The Republic of Kazakhstan
LOCATION AND LANDSCAPE: Kazakhstan is a vast country covering more than 2.7 million sq km. The country spans over 2,600 km from its western border with Russia to its eastern flank on the Chinese border, thus located in the core of the Eurasian continent. The territory of Kazakhstan is greater than that of the twelve countries of the European Union, and is the ninth largest country of the world. Kazakhstan has a most varied landscape, stretching from the mountainous regions of the east to the energy-rich lowlands in the west, and from the industrialized north, with its Siberian climate and terrain, through the vast, arid steppes of the center, to the fertile south.
POPULATION: Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic country, home to people of over 100 nationalities. In 2000 Kazakhstan had an estimated population of 14,843,700 with an average population density of 5.5 persons per sq km. Over the last 10 years, the ethnic Kazakh population increased by 22.9%, and today it constitutes 53.4% of total Kazakhstan population. Among the country's other ethnic groups are Russians (30%), Ukrainians (3.7%), Uzbeks (2.5%), Germans (2.4%), Tatars (1.7%), Uygurs (1.4%), Tajiks, Belorussians, Koreans, Azerbaijanis, Bashkirs, Chechens, Dungans, Ingushs, Jews, Kurds, Kyrgyzs, Dargyns, Meskhetian Turks and others. The urban-rural dimension is almost evenly split, with 56% of the population living in urban areas and 44% in rural regions. The Kazakh ethnic group is spread all over the world, including China, Uzbekistan, Russia, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, the USA, and European countries. Worldwide, the total number of Kazakhs is estimated at 10,823,479 people.
CAPITAL: Astana (formerly called Akmola) is the official capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan since December 10, 1997. It is located 1,300 km north of Almaty (the biggest Kazakhstan city and the former capital), and has the population of 322,400 people (2000 est.). Kazakhstan is administratively composed of 14 oblasts (regions), 84 cities, 160 rayons (districts), 241 urban type settlements, and 2,042 auls (villages).
GOVERNANCE: Independence and sovereignty was proclaimed in 1991. Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic with strong presidency. The head of state is the President Nursultan Nazarbayev, first elected in 1991, then re-elected in 1995 and 1999. The head of the Government is Prime Minister Kassymzhomart Tokaev. The bicameral Parliament comprises the upper house (Senate) and the lower house (Majilis). The higher judicial bodies are the Supreme Court and Constitutional Council.
LANGUAGES: The official state language is Kazakh, a Turkic language closely related to Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Turkish. Russian is the language of inter-ethnic communication, widely spoken in urban areas, whereas people from rural regions tend to speak more Kazakh. English is used by international organizations and the foreign business community in Kazakhstan. Uygur, Korean and other ethnic minorities speak their national regional languages and dialects.
RELIGION: Kazakhstan is officially a secular state, but Sunni Islam is the major religion. The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant Christian denomination. There are also Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish communities. The Kazakhs do not express their religious feelings fervently. Kazakhstan is on the periphery of the Muslim world and a meeting point of Russian, Chinese and Central Asian civilizations. Islam plays a minor role in state policy and there are no significant Islamic political organizations in the country. Muslim 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, Catholic 2-3 %, mostly Russians and Koreans Buddhists 0.3%, Korean, Buryet, Kalmyk Jews 0.1%, etc.
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY: Today, 16 political parties of differing ideological orientation are registered in Kazakhstan. There are 3,500 NGOs in the Republic, their activities covering more than thirty activity directions, including entrepreneurship support, people’s rights, protection activities, promotion of legal knowledge among the public, preventing social conflicts, and assistance in social development of rural areas, among others. Seventy per cent of the 1,431 mass media operating in Kazakhstan are non-governmental. Of 1,292 periodicals currently being published, 218 are printed in Kazakh, 540 in Russian, 407 in both languages and 127 in various other languages used in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan's citizens read newspapers in 11 languages, watch TV programs in 12 and listen to radio broadcasts in 6.
ECONOMIC INDICATORS (2000 data):
GDP – 18.3 billion dollars (U.S.)
Exports – 9,139.5 million dollars (U.S.): fuel and oil products, ferrous metals, copper and copper products, grain, inorganic chemicals, etc.
Imports – 5,052.1 million dollars (U.S.): reactors and machinery, fuel and oil products, electrical equipment, vehicles, ferrous metal products, etc.
Official unemployment rate - 3.7 %
Some interesting facts about Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan lies at the crossroads of ancient civilizations, the intersection of major transportation routes, cultural, economic, social and ideological links between Europe and Asia, between the East and the West. The South of Kazakhstan, as a part of the Great Silk Road, features a unique complex of historical, archaeological, architectural and cultural monuments. The Northern part of the route runs through the South of Kazakhstan and Semirechye and was the main connection for international trade and cultural exchange. From remote times its inhabitants, the ancestors of the present-day Kazakhs, were engaged in cattle breeding and farming, and created an original culture. Some outstanding monuments of their cultural life have survived in the form of burial mounds, sites of ancient settlements, fortifications, mausoleums and even whole towns. On the territory of contemporary Kazakhstan there are more than 22 sites of ancient settlements, including local rulers' (khans) palaces.
Unique among them is an unexcelled masterpiece of mediaeval architecture –the mausoleum complex of Hodja Ahmed Yassaui, erected at the end of the 14th century in the town of Turkestan and reflecting many achievements of preceding epochs. Hodja Ahmed Yassaui was one of the most prominent Turkic poets and was worshipped as a Muslim saint. The mausoleum became a sacred place for Moslems from all over the world and is visited by 100 - 250 people every day, and during religious holidays the number of pilgrims increases up to 1, 000 people a day.
Magnificent are burial treasures taken from the tombs of the warrior chiefs of the Saka people. This nomadic tribe inhabited the steppe of Central Asia between the 8th and 3rd centuries B.C. The protagonist is the so-called "Golden Man", uncovered in Issyk, just a few kilometers from the city of Almaty. This armed warrior is covered with a gold plate that boasts decoration featuring leopards, mountain goats, winged horses and floral motifs in gold and precious stones. It dates to the fourth or fifth century B.C. Even the blade and hilt of the sword were covered with gold plates depicting animal scenes, so typical of the animal-based art of the nomadic peoples of these regions. The Issyk burial mound is one of the world-famous cultural heritages of Kazakhstan.
Even more impressive finding is a royal burial place, one of the thirty mounds discovered in the Berel area, Eastern Kazakhstan at the foothills of the Altai mountains. A king and a queen, and thirteen chestnut horses in full attire had rested in the burial mound for over two thousand years. Many legends have grown up about the enigmatic tribes who inhabited the harsh and mysterious Altai, and a lot still remains a mystery. This makes the finding at Berel a world-class scientific discovery that will help to uncover more secrets of the ancient inhabitants of the Great Steppe.
All the peoples inhabiting the territory of modern Kazakhstan and Central Asian republics played an important role in the development of mediaeval culture and science. In the 9th to 11th centuries the names of some brilliant scholars became widely known: the great philosopher, mathematician and musician Al-Farabi, the brilliant physician and philosopher Avicenna, and the eminent scholar and man of learning Abu Raihan al-Biruni, the scholar and philologist Mahmud Kashgari, who compiled a dictionary of Turkic dialects, which is an invaluable source for the study of Turkic languages.
Astana (former Akmola) became a new capital of Kazakhstan in 1997 and is being extensively developed to become an important administrative, cultural and scientific center of the Republic. Akmola steppes have always been a territory of inter-ethnic communication of various nations and cultures. Numerous caravan routes gave birth to cities with prosperous trade and handicrafts here, while the population - apart from traditional cattle breeding - was engaged in farming. In the XIXth century Akmola was a substantial commercial and economic center in the Steppe.
Almaty, the former capital of the Republic, spreading out at the foothills of the Zaili Alatau, is a very beautiful city with extremely picturesque surroundings. The picturesque variety of the surrounding landscape and the proximity of the snow-capped Zaili Alatau Mountains add a special charm to this beautiful city.
Medeo, the world-famous skating-rink, is probably the most visited and attractive site within the Almaty area. It derives its name from that of an ancient nomad, Medeo, who founded a village in that fabulous place. The road to Medeo snakes along the Maloye Almatinskoye Ushchelye (canyon). Once a year the Medeo stadium is de-iced and transformed into a huge concert stage. It becomes the venue of the popular song festival "The Voice of Asia" (Azia Dauysy) that draws together young and world famous singers from different countries of the world.
Khan Tengry at the altitude of 7.010 m. above sea level is the highest peak of Kazakhstan, the second highest peak in the Central Tian Shan, and one of the most picturesque mountains in the world. Its splendid marble top attracts alpinists from all over the globe.
Charyn Canyon, also called "a young brother of the Grand Canyon", is nearly 200 m long and 100 to 300 meters high. The red clay walls of the canyon are carved with deep fissures, caves, grottoes of different shapes and sizes. They create an impression of a huge, ghost city inhabited by fantastic creatures.
Unexpected paradise can be found on the territory of the State Park of Altyn-Emel, with rock paintings, the enormous variety of the fauna and the Singing Barkhan. This unique miracle of the nature is a 300-m. high sand hill, which utters sounds, resembling the siren of riverboats.
In Tamgaly ravine, not far from Almaty archaeologists discovered about a thousand of the rock paintings, still unknown to the world. This place is really the ancient gallery of art, featuring pictures of discs, chariots, tamgas (family songs), preying inscriptions. The gallery of Tamgala's petroglyphs is the world's treasure and is kept under the protection of UNESCO.
A crossroad of nomad populations and different cultures for a number of centuries, Kazakhstan offers extraordinary evidence of civilizations, history, traditions and natural beauty, both fascinating and complex to fully grasp at once.