan was ranked 72nd in the world in economic competitiveness.[67] One year later, the Global Competitiveness Report ranked Kazakhstan 50th in most competitive markets.[68]

In 2012, Kazakhstan attracted $14 billion of foreign direct investment inflows into the country at a 7% growth rate making it the most attractive place to invest out of CIS nations.[69]

During the first half of 2013, Kazakhstan's fixed investment increased 7.1% compared to the same period in 2012 totaling 2.8 trillion tenge ($18 billion US dollars).[70]

In 2013, Aftenposten quoted the human-rights activist and lawyer Denis Jivaga as saying that there is an "oil fund in Kazakhstan, but nobody knows how the income is spent".[71]

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov and Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Angel Gurria signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 23 January at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The MoU between Kazakhstan and the OECD focused on implementing the Country Program of Cooperation for 2015–2016.[72] Kazakhstan is one of four countries that have developed joint programs of cooperation with the OECD.[72]

Macroeconomic trends[edit]

Kazakhstan’s economy grew at an average of 8% per year over the past decade on the back of hydrocarbon exports.[59] Despite the lingering uncertainty of the global economy, Kazakhstan’s economy has been stable. GDP growth in January–September 2013 was 5.7%, according to preliminary calculations of the Ministry Economy and Budget Planning.[73]

From January to September 2014 Kazakhstan's GDP grew at 4%.[74] According to the results from the first half of the year, the current account surplus is $6.6 billion, a figure two times higher than that of the first half of 2013.[74] According to the Chairman of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, Kairat Kelimbetov, the increase was caused by a trade surplus of 17.4 percent, or approximately USD 22.6 billion.[74] The overall inflation rate for 2014 is forecasted at 7.4 percent.[74]


Kazakh shepherd: His and his dogs' primary job is to guard the sheep from predators.

Agriculture accounts for approximately 5% of Kazakhstan's GDP.[3] Grain, potatoes, vegetables, melons 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. Over 80% of the country’s total area is classified as agricultural land, including almost 70% occupied by pasture. Its arable land has the second highest availability per inhabitant (1.5 hectares).[75]

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 one of the places that the apple originated, particularly the wild ancestor of Malus domestica, Malus sieversii.[76] It has no common name in English, but is known in its native Kazakhstan as alma. The region where it is thought to originate is called Almaty: "rich with apple".[77] This tree is still found wild in the mountains of Central Asia, in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Xinjiang in China.

Natural resources[edit]

Headquarters of KazMunayGaz, Kazakhstan's national oil and gas company.

Kazakhstan has an abundant supply of accessible mineral and fossil fuel resources. Development of petroleum, natural gas, and mineral extractions, such as potassium, 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,[78] 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. Perhaps most significant for economic development, Kazakhstan also currently has the 11th largest proven reserves of both petroleum and natural gas.[79]

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. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration Kazakhstan was producing approximately 1,540,000 barrels (245,000 m3) of oil per day in 2009.[80]

Kazakhstan also possesses large deposits of phosphorite. One of the largest known being the Karatau basin with 650 million tonnes of P2O5 and Chilisai deposit of Aktyubinsk/Aqtobe phosphorite basin located in north western Kazakhstan, with a resource of 500–800 million tonnes of 9% ore.[81][82]

On 17 October 2013, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) accepted Kazakhstan as "EITI Compliant", meaning that the country has a basic and functional process to ensure the regular disclosure of natural resource revenues.[83]


Turkestan-Siberia Railway line connects Central Asia with Russian Siberia.
Main article: Transport in Kazakhstan

Most cities are connected by railroad; high-speed trains go from Almaty (the southernmost city) to Petropavl (the northernmost city) in about 18 hours.[citation needed]


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.[84]

Green economy[edit]

The government has set the goals that a transition to the Green Economy in Kazakhstan occur by 2050. The green economy is projected to increase GDP by 3% and create more than 500 thousand new jobs.

The government of Kazakhstan has set prices for energy produced from renewable sources. The price of 1 kilowatt-hour for energy produced by wind power plants was set at 22.68 tenge ($0.12). The price for 1 kilowatt-hour produced by small hydro-power plants is 16.71 tenge ($0.09), and from biogas plants it’s 32.23 tenge ($0.18).[85]

Foreign direct investment[edit]

As of 30 September 2012, foreign investors had placed a total of $177.7 billion in Kazakhstan.[86] According to the US State Department, Kazakhstan is widely considered to have the best investment climate in the region.[86] In 2002 the country became the first sovereign in the former Soviet Union to receive an investment-grade credit rating from an international credit rating agency. Foreign direct investment (FDI) plays a more significant role in the national economy than in most other former Soviet republics.[87]

President Nazarbayev signed into law tax concessions to promote foreign direct investment which include a 10-year exemption from corporation tax, an 8-year exemption from property tax, and a 10-year freeze on most other taxes.[88] Other incentives include a refund on capital investments of up to 30 percent once a production facility is in operation.[88]

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the President of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), co-chaired the Kazakhstan Foreign Investors’ Council with President Nursultan Nazarbayev.[89] In May 2014, the EBRD and government of Kazakhstan created the Partnership for Re-Energizing the Reform Process in Kazakhstan to work with international financial institutions to channel US$2.7 billion provided by the Kazakh government into important sectors of Kazakhstan’s economy.[90] The partnership will boost investment and drive forward reforms in the country.[90]

As of May 2014, Kazakhstan attracted $190 billion in gross foreign investments since its independence in 1991 and it leads the CIS countries in terms of FDI attracted per capita.[91] One of the factors that attract foreign direct investments is country's political stability. According to the World Bank's report, Kazakhstan is among the top 40% of countries in the world that are considered the most politically stable and free of violence.[92]

Kazakhstan also received high ratings in a survey conducted by Ernst & Young in 2014. According to EY's 2014 Kazakhstan Attractiveness Survey, "Investor confidence in Kazakhstan’s potential is also at an all-time high with 47.3% of respondents expecting Kazakhstan to become increasingly attractive over the next three years."[93] The high level of economic, political and social stability and Kazakhstan’s competitive corporate tax rate were the primary reasons mentioned for its attractiveness.[93]

Bond market[edit]

In October 2014 Kazakhstan introduced its first overseas dollar bonds in 14 years.[94] Kazakhstan issued $2.5 billion of 10-and 30-year bonds on 5 October 2014 in what was the nation’s first dollar-denominated overseas sale since 2000.[94] Kazakhstan sold $1.5 billion of 10-year dollar bonds to yield 1.5 percentage points above midswaps and $1 billion of 30-year debt at 2 percentage points over midswaps.[94] The country drew bids for $11 billion.[94]

Economic competitiveness[edit]

Kazakhstan achieved its goal of entering the top 50 most competitive countries in 2013 and has maintained its position in the 2014–2015 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report that was published at the beginning of September 2014.[95] Kazakhstan is ahead of other states in the CIS in almost all of the report’s pillars of competitiveness, including institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market development, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation, lagging behind only in the category of health and primary education.[95] The Global Competitiveness Index gives a score from 1 to 7 in each of these pillars, and Kazakhstan earned an overall score of 4.4.[95]

Housing market[edit]

The housing market of Kazakhstan grows progressively since 2010.[96] In 2013, the total housing area in Kazakhstan amounted to 336.1 million square meters.[96] The housing stock rose over the year to 32.7 million squares, which is nearly 11% increase.[96] Between 2012 and 2013, the living area per Kazakh citizen rose from 19.6 to 20.9 square meters.[96] The urban areas concentrate 62.5 percent of the country’s housing stock.[96] The UN’s recommended standard for housing stands at 30 square meters per person.[96] Kazakhstan will be able to reach the UN standards by 2019 or 2020, if in the medium term the housing growth rate remains within 7 percent.[96]

"Nurly Zhol" economic policy[edit]

On 11 November 2014 President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev delivered an unexpected state-of-the-nation address in Astana at an extended session of the Political Council of the Nur Otan party, introducing a "Nurly Zhol" (Bright Path), a new economic policy that implies massive state investment in infrastructure over the next several years.[97] The "Nurly Zhol" policy is accepted as preventive measures needed to help steer the economy towards sustainable growth in the context of the modern global economic and geopolitical challenges, such as the 25%-reduction in the oil price, reciprocal sanctions between the West and Russia over Ukraine, etc.[97] The policy embraces all aspects of economic growth, including finances, industry and social welfare, but especially emphasises investments into the development of infrastructure and construction works.[97] Given recent decreases in revenues from the export of raw materials, funds will be used from Kazakhstan’s National Fund.[97]


Kazakhstan is the highest ranked CIS country in the World Economic Forum's Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator for determining the development level of a country’s information and communication technologies.[98] Kazakhstan ranked number 38 overall in the NRI ranking in 2014, up from 43 in 2013.[99]


Central Asian ethnolinguistic patchwork, 1992.
Kazakhstanis on the Lake Dzhasybay beach, Pavlodar Region.
Kazakh man on a horse with golden eagle. (Photo taken c. 1911–14.)

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.[100] In 2013, Kazakhstan's population rose to 17,280,000 with a 1.7% growth rate over the past year according to the Kazakhstan Statistics Agency.[101]

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%,[10] with a rich array of other groups represented, including Tatars (1.3%), Ukrainians (2.1%), Uzbeks (2.8%), Belarusians, Uyghurs (1.4%), Azerbaijanis, Poles,[102] and Lithuanians. Some minorities such as Germans (1.1%) (Germans who had previously settled in Russia, especially Volga Germans), Ukrainians, Koreans, Chechens,[103] 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.[104]

Significant Russian immigration also connected with Virgin Lands Campaign and Soviet space program during the Khrushchev era.[105] In 1989, ethnic Russians were 37.8% of the population and Kazakhs held a majority in only 7 of the 20 regions of the country. Before 1991 there were one million Germans in Kazakhstan; most of them emigrated to Germany following the breakup of the Soviet Union.[106] 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.

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.

Population of Kazakhstan according to ethnic group 1926–2009
census 19261 census 19702 census 19893 census 19994 census 20095
Number  % Number  % Number  % Number  % Number  %
Kazakhs 3,627,612 58.5 4,161,164 32.4 6,534,616 39.7 8,011,452 53.5 10,096,763 63.1
Russians 1,275,055 20.6 5,499,826 42.8 6,227,549 37.8 4,480,675 29.9 3,793,764 23.7
Uzbeks 129,407 2.1 207,514 1.6 332,017 2.0 370,765 2.5 456,997 2.8
Ukrainians 860,201 13.9 930,158 7.2 896,240 5.4 547,065 3.7 333,031 2.1
Germans 51,094 0.8 839,649 6.5 957,518 5.8 353,462 2.4 178,409 1.1
1 Source:[107] 2 Source:[108] 3 Source:[109] 4 Source:[110] 5 Source:[10]


Kazakhstan is officially a bilingual country: Kazakh, a Turkic language spoken natively by 64.4% of the population, has the status of "state" language, while Russian, which is spoken by most Kazakhstanis, is declared an "official" language, and is used routinely in business, government, and inter-ethnic communication, although Kazakh is slowly replacing it. Other minority languages spoken in Kazakhstan include Uzbek, Ukrainian, Uyghur, Kyrgyz, and Tatar. English, as well as Turkish, have gained popularity among youth since the collapse of USSR. Education across Kazakhstan is conducted in either Kazakh, Russian, or both.[citation needed]


Kazakhstan religiosity (2009)[11][111]
Orthodox Christianity
Other Christian
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.
Eastern Orthodoxy is the second largest religion in Kazakhstan.

According to the 2009 Census, 70% of the population is Muslim, 26% Christian, 0.1% Buddhists, 0.2% others (mostly Jews), and 3% Irreligious, while 0.5% chose not to answer.[11] According to its Constitution, Kazakhstan is a secular state.

Religious freedoms are guaranteed by Article 39 of Kazakhstan's Constitution. Article 39 states: "Human rights and freedoms shall not be restricted in any way." Article 14 prohibits "discrimination on religious basis" and Article 19 ensures 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 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, 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.[112]

Some figures show a majority being non-denominational Muslims[113] while others showing a majority of Muslims are Sunnis following the Hanafi school, including ethnic Kazakhs, who constitute about 60% the population, as well as by ethnic Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Tatars.[114] Less than 1% are part of the Sunni Shafi`i school (primarily Chechens). There are also some Ahmadi Muslims.[115] There are a total of 2,300 mosques,[112] all of them are affiliated with the "Spiritual Association of Muslims of Kazakhstan", headed by a supreme mufti.[116] Unaffiliated mosques are forcefully closed.[117] Eid al-Adha is recognized as a national holiday.[112]

One quarter of the population is Russian Orthodox, including ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians.[118] Other Christian groups include Roman Catholics and Protestants.[114] 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.[112] Other religious groups include Judaism, the Bahá'í Faith, Hinduism, Buddhism, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[114]

According to the 2009 Census data, there are very few Christians outside the Slavic and Germanic ethnic groups:[119]


Main article: Education in Kazakhstan
L.N.Gumilyov Eurasian National University in Astana is one of Kazakhstan's top universities.

Education is universal and mandatory through to the secondary level and the adult literacy rate is 99.5%.[120] 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 vocational education. Vocational Education usually lasts 3 or 4 years.[121] (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 and linguistic and technical gymnasiums have been founded. Secondary professional education is offered in special professional or technical schools, lyceums or colleges and vocational schools.[120]

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 (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.

Over 2,500 students in Kazakhstan have applied for student loans totaling about $9 million. The largest number of student loans come from Almaty, Astana and Kyzylorda.[122]

Graduation day of a Bolashak scholar.

The Ministry of Education of Kazakhstan runs a highly successful[citation needed] Bolashak scholarship scheme, awarded annually to around 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 a number of institutions including the University of Aberdeen, University of Edinburgh, University of Cambridge, Harvard University, King's College London, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, University of Oxford, University College London, Purdue University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Sydney, Technical University Munich, Imperial College London, University of Tokyo, University of Warwick, University of Southern California and others. The terms of the program include mandatory return to Kazakhstan for at least five years of consecutive employment.

The training and skills development programs in Kazakhstan are also supported by international organizations. For example, on March 30, 2015 the World Banks' Group of Executive Directors approved a $100 million loan for the Skills and Job project in Kazakhstan.[123] The project aims to provide relevant training to unemployed, unproductively self-employed, and current employees in need of training.[123]

Human rights and media[edit]

On 3 June 2014 OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier appointed Kazakh diplomat Madina Jarbussynova as OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Human Trafficking.[124]

In November 2012, 183 members of the United Nations General Assembly elected Kazakhstan to serve a three-year term on the Human Rights Council, the United Nations key forum for tackling entrenched human rights concerns around the world.[125]

In 2009, Kazakhstan published a National Human Rights Action Plan.[126]

With support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative opened a media support center in Almaty to bolster free expression and journalistic rights in Kazakhstan.[127]

In 2002, Kazakhstan created a Human Rights Ombudsman with the mandate to protect the human rights of Kazakhstan’s citizens from encroachments by state officials, to ensure the development of protective legislation and to introduce and expand educational programs.[128]

Kazakhstan is ranked 161 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders.[129] A mid-March 2002 a court order, with the government as a plaintiff, stated that Respublika were to stop printing for three months.[130] The order was evaded by printing under other titles, such as Not That Respublika.[130] In early 2014 a court also issued a cease publication order to the small-circulation Assandi-Times newspaper, saying it was a part of the Respublika group. Human Rights Watch said: "this absurd case displays the lengths to which Kazakh authorities are willing to go to bully critical media into silence."[131]

The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have signed an agreement to help the Kazakh government develop child protection systems and laws that meet international standards. This agreement will support the existing Kazakh program called ‘The Improvement of the Justice for Children and Child Rights Protection System” that focuses on the rights of child victims, children who are witnesses of crime and children in conflict with the law.[132]

Rule of Law[edit]

ABA Rule of Law Initiative
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) opened its first Kazakhstan office in the city of Almaty in 1993 and is currently based in Astana. Since then, ABA ROLI has had offices in Shymkent and Oskemen. ABA ROLI has also had a separate media support center in Almaty.[133]

The Rule of Law Initiative of the American Bar Association has programs to train justice sector professionals in Kazakhstan.[134]

Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court has taken recent steps to modernize and to increase transparency and oversight over the country’s legal system. With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative began a new program in April 2012 to strengthen the independence and accountability of Kazakhstan’s judiciary.[135]

In November 2012, Kazakhstan hosted the European Union's Rule of Law Initiative’s first Regional Seminar “Administrative Justice: Theory and Practice in European and Central Asian Countries” in Astana. At this seminar, led by Germany, concrete proposals regarding rules for an Administrative Procedure Code were introduced.[136]

The Procurator General of Kazakhstan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation collaborated in a complex seven-year investigation into an 11 February 2006 triple homicide of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, Baurzhan Baibosyn, and Vasiliy Zhuravlev.[137] The ranking American diplomat in Kazakhstan, Ambassador John Ordway, praised in a press conference the "exceptional cooperation between Kazakhstani and American law enforcement." Ordway emphasized that the FBI's investigation was independent from the Procurator General's office, and the FBI had full and immediate access to all materials and information."

The international non-government organization, the World Justice Project, presented the Rule of Law Index 2014. The overall rule of law score for Kazakhstan is 71 points, Uzbekistan – 73 points, China – 76 points, Kyrgyzstan – 78 points, Russia – 80 points.[138]

Transparency International-supported Anti-Corruption School opens in Almaty
Almaty’s first nationwide Anti-Corruption School opened on 23 April 2014.[139] The school is supported by Transparency International Kazakhstan, the Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan, the Agency for Fighting against Economic and Corruption Crimes (the Financial Police), Turan University, the Kazakhstan Association of Higher Education, and Kazakhstan TemirZholy.[139] The school will teach students, civil society representatives, journalists and other interested citizens about using various anti-corruption instruments and tools.

Anti-corruption initiatives[edit]

In November 2014 Kazakhstani authorities stated that they intend to devise a 2015–2025 Program for Fighting Corruption.[140] According to General Prosecutor of Kazakhstan, a 10-year anti-corruption plan will be devised because a successful fight in that regard would raise the business community and public's trust in the authorities.[140] In late 2014 former Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Serik Akhmetov was put under house arrest on corruption charges.[141] This was followed by the arrest of former Akim (Mayor) of Karaganda city Meiram Smagulov and head of the department on land relations Yernar Daribekov.[141] Other Karaganda officials are suspected of being involved in corruption related crimes as well.[141]

President Nazarbayev has been public about the need to root out corruption, and has established the Commission on the Fight against Corruption.[142] President Nazarbayev has created the Commission on the Fight against Corruption, and the Nur Otan Party political council adopted the Programme for the Prevention of Corruption for 2015–2025 in November 2014.[143]

On 26 December 2014 President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree introducing the new anti-corruption strategy for 2015–2025 initiated by the Nur Otan party in July of previous year.[144] The document mainly concentrates on measures preventing the conditions that foster corruption rather than fighting the consequences of corruption.[144]

The Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Fighting with Economic and Corruption Crimes (Financial Police) is the key body responsible for preventing, detecting and investigating different types of economic, financial and corruption crimes.[145] The Agency is obliged to participate in the development of the government’s anti-corruption policy and to monitor its implementation and is responsible for organising anti-corruption awareness-raising campaigns and anti-corruption education, in addition to ensuring cooperation with international organisations and civil society in the area of fighting corruption.[145]

The country's anti-corruption efforts resulted in Kazakhstan's rank improving by 13 in 2014's Transparency International rankings from the previous year.[146]

The first deputy chairman of the Nur Otan party held an international round table titled “Prospects for the Expansion of the Right to Access Information, Forms of Social Control and Anti-Corruption in Kazakhstan.”[147] The Nur Otan party has created a 2015-2025 anti-corruption program, whereby 13 pieces of legislation have been presented to implement the program. [147]

Another important anti-corruption initiative was introduced by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in July 2014, when he signed a new Criminal Code.[148] The new Code toughened punishments for corruption, a lifetime ban on the right to hold certain positions if convicted, and enhanced penalties for bribery.[148]


Riders in traditional dress demonstrate Kazakhstan's equestrian culture by playing a kissing game, Kyz kuu ("Chase the Girl"), one of a number of traditional games played on horseback. [149]

Before the Russian colonization, the Kazakhs had a highly developed culture based on their nomadic pastoral economy. Although Islam was introduced to most of the Kazakhs in the 15th century, the religion was not fully assimilated until much later.[citation needed]

Abai Qunanbaiuli, Kazakh poet, composer and philosopher.

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 passionate about horse-riding.[citation needed]

Kazakhstan is home to a large number of prominent contributors to literature, science and philosophy: Abay Qunanbayuli, Mukhtar Auezov, Gabit Musirepov, Kanysh Satpayev, Mukhtar Shakhanov, Saken Seyfullin, Jambyl Jabayev, among many others.

Jochi Mausoleum, Karagandy Region, Kazakhstan.

Tourism is a rapidly growing industry in Kazakhstan and it is joining the international tourism networking. In 2010, Kazakhstan joined The Region Initiative (TRI) which is a Tri-regional Umbrella of Tourism related organisations. TRI is functioning as a link between three regions: South Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Armenia, Bangladesh, India, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Nepal, Tajikistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Ukraine are now Partners and Kazakhstan is linked with other South Asian, Eastern European and Central Asian countries in tourism market.


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 beshbarmak. They also drink their national beverage, which consists of fermented mare's milk.[citation needed]


Main article: Sport in Kazakhstan
Nik Antropov, a professional ice hockey player from Kazakhstan.
Astana Arena, a national stadium Kazakhstan.

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 wrestling and billiards. The following are all well-known Kazakhstani athletes and world-championship medalists: Bekzat Sattarkhanov, Vassiliy Jirov, Alexander Vinokourov, Bulat Jumadilov, Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov, Olga Shishigina, Andrey Kashechkin, Aliya Yussupova, Dmitriy Karpov, Darmen Sadvakasov, Yeldos Ikhsangaliyev, Askhat Zhitkeyev, Maxim Rakov, Aidar Kabimollayev, Yermakhan Ibraimov, Vladimir Smirnov, Ilya Ilin.

2011 Asian Winter Games 
Hosted by Kazakhstan.
The most popular sport in Kazakhstan. The Football Federation of Kazakhstan (FFK; Kazakh: Қазақстанның Футбол Федерациясы Qazaqstannıñ fwtbol federacïyası) is the sport's national governing body. The FFK organises the men's, women's and Futsal national teams.
Ice hockey 
The Kazakhstani national ice hockey team has competed in ice hockey in the 1998 and 2006 Winter Olympics as well as in the 2006 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships.
Cycling is a popular activity throughout the country. Kazakhstan's most famous cyclist is Alexander Vinokourov. [citation needed]
Since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan's boxers have won many medals, quickly moving up the all-time Olympic boxing medal table from last to a current 11th place. Three Kazakh boxers, Bakhtiyar Artayev, Vassiliy Jirov and Serik Sapiyev, have won the Val Barker Trophy, leaving Kazakhstan second (after the United States) in total number of victories.
World IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight champion Vladimir Klitschko was born in Kazakhstan in 1976.
The Kazakhstan national bandy team is among the best in the world and has won the bronze medal at the Bandy World Championship for men many times. In the 2011 Bandy World Championship, the team reached extra time in the semifinal before their defeat by Sweden. The 2012 Championship will be hosted by Kazakhstan. [150]
Askhat Zhitkeyev won silver at the 2008 Olympics and Yeldos Smetov won the 2010 Junior World Championships in the 55 kg (121 lb) category.
Olympic weightlifting 
Zulfiya Chinshanlo won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. [citation needed]

In December 2014 the outgoing head of Kazakhstan's soccer federation, Adilbek Zhaksybekov, said Kazakhstan was planning bidding to host 2026 FIFA World Cup.[151]


Main article: Cinema of Kazakhstan
International Astana Action Film Festival

Kazakhstan's film industry is run through the state-owned Kazakhfilm studios based in Almaty. The studio has produced award winning movies such as Myn Bala, Harmony Lessons, and Shal. Kazakhstan is host of the International Astana Action Film Festival and the Eurasian Film Festival held annually. Hollywood director Timur Bekmambetov is from Kazakhstan and has become active in bridging Hollywood to the Kazakhstan film industry.[citation needed]

Kazakhstan journalist Artur Platonov won Best Script for his documentary "Sold Souls" about Kazakhstan's contribution to the struggle against terrorism at the 2013 Cannes Corporate Media and TV Awards.[152][153]

Serik Aprymov’s Little Brother (Bauyr) won at the Central and Eastern Europe Film Festival goEast from the German Federal Foreign Office.[154]

UNESCO World Heritage sites[edit]

Kazakhstan has three cultural and natural heritages on the UNESCO World Heritage list: the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yassaui, Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly and Korgalzhyn & Nauryzumsky reserves.[155]

Public holidays[edit]

Source: [156] [157]

Date English name Local name/s Notes
1–2 January New Year's Day Жаңа жыл (Jaña jıl)
Новый Год (Novy God)
7 January Eastern Orthodox Christmas Рождество Христово
(Rojdestvo Xrïstovo / Rozhdestvo Khristovo)
from 2007 official holiday
8 March International Women's Day Халықаралық әйелдер күні (Xalıqaralıq äyälder küni)
Международный женский день (Mezhdunarodny zhensky den)
21–23 March Nauryz Meyramy Наурыз мейрамы (Nawrız meyramı) Originally the Persian new year, is traditionally a springtime holiday marking the beginning of a new year.
1 May Kazakhstan People's Unity Day Қазақстан халқының бірлігі мерекесі
(Qazaqstan xalqınıñ birligi merekesi)
7 May Defender of the Fatherland Day Отан Қорғаушы күні (Otan Qorgaushy kuny)
День Защитника Отечества (Den Zashitnika Otechestva)
from 2013 official holiday
9 May Great Patriotic War Against Fascism Victory Day Жеңіс күні (Jeñis küni)
День Победы (Den Pobedy)
A holiday in the former Soviet Union carried over

to present-day Kazakhstan and other former republics (Except Baltic countries).

6 July Capital City Day Астана күні (Astana küni)
День столицы (Den stolitsy)
Birthday of the First President
30 August Constitution Day Қазақстан Республикасының Конституциясы күні
(Qazaqstan Respublikasınıñ Konstïtucïyası küni)
День Конституции Республики Казахстан (Den Konstitutsiy Respubliki Kazakhstan)
Last day of Hajj
In 2013 October 15
Qurban Ayta Құрбан айт (Qurban ayt)
Курбан айт (Kurban ayt)
from 2007 official holiday.
1 December First President Day Тұңғыш Президент күні (Tungysh President kuny)
День Первого Президента (Den Pervogo Presidenta)
from 2013 official holiday
16–17 December Independence Day Тәуелсіздік күні (Täwelsizdik küni)
День независимости (Den nezavisimosti)
Independence From The Soviet Union

a Eid al-Adha, the Islamic "Feast of the Sacrifice".

Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy[edit]

A comprehensive state plan aimed at bringing Kazakhstan into the ranks of the world’s 30 most developed countries.

During his annual state of the nation address in Astana on 15 December 2012, President Nazarbayev introduced the new Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, a state plan aimed at bringing Kazakhstan into the ranks of the world’s thirty most-developed countries by the middle of the twenty-first century.[158]

At his 2014 State of the Nation address, President Nazarbayev expanded on his strategic vision for the country, calling the Strategy 2050 "a beacon, which will allow us to achieve our goal while we work on day-to-day living." He further outlined its implementation in two stages and its core principles.[159]

Astana Roundtable[edit]

A roundtable discussion titled “The Implementation of the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy and the Role of Kazakhstan in the International Community” was held on 15 September 2014 in Astana.[160] Foreign diplomats, deputies of parliament and officials from the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs gathered i to discuss progress on key goals set out in the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy.[160] The participants commended the 2050 strategy for its comprehensive character; focus on qualitative development and stability.[160]

Chargé d'Affaires of the United States to Kazakhstan John Ordway stressed that Kazakhstan is an important strategic partner of the United States.[160] Meanwhile, Acting UN Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan, UNFPA Sub-regional Office Director Nikolai Botev, lauded Kazakhstan's initiatives in nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear safety, as well as intercultural cooperation.[160]

Membership of international organizations[edit]

Kazakhstan's membership of international organizations includes:

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Alexandrov, Mikhail (1999). Uneasy Alliance: Relations Between Russia and Kazakhstan in the Post-Soviet Era, 1992–1997. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-30965-5. 
  • Clammer, Paul; Kohn, Michael & Mayhew, Bradley (2004). Lonely Planet Guide: Central Asia. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet. ISBN 1-86450-296-7. 
  • Cummings, Sally (2002). Kazakhstan: Power and the Elite. London: Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-854-1. 
  • Demko, George (1997). The Russian Colonization of Kazakhstan. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-0380-2. 
  • Fergus, Michael & Jandosova, Janar (2003). Kazakhstan: Coming of Age. London: Stacey International. ISBN 1-900988-61-5. 
  • George, Alexandra (2001). Journey into Kazakhstan: The True Face of the Nazarbayev Regime. Lanham: University Press of America. ISBN 0-7618-1964-9. 
  • Martin, Virginia (2000). Law and Custom in the Steppe. Richmond: Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-1405-7. 
  • Nazarbayev, Nursultan (2001). Epicenter of Peace. Hollis, NH: Puritan Press. ISBN 1-884186-13-0. 
  • Nazpary, Joma (2002). Post-Soviet Chaos: Violence and Dispossession in Kazakhstan. London: Pluto Press. ISBN 0-7453-1503-8. 
  • Olcott, Martha Brill (2002). Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0-87003-189-9. 
  • Rall, Ted (2006). Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?. New York: NBM. ISBN 1-56163-454-9. 
  • Robbins, Christopher (2007). In Search of Kazakhstan: The Land That Disappeared. London: Profile Books. ISBN 978-1-86197-868-4. 
  • Rosten, Keith (2005). Once in Kazakhstan: The Snow Leopard Emerges. New York: iUniverse. ISBN 0-595-32782-6. 
  • Thubron, Colin (1994). The Lost Heart of Asia. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-018226-1. 

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Coordinates: 48°N 68°E / 48°N 68°E / 48; 68