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A country of western central Asia, stretching for some 3200 km (2000 miles) from the Caspian Sea to Xinjiang. It is bounded by China on the east, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan on the south, the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan on the west, and Russia on the north.


In the north a belt of fertile steppe with rich, black earth (chernozem) provides scope for cultivation. Southward, however, it becomes more arid, degenerating into the Kara-Kum desert. On the east Caspian coast, oil and natural gas are found. Further east, towards the Aral Sea, is a clay desert plateau; east and south-east of it, sand desert. To the east of this are the stony Kazakh uplands with huge coal deposits in their northern slopes and copper in their southern ones. Here is the extensive and partly saline Lake Balkhash, which is slowly evaporating.


Kazakhstan has rich and varied mineral deposits, including tungsten, copper, lead, uranium, diamonds, coal, and iron ore. The production of oil and gas is now of major importance. Industry is largely based on the exploitation of mineral reserves. There is also some light and manufacturing industry. Grain production and sheep-rearing dominate agriculture.


For centuries, the steppelands of Kazakhstan were the home of nomadic Kazakh herdsmen, ruled by Mongol khans, whose territories were steadily annexed by Tsarist Russia during the 19th century, the khanate being abolished in 1848. A nationalist movement developed in the early 20th century and there was a bloody anti-Tsarist revolt in 1916. In 1917 a national government was proclaimed in the capital Alma Ata; but this was suppressed by the Red Army, which occupied the country (1919–20), and large numbers of Russians and Ukrainians moved in. It became the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which in 1936 became a full republic within the Soviet Union. Vast areas (some ten million acres) were developed for agriculture as state farms, while there was also heavy industrialization during the 1930s and 1940s. Large mineral deposits, including uranium, were discovered and exploited, particularly around Lake Balkhash. After 1941 Stalin's regime forcibly moved German, Greek, and Armenian deportees into the republic. In October 1990 it proclaimed its sovereignty, and in December 1991 its independence was recognized. The Communist-derived ruling party remained in power, under President Nursultan Nazarbayev. A new constitution was approved by referendum in 1995 and gave Nazarbayev ultimate power. He was re-elected in 1999 but observers condemned the elections as unfair. In December 1997 the capital was transferred from Almaty to Aqmola, which was renamed Astana. Nazarbayev was again re-elected in 2005.

Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)




2,717,300 sq km (1,048,887 sq miles)


15,186,000 (2005)


1 tenge = 100 tiyn


Sunni Muslim; Eastern Orthodox

Ethnic Groups:

Kazakh 53.4%; Russian 30.0%; Ukrainian 3.7%; Tatar, Armenian, Azeri, German, Greek, and Korean minorities


Kazakh (official); Russian; minority languages

International Organizations:

UN; OSCE; Commonwealth of Independent States; Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council

Subjects: World History.

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