Kazakhstan -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Kazakhstan
Capital City: Astana
Official Currency: tenge,
Religions: Muslim 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, other 7%
Land Area: 2,717,300 sq km (Land- 2,669,800 sq km; Water- 47,500 sq km)
Landforms: extends from the Volga to the Altai Mountains and from the plains in western Siberia to oases and desert in Central Asia; lowest point: Vpadina Kaundy -132 m; highest point: Khan Tangiri Shyngy (Pik Khan-Tengri) 6,995 m; major deposits of petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, manganese, chrome ore, nickel, cobalt, copper, molybdenum, lead, zinc, bauxite, gold, uranium; climate: continental, cold winters and hot summers, arid and semiarid
Land Divisions: 14 provinces (oblystar, singular - oblys) and 3 cities (qala, singular - qalasy); Almaty Oblysy, Almaty Qalasy, Aqmola Oblysy (Astana), Aqtobe Oblysy, Astana Qalasy, Atyrau Oblysy, Batys Qazaqstan Oblysy (Oral), Bayqongyr Qalasy, Mangghystau Oblysy (Aqtau), Ongtustik Qazaqstan Oblysy (Shymkent), Pavlodar Oblysy, Qaraghandy Oblysy, Qostanay Oblysy, Qyzylorda Oblysy, Shyghys Qazaqstan Oblysy (Oskemen), Soltustik Qazaqstan Oblysy (Petropavlovsk), Zhambyl Oblysy (Taraz)
Kazakhsan -- History --
Kazakhstan has been inhabited since the Stone Age: the region's climate and terrain are best suited for nomads practising pastoralism. Historians believe that humans first domesticated the horse in the region's vast steppes. 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 thirteenth century AD. Under the Mongol Empire, administrative districts were established, and these eventually came under the emergent Kazakh Khanate (Ak Horde).
Throughout this period traditional nomadic life and a livestock-based economy continued to dominate the steppe. In the fifteenth 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 a distinctive Kazakh language, culture, and economy. Nevertheless, the region was the focus of ever-increasing disputes between the native Kazakh emirs and the neighboring Persian-speaking peoples to the south. By the early 17th century, the Kazakh Khanate was struggling with the impact of tribal rivalries, which has 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.
During the 16th and 17th centuries Kazakhs fought Oirats and Dzungars. The beginning of the 18th century marked the zenith of the Kazakh Khanate. During this period the Little Horde participated in the 1723 - 1730 war against the Dzungars, following their "Great Disaster" invasion of Kazakh territories. Under leadership Abul Khair Khan the Kazakhs won major victories over the Dzungar at the Bulanty River (1726) and at the Battle of Anrakay in 1729.
In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire began to expand, and spread into Central Asia. The "Great Game" period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second less intensive phase followed. The tsars effectively ruled over most of the territory belonging to what is now the Republic of Kazakhstan.
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 it and the United Kingdom. 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 extreme resentment by the Kazakh people, and by the 1860s, most Kazakhs resisted Russia's annexation largely because of the disruption it wrought upon the traditional nomadic lifestyle and livestock-based economy, and the associated hunger which was rapidly wiping out some Kazakh tribes. The Kazakh national movement, which began in the late 1800s, 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 Slavic settlers began colonising 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 in St. Petersburg.
The competition for land and water which 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 villages, killing indiscriminately. The Russians' revenge was merciless. A military force drove 300,000 Kazakhs to flee into the mountains or to China. When approximately 80,000 of them returned the next year, many of them were slaughtered by Tsarist forces. During the 1921-22 famine, another million Kazakhs died from starvation. Today, the estimates suggest that the population of Kazakhstan would be closer to 20 million if there was no starvation or massacre of Kazakhs.
Although there was a brief period of autonomy during the tumultuous period following the collapse of the Russian Empire, many uprisings were brutally suppressed, and the Kazakhs eventually succumbed to Soviet rule. In 1920, the area of present-day Kazakhstan became an autonomous republic within Russia.
Soviet repression of the traditional elite, along with forced collectivization in late 1920s–1930s, brought mass hunger and led to unrest. Between 1926 and 1939, the Kazakh population declined by 22%, due to starvation, violence and mass emigration. During the 1930s, many renowned Kazakh writers, thinkers, poets, politicians and historians were slaughtered on Stalin's orders, both as part of the repression and as a methodical pattern of suppressing Kazakh identity and culture. Soviet rule took hold, and a communist apparatus steadily worked to fully integrate Kazakhstan into the Soviet system. In 1936 Kazakhstan became a Soviet republic.
Kazakhstan experienced population inflows of millions exiled from other parts of the Soviet Union during the 1930s and 1940s; many of the deportation victims were deported to Siberia or Kazakhstan merely due to their ethnic heritage or beliefs, and were in many cases interned in some of the biggest Soviet labor camps. (See also: Population transfer in the Soviet Union, Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union.) The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) 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.
The period of World War II marked an increase in industrialization and increased mineral extraction in support of the war effort. At the time of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death, however, Kazakhstan still had an overwhelmingly agricultural-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.
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 has contributed to this immensely was Lavrentii Beria's decision to test a nuclear bomb on the territory of Kazakh SSR in Semipalatinsk (also known as Semey) in 1949. This had a catastrophic ecological and biological effect which was felt generations later, and Kazakh anger toward the Soviet system has escalated. In December 1986, mass demonstrations by young ethnic Kazakhs, later called Jeltoksan 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 find expression under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost.
Caught up in the groundswell of Soviet republics seeking greater autonomy, Kazakhstan declared its sovereignty as a republic within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in October 1990. Following the August 1991 abortive coup attempt in Moscow and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan declared independence on December 16, 1991. It was last of the Soviet republics to declare independence.
The years following independence have been marked by significant reforms to the Soviet-style economy and political monopoly on power. Under Nursultan Nazarbayev, who initially came to power in 1989 as the head of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan and was eventually elected President in 1991, Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward developing a market economy. The country has enjoyed significant economic growth since 2000, partly due to its large oil, gas, and mineral reserves.
But, democracy has not improved much since 1991. "In June 2007, Kazakhstan's parliament passed a law granting President Nursultan Nazarbayev lifetime powers and privileges, including access to future presidents, immunity from criminal prosecution, and influence over domestic and foreign policy. Critics say he has become a de facto "president for life." Over the course of his ten years in power, Nazarbayev has repeatedly censored the press through arbitrary use of "slander" laws, blocked access to opposition web sites (9 November 1999), banned the Wahhabi religious sect (5 September 1998), drawn criticism from Amnesty International for excessive executions following specious trials (March 21, 1996) and harsh prison conditions (13 August 1996), and refused demands that the governors of Kazakhstan's 14 oblasts be elected, rather than appointed by the president (April 7, 2000)."
Kazakhstan -- Economy --
The government of Kazakhstan plans to double its Gross domestic product (GDP) by 2008 and triple it by 2015 as compared to 2000. GDP growth has been stable in the last five years, at a rate higher than 9%. Buoyed by high world crude oil prices, GDP growth figures were in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005: 9.8%, 13.2%, 9.5%, 9.2%, 9.4%, and 9.2%, respectively. Other major exports of Kazakhstan include wheat, textile, and livestock. Kazakhstan forecasts that it will become the world's leading exporter of Uranium by the year 2010.
Kazakhstan's monetary policy is generally considered by outside observers to be well-managed. Its principal challenge since 2002 has been to manage strong foreign currency inflows without sparking inflation. Since that time, inflation has not been under control, registering at 6.6% in 2002, 6.8% in 2003, and 6.4% in 2004, higher than forecast levels of 5.3%-6.0%. In 2000 Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 7 years ahead of schedule. In March 2002, the U.S. Department of Commerce granted Kazakhstan market economy status under U.S. trade law. This change in status recognized substantive market economy reforms in the areas of currency convertibility, wage rate determination, openness to foreign investment, and government control over the means of production and allocation of resources.
In September 2002 Kazakhstan became the first country in the CIS to receive an investment-grade credit rating from a major international credit rating agency. As of late December 2003, Kazakhstan's gross foreign debt was about $22.9 billion. Total governmental debt was $4.2 billion. This amounts to 14% of GDP. There has been a noticeable reduction in the ratio of debt to GDP observed in past years; 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%.
The upturn in economic growth, combined with the results of earlier tax and financial sector reforms, has dramatically improved government finances 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. On November 29, 2003 the Law on Changes to Tax Code was adopted, which reduced tax rates. The value added tax fell from 16% to 15%, the social tax from 21% to 20%, and the personal income tax from 30% to 20%. (On July 7, 2006 the personal income tax was reduced even further to a flat rate of 5% for personal income in the form of dividends and 10% for other personal income.) Kazakhstan furthered its reforms by adopting a new land code on June 20, 2003, and a new customs code on April 5, 2003.
Energy is the leading economic sector. Production of crude oil and natural gas condensate in Kazakhstan amounted to 51.2 million tons in 2003, which was 8.6% more than in 2002. Kazakhstan raised oil and gas condensate exports to 44.3 million tons in 2003, 13% higher than in 2002. Gas production in Kazakhstan in 2003 amounted to 13.9 billion cubic meters (491 billion cu. ft), up 22.7% compared to 2002, including natural gas production of 7.3 billion cubic meters (258 billion cu. ft); Kazakhstan holds about 4 billion tons of proven recoverable oil reserves and 2,000 cubic kilometers (480 cu mi) of gas. Industry analysts believe that planned expansion of oil production, coupled with the development of new fields, will enable the country to produce as much as 3 million barrels (477,000 m³) per day by 2015, lifting Kazakhstan into the ranks of the world's top 10 oil-producing nations. Kazakhstan's 2003 oil exports were valued at more than $7 billion, representing 65% of overall exports and 24% of the GDP. Major oil and gas fields and their recoverable oil reserves are Tengiz with 7 billion barrels (1.1 km³); Karachaganak with 8 billion barrels (1.3 km³) and 1,350 km³ of natural gas); and Kashagan with 7 to 9 billion barrels (1.1 to 1.4 km³).
Kazakhstan instituted an ambitious pension reform program in 1998. As of January 1, 2005, the pension assets were about $4.1 billion. There are 16 saving pension funds in the republic. The State Accumulating Pension Fund, the only state-owned fund, could be privatized as early as 2006. The country's unified financial regulatory agency oversees and regulates the pension funds. The pension funds' growing demand 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 Kazakhstani banking system is developing rapidly. The banking system's capitalization now exceeds $1 billion. The National Bank has introduced deposit insurance in its campaign to strengthen the banking sector. Several major foreign banks have branches in Kazakhstan, including ABN AMRO, Citibank, and HSBC. Raiffeisen Zentralbank and UniCredit have both recently entered the Kazakhstan's financial services market through acquisitions and stakebuilding.
Kazahstan -- Culture --
Before the Russian colonisation, the Kazakhs had a well-articulated culture based on their nomadic pastoral economy. Although Islam was introduced to most of the Kazakhs in the fifteenth century, the religion was not fully assimilated until much later. As a result, it coexisted with earlier elements of Tengriism. Traditional Kazakh belief held that separate spirits inhabited and animated the earth, sky, water, and fire, as well as domestic animals. To this day, particularly honored guests in rural settings are treated to a feast of freshly killed lamb. Such guests are sometimes asked to bless the lamb and to ask its spirit for permission to partake of its flesh. Besides lamb, many other traditional foods retain symbolic value in Kazakh culture.
Traditional moral values of Kazakhs are respect of the elders and hospitality to strangers.
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 besbarmak.
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 affectionate about horse-riding. Traditional curses and blessings invoked disease or fecundity among animals, and good manners required that a person ask first about the health of a man's livestock when greeting him and only afterward inquire about the human aspects of his life. Even today many Kazakhs express interest in equestrianism and horse-racing.
Kazakhstan is home to a large number of prominent contributors to literature, science and philosophy: Abai Kunanbaiuli, Al-Farabi, Mukhtar Auezov, Gabit Musrepov, Zhambyl Zhabaev, Gabit Musrepov, Saken Seifullin, Mukhtar Shahanov, among many others.
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, tri-athlon, track-hurdles, sambo, greco-roman wrestling, billiards. The following are all well-known Kazakhstani athletes and world-championship medalists: Bekzat Sattarhanov, Vassili Zhirov, Alexander Vinokourov, Bulat Zhumadilov, Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov, Olga Shishigina, Andrey Kashechkin, Aliya Yusuppova, Dmitriy Karpov, Darmen Sadvakassov, Yeldos Ikhsangaliyev, Aidar Kabimollayev, Yermakhan Ibraimov, Vladimir Smirnov, among others.
Kazakhstan features a lively music culture, evident in massive popularity of Superstar.KZ, a local offspring of Simon Fuller's American Idol. Almaty is considered to be the musical capital of the Central Asia, recently enjoying concerts by well-known artists such as Deep Purple, Tokyo Hotel, Atomic Kitten, Dima Bilan, Loon, Craig David, Black Eyed Peas, Eros Ramazzotti, Jose Carreras, among others.
During the recent years, Kazakhstan has experienced somewhat of a revival of the Kazakh language, which is returning into mainstream usage both in media, law, business as well as the general society. This is widely approved by Kazakh people and the international organisations as a way of preserving the national identity and culture, but has in some cases caused anxiety among Russian-Kazakhstanis, Russia-sponsored special-interest groups in Kazakhstan and some high-ranking politicians in Russia.
The Parliament is considering the introduction of Latin alphabet for use in Kazakh language to replace Cyrillic. The reasons that are popularly cited are cultural considerations and the Turkic nature of the Kazakh language. Turkic languages such as Turkish and Uzbek use the Latin alphabet. However, the imposition of the Latin alphabet in Kazakhstan would involve massive costs of translation and replacement of the vast Kazakh literature.
Kazakhstan -- Political system, law and government --
Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic. The president is the head of state. The president also is the commander in chief of the armed forces and may veto legislation that has been passed by the Parliament. The prime minister chairs the Cabinet of Ministers and serves as Kazakhstan's head of government. There are three deputy prime ministers and 16 ministers in the Cabinet. Karim Masimov has served as the Prime Minister since 10 January 2007.
Kazakhstan has a bicameral Parliament, made up of the lower house (the Majilis) and upper house (the Senate). Single mandate districts popularly elect 67 seats in the Majilis; there also are ten members elected by party-list vote rather than by single mandate districts. The Senate has 39 members. Two senators are selected by each of the elected assemblies (Maslikhats) of Kazakhstan's 16 principal administrative divisions (14 regions, or oblasts, 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.
On the December 1 of 2007, it was revealed that Kazakhstan has been chosen to chair OSCE for the year 2010.