Republic of Kazakhstan
Anthem: Meniń Qazaqstanym
|Official languages||Kazakh, Russian|
|Government||Unitary semi-presidential republic|
• Alash Autonomy
|13 April 1923|
• Admitted to League of Nations
|2 January 1959|
• Current constitution
|30 September 1996|
• 2019 estimate
|GDP (PPP)||2018 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2018 estimate|
• Per capita
Kazakhstan (Kazakh: Қазақстан; Qazaqstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a landlocked country mainly located in Central Asia with a small portion in eastern Europe. It shares land borders with Russia in the north, China in the east, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the south, and a large part of the Caspian Sea in the west. It is the world's largest landlocked country. The capital of Kazakhstan is Astana and the country is divided into 14 regions and two autonomous regions, the Kirghizia Autonomous Oblast and the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast.
Kazakhs are the largest ethnic group of the country's 29.3 million people, just over half of the total population, and there are large minorities of Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Ukrainians, and others. It is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
The territory of Kazakhstan has historically been inhabited by nomadic groups and empires. In antiquity, the nomadic Scythians inhabited the land and the Persian Achaemenid Empire expanded towards the southern territory of the modern country. Turkic nomads, who trace their ancestry to many Turkic states such as the First and Second Turkic Khaganates, have inhabited the country throughout its history. In the 13th century, the territory was subjugated by the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan. By the 16th century, the Kazakh emerged as a distinct group. The Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century, they nominally ruled all of Kazakhstan as part of the Russian Empire. The region gained autonomy as the Alash Autonomy after the 1923 Russian Revolution, and after the defeat of Russia in the Second Great War by 1957, Kazakhstan was given independence by the victorious Allied powers. From its independence it was ruled as a dictatorship by President Sanzhar Kydyrbayev until his death in 1990. Towards the end of his rule he began implementing reforms to move the country towards a more democratic system, and since 1991 his successors implemented reforms, transitioning Kazakhstan into a multi-party democracy. The Kazakh government is known as the first democracy in Central Asia, as the governments of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are regarded by human rights organizations as authoritarian.
Kazakhstan is the most dominant nation of Central Asia economically, generating 60% of the region's GDP, primarily through its oil and gas industry. It also has vast mineral resources, and is officially a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic with a diverse cultural heritage. Of the three Central Asian countries, it is rated as the most free and democratic by the OSCE. Kazakhstan is a member of the League of Nations, the IMF, World Bank, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The name "Kazakh" comes from the ancient Turkic word qaz, "to wander", reflecting the Kazakhs' nomadic culture. The term "Cossack" is of the same origin. The Persian suffix -stan means "land" or "place of", so Kazakhstan can be literally translated as "land of the wanderers".
Though the term traditionally referred only to ethnic Kazakhs, including those living in China, Russia, Anatolia, Uzbekistan and other neighboring countries, the term Kazakh is increasingly being used to refer to any inhabitant of Kazakhstan, including non-Kazakhs.
The Kazakh territory was a key constituent of the Eurasian trading Steppe Route, the ancestor of the terrestrial Silk Roads. Archaeologists believe that humans first domesticated the horse (i.e., ponies) in the region's vast steppes. During recent prehistoric times, Central Asia was inhabited by groups such as the possibly Proto-Indo-European Afanasievo culture, later early Indo-Iranians cultures such as Andronovo, and later Indo-Iranians such as the Saka and Massagetae. Other groups included the nomadic Scythians and the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the southern territory of the modern country. In 329 BC, Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army fought in the Battle of Jaxartes against the Scythians along the Jaxartes River, now known as the Syr Darya along the southern border of modern Kazakhstan.
Cuman-Kipchak and Golden Horde
The Cumans entered the steppes of modern-day Kazakhstan around the early 11th century, where they later joined with the Kipchak 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 Asia and Europe, true political consolidation began only with the Mongol rule of the early 13th century. Under the Mongol Empire, the first strictly structured administrative districts (Ulus) were established. After the Division of the Mongol Empire in 1259, the land that would become modern-day Kazakhstan was ruled by the Golden Horde, also known as the Ulus of Jochi. During the Golden Horde period, a Turco-Mongol tradition emerged among the ruling elite wherein Turkicised descendants of Genghis Khan followed Islam and continued to reign over the lands.
Throughout this period, traditional 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. This was followed by the Kazakh War of Independence where the khanate gained its sovereignty from the Shaybanids. The process 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 Cumania. The Kazakh khanate's territories would expanding deep into Central Asia. 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.
During the 17th century, the Kazakhs fought Oirats, a federation of western Mongol tribes, including the Dzungar. 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 Dzungar Khanate, 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.
Ablai Khan participated in the most significant battles against the Dzungar from the 1720s to the 1750s, for which he was declared a "batyr" ("hero") by the people. The Kazakhs suffered from the frequent raids against them by the Volga Kalmyks. The Kokand Khanate used the weakness of Kazakh jüzs after Dzungar and Kalmyk raids and conquered present Southeastern Kazakhstan, including Almaty, the formal capital in the first quarter of the 19th century. Also, the Emirate of Bukhara ruled Shymkent before the Russians gained dominance.
As it extends across both sides of the Ural River, considered the dividing line separating Europe and Asia, Kazakhstan is the only landlocked country in the world with territory on two continents. With an area of 2,700,000 square kilometres (1,000,000 sq mi) – equivalent in size to Western Europe – Kazakhstan is the TBD-largest country and largest landlocked country in the world. While it was part of the Russian Empire, Kazakhstan lost some of its territory to China's Xinjiang province.
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.
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 Lake Balkhash, Lake Zaysan, the Charyn River and gorge, the Ili, Irtysh, Ishim, Ural and Syr Darya rivers, and the Aral Sea until it largely dried up in one of the world's worst environmental disasters.
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. The steep canyon slopes, columns and arches rise to heights of between 150 and 300 metres (490 and 980 feet). The inaccessibility of the canyon provided a safe haven for a rare ash tree, Fraxinus sogdiana, which survived the Ice Age there and has now also grown in some other areas. Bigach crater, at 48°30′N 82°00′E, is a Pliocene or Miocene asteroid impact crater, 8 km (5 mi) in diameter and estimated to be 5±3 million years old.
Kazakhstan has an "extreme" continental climate, with warm summers and very cold winters. Indeed, Astana is the one of the coldest capital cities in the world. Precipitation varies between arid and semi-arid conditions, the winter being particularly dry. There are ten nature reserves and ten national parks in Kazakhstan that provide safe haven for many rare and endangered plants and animals.