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Republic of Kazakhstan

Kazakstan Respublikasy

CAPITAL: Astana (formerly Akmola, Tselinograd)

FLAG: Light blue with a yellow sun and soaring eagle in the center and a yellow vertical ornamentation in the hoist.

ANTHEM: National Anthem of Kazakstan.

MONETARY UNIT: The tenge (t), issued in 15 November 1993, is the national currency, replacing the ruble (r). There is a coin, the tyin. One hundred tyin equal one tenge. t1 = $0.00749 (or $1 = t133.44; as of 2005), but exchange rates fluctuate widely.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in force.

HOLIDAYS: New Year, 31 December1 January; International Women's Day, 8 March; Nauryz (Kazak New Year), 28 March; Solidarity Day, 1 May; Victory Day, 9 May; Independence Day, 25 October.

TIME: 5 pm = noon GMT.


Kazakhstan is located in southern Asia between Russia and Uzbekistan, bordering on the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea, with a total area of 2,717,300 sq km (1,049,155 sq mi). Kazakhstan shares boundaries with Russia on the n and w, China on the e, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan on the s, and the Caspian Sea on the w. Kazakhstan's boundary length totals 12,012 km (7,464 mi). Its capital city, Astana, is located in the north-central part of the country.


The topography of Kazakhstan is varied. There are three mountain regions, the Altay Shan in the northeast, the Tian Shan in the southeast, and the Ural Mountains in the northwest. In the center of the country are vast stretches of desert and steppe (arid grassy plains). Most of the country is desert, semidesert, or steppe.

The highest point in the country is Khan Tangiri Shyngy, a peak at 6,398 m (20,991 ft) in the Tian Shan. The lowest point is Vpadina Kaundy, which is located in the southwest region known as the Karagiye Depression and dips to 132 m (433 ft) below sea level. Severe earthquakes are periodically experienced in the seismically active region along the Tian Shan.

The Irtysh River, near the northeast border, is the longest river to pass through Kazakhstan. It has a length of 4,441 km (2,760 m). Two of the world's largest lakes are shared by Kazakhstan: The Caspian Sea (the world's largest lake) and the Aral Sea (the fourthlargest in the world). The largest inland lake completely within the borders of the country is Lake Balkhash, with an area of 18,200 sq km (7,300 sq mi). It is the fifteenth-largest in the world.


The country has an arid continental climate. In January, the mean temperature is -5°c (23°f). Rainfall averages between 25 cm (9.8 in) and 38 cm (15 in). Because of the wide ranges in elevation in the country, there are wide variations in temperature and rainfall.


The sparse plant covering in the desert consists of saltworts, wormwoods, alhagi, and a haloxylon typical of the southern desert. Forests, particularly in the mountain regions, include cedar, larch, spruce, and juniper. Animals native to the country include the antelope, snow leopard, ibex, sand cat, and jerboa. As of 2002, there were at least 178 species of mammals, 379 species of birds, and over 6,000 species of plants throughout the country.


Kazakhstan faces several important environmental issues. As the site of the former Soviet Union's nuclear testing programs, areas of the nation have been exposed to high levels of nuclear radiation, and there is significant radioactive pollution. The nation also has 30 uranium mines, which add to the problem of uncontrolled release of radioactivity. Kazakhstan has sought international support to convince China to stop testing atomic bombs near its territory, because of the dangerous fallout.

Mismanagement of irrigation projects has caused the level of the Aral Sea to drop by 13 m, decreasing its size by 50%. The change in size has changed the climate in the area and revealed three million hectares of land that are now subject to erosion.

Air pollution in Kazakhstan is another significant environmental problem. Acid rain damages the environment within the country and also affects neighboring countries. In 1992 Kazakhstan had the world's 14th highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 297.9 million metric tons, a per capita level of 17.48 metric tons. In 1996, the total had dropped to 173.8 million metric tons. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 121.3 million metric tons. Pollution from industrial and agricultural sources has also damaged the nation's water supply. United Nations (UN) sources have reported that, in some cases, contamination of rivers by industrial metals was 160 to 800 times beyond acceptable levels. Pollution of the Caspian Sea is also a problem.

Kazakhstan's wildlife is in danger of extinction due to the overall level of pollution. According to current estimates, some areas of the nation will not be able to sustain any form of wildlife by the year 2015. In the areas where pollution is the most severe, 11 species of mammals and 19 species of birds and insects are already extinct. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 15 types of mammals, 23 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 1 species of amphibian, 7 species of fish, 4 species of invertebrates, and 1 species of plants. Th reatened species included the cheetah, the black vulture, the swan goose, the spotted eagle, the asp, the Siberian crane, and the great snipe.


The population of Kazakhstan in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 15,079,000, which placed it at number 62 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 8% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 27% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 92 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.6%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The population began declining in the 1990s due to emigration, declining fertility rates, and lower life expectancy, especially among men. The projected population for the year 2025 was 15,927,000. The population density was 5 per sq km (14 per sq mi), with most people living in the east and north.

The UN estimated that 57% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, but that the population in urban areas was declining at an annual rate of -0.03%. The capital city, Astana (formerly Akmola, Tselinograd), had a population of 332,000 in that year. The former capital, Almaty, is the largest city, with a population of 1,103,000. Other major metropolitan areas and their estimated populations include Karaganda, 437,000; Semey, 400,000; Chimkent, 360,000; Pavlodar, 349,000; and Oskemen, 334,000.


Kazakhs abroad (in China, Mongolia, and other newly independent republics of the former USSR) are encouraged to return. Th ose who fled in Stalin's time automatically received citizenship; others must apply.

In 1996, there was an organized return of 70,000 Kazakhs from Mongolia, Iran, and Turkey. During 199195, some 82,000 Ukrainians and 16,000 Belarussians repatriated. Between 199196, 614,000 Russians repatriated and 70,000 Kazakhs repatriated. During 199296, 480,000 ethnic Germans returned to Germany. These Germans were forcibly deported to Central Asia during World War II as from the Volga region.

As of 1996, 42,000 Kazakhs had been displaced internally or had left for other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries as a result of the ecological problems of the Aral Sea, which had lost three-fourths its volume of water. There were also 160,000 displaced persons as a result of Semey, an above-ground nuclear testing site in northern Kazakhstan.

As of 2004, there were 74,144 refugees and asylum seekers in Kazakhstan. Of these, 13,684 were from Russia. In addition, there were 58,291 persons of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), all ethnic Kazakh who are stateless persons. The majority of the refugee population is located in the former capital Almaty and the southern part of the country.

In 2000 the net migration rate was -12.2 migrants per 1,000 population, amounting to a loss of 200,000 people. By 2005, the net migration rate had declined to an estimated -3.34 migrants per 1,000 population. The government viewed the emigration level as too high.


About 54% of the population are Kazakhs, 30% are Russians, and 3.7% are Ukrainians. The remaining population consists of Uzbeks (2.5%), Germans (2.4%), Tartars (1.7%), Uighurs (1.4%), and other groups.


The constitution declares Kazakh to be the state language and requires the president to be a Kazakh speaker. Kazakh is a Turkic language written in Cyrillic script with many special letters (but in Roman script in China since 1960). Modern Kazakh utilizes many words of foreign origin from Russian, Arabic, Persian, Mongol, Chinese, Tatar, and Uzbek. Only about 64% of all Kazakhs can speak the language effectively. Almost everyone can speak Russian (95%), which has special status as the "language of interethnic communication" and is widely used in the realm of official business.


About 47% of the population are Muslim. The Kazakhs, a distinct ethnic group originating with Turkic and Mongol settlers who arrived there in late antiquity (first century bc), are the dominant group in the population and are primarily Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. Islam had been adopted by the Kazakhs as early as 1043, but many of its popular religious practices did not become common until the late 18th century. The Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Tatars (which together make up less than 10% of the population) are also primarily Sunni Muslim. Other schools represented are Shafit Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, and Akhmadi.

About 33% of the population are Eastern Orthodox. There are several Protestant congregations, including Lutherans, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals, and Seventh-Day Adventists. There is also a small Jewish community. About 2% of the population are Roman Catholic.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, but there are some restrictions placed on nontraditional religious groups. All groups must register with the government to obtain legal status and conduct business transactions. Some groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, have been denied this legal status.


About 13,700 km (8,521 mi) of broad gauge railroad tracks traversed Kazakhstan, as of 2004. Highways totaled 82,980 km (51,614 mi) in 2002, of which about 77,918 km (48,465 mi) were paved. In 1994, General Motors Corp. signed an agreement to distribute North American-built vehicles in Kazakhstan. The primary port is Guryev (Atyrau), on the Caspian Sea. There are 3,900 km (2,423 mi) of inland waterways on the Syrdariya and Ertis Irtysh rivers. Much of the infrastructure connects Kazakhstan with Russia rather than points within Kazakhstan. Although landlocked in the center of Eurasia and dependent on its transport connections through neighboring countries to deliver its goods to world markets, Kazakhstan as of 2005, had three merchant ships of 1,000 GRT or more. In 2004 there were an estimated 314 airports. As of 2005, a total of 66 had paved runways, and there were also 4 heliports. In 2003, about 1.010 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


There is evidence of human habitation in present-day Kazakhstan from the earliest Stone Age, more than 300,000 years ago. The steppe characteristics of most of the region are best suited for nomadic pastoralism, which an ever-shifting pattern of peoples have pursued in this territory. Achaemenid documents give the name Sacae to the first such group to be historically recorded. In the 3rd and 2nd centuries bc they were displaced by the Usun in the east, the Kangiui in the south central region, and the Alani in the west.

The first well-established state was that of the Turkic Kaganate, in the 6th century ad, replaced in the early 8th century by the Turgesh state. In 766, the Karluks established dominance in what now is eastern Kazakhstan. Some of the southern portions of the region fell under Arab influence in the 8th9th centuries, and Islam was introduced. Western Kazakhstan was under Oghuz control in 9th to the 11th centuries; at roughly the same time the Kimak and Kipchak tribes, of Turkic origin, controlled the east. The large central desert of Kazakhstan is still called "Dashti-Kipchak," or the Kipchak Steppe.

The Karluk state was destroyed by invading Iagmas in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. They formed the Karakhanid state, which controlled extensive lands into what is now China. The Karakhanids were in a constant state of war with the Seljuks, to the south, and control of parts of what is now Kazakhstan passed back and forth between them. The Karakhanids collapsed in the 1130s when they were invaded by Khitans, who established the Karakitai state. In the mid-12th century, Khwarazm split off from the weakening Karakitais, but the bulk of the state survived until the invasion of Genghiz Khan from 12191221.

Kazakhstan was part of Batu's Golden Horde, which in the 14th century broke up into the White Horde and Mogulistan. By the early 15th century, the White Horde had split into several large khanates, including the Nogai Horde and the Uzbek Khanate.

The present-day Kazakhs formed in the mid-15th century when clan leaders Janibek and Girei broke away from Abul Khair, leader of the Uzbeks, to seek their own territory in Semirechie, between the Chu and Talas rivers. First to unite the Kazakhs into one people was Khan Kasym (151123). When the Nogai Horde and Siberian Khanates broke up in the mid 16th century, tribes from both joined the Kazakhs. The clans separated into three Hordes: the Great Horde, which controlled Semirechie; the Middle Horde, which had central Kazakhstan, and the Lesser Horde, which had western Kazakhstan.

Russian traders and soldiers began to appear on the northwestern edge of Kazakh territory in the 17th century, when Cossacks founded the forts which became the cities of Uralsk and Gurev. The Kazakh khanate was in disarray at the time, badly pressed by Kalmyk invaders who had begun to move in from the east. Pushed west in what the Kazakhs call their "Great Retreat," the Kazakh position deteriorated until, in 1726, Lesser Horde khan Abul'khair requested Russian assistance. From that point on the Lesser Horde was under Russian control. The Middle Horde was conquered by 1798. The Great Horde remained independent until the 1820s, when pressure from both the Kokand Khanate and Russia forced them to choose what they regarded as the lesser of evils, the Russians.

There was, however, considerable resistance, led by Khan Kenen (Kenisary Kasimov), of the Middle Horde, whose followers fought the Russians 183647. Khan Kenen is now regarded as a Kazakh national hero. Russian attempts to quell this resistance led to establishment of a number of forts and settlements in Kazakh territory, which made Kazakh nomadism impossible and destroyed the Kazakh economy.

In 1863, Russia promulgated a policy in the Gorchakov Circular which asserted the right to annex "troublesome" border areas. It was on this basis that Russian troops began the conquest of Central Asia. Most of Kazakhstan was made part of the Steppe district of the Russian empire; the rest was in Turkestan.

Beginning in the 1890s, Russian settlers were aggressively moved into fertile lands in northern and eastern Kazakhstan, further displacing the nomadic Kazakhs. Between 1906 and 1912 more than a half-million Russian farms were started as part of the Stolypin reforms. By the time of the 1916 uprising the Kazakhs were broken and starving. Despite a strong effort against the Russians, they were savagely repressed.

At the time of the revolution a group of secular nationalists called the Alash Orda attempted to create a Kazakh government, but it lasted less than two years (191820) before surrendering to the Bolsheviks.

The Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was declared in 1920 and elevated to full republic status in 1936. In the period 192934, when Stalin was abolishing private agriculture and establishing huge collective farms, Kazakhstan suffered repeated famines which killed at least 1.5 million Kazakhs, as well as destroying 80% of the republic's livestock.

In World War II much Russian industry was evacuated to Kazakhstan; this was followed in 195365 by the so-called Virgin Lands campaign, which converted huge tracts of Kazakh grazing land to wheat and other cereal production. Th is campaign brought thousands more Russians and other non-Kazakhs to Kazakhstan; as a result Kazakhstan became the only Soviet republic in which the eponymous people were not a majority of the population. Because Russians and other Europeans nearly equal the number of Kazakhs in the republic, virtually every public act requires a delicate balancing of differing interests.

On 16 December 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev replaced Kazakhstan's longtime leader Dinmukhamed Kunayev, a Kazakh, with a Russian from outside the republic. This set off three days of rioting, the first public nationalist protest in the Soviet Union. In June 1989, more civil disturbances hastened the appointment of Nursultan Nazarbayev as republic leader. A metallurgist and a Kazakh, Nazarbayev became prominent in the last Soviet years as a spokesman both for greater republic sovereignty and for the formation of a confederation of former Soviet republics. He was elected president by the Kazakhstan parliament in 1990, which was reaffi rmed by public vote in an uncontested election in December 1991. Not a party to the dissolution of the Soviet Union announced in early December 1991, Nazarbayev prevailed in arguments that Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states must join the new Commonwealth of Independent States.

Nazarbayev arranged a call by an extra-constitutional quasi-legislative 327-member People's Assembly composed of various cultural and ethnic leaders for an 29 April 1995 referendum on extending his rule until the year 2000. The extension was approved by over 93% of voters.

In October 1998, the Kazakh legislature approved constitutional amendments that enabled Nazarbayev to call for an early presidential race for 10 January 1999. The US State Department in November 1998 criticized a decision of the Kazakh Central Electoral Commission (CEC) and the Supreme Court that major opposition figure Akezhen Kazhegeldin was ineligible to run in the presidential race because of his participation in an "unauthorized" democracy meeting. Three candidates were registered besides Nazarbayev, but only one ran as a true opposition candidate. Onerous registration requirements included a $30,000 deposit (forfeited by the losers) and 170,000 signatures gathered in at least 11 of 16 regions. Nazarbayev's candidacy was extensively covered by state-owned media. The Kazakh Central Electoral Commission reported that Nazarbayev had won with 79.8% of about seven million votes cast. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sent only token monitors, and declared on 11 January 1999, that "the electoral processwas far removed" from OSCE standards which Kazakhstan had pledged to follow. At his 20 January inauguration, Nazarbayev pledged to work to create a "democratic society with a market economy," to raise the standard of living, and to uphold existing foreign and ethnic policies. In December 1998 the government moved from Almaty to Astana.

Nazarbayev stated that the geographic location of Kazakhstan and its ethnic makeup dictate its "multipolar orientation toward both West and East." He pursued close ties with Turkey, trade ties with Iran, and better relations with China, which many Kazakhs traditionally viewed with concern as a security threat. Kazakhstan has extensive trade ties with China's Xinjiang Province, where many ethnic Kazakhs and Uighurs reside.

While seeking to protect Kazakh independence, Nazarbayev also pursued close relations with Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members for economic and security reasons. During Nazarbayev's July 1998 visit to Moscow, he and Yeltsin signed a Declaration of Eternal Friendship and Alliance Cooperation, in which both sides pledged to assist each other in the case of threats against each other, including by providing military support. In early 1999, Kazakhstan reaffirmed a CIS collective security agreement pledging the parties to provide military assistance in case of aggression against any one of them. In 1995, Kazakhstan joined the customs union formed by Russia and Belarus, which was reaffi rmed in an accord on "deeper integration" signed in 1996 (Kyrgyzstan also signed and Tajikistan joined in 1998). Nazarbayev has been highly critical of the feeble union. Another customs union, formed in 1994 between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan (joined by Tajikistan in 1998), was set back by the repercussions of the 1998 Russian and Asian financial crises.

Kazakhstan is the most economically developed of the former Soviet Central Asian republics. Kazakhstan's economic prospects are promising because of its vast energy and mineral resources, low foreign debts, and well-trained work force. There is more Western private investment in Kazakhstan than elsewhere in Central Asia because of Kazakhstan's oil resources and efforts to attract investment. Second to Russia, Kazakhstan has the largest oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea regional states, holding promise of large export revenues. On 18 November 1999, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan signed the "Istanbul Protocol" on constructing a trans-Caucasus oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey. Russia's pipelines, the major means for exporting Kazakh oil, were supplemented in 2001 with the opening of a 1,580-km (930-mi) oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to Russia's Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. Kazakhstan has also been involved in an oil swap arrangement with Iran, whereby Kazakhstan sends oil by tanker to northern Iran, and Iran in exchange exports some oil from its Persian Gulf ports. The GDP averaged over 9% 200005 and the unemployment rate for 2005 was a fairly low 8%. The country's economy heavily depends on oil exports, however, the government slowly diversified the economy to include light industry in 2005.

Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Kazakhstan offered the use of its military bases, as well as air space for military and humanitarian purposes during the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda forces. Since 11 September, all radical Islamic groups in the Central Asian nations have been linked with international terrorism. Both the Hizb-ut-Tahrir ("Freedom Party") and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), two radical Islamic organizations looking to establish an Islamic state in Central Asia, have operations in the country, but the major units of the IMU have been destroyed by the US-led coalition.

On 18 November 2001, a new political movement, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) was established, however, Nazarbayev cracked down increasingly on the group throughout 2002 into 2005. In what appeared to be politically motivated cases, two of the DCK's cofounders, Mukhtar Abliyazov and Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, were arrested, convicted of abuse of power and corruption during their tenure in government, and sentenced to prison. Abliyazov was freed from prison in 2003 after receiving an amnesty from Nazarbayev. Zhakiyanov was transferred from prison to a minimum security settlement colony in August 2004.

Of international interest was the scandal dubbed "Kazakhgate" in which Western oil companies allegedly paid millions of dollars to top Kazakh officials, including Nazarbayev, in exchange for lucrative contracts. The media within Kazakhstan was strongly encouraged not to report on the scandal.


In March 1995, the Kazakh Constitutional Court ruled that the March 1994 legislative election was invalid because it violated the principle of "one person, one vote." Constituencies had not been drawn up representing approximately equal populations, and confused voting procedures resulted in electors voting for several candidates, it declared. On 11 March, Nazarbayev announced that the decision was in accordance with the constitution and dissolved the legislature. Some of the dismissed deputies tried to set up an alternative parliament, but the rebel movement soon fell apart. Nazarbayev announced that he would rule by decree pending new elections and called for a new constitution to be drafted, using France's parliamentary system as a model. On 30 August 1995, a referendum on a new constitution that widened presidential powers was passed with 89% of the vote. According to the US State Department, proposals by democracy and human rights advocates during the discussion phase were not incorporated into the final constitutional draft submitted to the referendum, and the turnout and results were "exaggerated."

Compared to an earlier 1993 constitution, the 1995 constitution increases the president's powers and reduces those of the legislature, and places less emphasis on protecting human rights. As fleshed out by a presidential edict, the legislature does not control the budget or its agenda, cannot initiate changes to the constitution, or exercise oversight over the executive branch. The president's nominees for premier and state bank head are ratified by the Majlis, the lower house of parliament, but he appoints the rest of the cabinet. If the legislature fails within 30 days to pass an "urgent" bill brought by the president, he may issue it by decree. About 10% or less of bills are initiated by deputies, but they debate and have forced minor changes in bills initiated by the presidency. While the president has broad powers to dissolve the legislature, it may only remove him for disability or high treason.

In October 1998, without any public debate, the legislature quickly rubber-stamped 19 constitutional amendments and announced an early presidential election. The changes included increasing the presidential term from five to seven years, lifting the 65-year age limit on governmental service, creating party list representation in the Majlis, extending the term of office from four to five years for the lower legislative chamber (the Majlis) and from four to six years for the upper legislative chamber (the Senate). The Majlis consists of 77 seats, 10 of which are elected from the winning party's lists. The Senate has 39 seats (previously 47). Seven senators are appointed by the president; other members are popularly elected, 2 from each of the 14 oblasts, the capital of Astana, and the city of Almaty.

On 10 January 1999, Nazarbayev won reelection as president for a seven-year term in an election that fell far short of international standards. He won 81.7% of the votes cast; three other contenders shared the rest. Nazarbayev's most serious challenger, former prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, was excluded from running on a technicality. In the December 2005 election, Nazarbayev was reelected once again, winning over 90% of the votes. The next election was scheduled for 2012.

Kazakhstan held indirect elections 17 September 1999; regional legislatures elected 32 members of a 39-seat upper legislative chamber, the Senate (On 29 November 1999, the remaining seven Senators were constitutionally appointed by Nazarbayev). The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported that Kazakh Central Electoral Commission (CEC) officials had improperly blocked some monitoring, and cited reports that other officials had threatened local legislators not to vote for oppositionists.

Elections to Kazakhstan's lower legislative chamber, the Majlis, took place on 10 October 1999, with 595 candidates and nine parties competing for 77 seats. Ten seats were reserved for a party list vote. Runoffs on 24 October were required for over two-thirds of constituency seats where no one candidate received over 50%. Ten seats were elected by party lists based on the percentage of votes parties received nationally (with a minimum vote threshold for representation of 7%), and the other 67 by single constituency voting. The Kazakh Communist Party (KPK), Otan, the Civic Party, and the Agrarian Party won seats under party list voting. No candidate nominated by a noncommunist opposition party gained a party list or single constituency seat. About one-half of the winning deputies ran as independents, though many of them were former government officials who were presumably pro-government. OSCE monitors concluded that the race was "a tentative step" in democratization, but decried interference in the race by officials, biased local electoral commissions, manipulation of results, unfair campaign practices by pro-government parties, and harassment of opposition candidates. Members of the KPK, Republican Party, and Azamat joined in a "Forum of Democratic Forces" that on 27 October stated that the Senate and Majlis elections were rigged by the government and were invalid.

The DCK, which was formally registered as a political party in May 2004, formed an electoral bloc with the Communist Party in July 2004 in hopes of gaining more seats in the Majlis. The 2004 Majilis election resulted in Otan capturing 42 of 77 total seats, while independent candidates, The Agrarian PartyCivic Party Bloc (AIST) secured 11 seats, followed by Asar with 4 seats, and the DCK with 1 seat. The only opposition candidate to win a seat, Alikhan Baymenov, announced that he refused to take up his seat in protest over what he considered electoral inconsistencies and fraud.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) again criticized the election for failing to meet international standards for democratic elections. Among the problems noted were electoral ballet stuffi ng, media bias in favor of propresidential candidates and the exclusion of certain candidates for politically motivated reasons among others. None of the opposition parties recognized the outcome of the elections.


The constitution permits the formation of registered political parties, but in practice it is diffi cult to get the necessary legal permissions. Most parties are small, ephemeral, based on personalities, and lack detailed programs. Nine parties and groups participated in the party list part of the October 1999 lower-chamber legislative races, and four passed a 7% vote hurdle to win seats (the Republican People's Party withdrew from the party list vote after its leader, Akezhen Kazhegeldin, was not registered as a candidate). The nine were Otan (Fatherland), Azamat (Citizen), Alash (Patriot), the People's Congress, the Civic Party, the Communist Party, the Agrarian Party, the Labor Party, and the Revival Party. The progovernment Otan party bloc won the most seats in the party vote. Others included the Civic Party, Agrarian Party, and the Communist Party (KPK). Otan was formed in early 1999 from several prominent pro-Nazarbayev parties. The Civic Party, formed in 1998, represents state-industrial interests and hails Nazarbayev as its "spiritual father." Azamat was formed in 1999. Deputy Chair of the party Petr Svoik has called it the "constructive opposition." The Kazakh Communist Party (KPK), reregistered in July 1994, has advocated some economic recentralization and anti-Western policies. The People's Congress, or Social-Democratic Party, has both Kazakh and Russian members and is headed by the Kazakh poet Olzhas Suleymenov. Originally pro-Nazarbayev, the party became increasingly critical of the government after 1993. The nationalist Alash Party has refused to register because of legal requirements that it submit personal information about members to the government. Members of unregistered parties may run for elected office as individuals, but not as party members.

Twelve parties were registered and participated in the 2004 elections. The most important addition was the the DCK, formally registered as a political party in May 2004, which formed an electoral bloc with the Communist Party in July 2004. The 12 were Otan (Fatherland), Azamat (Citizen), AIST (Agrarian Party-Civic Party Bloc), Ak Zhol Party (Bright Path), ASAR (All Together), AUL (Village), Civic Party, Communist Party (KPK), Communist People's Party of Kazakhstan, Democratic Choice Party of Kazakhstan, Democratic Party of Kazakhstan and Alash (Patriots' Party).

A 2002 law raised from 3,000 to 50,000 the number of members that a party must have to register, making it more diffi cult for political pressure groups to form actual opposition parties.

In Uralsk (Western Kazakhstan) and Petropavlovsk (Northern Kazakhstan) there are Cossack obshchinas, or communities, agitating for autonomous status. Denied registry by Kazakhstan, many are active in Cossack obshchinas across the border in Russia, where Cossacks have the right to maintain military organizations and carry weapons.


Kazakhstan is divided into 14 oblasts (provinces); the cities of Almaty, Astana, and Bayqongyr have special administrative status equivalent to that of oblasts. The 14 oblasts are in turn divided into rayons (districts). As of 1999, there were 84 cities, 159 rayons, 241 settlements, and 2,049 auls (villages). Each oblast, rayon, and settlement has its own elective assembly, charged with drawing up a budget and supervising local taxation. Cities have local assemblies as well; if large enough, cities are also divided into rayons, each with its own assembly. These assemblies are also elected for five-year terms. The number of oblasts was reduced from 19 to 14 in 1997 under the government's consolidation program.

The oblast and rayon assemblies do not choose the local executives. According to the 1995 constitution, the local executives, known as glavs or akims, are appointed by the president, upon recommendation by the prime minister. The akims serve at the pleasure of the president, and he has the power to annul their decisions. The akim appoints the members of his staff, who become the local department heads. There is some discussion of shifting to local election of the regional akims.


A new constitution was adopted by referendum in 1995, placing the judiciary under the control of the president and the executive branch. There are local and oblast (regional) level courts, and a national-level Supreme Court and Constitutional Council. A special arbitration court hears disputes between state enterprises. There is also a military court system. Local level courts serve as courts of first instance for less serious crimes such as theft and vandalism. Oblast level courts hear more serious criminal cases and also hear cases in rural areas where no local courts have been established. A judgment by a local court may be appealed to the oblast level. The Supreme Court hears appeals from the oblast courts. The constitution establishes a seven member Constitutional Council to determine the constitutionality of laws adopted by the legislature. It also rules on challenges to elections and referendums and interprets the constitution. The president appoints three of its members, including the chair.

Under constitutional amendments of 1998, the president appoints a chairperson of a Supreme Judicial Council, which nominates judges for the Supreme Court. The Council consists of the chairperson of the Constitutional Council, the chairperson of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General, the Minister of Justice, senators, judges, and other persons appointed by the president. The president recommends and the senate (upper legislative chamber) approves these nominees for the Supreme Court. Oblast judges (nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council) are appointed by the president. Lower level judges are appointed by the president from a list presented by the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry receives the list from a Qualification Collegium of Justice, composed of deputies from the Majlis (lower legislative chamber), judges, prosecutors, and others appointed by the president). Under legislation approved in 1996, judges serve for life.

The constitution calls for public trials where the defendant has the right to be present, the right to counsel, and the right to call witnesses. There is the presumption of innocence of the accused, and the defendant has the right of appeal. In practice, trials of political oppositionists have been closed, and there is widespread corruption among poorly paid judicial personnel. It is a criminal offense to offend the honor and dignity of the president.

Nazarbayev has stated that "the path from totalitarianism to democracy lies through enlightened authoritarianism" but has nonetheless allowed some degree of pluralism. The US State Department concluded in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001 that the Kazakh government respected the human rights of its citizens in some areas, but serious problems remained in others. The government infringed on citizens' right to change their government. Members of the security forces often beat or otherwise abuse detainees, and there were allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention of political opponents. The government infringed on citizens' rights to privacy by conducting unlawful monitoring of correspondence and searches of premises. The government increasingly moved against independent media, harassing and monitoring them, and as a consequence, many journalists practiced self-censorship.

Despite constitutional guarantees, freedom of assembly and association is limited although it is legal to form and join trade unions, and unions are able to engage in strikes. In December 2003, Nazarbayev introduced a moratorium on the death penalty and introduced life imprisonment as an alternative. Prison conditions remained harsh and life-threatening; the government agreed to improve conditions in 2005.

Traditional customs limit the opportunities available to women, and women's rights organizations claim that the penalties regarding domestic violence and sexual harassment are extraordinarily lenient. Traffi cking of women and children is another serious problem which has not seemed to lessen. Amnesty International reports that Kazakhstan is both the origin and transfer point for women being trafficked from South and Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Europe.

Kazakhstan is a member of many international organizations including the United Nations and is an observer at the World Trade organization.


As of 2005, Kazakhstan's armed forces had 65,800 active personnel, of which the Army accounted for 46,800 personnel. Its equipment included 930 main battle tanks, 140 reconnaissance vehicles, 573 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 770 armored personnel carriers, and 986 artillery pieces. The Air Force had 19,000 active personnel (including air defense). Air Force equipment included 164 combat capable aircraft, of which there were 124 fighters and 40 fighter ground attack aircraft. The service's air defense arm operated more than 147 surface-to-air missle batteries. Kazakhstan has no navy. Paramilitary forces included 2,000 presidential guards, an estimated 20,000 internal security troops, and an estimated 12,000 border guards. The defense budget in 2005 was $419 million.


Kazakhstan was admitted to the United Nations (UN) on 2 March 1992; it is a member of ESCAP and several nonregional specialized agencies, including the FAO, IAEA, IFC, IMF, the World Bank, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. Kazakhstan is a member of the Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth of Independent Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the OSCE.

The country has observer status in the WTO and the OAS. In 2000, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan established the Eurasian Economic Community. In June 2001, leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan met in China to launch the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and signed an agreement to fight terrorism and ethnic and religious militancy while promoting trade.

Kazakhstan is part of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, Kazakhstan is part of Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, CITES, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


The Kazakhstan economy is extremely well-endowed with large tracts of arable land and rich reserves of coal, oil, and rare metals. Animal herding was the mainstay of the nomadic Kazakh population before their incorporation into the Soviet Union; wool production remained an important agricultural product, along with grains and meat.

Like other countries of the former USSR, Kazakhstan faced serious economic dislocation after 1991, resulting from the disruption of trade with other post-Soviet republics, an end to the flow of official revenues from the Soviet central government, the decline in state production orders, and the need for sudden currency adjustments. Estimated GDP fell by 8.5% in 1991, 14% in 1992, 15.3% in 1993, and 25% in 1994. Overall output was estimated to have shrunk by one-third between 199093. Positive if weak growth returned in 1996, when real GDP increased 1.1%, followed by an increase of 1.7% in 1997. Recovery was then arrested briefly by the effects of the Russian financial crisis, as real GDP declined 1.9% in 1998, but growth resumed in 1999 with a rise in real GDP of 2.7%. Economic and fiscal reforms in 1999 and a rise in world energy prices helped spur growth to 9.6% in 2000, and to an estimated 12.6% in 2001. Meanwhile significant progress was made in bringing inflation under control. After independence, inflation reached a staggering 2,000% in 1993, declining to 35% in 1994 and 1995, and to 28.6% in 1996. In 1998, in the recession accompanying the Russian financial crisis, inflation fell to 1.9%. With growth in 1999, inflation grew to 8.3% and 13.2% in 2000. However, prudent monetary policies instituted in 1999 helped reduce inflation to an estimated 6.6% in 2001. Fiscal reforms helped to transform a general government deficit equal to 5% of GDP in 1999 to a surplus equal to 2.9% of GDP in 2001. Registered unemployment was only 3.3% in 2001, although according to US State Department and CIA estimates, actual unemployment ranged between 10% and 30%.

A revitalized energy sector supported by substantial foreign investment has been the main factor in the economy's strong performance, but economic reforms and good harvests have also been important elements. Privatization legislation adopted since 1992 has promoted the rapid transfer of small shops and services to the private sector, although large-scale privatization has gone much slower. In 1996, the government concluded an agreement for the 1,580-km (990-mi) Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) pipeline to run from the western Tengiz oil field to the Black Sea. The CPC was officially opened on 27 November 2001. Foreign investment in Kazakhstan's oil industry has helped boost production, with prospects of the country becoming one the world's largest producers at 3.5 million barrels per day by 2015. Such optimistic predictions rest largely on three major oil and gas fieldsTengiz, Karachaganak, and Kashaganthe last of which was hailed by analysts as the world's largest oil discovery in 30 years. An oil pipeline between Kazakhstan and China was being built in the mid-2000s, with the second of three segments completed in December 2004. The pipeline was expected to reach from the Caspian oilfields to the Chinese border, and was expected to be completed around 2010. In January 2001, the president decreed the establishment of the National Fund for the purpose of protecting the economy from the effects of swings in the price of oil and other commodities. In February 2002, the president decreed the formation of a new national energy company, KazMunaiGaz, formed through the merger of Kazakoil, the state oil company, and TransNefteGaz, the state oil and gas transport company. The main purposes of KazMunaiGaz are to ensure a single state policy on energy issues, and to better compete with foreign energy companies.

Kazakhstan enjoyed strong economic growth in 2005, benefiting from record export prices for its energy, minerals, and agricultural exports. The real GDP growth rate stood at 9% in 2005, following a 9.2% expansion in 2004 and 9.5% growth in 2003, but continued growth in imports in 200607 was forecast to lessen the rate of economic expansion. Nevertheless, the growth rate was expected to average just over 8% in 2006, potentially rising to 8.4% in 2007. High producer price inflation and sustained inflows of hard currency were expected to keep annual average consumer price inflation close to 7% in 2006, although it was projected to ease in 2007 as producer costs rose less steeply following lower energy prices. In 2005, agriculture accounted for 7.8% of GDP, with industry contributing 40.4% and services 51.8%. Oil now accounts for more than half of industrial output. The agricultural sector is inefficient and labor-intensive: it is the largest single employer in the country but an increasingly irrelevant exporter. In 2002, agriculture provided 35% of total employment. Due to the growth of the oil sector and the likely real appreciation of the currency, in the long term the agricultural sector will need to be subsidized if it is to survive.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Kazakhstan's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $132.7 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $8,700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 9%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 7.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 7.8% of GDP; industry, 40.4%; and services, 51.8%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $147 million or about $10 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.5% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $268 million or about $18 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.0% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Kazakhstan totaled $16.83 billion or about $1,129 per capita based on a GDP of $30.8 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of -4.3%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 37% of household consumption was spent on food, 20% on fuel, 9% on health care, and 6% on education. It was estimated that in 2004 about 19% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Kazakhstan's labor force in 2005 was estimated at 7.85 million persons. In 2002 it was estimated that the services sector engaged 50% of the workforce, while agriculture accounted for 20%, and industry the remaining 30%. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 7.6%.

Although workers are entitled to join or form unions, registration generally is a lengthy and difficult process. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions claimed about 300,000 members in 2002, but that number is considered to be high. Some workers who have joined independent unions are subjected to various forms of harassment, indicating hostility by local authorities and state-sponsored trade unions. Workers are entitled to strike after all conciliation procedures have been exhausted. Employers must be notified 15 days prior to a strike.

The minimum age for employment is 14 but only for part-time work. Children under 18 have legal protections from hazardous work, and those between 14 and 16 years of age may only work with parental permission. As of 2002, the minimum wage was about $24 per month, which falls below the minimum subsistence amount. The legal maximum workweek is 48 hours, although most enterprises maintain a 40-hour workweek.


In 2003, Kazakhstan had an estimated 22.7 million hectares (56 million acres) of arable land, representing 8.4% of the total land area. Most cropland is found in the northern steppes, where the failed Virgin and Idle Land Project of the 1950s occurred. Small-scale privatization resulted in the formation of 31,055 private farms by 1995, up from 3,333 in 1991. By 2003, there were 149,986 private farms, accounting for 94% of agricultural holdings. The average farm size in 2003 was about 110 hectares (270 acres). Between 1990 and 2000, annual agricultural output fell an average of 7.9%. However, during 200204, output was up almost 15% from 19992001.

Potatoes, fruits, and vegetables are other significant food crops. Less than 2% of agricultural land is used to cultivate commercial crops such as cotton, sugar beets, sunflowers, and flax. Kazakhstan is the only former Soviet republic that exports grain. Wheat accounts for about one-third of all sown acreage. Wheat production declined from 18,285,000 tons in 1992 to 9,900,000 tons in 2004. Similarly, barley production fell from 8,511,000 tons to 1,534,000 tons during that time. Rice is produced in irrigated stretches along the Syrdar'ya near Qyzlorda and around Taldyqorghan in the east. Production amounted to 277,000 tons in 2004.

During the Soviet period, groundwater resources and chemical fertilizers were overused, resulting in depleted soils, decreasing yields, and environmental pollution.


About 70% of Kazakhstan's total land area is permanent pastureland. In 2005, the livestock population included 25.4 million chickens, 11.3 million sheep, 1.3 million pigs, 1.1 million horses, and about 2.1 million goats. Total meat production in 2005 amounted to 762,000 tons, of which 45% was beef, 14% mutton and lamb, 27% pork, 6% chicken, and 8% other meat.

Wool and skins are important animal products; in 2005, 27,000 tons of greasy wool and 41,800 tons of cattle hides were produced. That year, cow milk production totaled 4,695,800 tons, and 139,100 tons of eggs were laid.


Fisheries are concentrated around the Caspian Sea, and are of some importance to the local economy. The total catch in 2003 was 23,885 tons, all from inland fishing. Freshwater bream and Azov sea sprat were the principal species.


Only 4.5% of Kazakhstan is covered by forests and woodlands; forestry is of little commercial importance. Imports of forestry products amounted to nearly $158.8 million in 2004.


The leading industries in Kazakhstan in 2002 were, in order, oil, coal, iron ore, manganese, chromite, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, bauxite, gold, silver, phosphates, and sulfur. In 2000, Kazakhstan was the eighth-largest producer of manganese ore in gross weight and ninth in manganese content of ore. Kazakhstan was the CIS's leading producer in chromite, lead, and zinc. The country was also a major producer of beryllium, bismuth, cadmium, chromium, ferroalloys, magnesium, rhenium, titanium, and uranium, and produced significant amounts of arsenic, barite (75% of the former Soviet Union's output), molybdenum, natural gas, phosphate rock, and tungsten. Among other minerals, Kazakhstan produced cobalt, magnesium, nickel, vanadium, and all grades of asbestos, as well as the industrial minerals boron, cement, and kaolin. Kazakhstan had commercial reserves of 3 ferrous metals, 29 nonferrous metals, 2 precious metals, 84 types of industrial minerals, and coal, natural gas, and petroleum. The eastern region of Kazakhstan was rich in alumina, arsenic, bauxite, beryllium, bismuth, cadmium, chrome, copper, gold, iron ore, lead-zinc, manganese, molybdenum, rhenium, silver, titanium, and tungsten.

In 2002, Kazakhstan's exports totaled nearly $10 billion, with 89% of that total accounted for by mineral and other mineral-related products. Crude oil alone accounted for more than 50% of the nation's exports in that year.

Output of metals in 2002 included: marketable iron ore (gross weight), 15.423 million metric tons, up from 14.14 million metric tons in 2001; manganese ore (gross weight), 1,792,200 metric tons, up from 1,386,500 metric tons in 2001; chromite, 2,369,400 metric tons, up from 1.19 in 1996; lead, 39,300; mined zinc, 322,100, up from 159,400 in 1996; mined copper, 430,200, up from 2,045,700 metric tons in 2001; bauxite, 4,376,600 metric tons; mined gold, 22,404 kg, down from 25,010 kg in 2001; silver, 892,100 kg down from 981,900 kg in 2001; and alumina, 1.386 million tons.

Copper mining began to recover after foreign companies acquired management rights to the nation's copper producers, most notably the Zhezqazgan complex, which also included concentration, smelting, and refining facilities. Kazakhstan had supplied more than 95% of chromite production for the former USSR through the Donskoy mining and beneficiation complex at Khromtau. Iron ore found near Rudnyy supplied the iron and steel plants in the Russian Urals region as well as plants at Karaganda and Temirtau.


Kazakhstan has significant reserves of oil and natural gas, and is thus, important to the world's energy market. Specifically, the country possesses the largest recoverable crude oil reserves in the Caspian Sea region. Kazakhstan also has significant recoverable reserves of coal.

As of 1 January 2005, Kazakhstan had proven oil reserves estimated at 9 to 29 billion barrels. In 2004, oil production was estimated at 1,221.3 million barrels per day, of which crude oil accounted for 83% of output. Domestic demand in that same year came to an estimated 156,700s barrels per day. Kazakhstan's fields include: the Tengiz, with estimated recoverable crude oil reserves of 6 to 9 billion barrels; the Karachaganak field, with recoverable reserves of 2.4 billion barrels of oil; the Kashagan field with recoverable reserves estimated at 7 to 9 billion barrels; and the Kurmangazy with reserves of 7.33 billion barrels.

Kazakhstan also has sizeable reserves of natural gas. As of 1 January 2005, the country's proven natural gas reserves were put at 65 to 70 trillion cu ft. In 2003, natural gas output was estimated at 500 billion cu ft and at 560 billion cu ft in 2004. In 2003, domestic demand for natural gas totaled an estimated 558 billion cu ft and an estimated 550 billion cu ft in 2004.

Kazakhstan also has the largest recoverable reserves of coal in Central Asia. These reserves in 2003 were estimated at 34,479.2 million short tons, most of which was hard coal (anthracite and bituminous). In 2003, production of coal was estimated at 86.45 million short tons, with consumption that year placed at an estimated 58.5 million short tons.

Coal-fired plants make up the bulk of Kazakhstan's electric power capacity. Of the nation's 71 power plants, 80% are coal fired, while hydropower facilities account for 12% of capacity. Installed capacity, was estimated in 2003 to be 17.2 GW. In 2003, electric power output was estimated at 60.4 billion kWh, of which 85% came from coal-fired plants. In that same year, demand for electricity was estimated at 52.6 billion kWh.


Before its independence, Kazakhstan's designated manufactures included phosphate fertilizer, rolled metal, radio cables, aircraft wires, train bearings, tractors, and bulldozers. The country also had a well-developed network of factories that produced about 11% of the Soviet Union's military goods. Overwhelmingly dominated by state-owned enterprises under the centrally planned economy, independent Kazakhstan's economy has been substantially, if incompletely, privatized and reoriented to the market economy. Government plans originally called for an almost complete privatization by 2000 through a combination of auctions, the distribution of investment coupons to the public, and caseby-case negotiations for larger enterprises. As of 2001, 71% of the total number of organizations with state participation had been privatized, including 23,170 state-owned enterprises and state stock holdings and state shares in 3,495 organizations.

The process of restructuring its industry has been wrenching, however. Industrial production declined by 13.8% in 1992, by 14.8% in 1993 and by 28.5% in 1994. Decline continued in 1995, but at the single digit rate of 8%. The first positive growth in industrial production after independence was a weak 0.3% improvement in 1996. Privatization moved ahead quickly in that year and into the summer of 1997, a year in which real GDP increased 4%. However, industrial production declined again in 1998by 2%due primarily to the combined effects of the Russian financial crisis and a fall in world oil prices. The president, citing the low fuel prices, decreed a halt to further privatization in the country's vital oil and gas sector, and slowed the negotiations on privatization of the remaining large state enterprises called the "Blue Chips." Subsequently, industrial growth resumed at a moderate 3% in 1999, but then at robust double-digit rates of 16% in 2000 and 14% in 2001. For 2002, the estimated growth rate was 9.8%, slightly ahead of overall GDP performance. The share of industrial production fell from 25.9% of GDP in 1994 to 21.8% of GDP in 1995, but had risen to 30% by 2001. In 2005, industry accounted for 40.4% of GDP, and the industrial production growth rate stood at 10.7%.

To stimulate recovery, increasingly liberal foreign investment incentives were offered 199197. In 1995 Kazakhstan's largest pre-independence operation, the Karaganda Steel Mill (Karmet) was acquired by a London-based company. Pre-independence, Karmet was one of the largest integrated metallurgical complexes in the world, producing coke and chemical products in addition to pig iron, steel, and a wide variety of steel products. In 1995, it was operating at less than half its capacity, workers' wages were often months in arrears, and its installations were being degraded for lack of maintenance. By 2002, about $800 million had been invested in the renamed Ispat Karmet, and output had risen from 2.1 million tons of rolled steel in 1995 to 3.63 million tons in 2001 (still nearly 40% below pre-independence levels).

Most of Kazakhstan's manufacturing, refining, and metallurgy plants are concentrated in the north and northeast, in Semey, Petropavl, and Aktobe. In south-central Kazakhstan, Shymkent is an important center for chemicals, light manufactures, metallurgy, and food processing; Almaty is important for light industry, machine building, and food processing.

The mining industry accounts for over a third of industrial production, three-fourths of which by value is the production of crude oil and associated gas. Fuel production's share in industrial value-added rose from 11% in 1995 to more than 25% in 2000. By contrast, coal and lignite, 96% of which is produced in Pavlodar and Karaganda oblasts, and iron ore mining, have experienced steady declines since 1991, and each currently accounts for less than 2% of industrial production.

By value the biggest manufacturing category is the processing of agricultural products, accounting for almost 17% of industrial production. Second is the production of nonferrous metals, at about 13% of the total. Textiles and leather manufacturing is served by inputs of wool and other material from the country's own livestock as well as imports of cotton from other parts of the former USSR. Textiles and related products make up an estimated 8% of total industrial output.

Almost 7% of industrial output (14% of manufactures) is accounted for by ferrous metallurgy. Production includes bulldozers, excavators, and metal-cutting equipment.

Kazakhstan has the Caspian Sea region's largest recoverable crude oil reservesfrom between 9 and 29 billion barrels. The petroleum industry accounts for roughly 30% of government revenue and about half of export revenue, which has driven economic growth in the early- and mid-2000s. Kazakhstan's total oil refining capacity in 2002, was about 427,000 barrels per day. There are three refineries: one in the north (at Pavlodar), one in the west (at Atyrau), and one in the south (at Shymkent). In 2006, the refineries were working at about 51% capacity, averaging about 345,093 barrels per day.


The Kazakhstan Academy of Sciences, founded in 1946 in Almaty, has departments of physical and mathematical sciences, earth sciences, chemical-technological sciences, and biological sciences. Kazakhstan in 1996 had 47 research institutes concerned with agriculture and veterinary science, medicine, natural sciences, and technology. There is a botanical garden in Almaty. Scientific training is available at 2 universities and 25 higher educational institutes.

In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 20% of college and university enrollments. In 2002, Kazakhstan had 630 researchers and 92 technicians actively engaged in research and development (R&D) per million people. In 2001, (the latest year for which the following data was available) R&D spending totaled $174.890 million or 0.22% of GDP. Of that amount, business spending accounted for the majority at 58.1%, with government at 38.3%. Foreign sources accounted for 2.8%, and private nonprofit institutions accounted for 0.9%. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $157 million, or 10% of manufactured exports.


The wholesale and retail sector, previously dominated by state-controlled distribution channels, has seen the dynamic growth of independent small shops and traders. Price controls have been lifted for 90% of consumer and 80% of wholesale prices, although basic goods and services such as bread, flour, baby food, medicines, fodder, housing rents, utilities, and public transportation have been excluded from liberalization. A 15% value added tax applies to most goods and services; it was lowered from 16% in 2004.

The country sponsors a number of trade exhibitions through the year, including the Kazakhstan Oil and Gas Exhibition, held in Almaty every October, and a Consumer Expo in April.


In 1990, about 89% of Kazakhstan's exports and 88% of its imports represented trade with other former Soviet republics (at foreign trade prices). A serious disruption in the country's trading patterns occurred as the input procurement system within the Soviet centrally planned economy disintegrated, the uses of hard currency and world market-determined transaction prices were adopted by former USSR republics, and export demand from Eastern European

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 12,926.7 8,408.7 4,518.0
Bermuda 2,192.6 2,192.6
Russia 1,967.3 3,277.6 -1,310.3
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 1,679.9 62.1 1,617.8
China 1,652.6 523.7 1,128.9
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 1,013.1 249.7 763.4
British Virgin Islands 602.0 602.0
Ukraine 426.2 323.7 102.5
Iran 411.1 411.1
France-Monaco 278.1 196.9 81.2
United Arab Emirates 215.1 25.2 189.9
() data not available or not significant.

countries shrank in the early 1990s. To facilitate adjustment to these hard new realities, the government decreed key trade liberalization measures in early 1992, ending export license requirements. With liberalization, exports and imports increased substantially throughout the 1990s.

Exports are dominated by petroleum products, followed by nonferrous and ferrous metalsa pattern that was likely to continue. Kazakhstan's largest imports are machinery and oil and gas products. In percentage terms, in 2004 Kazakhstan's major exports were: oil and gas condensate (56.8% of total exports); base metals (5.2%); refined copper (5%); and ferroalloys (4.1%). The primary imports in 2004 were: machinery and equipment (26.8% of total imports); light vehicles (4.3%); oil products (4%); and base metal pipes (3.8%).

Kazakhstan's leading markets in 2004 were: Switzerland (18.7% of all exports); Italy (15.5%); Russia (14.1%); and China (9.8%). The leading suppliers were: Russia (37.7% of all imports); Germany (8.2%); China (5.9%); and Ukraine (5.7%).


Strong exports of oil and minerals created trade surpluses in the early 2000s. Large amounts of foreign direct investment have also aided the country's balance of payments situation. Kazakhstan floated its currency, the tenge, in 1999, resulting in a devaluation. Subsequently, exports recovered and there was a fall in imports, and the currency stabilized against the dollar.

In 2004, total exports on a customs basis were worth $20 billion, and imports were worth $12.8 billion. In 2005, the current account had a balance of $3.343 billion, and was forecast to remain in surplus over the 200607 period, although it was predicted to narrow as oil prices were projected to fall over that period.


In December 1990, the Almaty branch of Gosbank (the former Soviet State Bank) was made into the Independent Kazakh (National Bank of Kazakhstan-NBK). In the next year the existence of private and public financial institutions were legalized. In 1993, the parliament approved a new banking law that separated the National Bank of Kazakhstan from the government, and gave the

Current Account -182.5
     Balance on goods 4,088.2
         Imports -9,144.5
         Exports 13,232.6
     Balance on services -2,365.2
     Balance on income -1,740.9
     Current transfers -164.7
Capital Account -28.8
Financial Account 2,728.9
     Direct investment abroad 119.6
     Direct investment in Kazakhstan 2,068.5
     Portfolio investment assets -2,073.3
     Portfolio investment liabilities 212.3
     Financial derivatives 15.9
     Other investment assets -873.5
     Other investment liabilities 3,259.4
Net Errors and Omissions -984.1
Reserves and Related Items -1,533.5
() data not available or not significant.

central bank the power to conduct monetary and credit policies and regulate the commercial banking sector. Before November 1993, monetary and credit policy was under the control of two central banks, the Russian Central Bank (RCB), which also acted as the ruble zone's central bank, and the NBK. Until November 1993, the currency unit in the country was the ruble. On 15 November 1993, Kazakhstan established its own currency, the tenge.

In 1995 the NBK continued the tight monetary stance it adopted in 1994, becoming increasingly sophisticated in its monetary operations.

The NBK admits that corporate governance and management in banks is weak: Kazakhstan's banks tend to be very small, concentrated in Almaty, and more interested in dealing in treasury bills than in providing long-term credits to lenders. As of 2003, there was no deposit insurance scheme in operation. Organized crime is also a problem for many banks, with security therefore assuming a considerable cost.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.8 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $3.8 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 9%. The reform of the banking sector was initially set up according to a two-tier system, with the central bank occupying the top tier and specialized, sector-oriented banks occupying the second tier. Among these specialized banks are Narodny Bank (for savings); Kazakhstan Bank (for industry and agriculture); Turan Bank (for the construction sector); Kredsotsbank (for housing and municipal services); and Agroprombank (for agriculture).

In 2002, there were 47 commercial banks, including 1 state bank (3% of total financial sector assets), 1 intergovernmental bank, 16 banks with foreign participation, and 12 foreign representative offices. In 2001, total bank assets reached $3.82 billion.

The Kazakhstan Stock Exchange and the Central Asian Stock Exchange both operate in Kazakhstan.


Approximately 73 insurance companies were registered in 1999.


Kazakhstan has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, thanks almost entirely to high world oil prices. GDP grew 9.6% in 2000, 13.2% in 2001, and 9.5% in 2002. The surge has been extremely helpful in ridding the government deficit. In 1999, the deficit was equivalent to 3.5% of GDP; by 2001 the government ran a primary surplus of 1.9% of GDP.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Kazakhstan's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.2 billion and had expenditures of $1.2 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$11.2 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 9.8% of GDP. Total external debt was $32.7 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were t700.37 billion and expenditures were t734.81 billion. The value of revenues was us$5 million and expenditures us$5 million, based on a official exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = t149.58 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 32.7%; defense, 5.5%; public order and safety, 10.0%; economic affairs, 15.0%; environmental protection, 0.4%; housing and community amenities, 1.4%; health, 2.6%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.8%; education, 3.2%; and social protection, 27.5%.


In January 2002 a new Tax Code went into effect. The new code, seen by tax experts as a model of equity, economic neutrality and simplicity (on its face, if not in its implementation), replaced the 1995 Tax Code that had been criticized for leaving too much discretion in the hands of the Tax Police and other government officials. The new code also reduced a number of tax rates. Under it, the personal income tax (PIT) ranges from 5% to a top rate of 30%, down from 40%, while the corporate income tax (CIT) rate remains set at 30%. Social taxes (payroll taxes) were reduced to 11% from 21% and the rate for the value-added tax (VAT), introduced 1 January 1992, was reduced to 16% from 20%.

Dividends and interest are subject to a 15% withholding tax, while royalties are subject to a 20% rate.

In January 2003, a new investment law was introduced that generally eliminates tax incentives for foreign investors.


In Kazakhstan, licenses are required to import certain products and the importation of others is prohibited. An import tariff schedule eliminated duties for most consumer goods in April 1994. There are no longer any export tariffs on most goods. However, animal skins, nonferrous and scrap ferrous metals are subject to an export duty. Tariffs have increased on certain products, including alcoholic beverages, leather, and carpets. The average tariff is 9%. There is also a 16% value-added tax (VAT) on destination principal. Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan have formed a customs union. In May 1992, the Republic of Kazakhstan and the United States signed a most-favored nation agreement for reciprocal tariff treatment.


Even before its formal independence, the government adopted the Foreign Investment Law of 1991 that allowed investment by foreign companies in any economic activity except the manufacture of military goods. The law contained provisions for duty-free imports as well as tax breaks for firms with foreign investment, especially those involved in producing consumer goods, agricultural goods, and electronic and medical equipment. Further, the law also laid out provisions for the operation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) where imports of intermediate products and exports of finished goods would be allowed without customs duties.

The regime was subsequently revised in a new Foreign Investment Law in 1994 (amended in 1997) to provide stronger guarantees against changes in Kazakhstan's legislation, greater clarity on investment requirements and on the credit facilities available to foreign investors, some additional customs exemptions, and a guarantee of the right to recourse to international arbitration to settle disputes.

From August to November 1996, the government pursued a vigorous privatization program. In 1997, a new law enabled investors to qualify for up to 100% tax relief for five years, and for up to 50% tax relief for the second five years. Priority areas were infrastructure, manufactures, housing, construction in Astana (designated the new capital as of December 1997), and agriculture. Following the recession in 1998, in 1999 the government began to change its stance on foreign investment from favorable treatment to national treatment. In January 2001, the government passed laws to control the transfer of capital out of the country. Foreign investors expressed concern over the increased authority given customs officials to regulate export and import transactions.

In 2001 the government moved to enact a new investment law to replace the 1994 and 1997 regulations. Because of strong opposition from foreign investors, the president did not sign the new law until January 2003. The new code, unlike the previous law, offers fewer protections to foreign investors and limits exemptions from customs fees to one year, with extensions limited to no more than five years. Particularly contentious was the removal of the right to international arbitration to settle disputes.

In 1996, foreign direct investment (FDI) was estimated at $1.22 billion, and at $1.3 billion in 1997. FDI flows fell slightly to $1.2 billion in 1998, or from 9.4% of GDP to 5.7% of GDP. In 1999, FDI flow rose to almost $1.8 billion, and then soared to $2.75 billion in 2000, or from 11.4% of GDP to 15% of GDP. From 1993 to 2001, total gross inflow of FDI amounted to about $17 billion. Over a third (34% or $5.2 billion) of the FDI flow came from the United States, with United Kingdom (including the British Virgin Islands) the second-largest source at $2.3 billion or more than 15%. Other major sources of FDI are South Korea, China, Italy, Turkey, Japan, and Germany.

Since 1995, FDI in the development of the country's immense oil and gas deposits has averaged more than $1 billion, and was close to $2 billion in 2001. As of October 2001, there were 3,606 joint ventures and 2,030 foreign companies operating in Kazakhstan according its Ministry of Economy and Trade. Important non-oil sector projects include the expansion of gold production in partnership with foreign concerns promoted as a means of quickly boosting the inflow of foreign exchange.

As of 2006, foreign investors were increasing their focus on Kazakhstan's energy infrastructure, including oil transportation routes such as the completed Baku-Ceyhan-Tbilisi (BTC) pipeline, and a pipeline between Kazakhstan and China, projected to be finished around 2010. Kazakhstan's efforts to create a favorable investment regime, especially in the energy sector, through economic liberalization and privatization, contributed to a cumulative $38.4 billion in foreign investment by September 2005, primarily in the oil and gas sector, but increasingly in other areas, such as mining and agricultural equipment. Foreign investors are also active in the banking sector, as well as in consumer goods and telecommunications. The United States was the largest investing country in Kazakhstan in 2005 ($11.5 billion), followed by the Netherlands ($4.5 billion), the United Kingdom ($4.3 billion), and Italy ($2.4 billion). TengizChevrOil (TCO) is the largest single investment in Kazakhstan. It is a joint venture consortium between Chevron Overseas Petroleum Inc., Exxon Mobil, Kazakhstan's national oil and gas company (KazMunaiGaz), and LUKArco. It is part of a 40-year, $20 billion agreement signed in 1993 to extract an estimated 6 to 9 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Th rough 2004, TCO had received more than $7 billion in direct investment, and its output had reached an estimated 280,000 barrels of oil per day.

In 2005, FDI amounted to 12% of GDP, down from 20.3% in 2004 and 15.2% in 2003. Net gold and hard currency reserves of the National Bank totaled an estimated $7.1 billion by year-end 2005.


While still a republic of the USSR (prior to independence in 1991), Kazakhstan underwent rapid development of its agricultural and industrial sectors. Vast tracts of land were brought into cultivation with the expansion of irrigation under the USSR's "Virgin Lands" program, while within the industrial sector, development of its metallurgical, mining, and machinery industries were prioritized. Growth in these various economic sectors was fueled by a high labor-force-participation rate in the local population, especially among women, as well as the import of some skilled labor from Russia. By the 1980s, growing problems of inefficiency and inadequate technological development in the overwhelmingly dominant state sector resulted in a flagging rate of growth overall.

The region's industrial and agricultural development had, moreover, come at some high environmental costs. The structure of Kazakhstan's transportation and energy sectors clearly highlight the overall orientation of the economic base fostered under the Soviet regime; railroads and paved roads are clustered mainly in the north and the south, serving more to link Kazakhstan with Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan than to integrate the republic itself. Similarly, electricity transmission networks facilitate the exchange of energy with different republics in the former USSR rather than between different parts of Kazakhstan.

Since sovereignty was declared in December 1991, Kazakhstan has been embarked on a process of economic restructuring aimed at establishing a market economy. In 2002, President Nazarbayev reported that Kazakhstan was recognized by both the EU and the United States as a market economy, and that 75% of the country's GDP was derived from the private sector. Th is transformation, substantial if incomplete, involved reform on many fronts: privatization; lifting of price, capital, and profitability controls; the elimination of subsidies; debt restructuring; tax, customs, and banking reform; creation of a securities and exchange commission; and trade and investment liberalization. The government made several policy changes in the late 1990s and early 2000s that left outside investors and auditors uncertain about the direction and stability of the economic regime.

Independent Kazakhstan appealed to numerous international agencies for assistance in restructuring its economy. The World Bank's aid program comprised both policy-based adjustment loans and investment projects in areas that included agriculture, energy, environment, finance, health, legal reform, roads, social protection, taxation, urban transport, and water supply and sanitation. The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) supported both private sector development and public sector projects such as ports, power, railways, and telecommunications. Technical assistance for enterprise and civil service reforms, food production and distribution, and human development have been provided by other UN agencies and the EU. The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) was active in the areas of health, transport, postal service, and water supply. Japan, the largest bilateral donor, provided significant balance-of-payments support and extended loans for the Astrana airport and the transport infrastructure. The United States provided assistance for privatization, tax and pension reforms, and social services. Other bilateral donors are Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. By 2006, Kazakhstan had become the first country in the former USSR to have repaidin advanceits IMF debt.

In 1993, the government negotiated a far-reaching major contract to explore and develop the Tengiz oil field. Th rough mergers, acquisitions and sales, the shareholders in this venture as of 2006 were ChevronTexaco, Exxon Mobil, KazMunaiGas, and LukArco.

In 2000, the Philip Morris Co. completed a $200 million greenfield cigarette factory in the Almaty region.

In seeking to achieve monetary stability, Kazakhstan in 1995 and 1996 entered into credit agreements with the IMF. In 1996 the president established a secret National Fund, into which he deposited the proceeds from the sale of shares in the Tengiz oil field. The existence of the National Fund was not revealed until 2001, and by 2002 most of the original $1 billion had reportedly been used in two major withdrawals$480 million had been used in 1997 to pay off pension funds threatened with bankruptcy, and $400 million had been used in 1998 to cover budget deficits stemming from the collapse of the Russian ruble. While the secret fund seems to have cushioned the economy from external shocks, its existence raised serious questions about the transparency of the government's finances.

The government emerged from the financial crises of the late 1990s less committed to privatization and ready to dismantle some of its incentives for foreign investment. In 1999, the government halted or slowed privatization programs. There was also a shift in monetary policy. In February 2002 the government took another major step away from privatizing the oil and gas sector by announcing the establishment of a national energy conglomerate, KazMunaiGaz, combining the national oil company with the national oil and gas transport company for the stated purpose of being able to compete with the international oil companies. In 2002, agreement was reached among Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan on the route for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, and construction began in May 2003. The first stage of the pipeline was officially inaugurated in May 2005.

As of 2006, the economic policy program was focused on maintaining fiscal prudence, achieving economic diversification away from the oil industry, and managing the exchange rate in the face of large hard-currency inflows. Of these goals, that of diversifying the production base will be the hardest to attain. However, the free functioning of market mechanisms was forecast to be hampered by the government's pursuit of interventionist policies for the promotion of favored enterprises. President Nursultan Nazarbaev, upon reelection in December 2005, announced political reforms should follow economic reforms.


Social security programs were first introduced in 1956, and were revised in 1991 and 1996 following independence. All employed persons, including noncitizens, qualify for old age, disability, and survivorship pensions. Employers contribute 30% of payroll, while employees contribute 1% of earnings. Residents of ecological disaster areas are entitled to early retirement. Workers' compensation is offered under a dual social insurance and universal system. The government funds a family assistance program for needy citizens, refugees, and stateless persons residing it the country.

Women have equal rights under the law, although discrimination persists. Women generally have access to higher education but are still channeled into mostly low-level, low-paid jobs. Traditional attitudes towards women are a barrier to achieving an active role in politics or business. Sexual harassment in the workplace is common, and as of 2004, the government took no steps to address the issue. Violence against women and domestic abuse remained problems and are vastly underreported. Traffi cking in women remained a serious issue. The constitution provides for the upkeep and education of orphans, although limited financial resources result in many children receiving inadequate education and medical care.

Ethnic tensions between Kazakhs and Russians continued to exist. Ethnic Kazakhs receive preferential treatment in housing, education, and employment. Although the Russian language still predominates, the 1995 constitution specifies that Kazakh is the official state language. The government is responsible for numerous violations of democratic freedoms and human rights. Prisoners are beaten and tortured, and killings are committed by security forces.


Under restructuring of the health care system, roughly half of Kazakhstan's hospitals, mainly facilities in rural areas, were closed between 1990 and 1997 and the number of acute-care hospital beds was decreased by 44%. As of 1999, the rural health care network, which had deteriorated due to lack of funds, was in the midst of reorganization. As of 2004, there were an estimated 330 physicians, 567 nurses, and 28 dentists per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 5.5% of GDP.

The average life expectancy in 2005 was 66.55 years. The infant mortality rate for that year was 29.21 per 1,000 live births. For every 100,000 live births, 70 women died during pregnancy or in childbirth. More than half of married women ages 1549 (66%) used some form of contraceptive. The crude birth rate as of 2002 was estimated at 17.8 per 1,000 inhabitants. Major causes of death were communicable diseases and maternal/perinatal causes, noncommunicable diseases, and injuries. There were 130 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people in 1999. In 199094, immunization rates for children up to one year old were: tuberculosis, 87%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 80%; polio, 75%; and measles, 72%. As of 1999, figures for DPT and measles were, respectively, 98% and 99%. A majority (67%) of children under five suffered from some form of anemia (1995).

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.20 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 16,500 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Major environmental health concerns include industrial pollution in the east, the former nuclear facilities in the Semey region, and ecological threats in the Aral Sea region.


As of 1 January 1994, 458,700 households were on waiting lists for housing in urban areas. Th ough specific data was not available concerning the actual number of dwelling units, it was estimated that about 79% of all housing was in private ownership and about 17% was owned by the state; indicating a dramatic shift from figures in 1990 which placed private ownership at 32% and state ownership at 64%. In 2000, there were about 10,500 new housing units built. About 91% of the population had access to improved water sources and 99% had access to improved sanitation systems.


Both at the primary and secondary level, education is free and state funded. Although Russian is the most commonly taught language, Kazakh, which is the official state language, is now gaining popularity and is being extended to all areas. A small percentage of students are also taught Uzbek, Uighur, and Tajik. Most children are enrolled in a kindergarten program at age six. This is followed by four years of primary school and five years of basic secondary studies. Students may then choose to continue in a two-year academic school, a two-year vocational school, or a four-year professional school. The academic year runs from September to June.

In 2001, about 12.8% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 91% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 87% of age-eligible students. Most students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 19:1 in 2003.

There are about 55 institutions of higher education and three universities. Third level educational institutes had a total of 260,043 pupils in 1996. The University of Kazak Al-Farabi State University was founded in 1934 and offers history, philosophy, economics, sociology, journalism, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and geography. The Karaganda State University was founded in 1972 and teaches philosophy, economics, law, history, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. The Technical University at Karaganda Metallurgical Combine was founded in 1964 and has faculties of metallurgy, mechanics and technology, and chemical technology. In 2003, about 45% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program; 39% men and 51% women. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99.5%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3% of GDP.


Three outstanding libraries are the National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Almaty (5.5 million volumes), the Scientific and Technical Library of Kazakhstan also in Almaty (22.3 million volumes), and the Central Library of the Kazak Academy of Science (6.2 million volumes). The Al-Farabi Kazak State University Library in Almaty has 1.5 million volumes. Kazakhstan has an extensive public library system. The Pushkin Regional Public Library in East Kazakhstan is regarded as the oldest public library in the nation, with over 700,000 items, and a major cultural center for the region. The Karaganda Regional Public Library contains about 440,369 items.

Kazakhstan has dozens of museums. The Central State Museum of Kazakhstan in Almaty features 90,000 exhibits exploring the history and physical conditions of the region. The A. Kasteyer Kazak State Art Museum (formerly the Kazak T.G. Shevchenko State Art Gallery) in Almaty primarily contains works of Russian and Kazak artists from the 15th to 20th centuries. There are regional and general interest museums throughout the country.


Kazakhstan is connected to the other former Soviet republics by land line or microwave and to other countries through Moscow. In 2003, there were an estimated 130 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 168,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 64 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Nearly all broadcasting facilities are owned by the government, so that even independent companies must rely on some government support. Kazak Radio broadcasts in Kazak, Russian, Uighur, German, and Korean. Kazak Television, established in 1959, broadcasts in the same languages except for Korean. In 2004, there were about 116 independent television and 35 radio stations. Only three stations had nationwide coverage; only one of these was nominally independent. In 2003, there were an estimated 411 radios and 338 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, 16 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were six secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

In 2004, the government reported that there were about 990 privately owned newspapers and 418 privately owned magazines nationwide. Nearly every major city has its own paper. The government operates one of the two national Russian-language newspapers and the only national Kazakh language newspaper that appears daily. Leading newspapers in 2002 included Kazakhstanskaya Pravda (Kazakhstan Truth ), Didar Kazakhstan, Khalyk Kenesi (Councils of People), Leninshil Zhas (Leninist Youth), Leninskaya Smena (Leninist Rising Generation ), and Yegemen Kazakhstan (Sovereign Kazakhstan ).

The constitution and 1991 Press Law provide for a free press, although in practice the media is said to perform self-censorship in key subject areas, especially criticism of the president and other government officials.


The major economic organizations in Kazakhstan are the Union of the Chambers of Commerce Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Union of Cooperative Entrepreneurs. The Zhardem International Charitable Fund promotes public interest in science and culture and operates cultural and educational centers for children and teenagers. There are many professional associations dedicated to research and education in the fields of medicine and other sciences. The Republican Council of Women's Organizations, established in 1985, promotes economic and social equality for women. National youth organizations include the Association of Young Leaders, Kazakhstan Youth Forum, and the Union of Youth of Kazakhstan. There are several sports associations and clubs for both youth and adult amateur athletes. There are national chapters of the Red Crescent Society and Caritas.


Kazakhstan offers a wide variety of natural landscapes to the hardier traveler, ranging from forests and mountain ranges to the vast steppes where Kazakh nomads live in tents called yurts and race thoroughbred horses and camels. The old capital, Almaty (Kazakh for "mountain of apples"), has no historic attractions but is an attractive city where tree-lined streets, parks, fountains, and canals give it a European flavor. In the winter, ice skating is popular on its waterways. Air service to Kazakhstan has direct flights to Almaty from Ankara, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and other cities, as well as frequent daily flights from Moscow. Kazakhstan is open to both business travelers and tourists.

In 2003, about 3.2 million tourists visited Kazakhstan. There were 11,104 hotel rooms with 22,172 beds. Tourist expenditures totaled $638 million. A passport, visa, and onward/return ticket are required for all visitors wishing to enter Kazakhstan. Visitors staying more than 30 days must have proof of a negative HIV test.

The US Department of State estimated the 2005 daily expenses to stay in Astana at $268, and in Almaty at $265.


Nursultan A. Nazarbayev (b.1940) was elected president of Kazakhstan in December 1991. Sergey Tereshchenko, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, Imangali Tasmagambetov, and Daniyal Akhmetov have each served as prime minister since independence in 1991. Abay Ibragin Kunanbayev (18451904) is internationally known as a 19th century humanist and poet, and is considered the founder of modern Kazakh literature. Writer Mukhtar Auezov (18971961) wrote Abay, a novel about steppe life that was translated into English. The novelist Kaltay Muhamedjanov is from Kazakhstan.


Kazakhstan has no territories or colonies.


Edwards-Jones, Imogen. The Taming of Eagles: Exploring the New Russia. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1993.

George, Alexandra. Journey into Kazakhstan: The True Face of the Nazarbayev Regime. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2001.

Kazakhstan. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1993.

Kazakhstan. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 1992.

Kort, Michael. Central Asian Republics. New York: Facts On File, 2004.

Nazpary, Joma. Post-Soviet Chaos: Violence and Dispossession in Kazakhstan. Sterling, Va.: Pluto Press, 2002.

Nysanbayev, Abdumalik. Kazakhstan: Cultural Inheritance and Social Transformation. Washington, DC: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2004.

Olcott, Martha Brill. Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002.

Peck, Anne E. Economic Development in Kazakhstan: The Role of Large Enterprises and Foreign Investment. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004.

Seddon, David (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

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Identification. Kazakhs are a Central Asian people who live mainly in Kazakhstan, formerly the Kazakh SSR. The so-called Kirghiz SSR was established as part of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic in 1920 and renamed the Kazakh SSR in 1926. In 1991 it declared its sovereignty and independence and began to be called the Republic of Kazakhstan. Toward the end of 1991 it voluntarily joined the other states that formed the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Republic of Kazakhstan is a multicultural state, with members of numerous different ethnic groups living there. A significant portion of the population is Slavic, mainly Russians and Ukrainians, who constitute nearly half the population in some northern areas. Also living in Kazakhstan are Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Turkmens, Uighur, Tatars, Dungans, Germans, Koreans, Greeks, Kurds, Turks, Mordvins, and many peoples from the Caucasus, especially the northern Caucasus.

The self-name of the Kazakh people"Kazakh" or "Kazak"has existed, according to written sources, since the seventeenth century and was generally known to neighboring peoples by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Russians, who called them "Kazakhs" or "the Kazatskaye" (or also "Kazattskaya"), subsequently began to call them "Kyrgyz" (although the actual Kyrgyz are the Karakyrgyz or Will Stone Kyrgyz), "Kazak-Kyrgyz," "Kyrgyz-Kaisak," and "Kyrgyz-Kazakh." This occurred because the Russians sought to differentiate the Kazakhs from the Russian Cossacks who had settled in neighboring regions of Siberia at the beginning of the eighteenth century, or in Kazakh territory itself. Only in 1926, when the Kazakhs gained national autonomy, was the name of the Kirghiz ASSR changed to Kazakh and did the Kazakhs regain the use of their traditional name.

Location. The territory of the Kazakhs, known as Kazakhstan, is quite large. It stretches from the Balkhash Lowlands in the east to the Ural River in the west (about 3,000 kilometers) and from the Syr Darya and Chu river systems and the Tobol River in the south to the Imum and the Irtysh rivers in the north (about 2,000 kilometers). Basically the region consists of steppe, desert, and semidesert lands, which in the east and southeast are bounded by the Altai and Tianshan massifs. In the extreme northwest are the southern marshes of the Common Syrt; in the south the wide, flat Pre-Caspian Lowlands and, further on, the desert peninsula of Mangyshlak. The Ural River flows almost all the way across the Common Syrt and the Pre-Caspian Lowlands, emptying into the Caspian Sea. To the west, Europe begins at the Ural Mountains, and Asia is to the east.

The Mangyshlak Peninsula, along with the low mountain ridges of the Aktar and Karatar, is distinguished by deep hollows, the deepest of whichKaragieis 132 meters below sea level. To the east from Mangyshlak there extends the desert plateau of Ust Urt. Both of these places are now used by the Kazakhs for winter pasturage. To the northeast lie the Pre-Caspian Lowlands bordering the spurs of the Urals and the low mountain massif of Mugogzhari. Further east lie the Turgay plateau and, south of it, the Tuvan Lowlands filled by the desert of Kyzylkum. To the north of the Aral Sea are the sandy massifs of the great and small Balger. The desert of the Pre-Aral Kanakum is north of the Aral Sea. The Aral Sea has recently become well known, as it is gradually growing shallow and creating an ecological crisis. Since ancient times, the Kazakhs have used this region for winter pasturage for their cattle.

Further to the east, the Kazakhs occupy the southern region of the western Siberian plain, to the south of which spreads the fine summer pasturage that the Kazakhs affectionately call the Sary-Arka. Yet further to the south is the desert of Betpak-Dala. The Chu River, its waters flowing from the west, separates the southern part of Betpak-Dala from the sands of Muyunkum. From the southeast to the northwest the land is framed by the mountain ridges of the Karatay. To the east of the Betpak-Dala Desert lies Lake Balkhash and, to the south of the lake, the well-known province of Gernirechye, or, as the Kazakhs call it, Jetys.

The wide variation in the landscape and variable distances from the oceans have led to a climate that is basically continental but with marked regional variation. In the north the winters are cold and long, with temperatures dipping to as low as -45° C. In the central regions winters are moderate, and in the south they are gentle and short, almost without snow. Summers are dry and range from warm in the north to hot in the south.

Precipitation is rare almost everywhere other than the mountains, and especially so in the desert regions, where it is less than 10 centimeters per year. Only in the foothills and mountains is rainfall plentiful, ranging from 40 to 160 centimeters per year. Winds blow across the entire region; in the steppe lands these winds turn into severe snowstorms (buran ) in the winter, and in the fall (and less often in the summer) into dust storms. The variations in topogaphy and climate have also produced marked variation in the distribution of water sources. Although there are about 85,000 lakes, many are in the mountains in the north, with hardly any in the desert and semidesert regions. The water level in lakes and rivers rises and falls markedly with the seasons, and during droughts some dry up completely in the summer months. The water in the great majority of lakes is saline. Fresh water is found only in the steppe lands and the mountains and in the flatland along the major rivers and lakes. The two seasthe Caspian and Araland the largest lakes, including Balkhash, are isolated basins. Only major rivers such as the Ishim, Irtysh, and Tobal cross the Kazakh region and extend into other regions.

The flora is diverse. Many varieties of grain (feather grass, wormwood, and tipchak an oatlike grass that grows in steppes and deserts) flourish in the steppe in the north; the main summer pasturage is found here. Wormwood and grasses predominate in semidesert regions. Most of Kazakh territory is desert covered by drought-resistant bushes, small brush, and different grasses called salt grass (solyanka ). In the sandy deserts are sand wormwood, sage, acacias, and haloxyon (saksaul ). In the flatland are tugainye woods, and around the lakes reeds are found in abundance. The foothills are covered with poppies and tulips. Higher up in the mountains are bushes and mixed woods of aspen and birch and, even higher, coniferous forests. In the forest belt, fed by the glacial streams, are alpine and subalpine meadows with a rich variety of flora. The soil in Kazakhstan is mostly fertile. In the north it is chernozem, to the south chermits soils are most common, and in the desert regions there is a mix of red-brown, grey-brown, and sandy soils. Agriculture in the desert regions requires irrigation.

As with the flora, there is also a rich variety of fauna including 155 varieties of mammals, 480 of birds, 49 of reptiles, 11 of amphibians, 150 of fish, and many invertebrates.

Demography. According to the 1989 census, there were 8,136,000 Kazakhs in the lands of the Soviet Union, with 6,535,000 in Kazakhstan. Kazakhs also live in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in Central Asia and in Russia. Over 1 million live in other countries, mainly China, Mongolia, and Turkey, and in Europe.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Kazakh language belongs to the Northwest or Kipchak Group of Turkish languages of the Ural-Altaic Family. Together with Karakalpak and Nogay it forms the Kipchak-Nogay Subgroup of the Kipchak languages. Kazakh has three dialectsWestern, North-Eastern, and Southern.

History and Cultural Relations

Much archaeological and documentary evidence establishes the continuous history of Kazakhstan from the Late Paleolithic era. In the late Bronze Age (end of the second to the beginning of the first millenia b.c.) the inhabitants of the steppe region began practicing nomadic animal husbandry, mining, and the production of bronze wares. More than 100 settlements dating to the Bronze Age, with foundaries for the fusion of metals and the manufacture of weapons, tools, and ornaments, have been discovered. In the following period (roughly from the first millenium b.c. to the Christian Era) the nomadic tribes of Kazakhstan began to consolidate into larger unitsthe Saks (Scythians) tribal union in southern (Semirechie), eastern, and central Kazakhstan, and the Savromat Confederacy to the west and partly to the north. Ideologically, the cults of the sun and fire dominated worship of the goddess-guardian of the domestic hearth and of fertility and totemism, and magical practices were retained. The well-known Scythian-Saksian style flourished, renowned to this day for its artistry and expressivity. Subsequently, new, more powerful tribal unities developed, these showing early signs of centralized state power: Usuni, and Kangyugi (in southern Kazakhstan the Semirechie), which maintained contacts with Bactria and the empires of Kushan, Panthia, and China.

In the second 500 years of the first millennium a.d. a process of feudalization took place. Powerful feudal states such as the Old Turkish, Tyurgesh, Karluk, Oguz, Kumak, and Kipchak ruled the region, with each tending to replace the next. In 1219-1220 Mongol Tatars conquered the region; their rule restricted cultural and economic development. The emergence of the Kazakhs as a distinct ethnic group occurred in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries with the rise of the Kazakh Khanate. There were three powerful entities called zhuz (Russian: orda): the Old Zhuz in southern Kazakhstan and the Semirechie, the Middle Zhuz in central and northern Kazakhstan, and the Young Zhuz in western Kazakhstan. At the start of the nineteenth century the Bukeev Zhuz broke away from the Young Zhuz and occupied the Pre-Caspian steppe between the Volga and Ural rivers. Each of the zhuzes consisted of a number of tribes, which were further subdivided into smaller tribes and clans within the tribes. The clans were unified internally by common ancestry.

During the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries the "traditional" culture of the Kazakhs was established, including house type, furnishings, utensils, clothing, food, rituals, art, and oral tradition. All customs and beliefs were strongly influenced by the nomadic and seminomadic animal husbandry that was the basis of Kazakh life.

In the first quarter of the eighteenth century the survival of the Kazakhs was threatened by invasions of the Jungans from the east in 1713, 1718, and 1722-1723, a period known as "the years of the great disaster." The Jungans seized a significant amount of Kazakh land, and some Kazakh tribes and clans fled west and established protective ties with the Russians. In 1731 the Kazakhs of the Young Zhuz (Khan Abulkhair) and some from the Middle Zhuz accepted Russian citizenship. The unification of Kazakhstan with Russia was completed by the 1860s, and, as a result, the Kazakh steppe was ringed by Russian military lines and fortifications, which served to strengthen the Russian Empire. The basic military force was drawn from Cossack settlements, to which were given over 67 million hectares of the best Kazakh land. During the unification process the power of the Kazakh khans was weakened (the Young Zhuz in 1824 and the Nukeev Zhuz in 1845), and a new administrative system based on the rule of the czar was introduced. The new system delineated the following territories: West-Siberian, later Steppe (with the Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk regions); Orenburg, with its Ural and Tungai provinces; Turkestan territory, with its Syr-Dal'in and Semirechie provinces. In turn the provinces (oblasts ) were subdivided into regions (uezds ) and the regions into districts (volosts ). Kazakh lands were declared to be state property and granted for usufruct without a time limit.

During this period, the Kazakh economy also changed markedly. Trade increased, agriculture developed, and the first industrial enterprises, mainly devoted to the processing of agricultural raw materials, were developed. The territory was also settled by large numbers of peasants from European Russia, and Kazakhstan became a multicultural region. The presence of the Russians affected the Kazakhs in a variety of ways. On the one hand, they lost large tracts of the best pasturage because this land was allotted to the settlers. On the other hand, the settlers were involved in the development of Kazakh agriculture and the emergence of a Kazakh ethnic consciousness. A Kazakh bourgeoisie was born, and a working class began to emergeboth entirely new social groupings for the Kazakhs.

During World War I large numbers of Kazakhs were mobilized for rear-echelon work. In 1916 an anticolonial movement flared up, only to be harshly suppressed; 300,000 Kazakhs were forced to migrate beyond the boundaries of Russia, some to China and Mongolia. During the 1917 Revolution and the civil war and in subsequent periods, the Kazakhs shared the same fate as other peoples of the USSR. On the one hand, a backward, agrarian region was transformed into an agricultural, industrialized republic. As a result, a high culture emerged, characterized by literature, art, science, and technology. These years, however, were also marked by cruel famines, especially during the years of massive collectivization, which for the pastoral Kazakhs was accompanied by enforced settlement, epidemics, and many Stalinist repressions that killed millions of people. For example, during the famines of the 1930s the populations of entire villages perishedhundreds of thousands of Kazakh families. Those who survived left their property and herds behind and set off for Siberia, Central Asia, and other regions. Approximately 1 million Kazakhs dispersed in China, Mongolia, Afghanistan, and other countries. Nearly 200,000 of these returned in 1934; the rest remained abroad. During the 1930s, mass purges and campaigns against "enemies of the people" were carried out among the Kazakhs, as among the other peoples of the USSR. As a result of all these tragic events, 1.75 million Kazakhs perishednearly 40 percent of the total population.

Despite these horrific human losses, the national economy of Kazakhstan nevertheless developed steadily. In the prewar years, 200 large-scale industrial enterprises were established, land-tenure regulations for the former Kazakh nomads and seminomads were implemented, and livestock raising and agriculture were improved.

World War II interrupted the peaceful development of the Kazakh Republic. More than 1.2 million citizens of Kazakhstan were drafted into military service and participated in the defense of the USSR. According to data from 1946, 96,638 Kazakh veterans received decorations and medals of distinction.

During the war the Kazakh homeland also played a vital role in the country's economy, providing coal, oil, and various metals and furnishing the army with food products. Also during the war, Kazakhstan accommodated more than 1 million Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians, and other peoples of the Soviet Union evacuated from frontline areas.

In the postwar period, the Kazakhs endured several unfortunate events. In the mid-1950s, there was a mass "opening up" of the virgin steppe lands. With the help of 640,000 immigrant workers who arrived to aid the Kazakhs, more than 1.8 million hectares of land were plowed and sownthat is, approximately 60 percent of the total area of the country's newly opened land. In 1956 Kazakhstan provided the state with more than 1 billion puds (36 billion lbs/16.38 billion kg) of bread. This was more than in the eleven preceding years combined. The virgin land epic was ill-conceived, however. Over a huge area the most fertile layer of soil (humus) was destroyed by erosion. In addition, the lands previously used for pasture, the best ones, were reduced, which seriously undermined the basis of the Kazakhs' traditional occupation, livestock raising. The ecological situation in Kazakhstan deteriorated, as the plowing up of the steppes resulted in a reduction of the number of livestock and the stocks of wild animals and birds and the drying up of the rivers and lakes.

In the rural areas, less than one-half of all children are provided with preschool institutions; most medical facilities are ill-equipped, lacking medicine and medical supplies; and hospital beds are poorly distributed. The homes of rural Kazakhs, as a rule, lack running water and sewer systems; more than 700 settlements use imported water. Many cities, including large ones, are experiencing a severe shortage of water. In remote districts, where mainly Kazakhs dwell, a low standard of living remains: there is a high infant and maternal mortality rate and a high rate of disease in general.

Not every aspect of the development of industry was well received. Although Kazakhstan is an industrially developed country, the structure of the national economy is one-sided: the principle emphasis has been on the attainment and initial processing of raw materials. All of these factors led to serious socioeconomic complications and to a shortage of industrial goods and food products.

To this one must add the irreparable changes in the ecosystem as a result of 40 years of systematic nuclear testing in the Semipalatinsk region. The air, earth, rivers, and lakes of the once-blossoming region were contaminated with radioactivity in a large area around the testing ground; the people, especially the children, as well as the animals and plants are suffering from the effects of these acts.

An ecological tragedy is coming about with the unprecedented drying up of the Aral Sea. Because of the shortage of water, the dispersal of poisonous chemical fertilizers, and the general contamination of the land and water, everyone living within a few kilometers of the Aral Sea is perishing. The tragedy affects not only Kazakhs but other peoples as wellthe Turkmens, the Uzbeks, and the Karakalpaks who live in the basin of the Aral Sea.

The events outlined above have led to an exacerbation of socioeconomic and political problems and to dissatisfaction manifesting itself in various ways. On 17 December 1986 student disturbances broke out in the capital of Kazakhstan, Alma-Ata. As a result of provocation, clashes between youths and the militia flared up, causing numerous casualties. Nearly 1,700 people were injured and more than 8,000 arrested and detained, many of whom were convicted. At the present time these events have been reappraised as struggles for democratic freedom. December 17 has been proclaimed Kazakhstan's Day of Democracy.

In June 1989 long unresolved social problems in the city of Novyi Uzen' (Mangyshlak Peninsula) led to interethnic conflictsmembers of seventy ethnic groups, many from the Caucasus, live in the city alongside Kazakhs. As a result of the riots, lives were lost and strikes were held repeatedly at the mines of the Karagandin coal basin.

The modern political life of the Kazakhs is very active. Legislators are passing a series of laws that are fundamentally changing the lives of the people of Kazakhstan. The president of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev, was popularly elected and enjoys the support of most of the population, especially the Kazakhs. In September 1991, the Communist party of Kazakhstan was renamed the Socialist party. Other parties have arisen, including the Social Democratic party, the Alash Party of National Independence, and the Republican party, along with many social movements. Testing at the atomic proving ground of Semipalatinsk Oblast has been discontinued. The Aral Sea Basin has been declared a zone of ecological disaster, and measures are being taken to rectify the aftereffects of this catastrophe. Among the laws adopted by the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, notable are the laws connected with the development of the culture and language of the Kazakh people as well as those of other ethnic groups living in the territory of Kazakhstan. The Kazakh language has become the state language, although Russian continues to be the language of international relations. Legislation about teaching and record keeping in the languages of other nationalities in areas where they live in dense concentration has also been passed.

Fundamental economic changes have come about. Joint-stock companies, cooperative works, and the privatization of businesses have been authorized. The number of farm-based economies is growing. Land is given to farmers for unlimited use, including the right to inherit it. On collective and state farms, leases are receiving widespread distribution; anyone may rent a portion of land to cultivate crops, in return for a portion of the harvest but is entitled to sell the remainder at market price. Since 1992, in Kazakhstan as in many other republics of the former USSR, free prices for food and industrial products have been introduced, with the exception of products of primary necessity. In short, a market economy is being developed.


As of 1989, 16,538,000 people live in Kazakhstan, of which 57 percent are urban dwellers and 43 percent rural residents. The capital of the republic, Alma-Ata, was founded in 1854 and is situated at a height of 700-900 meters by the northern slopes of the Zailiiski Altai range; its population is 1,132,000. There are 82 cities and 132 urban-type settlements in Kazakhstan. The 17 provinces (oblasts) include 218 rural and 33 urban districts. In the cities Kazakhs live in large apartment buildings, paying monthly rent, as well as in houses of the rural type, which, in general, they own. In the rural settlements and auls of rural areas, Kazakhs live in houses of their own construction. A portion of rural dwellers use houses built for them on collective or state farms. At the present time, measures are being undertaken toward the privatization of all housing. A distinguishing feature of the Kazakhs living in rural areas is the retention of the traditional transportable dwellingthe yurtin several regions of Kazakhstan (the Mangyshlak Peninsula, the areas around the Syr Darya, etc.), even up to the present. The yurt is a round, collapsible dwelling consisting of a wooden frame covered in felt. The basis of the frame is several sliding wooden lattices (kerge ), which fold up when collapsed. The bigger these lattices are, the bigger are the yurts themselves. Long curved poles (uuk ) are attached to these lattices from above, the sharp upper ends of which are put into a wooden hoop (shangyrak ). Thus the roof of the yurt has a dome-shaped appearance. In one place between the lattices Kazakhs fasten a wooden bivalved door frame. A flap of felt on the hoop of the yurt's dome is tied back to form an opening for smoke from the hearth, which is traditionally positioned in the center of the yurt, slightly closer to the door. Today yurts are used mainly during the summer. They serve as dwellings chiefly for families of shepherds who set off with their herds for the summer pastures. Other rural inhabitants set up yurts near their homes in the summer.

The entire internal space of the yurt is strictly arranged according to tradition. Opposite the door by the wall is the zhuk, where trunks filled with household items are stacked; during the day the bedding is also piled up there. The place in front of the zhuk is considered the most honored (tor). The most esteemed guest occupies this spot and, in the event no guest is present, the master of the yurt does so. The floor of this area is covered with fleece carpets or even fur bedding over the usual felt. The woman's half of the yurt is located to the left of the tor, where she stores household tools and food supplies as well as the large skin bag (saba ) for kumys (a beverage prepared from sour mare's milk). The bedding of the master and his wife is located nearer to the tor. The area to the right of the tor is considered the male half, where the horse harness, saddle, and the master's tools are found. Closer to the door is the place reserved for the younger members of the family, including sometimes even a married son. The door of the Kazakh yurt always faces south. Kazakhs still try to preserve the traditional layout of the yurt's interior as much as possible.

Among the settled and semisettled Kazakhs (among the latter during their winter camp), permanent dwellings are found, differing according to the climatic conditions of the vast Kazakh homeland and depending on the influence of neighboring settled peoples. Thus, among the northern Kazakhs, a permanent dwelling in a yurtlike form was originally widespread, as is common among peoples of western Siberia. In the south and west of Kazakhstan, the ancient form of dwelling was the adobe cottage. In the middle of the nineteenth century, however, quadrangular buildings with flat roofs covered with earth and turf appeared. As a rule, these were built without a foundation and had an earthen floor, which was covered with felt and carpets. They utilized turf, adobe bricks, wood, and stone as building materials.

Today the rural dwelling of the Kazakhs is a rather large accommodation with several rooms. Usually there is a room for the elderly, in which they maintain the traditions particularly strongly. There is also a guest room with modern furnishings. The kitchen is set off separately. Even now, however, the whole life of a family is spent in a single room, especially during the winter. Many rural homes have their own steam heating.

Despite the predominance of a nomadic or seminomadic life-style among the Kazakhs, they did construct a large number of "cult" monumentsfunerary buildings (see "Death and Afterlife").


In the pre-Revolutionary period the Kazakhs were prominent on the Eurasian Steppe, leading nomadic and seminomadic life-styles. Their chief occupation was livestock raising; the animals were kept in pastures year-round. These pastures were divided according to seasonsummer, spring/fall, and winter, based on when grass was sufficient, in turn depending on climatic conditions. The summer pastures were located in the north, in the steppe zone, with abundant, lush grass. It was impossible to remain there during the winter, however, as the huge amount of snow would not permit the livestock to graze. Therefore the nomadic livestock breeders were required to move with their herds far to the south to the desert and semidesert zones in the winter, where vegetation flourished after the autumn rains and where there was little snow. Sometimes the migration reached upwards of 1,000-1,500 kilometers. En route, the nomads would stay for a short while at the spring/fall pastures when they were migrating to the north in the spring and to the south during the fall. Such a migratory system was quite widespread among the Kazakh nomads and seminomads; it has been designated "meridianal" in the literature.

In the mountainous regions the nomadic and seminomadic Kazakhs passed the winter in the valleys of the mountain rivers and ravines, where there was little snow, whereas in the summer they and their herds went high into the mountains to the alpine and subalpine meadows. This type of migration is called "vertical."

The particular nomadic life-style determined the specific makeup of the herd. The domesticated animals had to withstand travel during the lengthy migration and, crucially, had to be able to procure food for themselves from under the snow during the winter. The horse was most suited to these conditions and was thus highly prized among the Kazakhs. The horse was also the main transport and riding animal, able to cover a long distance in a relatively short time. The horse also supplied kumys, which has been revered since the days of the Scythian nomads. Horse meat was also considered most tasty and nutritious; horse hair was used in the preparation of strong, thick ropes.

In early childhood the Kazakh nomad was given a colt, which she or he called by name, looked after, and by the age of 5 to 7 was already riding. Adult Kazakhs, both men and women, were spectacular riders; so great was there skill that several researchers noted that the rider seemed to become one with the horse. The importance of the horse in the life of the Kazakh nomads is further attested by the fact that instead of "to the left" the Kazakhs say "mounting side" (minar yak); instead of "to the right" they say "whip[-holding] side" (kamshi yagt ). From as early as the Scythian-Sak period, nomadic livestock breeders have revered the horse as a totemic animal.

Sheep have no lesser significance to the Kazakh nomads and seminomads. As with the horse, the Kazakhs had their own particular breed of sheep, which was well suited to the conditions of year-round pasturing without warm refuge during the winter. "Fatty-tail" sheep were particularly prizedthat is, sheep that instead of a tail had a large fatty growth that reached a weight of 10-16 kilograms. Kazakhs get all that is necessary for life from sheep. From its wool they make felt, with which they cover the traditional nomadic dwelling, the yurt, and make felt carpets decorated with multicolored ornamentation. They cover the earthen floor in the yurt with these carpets. In the winter the Kazakhs put stockings of thin felt in their boots for warmth. Felt is also used as a saddlecloth.

From sheepskins, which the Kazakhs, as a rule, process themselves, they sew warm coats, hats, and sometimes men's trousers. The pelts of domestic animals, including sheep, are sent to market. A minority of Kazakhs also raise goats, from which they also get milk, meat, wool, and pelts.

Camels serve as the basic beast of burden among the Kazakh nomads and seminomads. During the migrations they load all domestic goods on them, including the dismantled parts of the yurts. Kazakhs keep fewer camels than they do other domestic animals, however. Even rich families possess no more than fifty to sixty camels; other households, the poorer ones, have no more than three or fourthat is, only as many as are required to transfer all domestic items during the migrations. In several regions of Kazakhstanon the Mangyshlak Peninsula, for examplethe Kazakhs drink shubat (the sour milk of camels), which is their preferred beverage. Camel's wool is valued for its great warmth. Like the horse and the sheep, the camel is highly esteemed by the Kazakhs. Muslims view it as a holy animal.

The Kazakhs also raise cattle. Among the nomads, it is true that there are only a few, and often none, because they are not suited for long and rapid migrations and are not capable of procuring food for themselves from underneath the snow. Relatively more cattle are found among the seminomads, who, in contrast with the nomads, undertake shorter migrations and prepare hay for the livestock to eat during winter. Cattle are not only a source of milk, meat, and leather; they are also the principle beast of burden in agricultural endeavors.

In general, the Kazakhs grew a variety of grains: wheat, millet, a little rye, barley, and others. At present Kazakh farmers, for the most part, raise the best kinds of wheat: the so-called hard (durum) wheats. The cultivation of rice, peas, corn, and industrial crops, especially cotton and tobacco, is widespread. In the south of Kazakhstan, the cultivation of fruits and vegetables is developing.

In a number of regions of Kazakhstan where the conditions are suitable for irrigation agriculturealong large rivers and lakes, for example, or in foothill regions where streams aboundthe Kazakhs have always practiced agriculture.

Food. Kazakhs make butter and various types of curds and cheese from sheep's milk. The most widespread is a dry cheese from sour milk, kurt. It is one of the chief means of nourishment for the average Kazakh in the winter months, when there is no milk. The Kazakhs always boil sheep or cow's milk; only mare's milk is used fresh and, in this case, always soured. The most beloved and widespread Kazakh dish is boiled lamb, in Kazakh bes barmak ("five fingers," since the Kazakhs, like many other Eastern peoples, eat with their hands). They give the specially prepared lamb's head to the most esteemed guest.

Division of Labor. The community is divided into smaller units, auls, which consist of closely related families headed by the senior member, an aksakala ("white beard"). Usually this is the father, although the adult married sons head the other households. After the father's death, his oldest son becomes head of the aul.

The households of the aul cooperate in many labor-intensive activities, such as tending the livestock. The most difficult jobs necessitate the strength of many workers; for example, the shearing of sheep in spring and fall requires the combined efforts of the households and auls of the entire nomadic community. At present, Kazakhs are trying to preserve the traditional forms of the family, especially in rural areas; under urban conditions, this is obviously more difficult.

Land Tenure. The summer pastures are usually under the governance and use of individual clans, which consist of several nomadic kin groups or communities. The winter pastures, as a rule, are in the common use of the small nomadic community. Water sources for livestock are a chief concern of the nomadic breeders. Best of all are natural sources: rivers, streams, lakes, and so forth. Frequently, however, livestock can slake their thirst only from wells; therefore these are the property of the individual households that dug them, or of the aul. The right to use the pastures nearest to the well follows from this. There are also wells that belong to the entire clan. As a rule, such wells were dug long ago. The land-use pattern of the seminomadic Kazakhs is similar, but in contrast with the nomads, they also have hay-growing areas for the preparation of winter fodder. As a rule, these hay-growing areas are under the control of individual households and are spread out near the winter pastures. Also located here are the arable lands: seminomadic Kazakhs engage in varying degrees in agriculture along with raising livestock. The poorer a household is, the more it relies on agriculture. The poorest families, who have no livestock, have abandoned seminomadism and live year-round in one location, engaging in agriculture or some other business. Thus, they constitute the settled population among the Kazakhs.

Industrial Arts. In addition to raising livestock and practicing agriculture, the Kazakhs engage in a variety of manufactures. Only women process wool and prepare various items from it, but both men and women process leather and pelts. Woodworking and metalwork are in the domain of the men. Traditionally, only Kazakh men were occupied with tending the livestock (including the milking of the horses), whereas women performed all domestic tasks, including the erecting and dismantling of the yurts during the migrations. Notable for their quality are the preparation of various felts and the working of leather and pelts for clothing, various types of skin vessels, saddles, and so forth. Woodworking is widespread, including the preparation of the wooden parts of the yurt, saddles, trunks, and wooden vessels, which like the skin vessels are indispensible in nomadic conditions. Many wooden products are adorned with carvings. One of the most ancient trades of the Kazakhs is metalwork: the fabrication of weapons and instruments of labor as well as household items. The art of silver adornment is highly refined.

The years of Soviet dominance were marked by the fostering of a nihilistic attitude toward national culture; as a result, many traditional Kazakh trades disappeared almost completely. Only in the present has a rebirth of traditional Kazakh trades occurred, in conjunction with a general rebirth of national culture.

Clothing. The traditional Kazakh national costume was closely tied to their nomadic life-style. Thus, the oldest materials used in clothing preparation were cloths woven from camel or sheep wool, thin felts, skins, and fiar. In ancient times, however, they had already begun sewing clothing from manufactured fabricscottons, silks, and wools from Central Asia, China, and, from the eighteenth century on, from Russia. In our own time, fabrics of industrial manufacture have supplanted all others. The men's outfit traditionally consisted of an undershirt and pants, which in the summer also served as work clothes. Over the shirt, men wore long beru kavkas or beshmets (quilted coats, narrow but widening toward the bottom, knee-length with long sleeves). The shapan a robe with long sleeves tapering from the shoulder to the fingers, with a stand-up collar, worn open and therefore always with a beltwas ubiquitous. Poor Kazakhs fashioned their shapans from home-woven camel wool; the rich, however, made them from velvet, heavy cloth, or silk of bright colors. Depending on the weather, Kazakhs would wear one shapan over another. In the wintertime, they wore coats sewn from sheepskineither double-sided or notor from skins of lamb, ferret, marten, and fox. The outer trousers were made of skins adorned with ornaments, especially among the rich. When setting off on a long journey, the Kazakh horseman inserted the flaps of all the robes he was wearing into these trousers. Their high-heeled boots, sewn of strong skins, were well suited to riding.

The traditional winter headgear of the Kazakhs was a pointed fur cap (tymak ) with earflaps of lamb's wool or even sable fur, with a felt base covered by heavy cloth. Factory-made caps with earflaps have almost completely supplanted them. In the summer Kazakhs wore hats made from thin white felt with bent-back flaps (kalpak ); recently such hats have also been replaced by factory-made ones, including ones of felt. It has again become fashionable, however, especially among youths, to wear the traditional felt caps which, incidentally, provide better protection against the cold. These caps have turned into a distinctive "ethno-designative" feature. Bashlyks with a crown with a small peak and flaps to cover the ears and neck were sewn from felt and later from cloth. It was usual that the head was always covered, even at night during sleep, if only with a tyubeteika (Central Asian embroidered skullcap).

Traditionally, all Kazakh men shaved their heads as well as their mustaches and beards around the lips. At present, only elderly men shave their heads, and most men let their mustaches and beards grow.

The belt was an indispensible part of the traditional costume; Kazakhs tied it over the shapan or trousers, especially when they were preparing to ride. Belts were of silk fabric or skinsthe latter were decorated with metallic plates, of silver and sometimes even precious stones, among the rich.

The Kazakh women, like the men, wore a shirt and trousers as undergarments. Sometimes, however, the shirt was long and tunic-shaped and served as a dress. Fashioned out of cotton fabric, the shirt-dress was white (but dark for older women and of bright and variegated colorsusually redfor younger women). Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, Kazakhs began to sew these brought in at the waist, to which they attached a wider lower part at the gathers. As an adornment to this lower part of the dress, younger women sewed on two or three frills of the same material. Sometimes they embroidered them and covered them with braids and silk ribbons.

Over the dress women wore sleeveless tunics extending down to the knees, with an open collar and a clasp at the belt. They also wore beshmets. These were sleeveless ones, fashioned of thick cotton, wool, silk, or velvet fabrics. Red, green, or raspberry beshmets of velvet were particularly prized. The women, like the men, wore robes when out and about and sheepskin overcoats in the winter.

Women's footwear consisted of leather boots sewn for one footthat is, without distinguishing the left side from the right. They also sewed soft boots of green and red leather and adorned them with embroidery. Women's trousers were of almost the same cut as the men's.

A great diversity existed in women's headgear. Variations pointed to age differences, family position, or membership in a given clan. Thus, girls wore elegant caps with a cloth crown, which they decorated without fail, and a fur cap-band (boryuk ). The decoration was finished with eagle-owl feathers, which had a protective function. The young women wore the most expensive female headdress, saukele. This consisted of a tall (up to 70 centimeters) cone of felt, covered in expensive fabric and richly ornamented with various pendants, fur, and precious stones. Along the sides of the saukele descended corals, pendants of beads, and other decorations. From the back of the saukele women attached long, richly embroidered and adorned ribbons or kerchiefs of expensive fabric. Among the rich, the worth of the saukele could reach up to 2,000 silver rubles. Therefore, the saukele passed from one generation to the next in Kazakh families.

In the year after marriage, the young woman donned the headdress of the married woman, which represented a type of cowl of white fabric covering the head, shoulders, breast, and back. Kazakhs call such a headdress kimeshek. Young and middle-aged women decorated theirs with embroidery on the outward-facing side; those of the elderly were not embroidered. Among the various Kazakh clan groups, this headgear was differentiated according to cut, form, and dimensions of the part covering the back. Women wore the kimeshek when at home, and, when going out, they put on a white turban of great width over it.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, multicolored silk shawls with tassels imported from Russia came into fashion. Today, particularly in rural areas, women wear headgear according to their age; if young girls or women appear in public without headgear, they meet with great disapproval from the older generation. Girls do not necessarily wear a headdress at home, especially the daughter of the master of the house. If a young woman wears a headdress, it indicates that she is marriageable.

Women and girls also differed from one another in hairstyle. The former braided their hair into two or three plaits, whereas the girls had many thin braids, sometimes as many as thirty. Young women and girls adorned their braids with shells, metallic plates, pearls, and coins. Rich Kazakh women sported many silver adornmentsrings, bracelets, earrings, breast pendants, and so on. Some of these adornments had a sacred significance. Thus, the arms of a woman were considered unclean if she wore no bracelets. As with men, an indispensible attribute of the female costume was a richly ornamented belt of beautiful fabric or even skin.

Many researchers note the influence of the Tatar outfit on both the Kazakh men's and women's attire and, from the mid-nineteenth century, of Russian-style clothing, especially in the cities. In the present, as was noted above, individual parts of the traditional Kazakh attire that serve as ethno-designative features have been preserved. The national costume has been retained to a great degree in rural areas and among the elderly population, especially by the women, as well as among those who most uphold the occupations of the traditional branches of the economyshepherds, for example. In general, however, Kazakhs today wear clothes of urban cut and of factory manufacture.


Kin Groups and Descent. Rather close kin relations were preserved between persons counting back to the seventh generation. Men who were united by this kinship group were not allowed to select a wife from it. In other words, an exogamic clan up to the seventh generation existed among the Kazakhs. Several such clans constituted an even larger clan, which also had one common ancestor. In turn, these clans were united into even larger groupings, groups of which formed tribal unities, entering into three zhuz (see "History and Cultural Relations"). The Kazakhs considered all these clans and tribes to have a common origin or forefather. Specialists maintain that although the ancestors of the exogamic clans were actual personages, those of the larger clans and tribes were legendary or fictitious. The oldest zhuz of the Kazakhs consisted of eleven large tribes, namely Dulat, Alban, Suan, Sary-Uysun, Srgeli, Ysty, Oshakty, Chaprashty, Canyshkly (Katagan), Kangly, and Zhalair. All these tribes in ancient times entered into a union of tribes, headed by an usun. In turn, each of these enumerated tribes consisted of several large clans. Thus, the Dulat tribe consisted of four clans: Botpay, Chmyr, Saikym, Zhamys. These also consisted of several clans. For example, the Botpay clan had four subclans: Xudaykul, Chagay, Bidas, and Kuralas; the Saikym clan had ten; the Chmyr clan, three; and the Zhamys clan, seven. Each of these subclans was divided into yet smaller groupings down to the exogamic clan and family-kin groups. Every Kazakh knew his own genealogy, at least to seven generations. Thus, the Kazkahs could always determine their kinship ties to one another. Large tribes of Kazakhs entered into the Middle Zhuz: Kipchaks, Argyns, Naimans, Kere, and Uaki. Three large tribes constituted the Younger Zhuz: Bayul, Alimul, and Zetyru. Historical tales and legends associated with the origin of a given clan or tribe also exist. Every Kazakh clan and tribe had its own tamgy, a clan symbol, as well as a war cry, the uran.

The memory of membership in a given tribe or clan still persists among the Kazakhs, even down to the smallest grouping. The Kazakhs of the oldest generation know this particularly well. In connection with the growth of national self-awareness, the interest in one's past has awakened among the youths as well.

Kinship ties among the Kazakhs were traced along both the male and female lines. The children of the daughters or sisters of a woman were called zhien by her other relatives, whereas the latter were called nagashi by the former. In accordance with centuries-old traditions, the Kazakhs attempted not to offend their zhiens and not to refuse them anything, insofar as was possible. According to customary laws, the zhien could take any valuables from the relatives of the mother up to three times.

Kinship Terminology. Kazakh kinship terminology shared many features with that of other Turkic peoples of Central Asia, such as differentiation of age within generations, recognition of many degrees of lineal and collateral agnates, and recognition of maternal as well as paternal lines. Consonant with their penchant for calculating kinship, Kazakhs had numerous terms designating consanguinity and affinity.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. A variety of forms of marriage existed among the Kazakhs. The most widespread was marriage via matchmaking and purchase of the bride for a kalyn (bride-price). For an individual to enter into marriage, the observance of certain restrictions tied to the exogamic normssocial, national, and sometimes that of the clan/tribal denominationwere required. The exogamous barrier generally was in effect up to the seventh generation (see "Kin Groups and Descent"). The Kazakhs still uphold this restriction. Traditionally, those who violated the exogamic barrier were severely punished, to the point of expulsion from the clan and even death. In social relations, the parents tried as much as possible to become related to families of standing equal to themselves. Historically, in Kazakh marriages ethnicity and religious factors held great significance. Marriages of mixed ethnicity were encountered, however, especially between Kazakh men and Turkic-speaking women who followed Islam. Less frequently did the Kazakhs take wives from among followers of other faiths. According to Sharia (Islamic law), Muslims could marry nonbelievers only if the latter publicly renounced their faith and adopted Islam. Marriage of Kazakh women to nonbelievers was strictly forbidden. Even in the present, such restrictions generally continue to operate among the Kazakhs.

One form of arranged marriage was the so-called cradle-betrothal, in which the fathers of the future bride and groom negotiated their marriage immediately following the birth of the children.

One of the most ancient forms of marriage among the Kazakhs was abduction, in which, under certain circumstances, the young man abducted his future wife either with her agreement or without it.

As a rule, patrilocal marriage predominated among the Kazakhs. There were instances, however, in which the groom went to live among the relatives of the bride, usually when the daughter was the only child in the family.

Levirate (emengerlik ) and sororate (baldyz alu ) exist among the Kazakhs. In accord with the custom of levirate, after the death of her husband, the widow, together with the children and all the property of the deceased, is inherited by his brother (i.e., she becomes his wife). If the wife or a betrothed bride died, the widower husband/groom, according to the custom of sororate, had the right to marry the younger sister of the deceased. Although this custom was not as strongly observed as levirate, individual instances persist in the present day.

There are also remnants of ancient variants of "cousin marriages" among the Kazakhs. The so-called cross-cousin marriage is one in which a man married the daughter of his mother's brother or his father's sister. The "orthocousin" marriage was one in which a man married the daughter of his father's brother or of his mother's sister. The latter, of course, would have been a violation of the exogamic norms and therefore was not encountered among the Kazakhs; marriage between children of sisters, however, was frequently encountered, as the exogamy was observed only along the male line.

A necessary condition of Kazakh nuptials was the custom of recompense payment, the kalyn, from the groom's family to the father of the bride. In general, the bride-price consisted of livestock. In response to the bride-price, the bride brought a rich dowry to the home of her intended, which by tradition obligatorily included a yurt.

In accord with custom, Kazakhs could have several wives; Islamic doctrine permitted up to four wives. Kazakhs turned to polygamy, however, only when the first wife was barren; ii there were no male heir; by virtue of the tradition of levirate; or because of the inability of the first wife to lead the domestic household, owing to illness, for example. A rich man could have several wives in order to increase the number of his descendants, have sufficient labor resources available, and other reasons. According to custom, the husband had to care completely for all his wives and children.

The senior wife in the house (baybishe ) occupied a special position with respect to the second and third wives (tokal ). This often led to strained relations among them and their children. Therefore the Kazakhs tried to separate them into individual households or even auls, insofar as possible.

The wedding ceremonies began with the matchmaking, at which the size of the bride-price and the order of its payments were agreed upon. From this moment on the preparation of the dowry was set into motion in the bride's home. As a rule, the parents carried out the selection of the bride, since frequently the bride and groom did not know each other. Only after payment of part of the bride-price could the groom "secretly" visit the bride.

After the payment of the kalyn, the wedding day (toy ) was designated. Usually the groom first came to the bride's aul, where the wedding ceremony took place with the aid of a mullah. This was followed by festivities at which various ceremonial songs were sung and everyone was treated to kumys.

The bride departed from her own aul and set off for the groom's home accompanied by the groom and numerous relatives. When the bride approached the groom's home, she covered her face. Entering the house, she greeted the fire at the hearth. Those who gathered for the celebration, generally the groom's relatives, sang songs called bet ashar (uncovering the face). They also sang songs in which the obligations of the young wife were enumerated. Then one of the groom's young relatives raised the veil slightly from the bride's face with a small stick. At this time, those who gathered counted the gifts for the bride-inspection (smotriny ).

In the wedding celebrations of the Kazakhs, many ceremonies bear a religio-magical character, for example the showering of the newlyweds with sweets and the "uniting" ceremoniesthe drinking of water by the bride and groom from one cup, for instance.

The ceremonies associated with the wedding are generally preserved today, but sometimes, especially in the cities, so-called youth weddings are organized. At these the acquaintances and relatives simply gather with the bride and groom around a common table, and lavish refreshments are presented. In recent years, however, there has been a tendency toward returning to traditional wedding ceremonies.

Still rather widespread, especially in rural areas, is marriage through abduction. This is today only an imitation of abduction, however, since the girl, as a rule, willingly goes to the groom's home "surreptitiously." In such instances, the wedding is arranged immediately. The groom's parents ask forgiveness from the bride's parents, who give it. After the wedding the bride's dowry is brought.

Among the Kazakhs a young wife must behave very modestly; she does not have the right, especially at first, to call her husband's relatives by name, especially the older ones, or show them her face; she must make way for them, let them pass by, and do other acts of obeisance. These taboos, for the most part, are kept even today, just as the survival of clan exogamy up to the seventh generation continues.

Domestic Unit. Among nomadic Kazakhs the small, individual family predominated, consisting, as a rule, of a married couple, their unmarried children, and elderly parents. In accordance with custom, the oldest son was able to marry first, followed by the other sons in descending order of age. The father allotted livestock (enshi ) to the married son and in this way created a new household (otay ). According to the ancient customs of the minorat, the youngest son was not allotted a household, even after marriage. He remained the heir to the ancestral hearth. Among the seminomadic and settled Kazakhs, there were extended families in which several closely related families lived in one household. Usually this was the family of the head of the household, as well as his married sons, and, after his death, the families of his married brothers. As a rule, however, after the death of the household master, the married brothers parted company. The daughters went to live with the families of their husbands after marriage.

Elements of patriarchal relations were preserved in certain ways, however. Married sons, even when they had their own individual households, did not break ties with the paternal household completely. Many labor-intensive tasks, such as pasturing of livestock, shearing of sheep, preparation of felt, and so on, were accomplished through the efforts of several households with close relations along paternal lines. This was especially important in defending livestock and pastures from the encroachment of others. Such a unification of families, the basis of kinship ties, is called in the literature a "family-kin" group. In Kazakh, these groupings are called bir ata baralary (children of one father). If a family-kin group was called Koshenbaralary, for example, then their ancestor was called Koshen, and the families of this group had heads who were grandsons and great-grandsons of Koshen. Among the Kazakhs, such family-kin groups formed communities. The heads of families were considered close relatives up to the fourth or fifth generation.

Socialization. The Kazakhs attach great significance to the birth and raising of children. A Kazakh family is not considered happy without children, especially sonsthe continuers of the clan. There are many customs and ceremonies associated with birth and raising of children. These customs arose from centuries of experiences and from the Kazakh worldview. Thus, they protected a pregnant woman from the evil eye with the aid of amulets and did not allow her to leave the house alone at night; weapons, wolves' teeth, eagles' bills, and owl talons were forbidden wherever she lived. All this was necessary to protect her from impure forces. The pregnant woman herself had to observe a multitude of taboos. In order not to tangle the child's umbilical cord, for example, she could not step over the staff for raising the dome of the yurt (bakan ), the device for catching horses (kuruk ), rope (arkan ), and many other items. She was also forbidden to eat camel meat because it was thought that, were she to do so, she would carry her child for twelve months, like a she-camel. Kazakhs protect pregnant women from heavy labor, especially in the later months.

Kazakhs carefully guard the woman and child during the actual birth and the first forty days thereafter, which are regarded as especially dangerous for the baby. Various rituals are followedplacing the child in the cradle on the seventh day, for example. The fortieth day after birth is seen as especially festive because the danger is deemed to have passed. Only women gather at this celebration.

Kazakhs accustom children to work from an early age. They teach a boy to ride a horse at age 3 and to tend it and other livestock at age 5 or 6. The shaving ceremony, strongly upheld in modern times, is conducted when a boy has reached age 3 to 10. Girls are taught to sew, embroider, and carry out other household activities. In the past, Kazakhs believed that at age 13 to 15 they were ready for independent life and could have their own family; at present girls marry at age 16 to 18.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The Kazakhs are Sunni Muslims. Islam began to appear in southern Kazakhstan in the eighth to ninth centuries, after the Arab conquest of Central Asia. After the foundation of the Kazakh khanate in the fifteenth century, Islam became the predominant religion among the Kazakh people. Its influence was especially strengthened after the Russian colonization of the Kazakhs in the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries because the czarist government attempted to solidify its position in Kazakhstan through Islam. During this period many mosques were constructed and madrasahs (Islamic secondary schools) opened. Pre-Islamic beliefsthe cults of the sky, of the ancestors, and of fire, for examplecontinued to a great extent to be preserved among the common people, however. The Kazakhs believed in the supernatural forces of good and evil spirits, of wood goblins and giants. To protect themselves from them, as well as from the evil eye, the Kazakhs wore protection beads and talismans. Shamanic beliefs were widely preserved among the Kazakhs, as well as belief in the strength of the bearers of this cultthe shamans, which the Kazakhs call bakhsy. In contradistinction to the Siberian shamans, who used drums during their rituals, the Kazakh shamans, who could also be men or women, played (with a bow) on a stringed instrument similar to a large violin.

At present both Islamic and pre-Islamic beliefs continue to be found among the Kazakhs, especially among the elderly. Following the severe Soviet persecutions, in which the mullahs were annihilated, there are few today who have received special religious training. For this reason, literate elderly people who know the prayers fulfill the role of mullahs in rural areas. Quite frequently these are school teachers on pension or other people with higher education.

Death and Afterlife. The Kazakhs observe funerary rites that are a mixture of Muslim customs with pre-Islamic beliefs. Mainly the relatives and neighbors of the deceased take part in the funeral ceremonies; they place the deceased, washed and wrapped in a white shroud, into a separate yurt specially put up for this event and do not leave him or her unattended for a single minute until the burial. Those who gather for the funeral pray under the guidance of a mullah. The women bemoan the deceased. The mourners bring the deceased to the cemetery on special stretchers; after further prayers, they lower the body into the grave and bury it. Among the Kazakhs, as among many other Eastern peoples, women are not allowed at the cemetery. After interment, ablutions are enacted at home and the clothing of the deceased is distributed to funeral participants; refreshments are prepared for all. Near the yurt of the deceased they set up a spear with a mourning flag, which is red if the deceased was a young person, black if middle-aged, and white if elderly. They do not remove this spear throughout the entire period of mourningthat is, the whole year. Funeral banquets for the deceased are held on the third, seventh, and fortieth days. Kazakhs observe the first anniversary funerary feast especially solemnly, with as many people as possible coming together. For this day, they slaughter the favorite horse of the deceased, whose mane and tail they had shaved on the day of it's master's death. They also slaughter a good deal of other livestock for the feast.

This anniversary funeral banquet is celebrated quite ceremonially; many people gatherrepresentatives come from various tribes and clans, sometimes several hundred people. For this reason, they set up many additional yurts and organize equestrian races, the victors receiving rich prizes. At present the Kazakhs are attempting to preserve all customs and ceremonies associated with the funerary rites.

The Kazakhs set up domed monuments on the graves, frequently mausoleums of stone, adobe bricks, and clay. The simpler grave constructs are clay or brick fences in a rectangular shape, or sometimes simply a pile of stones with a pole to which they attach bundles of horse hair. They also make sacrifices at the graves, laying bones of animals on them.

Art. Oral folk art is widely developed among the Kazakhs: songs, epic tales, folktales, heroic epics, and so forth. The Kazakhs greatly value their performers: the storytellers (zhyrsy ) and improvisational poets (akyn ). Several of these achieved great popularity, including Bukharzhyrau Kalmakanov (1693-1787) and the improvisational poet Makhambet Utemisov (1803-1846), who along with his friend Isatay Taymanov led the Kazakh uprising in the Bukeevsky Horde in 1836-1837.

The work of the eminent Kazakh educator and scholar Chokan Valikhanov (1835-1865), who painstakingly gathered and attentively studied the national poetic works of the Kazakhs, had great significance for the development of Kazakh literature. Kazakh written literature took shape under the influence of Russian literature in the second half of the nineteenth century. The renowned pedagogue Ibray Altynsarin (1841-1889) made a great contribution to the development of Kazakh literature as well. He created the first Kazakh chrestomathy for Russian/Kazakh schools and published his own works, those assembled by him from the national oral literature, and translations from Russian. Abay Kunabaev (1845-1904) was also a prominent figure of the Kazakh literary movement. From the beginning of the twentieth century a plethora of Kazakh poets and writers has produced works in Kazakhstan. Among them are the giants of Kazakh literature Mokhtar Auezov (1897-1961), Saken Seyfullin (1894-1939), Beymbet Maylin (1894-1939), and others. The modern Kazakh writers are successfully continuing the traditions of Kazakh national art and of the founders of Kazakh literature.

The folk music traditions are an inseparable part of the spiritual culture of the Kazakh people: the songs, the vocal accompaniment of the professional improvisational poets, the instrumental works, and so on. Popular musical instruments include the dombra, a "plucked" string instrument, and the kobyz an instrument played with a bow. The favorite wind instrument is the sybyzgy, in the shape of an elongated flute; as for percussion instruments, the dauylpaz, a small drum, is favored. Since the second half of the nineteenth century, new musical instruments have appeared: the accordion and the violin. In the twentieth century professional musical arts have arisen and developed greatly among the Kazakhs. In 1934 the first musical performance took place, and in 1935 the Kazakh State Philharmonic opened. In 1937 the Abay State Academic Theater of opera and ballet opened.

Formerly there were no professional theatrical arts among the Kazakhs. Only in the beginning of the twentieth century and during the years of Soviet dominance did amateur forms of Kazakh theater begin to grow. The first Kazakh theater opened in 1926 in Orenburg (at that time the capital of the Kazakh Republic). At present, Kazakh drama and theatrical arts, as well as the national cinema, have achieved a great deal of success in a short period of time.

Until recently the decorative arts of the Kazakhs have focused mainly on the details of Kazakh dwellings, clothing, and other everyday objects. One can find original Kazakh ornamentation on teased and unteased carpets, strips, the yurt, and felt coverings. Kazakh women decorate their clothes and embroider.

Woodworking, leatherwork, and metalwork have occupied places of distinction within the Kazakh national arts, but a professional decorative arts industry developed only in the twentieth century. Moreover, the first professional artists in Kazakhstan were Russians. The openings of the Kazakh State Artists Gallery in 1935 and the Artistic-Theatrical Gallery in 1938 played a large role in the development of art in Kazakhstan. The communications media have greatly expanded, including print, radio, and, in recent times, television.

Academics have developed intensively in the course of the twentieth century; this includes the study of a variety of disciplines from mathematics and mechanics to various social sciences. In Kazakhstan today there are hundreds of scientific institutions where tens of thousands of scholars work. There is also a Kazakh Academy of Science.

See also Kazak in Part Two, China


Grodekov, N. I. (1889). Kirgizy i Karakirgizy Syr-Dar'inskoi Oblasti (The Kazakhs and Kirgiz of the Syr Darya Region). Tashkent: Typolithography of S. I. Lakhtin.

Hudson, Alfred E. (1938). Kazak Social Structure, 1-109. Yale University Publications in Anthropology, no. 20. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Konovalov, Aleksei V. (1986). Kazakhi i Iuzhnogo Altaia problemy formirovaniia etnichesko i gruppy (Problems in the ethnic and group formation of the Kazakhs and Southern Altai). Alma-Alta: Izdvo Nauka Kazakhskoi SSR.

Murdock, George P. (1934). "The Kazakhs of Central Asia." In Our Primitive Contemporaries, 135-153. New York: Macmillan.

Vostrov, Veniamin V., and I. V. Zakharova (1989).

Kazakhskoe Narodnoe Zhilishche (Dwellings of the Kazakh people). Alma-Alta: Nauka Kazakhskoi SSR.

VADIM P. KURYLËV (Translated by Paul Friedrich and Gregory S. Anderson)

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Republic of Kazakhstan

Kazakstan Respublikasy



Kazakhstan is located in the center of the Eurasian landmass in what is known as Central Asia. Kazakhstan is bordered on the east by China, on the south by Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, on the west by the Caspian Sea, and on the north by Russia. The capital city of Astana is located 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) north of Almaty (the former capital), roughly in the center of the country. With a total surface area of 2,717,300 square kilometers (1,049,150 square miles), Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world, slightly less than 4 times the size of the U.S. state of Texas. The northern border with Russia, which spans 6,846 kilometers (4,030 miles), is the longest continuous bi-national border in the world.

In physical respects, Kazakhstan is a country of superlatives. It sweeps from the high mountain border regions near China across the mineral rich regions of Eastern Kazakhstan, then further west across broad expanses of plains to the oil-rich regions of Western Kazakhstan near the shore of the Caspian Sea. To the north, Kazakhstan is bordered by the taigas of southern Siberia (taigas are subarctic forests that border on the harsher arctic tundra); to the south, Kazakhstan is bordered by the Aral Sea and the deserts of Central Asia. Kazakhstan is rich in oil, gas, and other mineral resources including gold, iron ore, coal, copper, chrome, and zinc. Large oil deposits are located in the western regions of Kazakhstan and in the Caspian coastal region. Massive Soviet Union-era mining and mineral processing complexes are located at various points around the country. Kazakhstan is home to the Baikonur Soviet Cosmod-rome, still used as the launching pad for Russian space flights. Kazakhstan is also home to the main Soviet nuclear weapons testing range, not used since 1992, located near the city of Semipalatinsk in the northeastern part of the country.


The population of Kazakhstan was estimated at 16,733,227 in July 2000, a slight decrease from the 1990 population. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 16.78 births per 1,000 while the death rate was 10.56 deaths per 1,000 persons. Migration out of the country, estimated at 6.7 persons per 1,000, has been a major source of the country's population decline. The population was estimated to be shrinking at a rate of .05 percent a year in 2000.

Kazakhstan is the second largest state in terms of territory to emerge from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In December 1991, when Kazakhstan declared national independence from the USSR, the government and economy were still closely tied to the Soviet centralized economic and managerial systems. Kazakhstan's politically moderate, multi-national population was divided roughly in half between indigenous ethnic Kazakhs and other peoplesRussians, Germans, Ukrainians, Chinese, Uygurs, Koreansas well as dozens of other smaller national and ethnic groups. In 2000 the population was roughly 46 percent Kazakh, 35 percent Russian, 5 percent Ukrainian, 3 percent German, 3 percent Uzbek, 2 percent Tatar. In terms of religious identification, roughly 47 percent of the population professed Islam, while 46 percent was Russian Orthodox or Protestant.

The Kazakh language belongs to the family of Turkic languages. Turkic languages are far removed in structure and derivation from Indo-European languages. Russian shares many structural features and linguistic roots with other European languages. The Turkic languages, in contrast, have few links with major European languages. Soon after national independence, the Kazakh language was adopted as the official state language of Kazakhstan. Roughly 40 percent of the population of the country lists Kazakh at their principal language, about while 40 percent of the population lists Russian as their principal language. In practice, most government and commerce is conducted in Russian.

Kazakhstan's multicultural composition is a source of both tension and cooperation. Given the roughly equal balance of numbers among the largest ethnic groups, there is a widespread recognition of the need for equal treatment under the law.


Kazakhstan is a new state, established as an independent country in 1991 as a result of the breakup of the USSR. In the first decade of national independence, the Kazakh government demonstrated a commitment to establishing the foundation for an open, market-based economy. As a legacy of decades of Soviet-style centralized economic planning, Kazakhstan inherited a physical infrastructure designed to serve the Soviet economy by providing primary commodities , particularly energy and minerals, to industrial markets in the north, particularly in the Ural and central Siberian industrial regions of Russia. Kazakhstan's population of roughly 16.5 million makes it a relatively small country compared to international standards, but it is the world's ninth largest coun- try. Kazakhstan is rightly considered to be the world's "largest small country."

The transition from a communist system of government and economy to a market-based system has been difficult for Kazakhstan. The transition began in 1991, but the economy contracted sharply in the first years, with 1994 a particularly difficult year. Kazakhstan was shaken by the economic instability that hit Asian financial markets in 1997 and swept across Russia in 1998. After recovering from the setbacks caused by the 1998 financial market crash, Kazakhstan began to make significant progress in 1999. Economic growth surged ahead in 2000, reaching a level of 8 percent. The government pursued prudent fiscal policies , avoiding overspending despite the fact that government revenuestaxes and other forms of incomeexceeded original expectations. The economic recovery was led by strong growth in exports, particularly gas and oil, and was helped by high prices for fuel products in international markets.

Many areas of macro-economic reform have been highly successful, even providing a model for other post-communist countries to follow. The government established a legal foundation and regulatory system for a private economy. It moved quickly to establish sound and fiscal monetary policies and actively encouraged international trade and foreign investment. The government adopted sound taxation and spending policies. The government introduced a national currency, the tenge, which has been quite stable. The government established a regulatory structure for the private banking and financial sector and privatized major enterprises, including the majority of power generation facilities and coal mines. The government passed environmentally sound oil and gas legislation that meets international standards.

Yet Kazakhstan's reform has made less headway in other areas. Kazakhstan's agriculture remains without adequate investment in infrastructure such as roads, processing equipment, and farm inputs. Moreover, the banking system has virtually ignored agriculture, failing to provide much needed credit for farm expansion. Kazakhstan adopted a private pension system, moving ahead of other former communist countries, but the social safety net has worn thin in many areas. With a per capita income of US$1,300, most citizens of Kazakhstan have yet to see the benefits of macro-economic reform and the resurgence of world prices for the country's significant oil, gas, and gold deposits. The social safety net has been weakened with declines in health status, benefits for senior citizens, and education opportunities. Dramatic increases in infectious diseases, such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, pose serious social threats.


The dominant feature of Kazakhstan's government is the transition from communism. As a part of the Soviet Union until 1991, Kazakhstan was a testing ground for many important communist policies of the USSR. The communist system was distinguished by a powerful central government, an official state ideology of Marxism , and a centralized, planned economy. The communist government took control of the means of production (farms, factories, and natural resources) in the early 1920s through a process of nationalization . The changes in the Soviet Union began in 1988 with the introduction of open and relatively free elections. Kazakhstan's first open election was held in February 1990. Nursultan Nazarbaev then the first secretary of the Kazakhstan Communist Partywas elected chairman of the Kazakhstan parliament. A short time later the parliament passed the Kazakhstan Declaration of Sovereignty. The true meaning of the declaration was somewhat obscure. Kazakhstan became a sovereign government but remained within the larger government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Soviet Union. As the Soviet Union began to unravel in the autumn 1991, President Nazarbaev scheduled popular elections. Running without opposition, he won the election and became Kazakhstan's first popularly-elected president. Just 2 weeks later the Kazakhstan parliament adopted the Kazakhstan Declaration of Independence, and Kazakhstan became truly independent.

In the first 2 years following the disintegration of the USSR, Kazakhstan began to define its strategy for the transition from communism to a market-based economy. One of the most important elements in this transition is the transfer of property rights from the government to the private sector . If property belongs to everyoneas is the case under communismit is often treated as if it belongs to no one. Establishing private property rights is, therefore, a first step in the transition to the economically rational use of resources. In 1993 the Kazakhstan government adopted a privatization program to return control of economic assets to the people themselves.

The most important stage of privatization in Kazakhstan took place between 1994 and 1997. Sales and public auctions were held to distribute the country's 4 categories of properties: the country's major industries, mines, and oil fields; large factories; small shops, stores, and apartments; and agricultural enterprises. The "caseby-case privatization program" sold most of the country's major industries, mines, and oil fields. The "mass privatization program" held auctions for most of the country's large factories. Most small shops and stores were sold in the country's "small scale privatization program." Agricultural enterprises were privatized, although agricultural land itself was not. Residents were also allowed to privatize the apartments and houses in which they were living at the time. Residents were required to pay a nominal sum for their property, but there were few cases of people who were left without hearth and home by the privatization program.

In December of 1991, Communist Party chiefs of 11 of the former 15 Communist Party organizations of the USSR gathered in the Kazakh capital (then called Alma-Ata) in a dramatic meeting to decide what to do about the collapsing Soviet Union. The outcome of this meeting was the Alma-Ata Declaration, announcing that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would "henceforth cease to exist." The Alma-Ata Declaration also established a loose coordinating structure called the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and sanctioned the emergence of 15 new and independent states from the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan was one of these states.

In its first decade of independence Kazakhstan made great progress in the transition to a modern, democratically governed state with a market-based economy. The steps the Kazakh government has taken over these years of independence follow a textbook description for the establishment of a civil societya constitutionally organized, secular society based on the rule of law, the protection of human and civil rights, and the limited role of popularly elected, accountable government. The Kazakh government established the fundamental institutions of civil development, such as a constitutional form of limited government based on a separation of powers, open electoral process, a professional judiciary, a deliberative parliament, free press, and the rights of speech, assembly, and religion. The government also initiated and carried through the process of selling the state's assets to the public through privatization.

The Kazakh government carried out macroeconomic reforms including true price liberalization , freeing the markets from government controls. It also established the legal and regulatory structure of a private economy, including a modern civil code and tax, banking, and investment laws that accord with international standards. The Kazakhstan government relinquished control of the nuclear weapons on its territory in accordance with international treaty agreements. And, although it is not entirely unblemished, Kazakhstan's record of protection of human and civil rights compares favorably with that of its former Soviet neighbors.

Kazakhstan enacted its first post-communist tax code in April 1995. The Kazakhstan tax code is based on international standards and stresses equity , economic neutrality, and simplicity. Taxation takes place at the 3 levels of government: central, provincial (called an "oblast" in the Russian language), and local. The 3 most important taxes are the enterprise profits tax, the individual income tax , and the value-added tax (VAT). Profits for most private firms are taxed at a rate of 30 percent. Most business expenses are deductible, including wages. The individual income tax ranges from 5 to 30 percent. The VAT is applicable to all goods, work, and services, including imports into Kazakhstan. The VAT on imports is usually 20 percent of the value added , or the difference between the purchase and resale price. In addition to these basic taxes, there are a number of other, less common taxes such as the natural resource tax paid for the right to explore for oil and other mineral resources. Land is taxed annually. Business assets are taxed at .50 percent yearly. And individually owned land is taxed at .10 percent of the assessed value. Automobiles and trucks are taxed on their value.


With a highway system that includes some 103,272 kilometers (64,123 miles) of paved highways, Kazakhstan ranks favorably in terms of miles of road per inhabitant. Many quite developed countries in the world have much less roadway per inhabitant. Kazakhstan's main form of transport infrastructure for haulage and

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Kazakhstan N/A 384 231 N/A 2 0.1 N/A 1.42 70
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Uzbekistan 3 465 275 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0.05 8
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

freight is rail. Kazakhstan's main railway system includes 14,400 kilometers (8,948 miles) of track. Kazakhstan's transport infrastructure also includes oil and gas pipelines. Kazakhstan has 2,850 kilometers (1,770 miles) of crude oil pipelines, 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) for refined oil products, and 3,480 kilometers (2,162 miles) of natural gas pipelines. In early 2001 a new pipeline was opened to carry crude oil from Kazakhstan's northwestern oil fields through Russia to western markets. Kazakhstan has major port facilities at the Caspian harbors of Aqtau and Atyrau, as well as ports on the navigable Irtysh River at Oskemen, Pavlodar, and Semey. There are 10 major airports in the country, with international airports at Astana and Almaty.

Kazakhstan's railway system was integrated into the Soviet system. Connections allowed for shipment of freight throughout the Eurasian landmass. However, the access to markets in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East is through rail connections that now pass through the territory of Russia. Kazakhstan's highway system is in a poor state of maintenance but otherwise is adequately developed. The highway system allows for truck freight traffic through all bordering countries.

Kazakhstan is the largest of the 5 post-Soviet Central Asian countries (in addition to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan). All the Central Asian countries are highly interdependent with respect to energy resources, transportation infrastructure, and markets. The greatest source of wealth in the region is natural resources, particularly gas and oil. The Caspian region's major oil and gas reserves are located in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Much of the oil wealth is located in the shallow coastal regions of the Caspian Sea or in the remote regions of western Kazakhstan. The potential for increasing oil and gas production in the region is great. Oil industry analysts expect that the region could be exporting as much as 2 million barrels a day by 2010. But because all the region's oil-producing countries are landlocked, routes to the market invariably involve shipment through third party countries. As a consequence, the complexities of the region's geography and the differing national interests of the countries make access to market a matter of mutual agreement.

Kazakhstan inherited from the Soviet period a telecommunications system that was exceptionally poor. In 1995 Kazakhstan had slightly fewer than 2 million phone lines in use. The number of mobile cellular lines in the country was quite small (4,600 according to U.S. government official estimates). Most cities and small towns rely on deteriorating fixed copper wire phone systems that are comparable to what was used in the United States in the 1940s. Inter-city communications take place through landline and microwave radio relay. However, the system is being modernized. The cities of Almaty and Astana have had recent telecommunications upgrades.

In 1999 the cellular and digital phone revolution arrived in Kazakhstan. Like many developing countries with aging fixed copper wire systems, a steep drop in the cost of cellular services made it possible to bypass over the existing copper service. Statistics are not available concerning the extent to which cellular phones are in common use, but observations on the street would suggest that soon the copper wire fixed system may be replaced by reliance upon new mobile phones. International phone connections are possible with other countries by satellite and by the Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic cable, as well as by earth-to-satellite-to-earth stations.


Kazakhstan's economy is export-oriented. Gas, oil, and metals make up 72 percent of Kazakhstan's exports. Since a rise in world market prices for oil in 1999, Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector has benefitted from strong foreign demand, comparatively strong domestic demand, a crossroads geographic location, a favorable foreign investment climate, and multiple joint ventures with Western and Eastern oil companies. Agriculture, while accounting for 23 percent of employment in Kazakhstan, accounted in 1999 for just slightly over 10 percent of the GDP. Industry, with 27 percent of the country's employment, accounted for 30 percent of Kazakhstan's GDP. Kazakhstan's industrial sector rests on the extraction and processing of natural resources and also on a relatively small machine building sector. This sector specializes in construction equipment, tractors, agricultural machinery, and transportation equipment such as small buses and railroad cars. The country has considerable agricultural potential with its vast lands accommodating both livestock and grain production.

The breakup of the USSR and the collapse of demand for Kazakhstan's traditional heavy industry products have resulted in a sharp contraction of the economy since 1991, with the steepest annual decline occurring in 1994. In the period 1995-97 the pace of the government program of economic reform and privatization quickened, resulting in a substantial shifting of assets into the private sector.

The December 1996 signing of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium agreement to build a new pipeline from western Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field to the Black Sea increased prospects for substantially larger oil exports in the years ahead. Kazakhstan's economy turned downward, however, in 1998 with a 2.5 percent decline in the GDP growth due to slumping oil prices and the August financial crisis in Russia. A bright spot in 1999 was the recovery of international oil prices, which, combined with a well-timed tenge devaluation and a bumper grain harvest, pulled the economy out of recession . If initial reports of the production capacity of the new Kashagan field on Kazakhstan's Caspian shelf turn out to be accurate, Kazakhstan's ability to produce oil will far outstrip its ability to get it to market.


Kazakhstan has substantial untapped agricultural potential, yet its agricultural sector is underdeveloped and under-financed. The country's capital, Astana (previously known as Tselinograd), was the epicenter of a major Soviet agricultural expansion programthe "Virgin Lands" programof the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, tens of thousands of households moved to central Kazakhstan to assist in the expansion of agriculture. Currently agriculture is the country's major employer. Yet it comes in a distant second to the industrial sector in attracting government attention for investment and support.

Kazakhstan produced about 8 million tons of wheat in the 2000-01 growing season, down from 11.2 million tons produced the previous year. Total grain production was about 10.5 million tons, down from over 14 million the year before. Area under cultivation increased approximately 4 percent in 2000 from the previous year, to 9.0 million hectares of wheat and 11.4 million total hectares of grain. Conditions were generally favorable for wheat in Kazakhstan's key north-central oblasts since the beginning of the growing season, with adequate precipitation in the form of frequent light-to-moderate showers. Vegetation indices from late July indicate that crop conditions in Kazakhstan in 2000 were not as good as in 1999, when near-ideal conditions prevailed, but they were better than during the drought of 1998 when wheat output dropped to 4.7 million tons.

One constraint that some economists see on Kazakhstan's agricultural development is the failure of the country to develop firm private property rights for agriculture. Economists maintain that private property rights play a critical role in providing the incentives necessary for investment and careful use of resources. During the Soviet period, large-scale agriculture was carried out on state farms (Sovkhozes) and collective farms (kolkhozes). With the end of the Soviet period, these farms were reorganized into large agricultural cooperatives with the understanding that they would eventually become private farms. However, the Kazakhstan government has postponed the adoption of true private property in agricultural land for cultural and political reasons. The lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament decided in June 2000 to postpone debate on a proposed law on land ownership. The Kazakhstan government originally submitted the draft bill to the parliament for passage in 1999, but the law was withdrawn after widespread public protests against land privatization. An amended version was resubmitted for debate in 2000. The year 2000 version stipulated that only land adjacent to rural dwellings, but not all the country's agricultural land, could be privately-owned. The amended draft also triggered public protests, including a hunger strike by opposition members of the Alash party organization. Members of the Alash fear that if agricultural land is privatized there will be little public support for defending the interests of small farmers against the interests of large farm owners. Kazakhstan, they fear, will witness the develop- ment of large plantation-style farms that derive profits for multinational companies while small farmers are increasingly pushed into subsistence-level farming.


The country is rich in mineral resources, including chrome, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, wolfram, and zinc. The economy is still closely linked with the other economies of the former Soviet Union and especially with the Russian Federation. However, since independence in 1991, foreign trade has been redirected toward markets outside the former Soviet Union.

Prior to the breakup of the USSR, Kazakhstan's electrical grid was a single component within the unified Soviet electrical system. When independence came, Kazakhstan underwent a wrenching withdrawal from the physical infrastructure of the Soviet system. Dozens of independent power grids appeared, fragmenting energy markets. The reliability of energy supplies fell sharply. Cases of forced restrictions of power supplies and disconnections rose. Many small towns in northern Kazakhstan were forced to suffer the severe Siberian winters without gas and electricity supplies in the early years of the transition. During this period the Kazakh government sought to develop independent electrical and natural gas supply systems for the purposes of self-sufficiency. Ultimately, the country came to see the wisdom of reinte-grating regional Eurasian energy markets. In summer 2000 Kazakhstan began the steps to create a single power system stretching across the states of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

In 1991 the Kazakh government began negotiating with international oil firms to develop Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil fields. The Kazakhstan government joined the large multinational oil firm Chevron to form a joint venture called Tengizchevroil. The agreement committed Chevron to spend about US$20 billion over 20 years to develop the Tengiz field's 6 billion barrels of proven reserves. The agreement anticipated that eventually Kazakhstan would be exporting as much as 700,000 barrels a day from the field. Other major international petroleum firms, including Birlesmis Muhendisler Burosu, British Gas, and Agip also committed investment in the country's oil fields.

Beginning in 1992, Kazakhstan's northern neighbor Russia restructured the management of its state-owned oil and gas companies. Large, powerful, and politically well-connected private oil companies emerged from the reorganization in Russia. These new firms and the Russian government cooperated to restrict the access of the Caspian states to the Russian pipeline system and its connections to western markets. Russia first imposed high taxes and surcharges on the movement of gas and oil and then, in order to block economic development that might run contrary to the interests of Russian energy firms, sought to blockade its southern neighbors by cutting off access to foreign markets entirely.

In response to the Russian measures, the Caspian oil and gas producing countries (principally Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan) began seeking ways to bring energy supplies to market without having to pass through Russian territory. Russia lobbied for a continued reliance on the Soviet-era pipeline system, the so-called northern option. European and North American countries favored the idea of shipment across the Caucasus and on to world markets through the Bosporos, the narrow strait that leads from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), based in the countries of the Middle East, urged pursuit of a southern option. Thus, 4 routes for the Caspian oil eventually gained attention. First was a pipeline from Baku (Azerbaijan) to Ceyhan (Turkey), the Baku-Ceyhan line. Another was a pipeline that originated in Kazakhstan, went through Turkmenistan and Afghanistan before going to Pakistan and the Indian Ocean. Yet another pipeline discussed would go from Turkmenistan through Iran, Turkey, and then onward toward Europe. Finally there was discussion of a pipeline that would supply Uzbek and Turkmen gas to Pakistan through Afghanistan.

In 1995 negotiations among the oil and gas producing countries resulted in the Caspian Littoral Agreement. The agreement, which included Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan, was designed to coordinate trade routes, regulate the access to natural and mineral resources, and unite efforts at environmental protection. The agreement also established a Caspian Council, consisting of a secretariat and 4 specialists' committees. The council was to be politically controlled by an intergovernmental council representing the Caspian states. The Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) was founded by Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman in 1995. The goal of the consortium was originally to deliver oil from the Tengiz field in Kazakhstan to a Russian port on the Black Sea for shipment to western markets. In the summer of 1997, Kazakhstan and China concluded an over US$10 billion agreement for the extraction and transportation of Kazakh oil. In 1998 the 2 countries began to develop and operate the Uzen oil field and the Aktyubinsk oil and gas field in northwestern Kazakhstan. The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) bought a 60 percent stake in Kazakhstan's large Aktobemunaigaz oil field for US$325 million and pledged to invest another US$4 billion in it over the next 20 years. Kazakhstan and China began exploring the possibility of jointly laying an oil pipeline from Western Kazakhstan to China. The project would cost an estimated at US$3 to US$3.5 billion and be the largest pipeline construction project in history. The pipeline, if constructed, would be about 3,000 kilometers long and its annual handling capacity would be at least 20 million tons.

In some categories of mining Kazakhstan is among world leaders. The country has about one-third of the world's chromium and manganese deposits. It has substantial tungsten, lead, zinc, copper, bauxite, silver, and phosphorus. Kazakhstan is also a major producer of beryllium, tantalum, barite, uranium, cadmium, and arsenic. Major iron mines are located in the north of the country. There are reserves of goethite and limonite, but these are generally considered to be low grade. The capacity of these mines has been listed as 25 million tons/year. Large reserves of coal are generally found in the central and northern parts of the country. Kazakhstan has large reserves of phosphorus ores in the Zhambyl region in the south. The government privatized state mining companies in 1994.

Kazakhstan has major aluminum, copper, steel, uranium, and zinc factories. The country's major steel producer, Karaganda Metals (or Karmet), was privatized in 1994 and sold to the international firm Ispat-Karmet. Production dropped for several years but in 2000 began to increase, reaching 300,000 tons. The major aluminum producer, Aluminum of Kazakhstan, is engaged in a major expansion of output. The country's chief zinc complex, Kazzinc, announced in 2000 that it would expand production to 250,000 tons. Kazakhstan also has a growing precious metals sector, with production increases in recent years in gold and silver in particular. The majority of gold and silver output comes as a by-product from base metal production, but there are also separate deposits. There are 23 gold-bearing regions in Kazakhstan. The Vasilkovskoye mine in north Kazakhstan is considered to be the fourth largest gold mine in the world.


Kazakhstan's consumer markets are small by comparison with the markets of Europe and Asia. Consequently, most manufacturing focuses on primary commodities for export rather than on the production of consumer goods to meet domestic demand. The service sector in Kazakhstan is large and growing in the major municipal areas. However, the service sector is limited by the relatively small size of the markets and the fact that Kazakhstan's urban population is concentrated in only 10 major towns that are located at great distances from one another.

Kazakhstan's retail sales and service markets have been underdeveloped for many years. As a result of the heavy emphasis on primary commodities, little attention was paid during the Soviet period to consumer goods and services. After Kazakhstan became independent, new laws and regulations made it possible to open private businesses offering consumer goods and services. The small service sector surged ahead as business people began offering services, such as car repair, housing construction and improvement, real estate services, legal services, beauty shop services, and other small businesses that did not require substantial investment.

Because few consumer goods, such as processed foods, small appliances, clothing, and beauty products were produced in Kazakhstan, people had to import them. For a brief period of 2 or 3 years after independence there was a remarkable amount of growth in the import of clothing and household consumer goods that was conducted by shopping tours. These were trips made by individuals either by car, plane, or train to foreign countries such as the United Arab Emirates, China, or Turkey in order to purchase and bring back to Kazakhstan for re-sale large quantities of goods which are imported as luggage. In 1997 government customs agents began to apply import taxes to these goods, thereby discouraging much of this activity. In addition, because the transaction costs of such economic activity is very high, the market for these goods was eventually taken over by shipping and hauling companies that could import large volumes of foreign-made consumer goods.

While Kazakhstan is a country possessing many areas of great natural beauty and potential, the tourist industry is still underdeveloped but growing rapidly. Kazakhstan's new capital, the city of Astana, has several recently constructed world-class hotels. Kazakhstan's other major city, Almaty, has numerous major hotels that cater to international travelers. But the majority of cities in Kazakhstan have few hotels that can offer tourists accommodations and travel services that are in accordance with international standards.

Kazakhstan's banking sector has undergone substantial restructuring during the decade of independence. During the period between 1997 and 2001 the number of banks in Kazakhstan went from 129 to 48 as many small and non-competitive banks went out of business, merged, or were acquired by larger banks. During this period of restructuring, Kazakhstan's banking sector won high marks from international institutions for its rapid adoption of international standards of policy and practice. But these standards have not yet succeeded in convincing international investors and Kazakhstan's citizens that the financial services that are offered by Kazakhstan's major banks are critical to business success and personal finance. The major banks have still not managed to attract major foreign investment. According to banking industry estimates, fewer than 3 percent of Kazakhstan citizens regularly use personal banking services such as checking and consumer credit cards. As a result, most small business transactions in Kazakhstan continue to be cash transactions.

Financial markets are those in which stocks, bonds, and other forms of investment and savings can be bought and sold. In the transition from a centrally-planned economy to a liberal economy , the growth of the financial markets is critical to success. Financial markets facilitate capital formation for businesses and governments and provide a means of profitable utilization of assets for investors. Efficient financial markets also encourage a lot of otherwise idle financial resources to circulate more freely in the economy, what economists refer to as high liquidity . A well functioning financial market is an engine of savings and investment for any free-market economy.

There was great expectation that Kazakhstan would be able to rapidly develop active and vital financial markets immediately after independence. A decade after independence, however, those expectations have not proved well-founded. Kazakhstan's capital markets and stock markets have not proved attractive to foreign investors. Foreign direct investment has been concentrated in a few sectors, particularly oil, gas, and minerals development. Kazakhstan's offering of government bonds has met with interest from investors primarily because investors have confidence that the Kazakhstan government, with its long-term expected revenues from the oil, gas, and mineral sectors, will continue to make good on its promise to pay off its state debt.


Kazakhstan has become a relatively open economy. In 1999 the shares of export and imports in terms of GDP stood at 38 percent and 35 percent, respectively, reflecting a favorable trade balance. In that same year exports stood at US$5.2 billion while imports were US$4.8 billion. The country has the trade structure of a primary commodity supplier. In 1999 oil, gas, and minerals accounted for 78 percent of exports. In contrast, in this same year consumer products dominated imports.

Kazakhstan's largest trading partner is Russia. In 1999 Kazakh exports to Russia accounted for 20 percent of all exports, followed by China accounting for 8 per-

Trade (expressed in millions of US$): Kazakhstan
Exports Imports
1994 3230 3561
1995 5250 3806
1996 5910 4241
1997 6496 4300
1998 5403 4256
1999 5592 3682
SOURCE: United Nations. Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (September 2000).

cent, Italy for 7 percent, Germany for 6 percent, and Switzerland for 6 percent. The United States accounted for less than 2 percent of Kazakhstan's exports. Russia was also the largest importer to Kazakhstan, accounting for 37 percent of total imports. Russia was followed by the United States, which accounted for 9 percent of imports, the United Kingdom for over 6 percent, and Italy for about 3 percent. Other trading partners accounted for less than 2 percent each.

Before independence 90 percent of Kazakhstan's trade was with Russia. After independence, the government committed itself to establishing the conditions for integration into the international market. These steps included price liberalization, through the reduction of subsidies and the deregulation of prices, as well as a balanced government budget through increases in taxes and cuts in government spending. The government also instituted a tight monetary policy through an increase in the Central Bank interest rate and encouraged foreign trade liberalization by lifting export and import licenses, granting permission to all firms to engage in foreign trade, and lifting tariffs . Kazakhstan also devalued the domestic currency to bring it down to the domestic market rate, and privatized and restructured state monopolies . The government sought to create a market environment through the legislative and regulatory reform of banking, capital markets, civil and contract law, and dispute adjudication. In order to cushion the social impact of these sweeping economic structural transformations, the government developed a social safety net. The Kazakh government has also pushed ahead with plans to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002.


For a period after national independence, Kazakhstan chose to rely upon the Russian ruble as its currency. None of the successor states of the USSR was in a position at independence to rapidly introduce its own currency, yet none of the countries wanted to be dependent upon monetary decisions taken by Russian financial authorities. Each of the states considered the idea of introducing

Exchange rates: Kazakhstan
tenges per US$1
Jan 2001 145.09
2000 142.13
1999 119.52
1998 78.30
1997 75.44
1996 67.30
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

separate currencies during the first months of independence. Estonia introduced the first post-Soviet currency, the Kroon, in June 1992. Throughout 1992 most of the states, however, stayed in the ruble zonethose countries that used Russia's currency. Russia announced that it would make the ruble a fully convertible currency in the summer of 1992. After the ruble floated on the international market as a tradable currency, it immediately plunged in value, falling from 130 to over 450 rubles to the U.S. dollar. The fall of the ruble motivated the movement of huge amounts of old rubles to post-Soviet countries, particularly Kazakhstan where the ruble was still the only legal currency. As a result, the Kazakh money supply quadrupled in just a few months. To insulate itself from such disruptions, Kazakhstan introduced a new national currency, the tenge, in November 1993.

The purpose of a national currency is to allow the central economic planners and bank managers a measure of control over the economic activity of the country and to provide a medium of exchange to promote domestic commerce and foreign trade. To be an effective medium for commerce, the currency must be tradable so that buyers and sellers can exchange their goods and services with knowledge that the currency is a reliable medium for exchanging things of value. The marketability of the currency depends upon a system that allows purchasers of the currency to buy it and sell it in accordance with their currency needs. This, in turn, requires that the banking system is arranged in such a way that banks may settle their accounts among themselves and foreign banks on a regular basis, moving the currency of the country and of other countries in response to the demands of the currency users. The Kazakhstan government has taken key steps to assure that the tenge is a tradable currency with adequate provisions for clearing and settlements among banking institutions.

The Kazakhstan National Bank, the government agency responsible for maintaining the stability of the currency, has sought over the past years to maintain a stable but flexible exchange rate for the tenge. The value of the tenge fluctuated in a narrow band at about T138-143 per U.S. dollar in late 1999 and early 2000, settling at about T142.5 per U.S. dollar in late 2000. Given the strong growth in deposits and the confidence of market participants in a stable exchange rate, interest rates declined. Rates on 3-month treasury bills declined by about one-half in late 2000, reaching about 8 percent per annum.

Kazakhstan's central bank has sought to avoid many of the problems associated with the "boom and bust" syndrome of economies that are dependent upon the sale of natural resources, minerals, and other primary commodities. During 2000 the government recorded a substantial surplus. Exports grew strongly, resulting in a current account surplus as a percentage of the GDP. During 2000 the Kazakh government borrowed money on the international market by issuing Eurobonds of US$350 million. These bonds are basically treasury bills that the government issues with a promise to pay at a later date. They are called "Eurobonds" simply because they can also be purchased by investors in European markets. In May 2000 the Central Bank (the National Bank of Kazakhstan, or NBK) repaid outstanding obligations of roughly US$385 million to the International Monetary Fund, substantially reducing the public external debt .


Poverty is a major concern in Kazakhstan. More than a third of the population of the country was estimated by the World Bank to live below the subsistence minimum in 1996. Some 6 percent of the population was estimated to live on less than US$2.15 per day. Almost two-thirds of the poor live in the southern and eastern regions of the country, the areas that are largely agrarian and rural. Certain groups are most affected by poverty: the young, households with many children, households with one parent, and the retired.

Under the Soviet system, industrial facilities based in cities and regions were largely responsible for the welfare of the local citizens. The farms, factories, offices, and enterprises in which virtually every Soviet citizen worked were responsible for providing everything from road maintenance to health care to childcare. When Kazakhstan ended state ownership of industry and agriculture, these large enterprises ceased to provide social services. However, few programs came into being to rapidly assume the responsibility for providing these public services. Many Kazakh citizens who were unable to find employment in the new, rapidly changing circumstances of a market economy found their incomes lost or dramatically diminished and social services almost non-existent.

In the Soviet Union, most people lived at a roughly equal socio-economic level. The Soviet personnel system and the system of distribution of state resources such as

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Kazakhstan N/A N/A N/A 2,073 1,281
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Russia 2,555 3,654 3,463 3,668 2,138
Uzbekistan N/A N/A N/A 1,338 1,007
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Kazakhstan
Lowest 10% 2.7
Lowest 20% 6.7
Second 20% 11.5
Third 20% 16.4
Fourth 20% 23.1
Highest 20% 42.3
Highest 10% 26.3
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

housing and access to education was highly standardized. Such systems are inherently wasteful because the scarcity of goods and services is not efficiently or accurately represented. The end of communism and the advent of market economics introduced new efficiencies. At the same time, the transition period introduced the possibility of using government positions or control over resources to amass great personal wealth. New extremes of rich and poor arose quickly. Some townspeople with access to wealth benefitted greatly from the first stages of the post-communist transition. Many rural dwellers, such as herdsmen and farmers, suffered terribly as government subsidies came to an end and health, education, and other social services ended abruptly. Many small towns that had been organized during the Soviet period were essentially "company towns," that is, towns in which virtually all the population worked in one large factory. After the Soviet era, many of these communities turned into ghost towns as unprofitable factories teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, released workers, and were unwilling to support the social services for the towns and villages.

Some analysts estimate that as much as 30 percent of the economic activity in the Kazakh service sector takes place in the informal economy and is thus not visible to tax collectors. In transition economies people often seek to conceal their earnings out of fear that conspicuous wealth may attract outlaws or the tax collectors. Payments for services are often made in cash; many kinds of government control over the economy allow bureaucrats to pad their modest incomes through bribes, that is secure payments for government licenses, approvals, or support. As a consequence, many business people find that they often have to make bribes or other payments to advance their business deals or assure that they will not be harassed by officials.

A step the Kazakhstan government has taken to address this situation is the strengthening of the funded pension system that was introduced 1 January 1998. This fully-funded pension system was designed to help the government improve the marketability of financial assets held by the pension funds. Pension funds are now compelled to use internationally-accepted accounting and valuation standards, and they have greater freedom to invest in high-quality foreign assets. In the long run, workers in Kazakhstan can be assured that their earnings over their productive years will grow and pay them dividends in retirement. However, the new system amasses money as new entrants into the workforce begin regularly paying a portion of their incomes into the pension funds. Those workers already on pension or close to pension will receive little benefit from the funds. A great social injustice of the transition period is the large number of pensioners who worked their entire productive lives and only to receive monthly pensions amounting to no more than US$15 per month.

The government has taken steps to focus public assistance programs on providing critical services to the truly needy. In 1998 the Kazakhstan government adopted a system of needs tests to ensure that social assistance is provided to those who need it and not provided to those who are not entitled to it. In addition, the government discontinued reliance on unemployment registration as a means of identifying eligibility for social assistance. Overall, public assistance in such areas as medical care,

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Kazakhstan 37 10 20 9 6 6 12
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Russia 28 1 16 7 15 8 16
Uzbekistan 34 3 13 4 7 9 30
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

assistance to children and the elderly, however, has fallen far below the level needed.


Kazakhstan has a workforce of roughly 8.8 million people. Some 27 percent of the labor force is occupied in industry, 23 percent in agriculture and forestry, 20 percent in education, and the remaining 30 percent in the service sector and other sectors such as government and military. The unemployment rate was estimated to be 14 percent in 1998. Unemployment is much higher in rural areas than in urban areas, where the service sector has enjoyed robust growth in recent years. Employment by women in urban areas lags behind that of men by a considerable margin, reaching 20 percent.

Kazakhstan has paid a high social price for its rapid progress in the transition from communism. Under communism, economic growth was restrained but there was a very low level of inequality. Most workers made roughly the same income. Extremes of high and low incomes were rare. Since independence, Kazakhstan's success in rapid macroeconomic and political reforms created anxiety among the country's southern neighbors, particularly Uzbekistan, where government-regulated prices and subsidized production were still the norm. Kazakhstan's abandonment of subsidies for Soviet-era industries permitted a steep industrial decline, throwing hundreds of thousands of Kazakh citizens out of work. Kazakhstan's success in privatization led to charges in the press and among many industrial workers that the Kazakhstan government had sold out to large multinational corporations , abandoning social principles in favor of rapid income gains for the few. Kazakhstan's efforts to court a few large multinational enterprises particularly in the gas, oil, and minerals sectorsled to the widespread perception of growing corruption, bribery, and cronyism.

The socio-economic consequences of the transition are immediately visible in Kazakhstan. High unemployment, deteriorating or even non-existent social services, unpaid salaries, social security and pension payments, unheated apartments, and unavoidable confrontations with dishonest or corrupt local officials: these are everyday features of life in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan's industrial workers have sought to use collective bargaining to promote their common welfare. However, trade unionism has weak traditions in the country. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions claims a membership of about 250,000 workers. In fact, the number of independent trade union members is much lower. Other unions have had even less success. To obtain legal status, an independent union must apply for registration with local judicial authorities and with the Ministry of Justice. Registration is generally lengthy, difficult, and expensive. Independent unions gravitated towards opposition political candidates but turned more pro-government in 1999 when the government authorities introduced protectionist trade policies aimed at supporting domestic industries. Kazakhstan law does little to protect workers who join independent unions from threats and harassment by enterprise management or state-run unions. Members of independent unions have been dismissed, transferred to lower-paying jobs, threatened, and intimidated.


650-750. A tribal alliance of herders and nomads known as the Kaganate moves into the area that is now Kazakhstan.

750. Arabs invade the area, spreading the influence of the Islamic culture and religion.

1700. The people divide into 3 Kazakh tribes (called "Juz"), which become known as the senior, middle, and junior tribes.

1731. The junior tribe joins the Russian empire, while the senior and middle tribes remain independent.

1820. The khan of Kokand, ruling from the ancient city of Kokand located far to the south, extends its political influence northward, capturing and taking control of areas of southern Kazakhstan.

1850. Major Russian emigration occurs. Russians arrive in Kazakhstan in search of new agricultural lands.

1867. The Russian tsar decrees the establishment of the Turkestan general-governorship, extending official Russian rule into Kazakhstan and Central Asia, making Kazakhstan part of the Russian Empire.

1917. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia toward the end of World War I leads to the establishment of a communist government and the creation, in 1918, of the Russian Socialist Republic (which includes the territory of present-day Kazakhstan).

1925. Ethnic Kazakhs in the southern region gain recognition as the separate Karakalpak Autonomous Province. The province is included in the new republic of Uzbekistan, not in Kazakhstan, thereby dividing the ethnic Kazakhs.

1929. The capital of Kazakhstan is moved from the city of Kzyl Orda to Alma-Ata (later known as Almaty).

1929-33. The Russian government embarks upon the collectivization of agriculture to reorganize agriculture along the lines of industrial management. The disastrous agricultural policies lead to widespread opposition, farmers' uprisings, and famine.

1936. The province of the territories of modern day Kazakhstan is proclaimed to be a Soviet Socialist Republic, called the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. During the rule of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, the communist government conducts campaigns against political opposition. Thousands of Kazakhs are imprisoned for crimes against the state, the political crime of disagreement with state policy.

1957-61. Under the leadership of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev a new agricultural initiative called the Virgin Lands Campaign relocates tens of thousands of people from the European parts of the USSR to Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is identified as the new bread basket of the USSR.

1986. After a decision by Soviet leaders to appoint an ethnic Russian as the head of the Kazakhstan Communist Party, widespread nationalist opposition to the dominance of the Communist Party results in public protests and riots.

1990. Demands for greater political autonomy on the part of the Socialist Republics of the USSR lead to a movement for republican sovereignty. The Kazakhstan Soviet-era parliament passes the Declaration of Sovereignty, asserting that the natural resources of the country belong to Kazakhstan and not the Soviet Union.

1991. An unsuccessful attempt to take over the Russian government by Communist Party hard-liners precipitates a crisis in Moscow. Many rank and file communists join opponents of Moscow's long-standing domination of the rest of the country. Kazakhstan, like all of the 15 republics that made up the USSR, declares national independence.

1991. In December, 11 high Communist Party officials gather in Almaty (then known as "Alma-Ata") to sign a document announcing the end of the USSR and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

1992. Kazakhstan joins major international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

1993. The Kazakhstan Constitution is adopted.

1995. A new version of the Kazakhstan Constitution, assigning greater powers to the executive branch, is adopted.

1995. The first Kazakhstan tax code is introduced.

2000. Kazakhstan joins the Eurasian Economic Community, an international organization designed to create a common economic market throughout much of the former USSR.


Kazakhstan's government has made substantial progress in the transition to a modern, globally integrated economy. Following independence, Kazakhstan quickly carried out macroeconomic reforms and established the legal and regulatory structure of a private economy. The country has adopted a tradable currency, liberalized prices, and privatized major sectors of the economy including industry, telecommunications, and energy. Kazakhstan lifted virtually all subsidies on consumer goods in 1994. State industrial subsidies were abandoned in 1994, and small-scale privatization has also taken place. Kazakhstan established the fundamental institutions of a civil societya constitution recognizing a separation of powers, an electoral process, a professional judiciary, a deliberative parliament, a free press, and rights of speech, assembly, and religious freedom. Kazakhstan's record of protection of human and civil rights compares favorably with that of its former Soviet neighbors. Given these facts, it can be argued that Kazakhstan has gone further than many of the former Soviet states in the establishment of a modern state. Yet serious challenges remain.

Kazakhstan inherited a physical infrastructure designed to serve the Soviet economy by providing primary commodities such as energy and minerals to industrial markets in the north, particularly in the Ural and central Siberian industrial regions of Russia. Kazakhstan's industry was previously tightly connected to these regions of Russia because its industrial suppliers and consumers were primarily in these regions. The country's rail and road transportation systems were designed to connect its primary commodity industries with the northern manufacturing markets. These are the realities of Kazakhstan's contemporary situation: primarily commodity-based industries, a sparse population, previous economic specialization under Soviet-style socialism , and a legacy of centralized planning.

In terms of Kazakhstan's political future, the stakes are obviously big. Kazakhstan is potentially one of the richer countries of the region, and perhaps one of the richer countries of the world if it can succeed in negotiating access to world markets for its oil, gas, and mineral riches. But an oil-led economic development strategy has potential drawbacks for Kazakhstan. A strategy that relies exclusively on the export of primary commodities and raw materials is likely to make Kazakhstan susceptible to fluctuations in international markets. Like the other post-communist countries, Kazakhstan will very likely continue to be influenced by economic trends that it cannot control. Private international investors, with the exception of the major oil companies, have been reluctant to make major commitments to Kazakhstan. Those foreign companies that have moved into the Kazakhstan market, such as Tractabel, the large European energy company, have found the Kazakh domestic market to be more challenging than they anticipated. There is a consensus that the Kazakh government needs to strengthen the institutional and legal underpinnings of a market economy, balance its public and private sectors, and make a more substantial commitment to strengthening the social safety net. The Kazakh government has made substantial progress in developing a market-based policy framework, at least in theory. Making this framework function in practice is one of the main challenges facing the country's economic managers.


Kazakhstan has no territories or colonies.


Cummings, Sally N. Kazakhstan: Centre-Periphery Relations. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Kazakhstan. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Hopkirk, Peter. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. London: Kodansha International, 1994.

Kalyuzhnova, Yelena. Kazakstani Economy: Independence and Transition. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

Kaser, Michael Charles. The Economies of Kazakstan and Uzbekistan. London; Royal Institute of International Affairs, and Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1997.

Kazakhstan: The Transition to a Market Economy. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1993.

Kazecon. <>. Accessed February 2001.

Kazhegeldin, Akezhan. "Shattered Image: Misconceptions of Democracy and Capitalism in Kazakhstan," Harvard International Review. Vol. 22, Winter/Spring 2000.

International Monetary Fund. Republic of Kazakhstan and the IMF. <>. Accessed February 2001.

The National Bank of Kazakhstan. <>. Accessed February 2001.

President's Office of the Kazakhstan Government. Welcome to the Official Kazakhstan. <>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Kazakhstan. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Gregory Gleason




Tenge (T). One tenge equals 100 tiyin. No coins exist. Paper currency comes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 tenge as well as 1, 3, 5, 10 and 20 tiyin.


Oil, ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery, chemicals, grain, wool, meat, coal.


Machinery and parts, industrial materials, oil and gas, vehicles.


US$54.5 billion (in purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$5.2 billion (1999 est.). Imports: US$4.8 billion (1999 est.).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Kazakhstan
Region: East & South Asia
Population: 16,733,227
Language(s): Kazakh, Qazaq, Russian
Literacy Rate: 98%
Academic Year: September-May
Compulsory Schooling: 11 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 4.4%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 2,928
Libraries: 15,055
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,342,035
  Secondary: 1,921,302
  Higher: 482,690
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 98%
  Secondary: 87%
  Higher: 33%
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 98%
  Secondary: 91%
  Higher: 38%

History & Background

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to the creation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, one of the world's largest countries (2.7 million square kilometers), located in the heart of the Eurasian continent. Administratively, the country is divided into 14 oblasti (states), with 160 raiony (districts), and the major cities of Astana, Almaty, Ekibastuz, Karagandy, Kustanai, Pavlodar, Semipalatinsk, Shymkent, and Ust'-Kamenogorsk. In 1997, the capital of the country was moved from Almaty to Astana.

Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic state. Various periods of Kazakhstani history reflected noteworthy shifts in the demographic situation. In the course of peasants' migration in the pre-1917 period, more than 1 million people came to Kazakhstan from Russia, the Ukraine, and Byelorussia. After the 1917 Revolution, about 1 million people were subjected to migration to Kazakhstan for the purposes of constructing industrial facilities; even greater numbers were victims of Stalin's policy of farm collectivization. They came mostly from the European part of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). During World War II, 150,000 people were evacuated from the territories occupied by Nazi Germany to work at the military facilities. Kazakhstan became a place of exile for several ethnic groups who were suspected of being potential collaborators with Hitler. These groups included nearly 800,000 Germans, 78,500 Koreans, 102,000 Poles, and 507,000 people from the North Caucasus. In the 1950s, the reclamation of virgin soils in Kazakhstan brought yet another 1,500,000 people from various USSR republics.

According to the 1999 estimate of the Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Statistics, almost 15 million people representing 120 ethnic groups lived in the country. Among them were nearly 8 million Kazakhs, more than 4 million Slavic and non-Slavic Russians, 547,000 Ukrainians, 353,000 Germans, and 249,000 Tatars, and 1 million people belonging to other ethnic minorities. The population of the country has a high percentage of people with bi-ethnic and multi-ethnic backgrounds. Since the last census taken in 1989, there was over a 1 million decrease in population due to emigration because of the country becoming a separate nation-state, economic hardships, and growing nationalism. Most of the emigrants were from Russian and German communities. Another factor relates to the birth reduction. For example, the 1995 child birth rate was approximately 17 children per 1,000 of the population. In 1999, the rate fell to 14.

Most of the population lives in urban areas that have better economies in comparison with the rural areas. This has a great impact on the educational system and educational opportunities of people. The urban areas, mostly located in the northern part of the country, have highly developed industries, and a high number of educational institutions. They are heavily populated with ethnic Russian or Russian-speaking people, while the countryside has a larger proportion of ethnic Kazakhs and other Central Asian minorities.

Major religions are Islam, which makes up a little more than half of the population, and Russian Orthodox Christianity, which comprises just a little less than half of the population. Kazakhs were converted to Islam only in the early nineteenth century. A predominantly atheistic republic by the end of the twentieth century, Kazakhstan experienced a genuine religious renaissance after the days of its independence.

Kazakhstan possesses rich oil and natural gas reserves (mainly in the Tenghiz region in Western Kazakhstan) and substantial amounts of iron ore, chrome, coal, copper, titanium, and other mineral resources. These are viewed by the leadership of the country as a significant factor in helping the country to emerge from its difficult berthing. Major farm products include wheat, barley, meat, and wool.

Since most ethnic Kazakh nomads moved with their cattle from one place to another, there were few attempts made to develop formal schooling. A rudimentary education was provided in the mektebah schools (four-year elementary schools) for a small number of young boys who studied the Koran. This studying was done in Arabic under the guidance of mullas (priests), most of whom were foreign. A small number of advanced three to four year medrece schools were held at mosques and trained religious ministers and teachers of mektebah schools. Overall, the level of illiteracy among the people was high. According to the 1897 census, a very small part of the population was literate, and most of them lived in the northern parts of Kazakhstan where the mixture of Kazakhs and Russians was the highest. Only one child out of ten attended a school.

The first formal schools providing general education for the indigenous population were sponsored by the Russian mercenaries and settlers. They migrated to this region in search of new lands in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The first secular vocational schools were also opened to prepare clerks, translators, teachers, and medical workers for the Russian Protectorate administration. The Russian-Kazakh and Russian-Kyrgyz municipal schools, financed by the government, laid the foundation for the creation of the system of public education. To promote the education of girls, the government opened several Russian-Kazakh women's schools and community colleges. By 1896, the number of girls in these schools reached only 211; however, it was a break from a centuries-old Islamic tradition of keeping Kazakhi girls away from getting an academic education. To pursue higher education, most ethnic Kazakhs usually went to Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, or other Russian cities, since Kazakhstan did not have any colleges or universities.

Although not a separate, national state in the past, Kazakhstan began the construction of its national identity after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The Communist ideological foundations that shaped the USSR were a significant factor in molding the educational, political, social, and economic scene of the republic and the culture of its people.

Kazakhstan inherited many educational legacies from the former Soviet Union. One such legacy was a system of universal compulsory general school education. The Communist ideology of the Soviet Union was driven by the social reconstructionist theory that placed a great importance on education as a means of economic, political, and social transformation. The government set the eradication of illiteracy among both adults and children as its prime goal. In the 1920s, supported by the Soviet government, the Communist Party leadership, filled with the revolutionary enthusiasm of the young people, launched the campaign "Down with illiteracy!" Though the material and the human resources were scarce, by the end of the 1930s Kazakhstan managed to teach most of the population, about 84 percent, the basic literacy skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic at the elementary school level. Education became an important value and an issue for personal and social development for the Kazakhstani people.

Another legacy was the development of a system of higher education and scientific research institutions. Having not a single establishment of higher education in the pre-1917 years, the words "university" and "institute" did not even exist in local languages, Kazakhstan entered its new stage of development in 1991 with the Academy of Sciences. This included several dozen institutions conducting research in a wide range of disciplines such as astronomy, agriculture, biology, ethnography, linguistics, among other areas.

The ideological and moral fabric of education in the Soviet Kazakhstan was yet another inherited legacy. It was deeply rooted in the ideas of collectivism, which is the supremacy of the social good and social prosperity over individualism and personal good. The ideology of the Socialist state broke away from the capitalist values of the pre-1917 Tsarist Russia, and emphasized sameness and uniformity, which suppressed individuality. For more than 70 years the educational system of Kazakhstan, like education in any other Union republic, tried to instill in students the ideas of the collective serving the good of the country and the good of other people, rather than competing with others for wealth and benefits through personal efforts, talents, and ambitions. In a state where everybody was supposed to be like others, school curriculum did not promote pluralism and diversity, and there was no choice for educational institutions.

In its attempts to educate a new, Socialist type of a person, one who was free from exploitation, greed, religion, and ethnic nationalism, the Communist ideology gave priority to educating individuals who rose above, or abandoned, their ethnic values and traditions. Even some ethnic Kazakh Communist leaders sacrificed their ethnic identities, considering them inferior to the identity of a modern socialist person. Neither Kazakh, nor Russian cultures of pre-1917, were represented in their full glory within their national curricula. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Kazakhstani society was still in search of answers as to which historic traditions and values needed to be restored, which Communist ideas to abandon, and which new world values to adopt.

Another inherited legacy was that of a strong emphasis on free high school education for all. For 75 years, the state-owned and government-planned economy excluded any private initiative in education. It accustomed parents and their children to the ideas of free textbooks, to a monthly allowance given to the university students with good grades, to the reduced cost of public transportation to all students, to free access to university facilities, and to many other benefits and privileges. The idea of free education, so deeply embedded in the mentality of Kazakhstani people, was challenged by the new capitalistic developments such as the introduction of private education.

A final legacy was that of a tough military and economic competition with the world's capitalist countries in the twentieth century. The Soviet system of education placed a great emphasis on preparing engineers, scientists, and researchers. As a result, the school curriculum included many subjects related to mathematics and science, and neglected the role of social studies and humanities. Teaching stressed indoctrination and rote memorization of the content materials, rather than the development of critical thinking abilities.

In 1991, Kazakhstan obtained sovereignty. The process of the dissolution of the Soviet Union was abrupt. It happened at an unexpectedly high speed for many people throughout the USSR, especially in multiethnic republics, like Kazakhstan. For the people of Kazakhstan, independence did not come as a result of long struggle. On the contrary, the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev, was one of the few leaders of the former Soviet republics who fought for the preservation of some type of a union for the territories of the USSR. However, it did not happen, and Kazakhstan was left completely unprepared for the new role of a nation-state. Kazakhstan faced many adjustments, such as the transitional period from a "command and planned" economy to free-market one; from Communism to Democracy; from the dependence on the decisions made by the central Union government; and the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to independent decision making as a sovereign state. The destruction of the well-established economic ties between all republics of the USSR brought the country many economic, social, educational, political, and ethnic conflicts and challenges. The legal and governmental authorities of the Republic of Kazakhstan faced a problem of establishing a national system of education and a governance that would facilitate the process of nation and state building. The efforts of the Kazakh society have been directed toward reassessing the legacy of the socialist education system and introducing market economy, promoting democracy, developing new types of cooperation with the former Soviet republics within the Commonwealth of Independent States, and searching for new cultural identities. The search for national identity increased the number of educational institutions at which all subjects were taught in Kazakh and other languages.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

In 1995, the Parliament of Kazakhstan adopted a constitution that was approved during the nationally held referendum. It spelled out the following political, and ideological principles of education: democracy, equal rights, construction of the national identity, and rediscovery of ethnic and religious identities. The constitution guarantees citizens the right to determine their language identity. As Article 19 stipulated, "everyone shall have the right to use his native language and culture, to freely choose the language of communication, education, instruction and creative activities."

The country remains dedicated to providing its citizens free public education compulsory through the eleventh grade. The constitution states, "The citizens shall be guaranteed free secondary education in state educational establishments. Secondary education shall be obligatory" (Article 30).

The constitution preserves the traditional competitive nature of higher education it inherited from the Soviet Union under which applicants to state-owned universities are required to take entry exams. In such a system, only a small part, less than the top 25 percent of those who apply, can be admitted.

For the first time in the history of the country, the constitution guaranteed that "the citizens shall have the right to pay for and receive an education in private educational establishments on the basis and terms established by law" (Article 30). The existing laws allow individuals and organizations to sponsor private educational institutions, a practice abolished in 1917.

As the control of the educational system by the Communist Party loosened during the last years of the Soviet Union, the local bodies and educational institutions lowered the requirements in education. To prevent a decrease in the quality of education, the constitution stipulated "the state shall set uniform compulsory standards in education. The activity of any educational establishment must comply with these standards." This provision also created background for a high degree of centralized state planning and administering of the educational system in the country.

The constitution created the necessary legal foundations for the use of various languages in state institutions. According to Article 7, the Kazakh language became the state language of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Since the Russian and Russian-speaking population are high in the country, Russian acquired the status of an official language. As the constitution maintains, "in state institutions and local self-administrative bodies the Russian language shall be officially used on equal grounds along with the Kazakh language." It becomes a law that "the state shall promote conditions for the study and development of the languages of the people of Kazakhstan."

The reform of education in the Soviet Kazakhstan began in mid-1984 with the adoption by the USSR Supreme Soviet "The Basic Trends of the Reform of Secondary General and Vocational School." The law, passed during M. Gorbachev's politics of restructuring and openness, paved the way for innovative educators and new progressive movements in education. This law gave rise to new ideas in instructional methods, organization, teacher-student relations, democratization, and humanization of educational curriculum. These ideas received a new impulse in 1992 when laws "On Education" and "On Higher Education" were passed by the Kazakh Parliament. They served as guidelines for conducting state policy in this area based on new national and cultural identities, and limited administrative interference. Overall, they extended greater autonomy to educational institutions. A national program of state-granted support of educational establishments was developed. The government approved several documents outlining several conceptual frameworks for education, such as the Conception of State Policy in the Field of Education, and the Conception of Arts Education, among others.

Many concepts and ideas were determined as priorities in the field of education for the country during the twenty-first century. Some of them include: transition to alternative education, humanization of education; introduction of a student-centered curriculum instead of society-centered one; democratization of education; compiling Kazakhstani textbooks in all the subjects of general-education school; integration of the educational system in the world educational processes; and the computerization of Kazakhstani schools.

Educational SystemOverview

The Republic of Kazakhstan enjoys a 97 percent literacy rate, which is higher than in developing countries such as India, Peru, and Morocco. The system of education in the country consists of: preschool education, general secondary education, out-of-school training and education, family education, secondary vocational training, secondary technical education, higher education, post-higher education, and the development of professional competence and in-service training.

The mandatory general education for young people, ages 7 through 16, is provided by various institutions. Before independence, the biggest number of students attended 8,027 primary and secondary schools. In 2000, the number of schools and students slightly decreased due to the overall decrease in population. The primary school includes grades 1 through 4; the secondary stage consists of grades 5 through 9 and high school includes grades 10 and 11. It is a common practice that all three stages function under one administration and are located in the same building. Primary schools exist mainly in very remote rural areas with a low density of population.

At the end of the 1980s, an alternative type of general education institution received a revivalgymnasiums and lyceums. A small number of them functioned in the area even before 1917. The gymnasiums had a very rigorous classic curriculum that prepared students for higher education, while the lyceums emphasized math and science. However, after 1917, the Soviet government abolished both institutions and installed a unified system of school education that tried to blend both trends. The experiment lasted for several decades and proved that the unified secondary education did not meet the needs and interests of diverse student population, and for that reason it came under public criticism in the 1980s. In 2000, the system embraced 31 gymnasiums and 96 lyceums.

The network of general secondary education establishments also incorporates 244 secondary specialized schools which, in addition to the general education curriculum, offer the in-depth study of some subjects, foreign language being the most common one. In addition, there are 40 common type children's homes with a contingent of 5,006 children; 43 family type children's homes with 126 children; 22 boarding schools for orphaned children and children deprived of parental care; 48 seasonal boarding schools of common type attended by 15,647 children of migrant workers; 249 all-year round boarding schools with 8,250 children; 32 boarding schools for 4,853 mentally and physically handicapped children; and 1 boarding school for 93 children with severe behavioral problems. Along with the day-time general education schools, there are 62 night schools, 31 full-tuition by-correspondence schools, and 21 training centers for adults who received no certificate from a secondary high school.

Equal educational opportunities for boys and girls was a major goal of the Soviet Union, and remains as such in independent Kazakhstan. Historically, before 1917, education of girls was organized within families to teach girls to accept the traditional women's roles as wives, mothers, and cooks. In 1920 and 1921, only 1,900 ethnic Kazakh girls attended schools. In the years 1966 to 1976, this number rose to 424,759 and, in 1999, the number rose to more than 1 million. All schools are coeducational.

School education is offered in 21 languages. Out of the total number, 3,291 schools use Kazakh, 2,406 use Russian, 2,138 are bilingual and use both Russian and Kazakh; 77 Uzbek; 13 Uighur, 16 Tajik, Ukrainian, and German; 86 schools use other languages. As for higher education, 77,000 students are taught in Kazakh and 177,000 in Russian. Since science and engineering were started in Kazakhstan by Russian scholars. Russian language is used more in the politechnical, technological, and scientific schools of higher learning. In some majors, teaching is conducted in Uzbek, English, or German languages.

The school year starts on the first of September and lasts for 210 days, excluding weekends, holidays, and breaks. The grading system is based on a scale from one to five, with five being the highest. The lessons last for 45 minutes with a 10-minute break between them and one 20-minute snack break. There are usually four to five lessons a day in the primary schools, and five to six lessons in the high schools. Homework requiring several hours of study is common. Since admission to universities is highly competitive, many parents hire tutors for their high school children, thus turning the other half of the day, and often weekends, into a second school.

The government pursues the policy of giving assistance to parents through the Parents' Universities and the Knowledge Universities. These provide consultations, lectures, and films on educational issues.

The educational policies, facilities, and efforts created a substantial educated human capital in the twentieth century that has helped make Kazakhstan more industrialized than other former Soviet republics in Central Asia. However, educational institutions are mainly concentrated in big cities and towns, creating a cultural gap between rural and urban population.

Private Education: During the Soviet years, Kazakhstan had no private educational institutions; they all belonged to, and were run by, the government. The constitution provided guarantees to individuals, public organizations, and churches to open private educational institutions. The growth of non-state educational institutions in the 1990s was substantial. The number of non-state general education secondary schools went from zero in 1991 to 199 in 1999. The enrollment of students increased from zero in 1991 to 16,400 in 1999.

While the number of schools increased in the second half of the 1990s, the enrollment of students decreased. The private initiative was on the rise and many new entrepreneurs wanted to open schools; however, the quality of teaching in state-owned schools remained better. The public and the parents who experienced enthusiasm about private education at the beginning of the 1990s became disappointed about the low quality of instruction. The entrepreneurs were more interested in the number of students and less in the quality of teaching. The parents started withdrawing their children from private schools and sent them back to public schools. The picture was different in non-state vocational secondary schools. In 1991, there were no non-state vocational secondary schools, as compared to 99 in 1999. The enrollment of students increased from zero in 1991 to 33,000 in 1999.

As the desire of many young people to get to work earlier to make money as capitalist incentives became stronger, attendance in vocational schools became significantly higher. This is also because of the desire of some parents for their children to be financially independent in the wake of growing poverty.

The growth of non-state institutions of higher learning was on a constant rise in the country from zero in 1991 to 106 in 1999. Kazakhstan's Association of Educational Institutions was established in 1996 in order to develop nongovernmental sector of education, to improve the quality and range of services, and to democratize and ensure wholesome competition. In 2000, the Association included 71 private universities and 45 colleges. It actively participated in developing the legal base for the institutions of different levels. This was extremely important because the development of the private educational sector was accompanied by a number of serious violations. There exists a corrupt policy of double standards in licensing and certification that undermines the principle of fair competition. It leads to unreasonable suspension and withdrawal of licenses from some educational institutions and granting them to those who do not meet the requirements.

Preprimary & Primary Education

There were two preprimary educational types of schools in Kazakh SSR, one of which was nurseries for children from one-and-a-half years of age through three years of age, with a primary goal of providing child care for working parents. The other was kindergartens for children four to six years of age, with two purposes: to provide child care and help children develop intellectually, physically, emotionally, and socially for attending a primary school. Preschool institutions were heavily subsidized by the government, or by big enterprises that built kindergartens and nursery homes for their employees. They paid up to 90 percent of all expenses for children. In cases when families had several children (in the 1950s, the Kazakhs had the highest birth-rate of all 15 Soviet republics with 7.4 children per family), the government paid 100 percent of all expenses and gave additional assistance to the family in terms of clothes, money, and summer camps, among other things. In a classless society, children were the only "privileged class," as the Soviet metaphor described the attention to the children's needs and concerns in the country.

In 1966, some 4,143 preschool institutions for 360,167 children operated in the republic. In the 1970s, the number increased to 551,800. Preprimary education in the Soviet Kazakhstan was sometimes criticized for not being able to accommodate all children of working mothers. In some regions, the kindergarten admitted up to 80 percent of preschool children. In others, especially rural areas, less than 50 percent were admitted. One example of the lack of facilities for many children was the Karaganda coal mining company. This company, one of the biggest in the USSR, constructed 85 nurseries and kindergartens for 10,000 children of its employees.

As Kazakhstan embarked on capitalist economy, the state subsidies to the preschool institution dramatically dropped, leaving them to survive on their own. The privatized companies, factories, and plants sharply cut the state's spending on preschooling. As a result, many of these institutions were closed and children had to stay at home with elderly, or with other members of the family.

The private preschool institutions that arose after 1991 are not numerous due to their high cost, and the fact they can be afforded by only wealthy people. As of the beginning of the 1997-1998 school year, the Republic numbered some 1,905 establishments of preschool education attended by 184,500 children.

Primary schools consist of grades one through four. As independent units within the system of education, they function only in remote villages with scarce populations. There were 1,766 primary schools out of total 8,400 schools. Children in rural areas are provided transportation to attend school in a nearby town or city. Since most of the population of the Kazakh Soviet Republic in the first half of the twentieth century was involved in animal husbandry, boarding schools were created across the republic. However, as the industry developed rapidly during and after the World War II, and more people moved to the urban areas, the number of the boarding schools drastically decreased. The overwhelming majority of students receive primary education at the secondary general education school. This educational institution provides mandatory education for children ages 7 to 16, which involves grades 1 through 9. It unites a primary school, a middle school, and a high school. In the 1996-1997 school year, the enrollment at primary education level was 98 percent of the relevant age group.

The primary schools provide students with rigorous instruction in Kazakh and Russian languages, literature, mathematics, the study of nature, arts, music, and physical health. Some schools offer the study of a foreign language in the second grade. Most of the subjects are taught by one teacher who stays with the students through four years of study; this allows for close bonds to be developed with students and parents. Staying in the same building with middle and high school students gives small children an opportunity to learn about expectations at the next levels of their learning. Since most parents work, primary schools, at an additional cost to parents, organize "extended day" groups, turning the other half of the day into an extension of regular lessons during which children do their home work.

The 1990s brought a huge wave of curriculum reform. An intensive process of updating the textbooks and instructional materials for primary classes was launched in accordance with the State Program "New Generation of Textbooks." In 1997, new and updated textbooks for 19 subjects for the first grade of all types of schools were published by the Ministry of Education. By 2000, the Ministry planned to publish textbooks for 24 subjects for the second grade, and for 26 subjects for the third grade, projecting to continue work on accruement of textbooks for the fourth and other grades in the next decade. Annually, about $1.5 billion tenge (Kazakhstani currency) are allotted to the publication of textbooks of a new generation.

Secondary Education

At the middle level, grades five through nine, each subject is taught by a separate teacher. The curriculum includes the Kazakhi language and literature, Russian language and literature, mathematics, geometry, geography, physics, chemistry, physical health, arts, music, and a foreign language. Each grade section has a senior teacher, or a class guide, who is appointed by the principal to maintain contact with parents, help students organize various social activities, and be a liaison with the school administration. In some small, rural areas, incomplete secondary schools (grades one through nine) operate as a separate entity.

At the end of the ninth grade, school children take exit exams developed by the national Ministry of Education and Science. Those who pass may continue their education in high school to obtain a certificate of secondary general education that gives them the right to apply to an institution of higher learning. Teachers and school administrators advise those students who are not academically bound, and might not meet the requirements of the high school, to apply to one or two-year professional'notekhnicheskoe uchilishche (vocational or professional schools) that enable the graduates enter the labor market at a low level of qualification. However, it is the parents who make the final decision. Students may apply to more academically rigorous tekhnikum (three-year technical schools), pedagogical, or medical schools that grant graduates a general secondary education, a vocational certificate, and the right to apply to universities for advanced programs of study. The students who continue their education in high school take exit exams at the end of the eleventh grade. There were eight exams, but the number was reduced by two in the 1990s. The tests are graded by local teachers, and not by the experts who composed them in the republican test center. Some institutions of higher learning started accepting exit school grades as the entry exams, relieving the school graduates from the stress of two exam sessions a summer. Usually, these are the graduates of some academically rigorous private schools or specialized schools run by the boards of education or by the universities.

As the new educational standards have been developed in Kazakhstan, secondary education in Kazakhstan has been diversified according to the Basic Education Plan that offers the students 28 variants of education. The most major, Variant Number 1, has a general education curriculum. Other variants are designed to provide an in-depth study of specific subjects and resemble magnet schools that exist in some countries. For example, Variant Number 5 offers the intensive study of foreign languages and literature. Variant Number 6 provides profound study of native languages (Turkish, Uighur, Korean, and others.) Variant Number 7 offers an in-depth study of mathematics. Variant Number 23 aims at an in-depth theoretical and practical training in national and economic industries. Variant Number 24 is designed for general education rural school. Variant Number 26 represents an aesthetic profile with such subjects as arts, music, and dance.

The major efforts in secondary school reform aim at diversifying the ideological and theoretical foundations of curriculum development. They also aim to make the process of choosing a curriculum more flexible and democratic by re-introducing traditional ethnic values and multicultural education.

As Kazakhstan becomes more open to the world community, the educational system experiences the imperative of society to increase its dedication to promoting the study of foreign languages. During the Soviet time, all students were required to study a foreign language, usually English, for seven years. This requirement was made because Cold War contacts with other countries were limited, and few students were interested in learning languages. As the country develops cooperation with the rest of the world, the study of two foreign languages, especially English, Arabic, Turkish, or Persian, becomes more common.

A great deal of attention is given by the government to Information Processing, the content of which is oriented toward developing computer skills and programming. To accomplish the goal of computerization, as it is outlined in the reform documents, 40,000 copies of a new textbook in both Kazakhstan and Russian languages have been made available for schools. A Kazakh-Russian-English Dictionary of Informatics terminology has been issued, and regional centers of new technologies in education have been created. In 1997, the President of the country approved the State Program of the Informatization of the System of the Secondary Education for the years 1997-2002 that commits 154 million U.S. dollars to schools. The financial support of the Program also comes from the Asian Bank of Development loan. In 1998, the Program was supposed to computerize 1,000 schools, including 60 percent in rural areas, a goal too bold under the given constraints of the budget.

There is no social promotion in the educational system. Those who fail one subject are allowed to take summer course work, either independently, or through tutoring. If they pass the test on the eve of the new academic year, they are promoted to the next grade. However, the repetition rate is very low (around 1 percent), and this is described by some critics as a result of grade inflation and bribery.

As the country develops its identity, nationalism is on the rise. The political elite continues to establish more schools for the Kazakh ethnic group. The ethnic Kazakh group is disproportionately represented in the leadership of the Ministry of Education and other administrative bodies, though the urban schools are more cosmopolitan. To overcome inter-ethnic tension, the government launched a project of opening schools in which diverse ethnic cultures are represented. The first, called Vozrojdenie (Revival) School was created in the city of Pavlodar. More than 500 school children of different nationalities come here six days a week. They study the native languages, culture, and traditions of people who live in Kazakhstan. The departments and classes actively intercommunicate, prepare joint concert programs, and other social events. The young artists from Vozrojdenie participate in festivals of the Kazakh, Russian, Ukraine, German, Korean, and Polish, all cultures that are regularly carried out in Pavlodar oblast. In 2000, 2 new departments, Belorussian and Greek, were added to the 10 existing departments.

Kazakhstan inherited a wide-spread system of vocational education institutions. In 1997-1998, the specialized secondary vocational education was offered by 230 schools, including 174 state-owned, and 56 non-state owned. They trained 128,730 young people in 160 specialties. During the Soviet years, the system was subsidized by both the enterprises and the state. As the plants and the factories were privatized in independent Kazakhstan, their new owners cut the spending of money on vocational education and the system began crumbling. To meet the needs of local enterprises in the labor force with the middle level of qualification, vocational schools introduced "education on contractual basis." This is when an enterprise, under the auspices of the local Bureau of Employment, signs a contract with a vocational school and pays money for training a certain number of workers.

The government encourages the creation of private secondary schools hoping that they will reduce the financial burden on public schools. The government stopped supplying textbooks for free.

Of the relevant age-group students, 87 percent were enrolled in all types of secondary education schools in 1996-1997. Leaders of Kazakhstan know this must be improved.

Higher Education

The development of higher education in Soviet Kazakhstan was a part of the general policy of the Soviet Union to promote the cultural enlightenment among the wide masses of population. Before 1917, the Kazakh territory had no institutions of higher learning. However, 50 years later, the Republic had 44 four-, five-, or six-year universities and institutes. They include Kazakh State University, Kurmangazy Kazakh State Conservatory, 19 teacher training institutes, 5 medical, and 10 politechnical institutes with total number of 415,000 students. Kazakhstan had the highest percentage of students per 1,000 people among all Central Asian republics. The higher education enjoyed the high status among the young people because it was one of the few paths to well-paid jobs, social prestige, and prosperity at the level of standards attained in the country.

In Soviet times, higher education was free. It was viewed as a professional activity requiring full time dedication on the part of students. To help students materially, the government developed a program for their support. On a monthly basis, students were provided with an allowance, the size of which depended upon their financial status and academic achievements. However, the students who flunked the final exams at the end of the semester, or came from the families with high incomes, were disqualified from receiving an allowance. The universities also awarded some money as remuneration for outstanding achievements in learning. The Union of Higher Education Workers financially supported the students from the families with low incomes. The principle of free education ensured that students did not have to buy textbooks or any instructional materials: there were enough of them in the libraries of the institutions of higher learning or in public libraries. All university facilities were available at no charge. Therefore, because of such generous support, very few students had to seek jobs for extra financial resources during their years of study.

In Soviet times, the admission to the universities was highly competitive, since the country pursued the goal of providing higher education to the few who were academically motivated or capable. Based on the results of the entry exams, universities and institutes selected about 25 percent of all the applicants. Although the USSR Constitution proclaimed equality for all in education, special preference in the admission process was given to the members of the Komsomol (Young Communist League) and to the Communist Party members who were viewed as active social participants in the life of the community.

As the country embarked on the capitalist economy in 1991, higher education continued to be a high priority among young people. The number of institutions and the number of students in them grew even bigger. The dynamics of this growth was remarkable. Despite the growth of the number of the universities and the enrollment, the number of students per 10,000 population decreased from 165 in 1970 to 157 in 1998 due to the faster growth of population during the previous 30 years.

The transformation of the country from socialist toward a capitalist free-market society compelled the society to substantially reconceptualize the notion of public education as being completely free. The size of the allowance shrank to a size that could support students only for a few days. Some institutions started charging admission fees that put the academically talented, but financially poor, in situations of inequality with regard to the rich. It increased competitiveness among the economically challenged for the fewer places available, deprived them of equal educational opportunities, and raised social stress. The fees for some instructional materials, retaking examinations, and other services became common in public universities. Some institutions had to change their public status in order to survive. For example, in 1997 four state technical higher educational institutions were transformed into private institutions.

The reform of higher education in the 1990s followed the provisions of the constitution which allowed the establishment of the private institutions. Their number skyrocketed from 0 to 106 in the years of 1990 through 1999. Educational institutions, such as universities acquired a good reputation, but they were very costly for an average citizen earning the equivalent of US$42 a month. The process of obtaining a license for opening a private institution does not always strictly follow the guidelines set by the government, and the absence of independent accrediting institutions make it difficult to verify the quality of curriculum offered.

The cardinal changes took place in the field of curriculum. They involved the reduction of the ideological burden of the past and the elimination of the mandatory study by all students in such core courses as History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Scientific Communism, and Scientific Atheism. The new market economy in the country also necessitated the introduction of new majors and the development of new courses for them, mainly in the fields of management, marketing, and investment.

In Soviet Kazakhstan every graduate was guaranteed a job upon graduation both by the KazSSR and the USSR governments. The new state experienced high levels of unemployment, 12.3 percent in 2001, and it had to abandon the former function as a job provider. Instead, it gave an order and some money to the state-owned universities to prepare a certain amount of specialists for the needs of the state structures. It also provided financial assistance to 58,600 students or 24 percent of all the total contingent, with full compensation of money after graduation.

The teaching faculty makes up 21,834 people, and among them are 1,191 Doctors of Science and 7,529 Candidates of Science. They are prepared in the educational or research institutions in the three-year aspirantura (doctoral programs). The curriculum of these programs requires more independent work under the supervision of an experienced scholar than the course work in the form of lectures and seminars. After the graduates defend a dissertation, they are granted the scholarly degree of the Candidate of Science in specific areas. Up to 10 percent of those who continue to research extensively and publish, may choose to write another dissertation for the degree of the Doctor of Science in specific areas. The difference in salaries of doctors and candidates is substantial.

The reform of higher education targeted the restructuring of the system in order to bring it closer to the one that exists in many countries of the world. In the past, most institutions of higher learning had a status of an institute with a five-year program. In the 1990s, they were converted into universities and academies with the four-year baccalaureate and one or two-year graduate master's programs.

As an independent country, Kazakhstan established new ties and cooperation with the world's institutions of higher learning. In 1998, a total of 3,598 international students from 43 countries studied in Kazakhstani universities.

Studying abroad for Kazakhstani people is sponsored by various programs organized by the state, religious, and international organizations, such as the British Council, and the American Council of Teachers of Russian. Upon independence, many countries, especially Islamic ones, advanced into the Kazakhstani educational system to promote their culture and influence by opening religious schools and establishing joint institutions; one example is Kh.A.Yassavi Kazakh-Turkish University. The Republic's universities also signed agreements on student exchanges with their partners in other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the former Soviet republics.

Starting in 1995, the Republic has been putting in practice President Nazarbaev's instruction to allocate a 10 percent quota to facilitate admission of representatives of small minorities to higher educational institutions. It resulted in a dramatic rise in their share among students, which equaled this index with the level of national minorities within the overall statistics of the Republic's population.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

As independent Kazakhstan faced the imperative of constructing a new structure of governance, it almost followed the pattern of the USSR in establishing a separate Ministry of Education. However, given the limited budget potentials, and the reduced size of the educational system, the Ministry was united with the ministerial structures, which are responsible for culture and health. In 1999, the President of the Republic reformed the government and created the Ministry of Education and Science, which adopts major decisions about educational policies, goals, national standards, finances, and personnel. The Ministry focuses mainly on control rather than leadership, supervision, and evaluation. At the state level, and in the big cities of Akmola and Almaty, the system is administered by the Board of Education and at the district level of by the Department of Education.

When part of the Soviet Union, the system of education in Kazakhstan was operated on a highly centralized planning basis. The major function of the KazSSR Ministry of Education lay in controlling the implementation of the constitutional provisions on education, Communist Party of the Soviet Union ideological guidelines, and orders of the USSR Ministry of Education. While the USSR Ministry of Education developed goals, policies, and the larger part, about 70 percent of the school curriculum, the republican Ministry was responsible for developing about 30 percent of curriculum which included history, literature, language, geography, and culture of Kazakhstan. Parents, governing bodies, and school administrators and teachers had limited authority over decisions about curriculum at the lower local level. Such a centralized system created more uniformity, and deprived teachers an opportunity to adjust schooling to local and individual differences. The administration system still resembles that of the USSR, even though some transformations have been made.

The financial support to the system of public education comes mainly by the national budget. In 1999, some 15 percent of total spending was allotted to education. It is a big increase after the fiscal crisis of the first half of the 1990s when spending fell to 3.1 percent. Additional financial assistance has been provided by International Monetary Fund, World Bank, IREX, American Council of Teachers of Russian, Asian Bank of Development, as well as by various private companies and public organizations from the Arab world. In order to overcome financial shortage, some educational institutions began renting their buildings to private businesses.

The rapid development of science and research in Kazakhstan took place during World War II when many research institutions and scholars were evacuated from the European part of the Soviet Union to the republic. The scientific potential grew so high that, in 1946, the Academy of Sciences of KazSSR was founded, and a network of research institutions developed.

Prior to the country's independence, most of the scientific and technical potential of Kazakhstan was integrated in the much larger and elaborate scientific entities and structures of the former Soviet Union. In the 1990s, the Republic faced a task to reassess its relation and relevance to the former scientific programs and projects, its financial potentials, and the new needs and research agendas of the country. Given the conditions of an allembracing disintegration of the organizational pattern of science, its Kazakhstani contingent suffered a serious destruction. Over the period of 1991-1993, as a consequence of sharply reduced funding of scientific institutions, the number of scholars engaged in research decreased dramatically.

In Soviet Kazakhstan, the substantial amount of educational research work was conducted in the KazSSR Scientific Research Institute of Pedagogy which, after independence, obtained the status of the National Academy of Education. A great number of research projects have been carried out in universities and pedagogical institutes, which are the major teacher training institutions. In 1999 alone, three new research institutes on the problems of education and upbringing were initiated in Kazakhstan: the Institute of Preschool Education in Semipalatinsk State University; the Institute of Higher Education in L.Gumilev Eurasian University; and the Institute of Upbringing under the auspices of National Academy of Education. The institutes set the task to provide the schools of Kazakhstan with textbooks that reflect new challenges of school democratization, humanistic education, multiculturalism, and search for national identities of Kazakhstani people.

Kazakhstan launched a number of projects in experimenting with new approaches in education. In the Republic, 250 schools have been given a status of an experimental site: 46 of them work on curriculum reform; 32 schools research new pedagogical techniques; 31 develop alternative management structures; 55 apply new module technologies; 32 introduce ideas of developmental psychologists V. Davydov, B. Elkonin, and L. Vygoysky; and 46 develop strategies of ethno cultural education. It is too early to evaluate their impact on public system of education.

Nonformal Education

To provide proper conditions for the development of versatile interests and abilities of children in the Republic of Kazakhstan, the government has arranged a network of nonformal educational establishments, which include 790 institutions attended by 383,000 students. Subsidized by the government, they provide opportunities to children to become engaged in car design clubs, drama studios, various clubs of young mathematicians, chess players, and physicists. Stations for Young Naturalists, Technicians, and Tourists provide 47 facilities for students to develop techniques of working with various instruments, camping, and preserving and learning about nature. Schools, as many as 531, offer classes for those who are interested in music, fine arts, dance, and sports, so it is common for a student to attend two schools a day. Due to the financial problems, the state system of nonformal education began charging parents for the use of the materials and facilities, making these institutions unavailable to the poor families. The private system of nonformal education is in the initial stage of its development.

At the level of higher education, the system of bycorrespondence courses was highly developed in the Soviet Kazakhstan. The government of the Republic provided students with additional two-week paid leave and travel expenses to the site of the institution twice a year for exam sessions.

Distance learning via high technology, including the internet, a personalized system of instruction, computers, and television instruction is a new challenge for the country. The assistance for its development comes mostly through international organizations, joint ventures, and foreign companies and organizations. In 2000, a pilot project called National Educational Television began broadcasting on Kazakhstan-1 Channel. For four weeks, National Educational Television launched a daily two-hour educational program for the distant and under-populated regions of the republic. According to the sponsors of the new television program, the latest pedagogical ideas, works of outstanding scientists, the funds of museums, libraries, and archives become available for a wide scope of the population. The project aims at restoring the traditions of educational television, which has taken place in Soviet Kazakhstan's history when the government subsidized educational television programs. The program is a voluntary action designed to draw attention to solve the problem.

Teaching Profession

As the Soviet system of central governance came under attack, enthusiastic teachers created a Union of Teachers to promote innovative ideas in instruction, school organization, and school democratization. As the economy deteriorated in the 1990s, teachers stopped getting salaries on a regular basis and often had to work two jobs to survive. As a result of this, the unions re-focused their efforts from reforming education to mainly economic issues.

The teacher education programs are concentrated in co-educational universities and in pedagogical institutes, including the only one for women (Kazakh State Pedagogical Institute for Women), with a four- to five-year-course of study. The curriculum requires an intensive program of study in subject matter, pedagogical and psychological disciplines, and a practicum, which begins in the first year of their studies. The instructional methods heavily rely on lectures and seminars. After graduation, young specialists are hired on a one-year probation. Students can choose a double major. The two-year pedagogical schools prepare nurses and teachers for nurseries and kindergartens. The graduates may continue their education at the pedagogical institutes in the third year of the program. Each of the 14 administrative states has an in-service training institute for teachers who must upgrade their teaching certificate every five years.

Teachers' salaries are lower than those in many other career areas, especially in the private sector. Sometimes, delays in salary delivery last for several months; therefore, many teachers have left their jobs. In 1996, there were more than 23,000 vacancies in public schools. Schools experience shortages with foreign language teachers because many of them left for international joint venture companies.


Soviet Kazakhstan arrived at its independence day with a widely developed system of preschool, primary, and secondary education that put the republic among the ranks of developed nations of the world. The citizens of the republic enjoyed free and universal education. The higher education institutions provided the country's economy with highly qualified specialists. The nonformal educational institutions provided additional opportunities for well-rounded development. The KazSSR Academy of Sciences enjoyed a high reputation in international scholarly circles. Since 1991, Kazakhstan has experienced a decade-long transition from being a part of the USSR to an independent state, from socialist planned economy to a free-market one, from Communist politico-ideological system to democracy and pluralism, from a centralized administration to a relatively democratic system with the diversity of educational institutions, policies, and curriculum and freedom of choice of venues in education. However, the country has taken only initial steps on this road and will continue to stay in a transitional state for a long time to come, since changes of such magnitude do not occur rapidly. The precipitous fall in production, the disruption of the monetary system, the break of industrial ties, and the high rate of inflation in the 1990s caused a sharp decline in the standards of living for the population. It is also responsible for a lot of problems in all spheres of education in the country.

The major challenge lies with poor financial resources. Many educational institutions do not have enough financial resources to maintain education at high standards. The equipment in language laboratories, scientific laboratories, and computer classrooms are outdated in many cases. While school administrators and teachers gained more freedom to be creative in their offices and classrooms, many of them quit their jobs because they are not paid salary on a regular basis, or the growth of salary does not match the rate of inflation. The capitalist economy returned Kazakhstan to where it was in 1917 in terms of sharp social stratification and division, inequality, and injustice. The opportunities for free education were diminished. The rural schools, whose budget depends mostly on the national government, suffered more than the city schools. Furthermore, bribery has flourished from kindergartens all the way through the universities, especially prestigious ones.

In the 1990s, the government of Kazakhstan launched several bold reforms on all levels of education with promising prospects. However, the 1998 economic crisis in Asia and Russia had negative consequences for the country and reduced the Republic's chances for quick recovery and development. Kazakhstan needs to address its problems to make the results of reform tangible.


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Grigory Dmitriyev

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Kazakhstan
Region (Map name): East & South Asia
Population: 16,731,303
Language(s): Kazakh (Qazaq), Russian
Literacy rate: 98.0%
Area: 2,717,300 sq km
GDP: 18,230 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 12
Number of Television Sets: 3,880,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 231.9
Number of Radio Stations: 86
Number of Radio Receivers: 6,470,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 386.7
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 100,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 6.0

Background & General Characteristics

General Description

The Republic of Kazakhstan (Qazaqstan Respublikasy ) is the largest Central Asian republic of the former Soviet Union. Four times the size of Texas and covering a greater geographic expanse than all of Western Europe, Kazakhstan was settled by nomadic tribes who migrated into the region five hundred years ago. The country's name comes from the Russian version of qazaq, meaning "renegades," from the country's tribal history. During the early eighteenth century, Russian tsars gradually took over in ruling the original peoples of the khanatea blend of Turkic and Mongol (Moghol) ethnic groups. By the mid-19th century, Russian rulers dominated Kazakhstan, though the Kazaks themselves continued to be the largest nomadic group and included about two million people at that time.

As of July 2001 Kazakhstan's population numbered 16.7 million, composed of a diverse array of ethnic groups in the following proportions, according to the 1999 census: 53.4 percent Kazakh, 30 percent Russian, 3.7 percent Ukrainian, 2.5 percent Uzbek, 2.4 percent German, and 1.4 percent Uighur, with the other 6.6 percent consisting of such peoples as Chechens, Koreans, Kurds, and other Central Asian ethnic groups. About 20,000 refugees from other parts of the former Soviet Union reportedly were living in Kazakhstan as of June 2002, according to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Members of most ethnic groups reportedly were getting along relatively peaceably together in 2001, although the Uighurs have been the targets of harsh discrimination, ill-treatment, and violence in recent years. Additionally, many ethnic Russians purportedly dislike their inability to claim dual citizenship and the requirement that they must pass a Kazakh language test to qualify for government employment.

Coming from a patriarchal tradition, Kazakhstan continues to struggle with authoritarian rule, even in the post-Soviet period. In early August 2002, Kazakhstan's political future as a viable, multi-party democracy was seriously being called into question. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been head of state since 1990 when he was elected president and has dubiously been chosen twice again by the people since thenin 1995, by a referendum to extend his mandate and in 1999, through an election where the main opposition candidate was outlawed from participation.

Allegations of government corruption involving the president and other political figures and of a secret Swiss bank account opened in 1996 or 1997 containing US$1 billion in public monies from Kazakhstan's sale of a large share of its lucrative oil fields to the Mobil Corporation, coupled with the ruling party's domination of politics and the media, threatened the country's political stability and prompted the government to wield increasing pressure selectively against the media. As Peter Baker of the Washington Post Foreign Service stated in June 2002 regarding Nazarbayev, "His relationship with oil companies has prompted investigations in Switzerland and the United States as prosecutors in both countries probe whether an American lobbyist helped steer millions of dollars in oil commissions to him and other Kazakh leaders."

The former prime minister, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, leader of the Republican Popular Party of Kazakhstan (RPPK), one of the main opposition parties, currently lives in exile, convicted of corruption and abuse of power and sentenced in absentia by the Nazarbayev regime to ten years' imprisonment. He continues to remain politically active, hoping to return one day to Kazakhstan and to reassume his leadership role. Another key opposition leader, Muktar Ablyazov, the former energy minister and leader of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) party, which was established by liberal politicians and registered in January 2001, was arrested in March 2002. Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, the former governor of the Paladar region, was arrested in Almaty the following month, charged with corruption and abuse of power. Despite a great international outcry against the arrests of these two persons, Zhakiyanov was judged guilty in August 2002 and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, provoking an even larger international protest against the Nazarbayev regime.

Kazakhstan's government reported 950 privately owned newspapers and 342 privately owned magazines, according to the U.S. Department of State's annual country report covering the state of human rights in Kazakh-stan in 2001. A reported 1,431 mass media outlets and information agencies operated in the country as of August 1, 2001, and about four-fifths of these were privately owned. However, the specific owners of media outlets are not always easy to identify. As IREX noted in their report on the panel research they conducted in Kazakhstan in 2001, "Media ownership is not transparent at all, yet most people know the owners from rumors.As some panelists mentioned, 'the main thing media owners are non-transparent about is the fact that people close to the presidential family own media outlets."'

A wide range of critics and commentators, coming from the U.S. Department of State, domestic and international media organizations and human rights advocacy groups, Kazakhstan's political opposition in Kazakhstan and in exile, the country's own journalists and opposition politicians, and the foreign press all echo the same views regarding the increasingly dismal state of affairs and of the press in Kazakhstan. The situation seemed to be reaching a breaking point by August 2002. Nazarbayev's rapidly escalating efforts to suppress or eliminate all criticism of himself, his family, the ruling party, and the government, coupled with his attempts to eliminate perceived or actual political opponents by whatever means he deemed were necessary, did not bode well for the political stability and democratic future of Kazakhstan.

Citing the Freedom House human rights survey released in mid-2002, the Kazakhstan 21st Century Foundation noted that Kazakhstan received a failing grade from Freedom House for press freedom. The survey reportedly showed that the Nazarbayev regime "ignores constitutional provisions for freedom of the press by dominating most newspapers as well as printing, distribution and broadcast facilities, and controlling Internet access," in the words of the Foundation. Noting that the president's oldest daughter directly controlled printing and broadcasting outlets, that offending Nazarbayev can be considered criminal behavior, that publishing truthful articles that upset the president can result in imprisonment, and that the country's "tax police" have been used to stifle journalistic expression, Freedom House summarized that "the government has repeatedly harassed or shut down independent news media."

Nature of the Newspaper Audience

About 98 percent of the adult population of Kazakhstan reportedly is literate. The average per capita annual income is US$1,190. The population is distributed across several urban areas, including the cities of Astana (meaning "capital city," previously known as Akmola until renamed by President Nazarbayev, who moved the capital in December 1998 to his home territory); Almaty in the east; and Karaganda, and across the rural areas of the country known as "the regions." The country is composed of fourteen administrative divisions and three cities.

Russian is the language used by about 75 percent of the people, including those belonging to other ethnic groups, including Kazakhs. However, in an apparent effort to gain linguistic and ethnic control of the country perhaps to align the press with his own ethnic group's views and interests as he seeks to knit the various ethnic groups in Kazakhstan into a new national identity President Azarbayev issued a decree that was enacted into law and came into effect on January 1, 2002, that all broadcasting outletstelevision and radiomust broadcast at least 50 percent of their programming in the Kazakh language.

Quality of Journalism: General Comments

The quality of the press is variable, the basic impediment being the high cost of production and publishing and the lack of sufficient means to ensure that editors and journalists will not face exorbitant tax burdens and fines imposed by a government interested in squelching any opposition or criticism. Additionally, an older, Soviet style of journalism, dominated by analysis rather than by investigative reporting, continues to hold sway in the country. This impairs the ability of readers to obtain clear, concise, and accurate accounts of current events and the story behind the story.

Financial problems also impair the quality of journalistic reporting. As IREX reported in their Media Sustainability Index Report based on research conducted in May and June 2001 with a panel of journalists in Kazakhstan, "Aside from professional standards or educational background, the Kazakh press is faced with technical and equipment dilemmas." With shortages of adequate video equipment for television production and computers for the print media, the technical quality of journalistic production is impaired. Additionally, because most journalists are underpaid, the practice of taking money for more-positive reporting is common, compromising the accuracy of reporting.

Historical News Traditions

As noted above, the two types of journalism in Kazakhstan today are investigativestill rather rudimentary in its developmentand analytic. The analytic style is a carry-over from the Soviet period, when virtually all media were obliged to produce government-approved propaganda, limiting the possible contributions of journalists to the analysis of then-current Communist party politics, tactics, and actions.

Distribution of Newspapers by Language

Most of the readership in Kazakhstan prefers newspapers in the Russian language, despite the fact that only a third of the country's population is ethnic Russian. Accessibility to news via the broadcast media thus will likely become more complicated as the new language law that took effect in 2002 is implemented. The law requires at least 50 percent of all programming on television and radio to be in the Kazakh language, but not all stations are observing this requirement, since the cost of producing programs in the local language is too high for many media outlets.

Ethnic & Religious Orientation

A large sector of the population in Kazakhstanabout percent 47 percentis Muslim, primarily Sunni Muslim, with another 44 percent being Russian Orthodox Christian. Two percent are Protestant and another 7 percent adhere to other religions or have no particular religious affiliation. The Muslim Uighur minority in the country has faced severe persecution and discrimination and occasionally even death, as have the activists who defend them. The Uighur ethnic minority, traditionally a more conservative group of Muslims, has been persecuted not only by the Nazarbayev government but also by the governments of other Central Asian republics since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The minority press, in terms of ethnic minorities, can basically be labeled a secular and essentially Russian ethnic press. The religious minorities do not appear to have a strong presence in the media; nor does the religious majority, for that matter. The basic orientation of the press is inclined more toward expressing divergent political views, particularly concerning the quality and degree of democracy to which Kazakhstan's peoples should aspire, than toward expressing specific religious perspectives. The ethnic quality of the press is reflected more in the efforts of the Russian minority to continue to exert some influence on political affairs in the wake of a growing interest and effort by Nazarbayev and his ruling party in extending the benefits of government to the Kazakh people ahead of other ethnic groups. Additionally, Korean, Uighur, Ukrainian, Kurd, and German newspapers are published in Kazakhstan, though the volume of their sales has dropped in recent years due to insufficient financing and perhaps to inadequate coverage of issues of interest to the ethnic minorities involved.

Political Ideology

The press in Kazakhstan is heavily biased in favor of the ruling party, President Nursultan Nazarbayev's People's Unity Party (PUP). Most private newspapers also are biased in favor of the ruling party, since they in fact are not entirely "private." Government supporters very often provide some of the financing for the "private" press, making news tipped in favor of the president and the key government positions and views. The opposition press is likewise political, in that the newspapers associated with opposition party candidates present their party perspectives and criticize the president and his party.

Geography of Readership and Newspaper Publishing and Distribution

Those living in large cities such as Astana and Almaty have much greater access to newspapers than those living in "the regions," as the more sparsely populated, rural areas of the country are known. Outside of the major cities, it is much more difficult for newspapers to find printing facilities and to publish regularly.

Daily, Weekly, and Bi-Weekly Newspapers

Of the government-supported papers, Kazakhstanskaya Pravda (also on the Internet at is one of the most influential, published five times a week in the Russian language. Yegemen Qazaqstan also is a government-supported paper published five times weekly, though in Kazakh. Two newspapers that are privately owned but favor the government are Ekspress-K, published in Russian five times weekly, and Zhas Alash (, published in Kazakh four times each week. The Almaty Herald ( is Kazakhstan's main newspaper published in English.

SolDat and XXI Vek (21st Century) are two independent weekly newspapers that have faced frequent harassment from the Nazarbayev regime. One private, biweekly newspaper, Vremya Po (The Globe), includes an English page in its issues. Like SolDat and XXI Vek, this paper also was singled out for negative government attention in 2001. Nachnem s ponedelnika is a private opposition weekly published in Russian.

Foreign Language Press

The May 2002 amendments to the Mass Media Law made it more difficult for foreign-produced programs to be aired on Kazak television and radio. This was anticipated to have a negative effect on small independent broadcasters, who cannot afford to produce all of their own programs and must now substitute for some of the foreign programs they previously transmitted on their airwaves, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Minority-owned Press

In Kazakhstan today, the Russian minority has a strong presence in the media. Russian-language newspapers are readily produced, although the Russian community has felt increasingly pressured to restrict its reporting to government-approved material. Although a new language law for the media came into effect on January 1, 2002, that requires broadcasting media to provide at least half of their output in the Kazakh language, Russian media producers have continued to operate in the country.

Economic Framework

Economic Climate and Its Influence on Media

Kazakhstan has a vast, undeveloped potential for economic development, based on its large oil reserves and valuable minerals. In addition, the agricultural potential of the fertile southern part of the country has yet to be fully developed. Because construction of the oil pipelines needed to transport crude oil out of the Tengiz oil field was only begun in March 2001, the country is not yet profiting from its rich oil resources as significantly as it will in the future. Additionally, political corruption involving the oil deals is likely to be consuming a share of the monies that could be going to rebuild dilapidated infrastructure and meet the basic social needs of Kazakhstan's people. The main exports are oil, ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery, chemicals, grain, wool, meat, and coal. Half of Kazakhstan's working population is employed in the services sector, with just over a quarter (27 percent) employed in industry and just under a quarter (23 percent) employed in agriculture in the mid-1990s. Life expectancy in 2001 was an estimated 58 years for men and 69 years for women.

As of mid-2002, repercussions from an ever-growing scandal involving high government figures, including the president of Kazakhstan, were threatening to erase the remaining vestiges of democracy in the country. The $1 billion from the public treasury allegedly placed by Nazarbayev in a Swiss bank account in 1997 apparently stemmed from a deal worked out by the government to sell a major share of Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil fields to the Mobil Corporation. Very fewapparently, only Nazarbayev himself, the prime minister, and the national bank's chairmanwere aware of this account before Kazakhstan's prime minister, Imangali Tasmagambetov, informed the parliament in April 2002 of its existence. The general political climate in the country began heating up still further in the first half of 2002 as key opposition figures were increasingly accused of corruption and illegal behavior and met with legal cases and sanctions against them.

Print Media versus Electronic Media

The electronic media have had much greater success in dispersing a range of perspectives, information, and commentary in Kazakhstan, due to the general government imposition of restrictions on the print media. However, starting in 2001, even Internet news sources found themselves limited increasingly by Nazarbayev and his government, which reclassified the Internet as a form of "mass media" and thus subject to government scrutiny and electronic eavesdropping.

Types and Concentration of Ownership: Government, "Private," and Opposition Newspapers

The press is basically divided into three types: government, opposition, and "private." Little by way of a truly independent press exists in Kazakhstan today, owing to the fact that some newspapers are directly owned and controlled by government figures, others are produced by opposition parties and candidatessome of them currently living outside of Kazakhstan to avoid persecution or prosecution inside Kazakhstanand still others are nominally "private." A number of private and independent newspapers reportedly receive financial backing from pro-government sponsors and thus are influenced in their content by the source of their financial support. For example, the president's daughter and son-in-law controlled two private newspapersKaravan and Novoye Pokolenieas well as the Franklin Press printing house.

Advertisers' Influence on Editorial Policies

An estimated 90 percent of revenue for the private and opposition press comes from advertising. Only a small proportion of the funds required by publications comes from subscriptions or sales of issues. Advertisers try to limit publication of information on their competitors.

Press Laws

Constitutional Provisions and Media Guarantees

The Constitution officially protects free expression to a degree. With the Constitution requiring that persons respect the president's dignity, the president and other government officials are protected from what Kazakhstan's politically charged courts decide is insulting. Similarly, owing to amendments passed in March 2001 that strengthened the media law on libel and to widespread government attempts to limit reporting on certain topics and to subdue criticism of the president, his party, and the government, the apparent legal guarantees of free expression hardly play out in reality. Journalists must practice diligent self-censorship in order to avoid coming up against the law, and even cautious efforts at restraint and publishing factual accounts can bring penalties if the courts choose to broadly interpret the Constitution and the media laws. Topics that journalists are not permitted to freely cover include "the president and his family, corruption at the government level, oil revenue distribution, and ethnic relations," according to a research report by IREX.

Press Laws in Force

The press laws in force in Kazakhstan in 2002 served primarily to protect the interests of the president and his government. As the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor stated in their Country Report for Kazakhstan covering events in 2001, "Amendments to the media law, passed in March, strengthened libel laws, limited the rebroadcast of foreign-produced programming, classified Web sites as mass media, and introduced a requirement that journalists receive permission prior to taping interviews."

Particularly detrimental is a newly passed law, "On Political Parties," proposed early in 2002 by the pro-Narbayev Otan (Fatherland) party, approved by the legislature, and signed by the president in July 2002. The law "sets a prohibitively high threshold for registering political parties, effectively disqualifying opposition groups and steering the country further away from democracy," according to a news report distributed by the Washington-based Kazakhstan 21st Century Foundation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as well as human rights advocacy groups in Kazakhstan are reported to have stated that the law can be used as a weapon against opposition groups and thus endangers political pluralism.

Media laws also include prohibition of television advertising of alcohol and tobacco products, of violence, and of "pornography."

Registration and Licensing of Newspapers and Journalists

State law requires that all media outlets the press, broadcasting services, and Internet sites register with the government. In 1996 the government, under the authority of the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, began granting private broadcasters licenses. The initial costs of licensing for radio and television frequencies were excessively high, and more than 200 outlets were closed down. Afterwards, the Ministry of Information reduced licensing fees and gave more favorable treatment to regional media, which nonetheless failed to remedy the fact that many stations by that time had simply permanently closed their doors. Obtaining licenses depends on government loyalty and often on the ability and willingness to pay bribes to the government officials who distribute them. As one respondent on an IREX panel in 2001 expressed it, "in licensing we have the complete tyranny of the state; bribes and blackmail accompany the procedure."

Press-related Laws

As the U.S. State Department reported concerning media status in 2001, the Prosecutor General has "the authority to suspend the activity of news media that undermine national security; however, this authority has never been invoked." On the other hand, by 2002 this appeared to be changing. With government officials seeking to limit the publication of information on the political scandal involving the Swiss bank account containing substantial public funds from Kazakhstan, it appeared likely that supposed breaches of national security by the press would meet with government-imposed penalties.

In 1999 a law was passed that listed types of government secrets whose publication is criminally prohibited. Included among the items on the list of secrets about which the press must remain silent are statements on the president and his family's health and financial affairs, economic information such as the extent of and details on the country's mineral reserves, and how much the government owes foreign creditors.

Independence of the Judiciary

The courts in Kazakhstan are currently very tied into the presidency and the executive branch of government. An independent judiciary does not exist. Members of opposition parties who report their perspectives on government affairs or the president have little judicial protection. Additionally, those judged guilty of defamation or of threatening national security through their work as reporters, editors, and publishers have little hope of winning an appeal; the cards are already stacked against them. As members of the Executive Committee of the leading RPPK opposition party wrote in late July 2002 after the passage of a new law entitled "On Political Parties" that would likely severely curtail the number and viability of opposition parties, "In a country where the entire judiciary reports to just one individual it is not going to be particularly difficult to find a reason to first suspend and then liquidate a party."


BBC Monitoring states, "In May 2000 the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists placed Nazarbayev on its annual list of the 'Ten worst enemies of the press."' Although Nazarbayev was not on the top-ten list for 2001, his actions toward the press in fact have worsened over time. The U.S. State Department remarked in its human rights report on Kazakhstan for events occurring in 2001, "Although the media expressed views that were independent and occasionally highly critical of the Government, the Government used its influence to limit the media's content."

Censorship has been a growing problem for the media, especially surrounding news of secret government shifts in public funds to Swiss bank accounts. Starting in late 2001, when news of the government's involvement in corrupt or questionable practices burgeoned, censorship was more actively practiced by government authorities against the print and broadcast media. As IREX reported from its 2001 research on the status of journalism in Kazakhstan, "journalists feel constrained by their editors and owners to the extent that they not only abstain from writing the truth, but also survive on articles praising officials and business people, and on favorable reporting about sponsors."

In May 2002 journalist Sergey Duvanov posted on the Internet a bold, lengthy statement accusing the president of criminal violation and Kazakhstan's people of failing to stand up to government misrule and corruption. Entitled "Silence of the Lambs," Duvanov's Internet posting was expected to result in Dubanov's imprisonment. By July 2002 the president was accusing Duvanov of libel, following the June opening of a criminal defamation case against Duvanov by the Prosecutor-General's office. Duvanov allegedly had insulted the honor and dignity of the president, a criminal offense in Kazakhstan.

State-Press Relations

The Right to Criticize Government: Theory & Practice

According to the Constitution, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed in Kazakhstan. However, the opposite situation is true in practice. As BBC Monitoring noted, "During the president's 1999 re-election campaign, government authorities brought criminal cases against several independent media outlets, charging them with 'freedom of speech abuses.' After the election, a number of private newspapers were fined, subjected to tax audits and shut down." The situation for the opposition press is even worse. Government ownership and intimidation of printing houses has discouraged many printers from publishing opposition newspapers.

A heightening climate of threats toward the physical safety of journalists has been prevalent in Kazakhstan under the Nazarbayev regime. In February 2001 a television journalist and commentator, Gulzhan Yergaliyeva, and her husband and son were brutally attacked in a robbery attempt after the journalist aired a program "Social Agreement" that criticized government policies. The office of SolDat, a leading independent newspaper, was burned, and computer equipment was stolen. By October 2001 SolDat, financially unable to continue its operations six months after its last issue was published, was forced to close and consequently lost its license.

A leading independent newspaper, Delovoe-Obozrenie Respublika (Respublika Business Review) received a decapitated dog at its door in May 2002 with an attached note reading, "There will be no next time," apparently in return for covering the presidential scandal involving Swiss bank accounts. The head of the dog appeared two days later at the door of Irina Petrushova, a Russian citizen and the paper's editor-in-chief, who also found two funeral wreaths at her home during May.

In early July 2002 Petrushova was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for supposedly working in the country without permission. However, she was released by a judge who saw her case as falling under an amnesty granted the previous year. Petrushova's lawyer claimed her case was one of government intimidation, since the newspaper where she worked was suspended in April for two months, purportedly due to technical violations, but had frequently published articles on cases of government corruption and of opposition activists targeted by the government.

In another case, Lira Baisetova, a journalist for the same independent paper, published an article on the Swiss bank account scandal in SolDat, since Respublika already had been shut down. Her article reported an interview she had conducted with Bernard Bertossa, the former Prosecutor of Geneva, Switzerland, who confirmed that Swiss authorities had frozen bank accounts owned by Nazarbayev and two former prime ministers of Kazakhstan; the Prosecutor could not say whether the accounts were funded illegally, since Kazakh judicial authorities reportedly were being uncooperative in the investigation. The news confirmed what many in Kazakhstan and elsewhere previously had heard of the scandal.

By July, Baisetova was in hiding in a rural part of Kazakhstan after her 25-year-old daughter, Leila, who was reported on May 23 as having disappeared, died in a government hospital in June. Leila reportedly had been in a coma after her arrest on alleged heroin charges, and the journalist was unable to see her before the daughter died. Suspicions were that the daughter, whose body reportedly showed signs of torture based on photographic evidence, was murdered in retaliation for Baisetova's role in placing increased media attention on the Nazarbayev Swiss bank account scandal. Baisetova previously had been physically attacked herself in 2000 and 2001 as well as monitored and harassed by anonymous phone calls. The same day Leila disappeared, the offices of the newspaper where Baisetova worked were fire-bombed.

In a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report, journalist Bruce Pannier noted that SolDat 's offices also were attacked two days before Leila Baisetova disappeared, with unknown persons entering the building, beating two journalists, and destroying equipment. Pannier added, "Other media outlets in Kazakhstan have reported crimes against their personnel and property."

Managed News

Interestingly, government suppression and harassment of journalists and the media was somewhat selective, at least through 2001. In May 2001 the results of a survey of journalists were published that indicated that most of those interviewed saw the media in Kazakhstan as controlled by the president's eldest daughter and her husband; by Timur Kulibayev, another son-in-law of President Nazarbayev; and by other "oligarchs." However, no negative repercussions reportedly were felt by Andrey Sviridov, the journalist who had reported the poll's findings.

For the private press, which depends on outside sources of financial support and some government subsidies in order to remain viable, contributors often are pro-government and thus influence the content published. Whether employed by the state press or the private press, journalists must practice self-censorship to avoid negative repercussions. Opposition papers are less inclined to exercise this sort of self-monitoring and self-control and thus are more likely to face closures or other negative action by the government.

At least twenty newspapers and twenty television broadcasting stations, including the popular TAN-TV company based in Almaty, reportedly faced temporary or permanent suspensions in the opening years of the new millennium due to government repression. Because Nazarbayev's government also either directly or indirectly has threatened damages to publishing houses that print newspapers critical of government interests, certain newspapers also have had difficulty publishing on a regular schedule. For example, SolDat, a key independent paper, repeatedly has been obstructed from publishing for a number of reasons, including problems with finding a willing printer. Eurasia Internet cited the Committee to Protect Journalists in reporting that in 2001, "at least five printers in the city of Almaty had refused to produce the paper."

Editorial Influence on Government Policies

Little influence by editors on government policies can realistically be achieved in Kazakhstan's present climate of government intimidation, harassment, and control of the media. However, a large social protest movement directed against environmental and health degradation from decades of nuclear testing and its ramifications in the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan has had some effect on government decision-making. A law was passed to guarantee health services to those most adversely affected by the years of nuclear testing in the region, but funds have not been sufficiently allocated to back up government promises of health assistance. Countless persons now suffer from severe birth defects, cancer, and other deformities and diseases as a result of the testing program begun in the Soviet era and continued into the 1990s.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

A growing number of journalists of the political opposition are living outside of Kazakhstan, and many of them continue to promote the ideas of the opposition that cannot be publicized from within the country. Commenting on amendments passed in March 2001 that altered Kazakhstan's media law, the U.S. Department of State noted, "Specifically, the amendments expanded the concept of libel to make media outlets responsible for the content of reprints or rebroadcast of foreign information, including international press services." Consequently, domestic journalists, editors, publishers, and broadcasters can come under fire for publishing or broadcasting news the government deems deleterious to its interests. The March 2001 amendments also reduced the percentage of foreign programs permissible to be broadcast in Kazakhstan, where rebroadcasts of programs produced overseas will account for only 20 percent of broadcasts by 2003.

News Agencies

The Kazakhstan Today agency (with a companion Internet site at, the Kazakhstan Press agency (, the Koda news agency (, and Interfax Kazakhstan all operate inside the country. However, they are not generally viewed as independent news sources, due to the fact that subscription costs are usually high and most media outlets thus cannot afford to access the information the agencies provide. International news agencies like Reuters, the Associated Press, and l'Agence France-Presse focus mainly on oil industry-related or other economic news, and their services are equally unaffordable to the majority of journalists.

Broadcast Media

In 2001 a reported 45 independent television and radio stations operated in Kazakhstan. These included 17 television stations, 15 radio stations, and 13 television-radio combinations. Eleven of the broadcasting stations were located in Almaty, the former capital city. A reported 37 television and radio stations were granted new licenses in 2000, in addition to the licenses held by existing radio and television broadcasting stations.

By 2002 the president's eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, was reported to virtually control the sphere of radio and television broadcasting in Kazakhstan. Although a 1991 law stated that competition among broadcasting outlets was to be encouraged, Nazarbayev amended that law in 1999 to achieve just the opposite effect. The newer law essentially undid the anti-monopolistic legislation passed earlier in the decade, making it possible and legal for a government monopoly on the media to gradually take shape.

As BBC Monitoring observed, Nazarbayeva and her husband "have been the main beneficiaries of the privatization of formerly state-run media." Head of the Khabar information agency (Internet site: until 2001, the president's daughter controlled several television stations within the national television broadcasting network. As of mid-2002 two private television stations in the countryNTK and KTKwere owned by Dariga Nazarbayeva. And until Nazarbayeva's husband, Rakhat Aliyev, became embroiled in a political scandal in late 2001 involving allegations of efforts to replace Nazarbayev, the president's son-in-law owned a principal media holding company in Kazakhstan. By mid-2002 Aliyev was living in Vienna as Kazakhstan's ambassador to Austria. His wife continued to live and work in Kazakhstan.

The privately owned television stations Khabar and Khabar 2, broadcasting in both Kazakh and Russian, and ORT Kazakhstan, are included among the holdings of the president's daughter and son-in-law and receive public funding. As to radio in the country, radio stations Europa Plus, Russkoye Radio, Radio Hit FM, and Radio Karavan all are privately owned by the same couple. Kazakh Radio is government-owned and broadcasts in both Kazakh and Russian. Kazakh Commercial TV is privately owned and broadcasts in Kazakh and Russian as well.

Besides Kazakhstan's domestic broadcasting networks and stations, the British Broadcasting Corporation and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcast programs accessible to Kazakhstan's audiences.

Electronic News Media

The two principal Internet service providers (ISPs) are government-controlled: Kaztelecom and Nursat. The opposition website Eurasia has faced repeated blockage of its content, although proxy servers have continued to provide viewers with access to the Eurasia site. According to the U.S. State Department, "In September [2001] human rights monitors alleged that Kaztelecom and Nursat users were unwittingly viewing a 'mirror site' of the opposition Eurasia page. On the 'mirror site' users view a page that mimics the original, but without material highly critical of the Government." Another opposition website, Aziopa, was blocked by the government ISPs in 2002.

The Internet had provided unprecedented publishing access to the opposition press, and many independent journalists used the Internet to convey their views and critiques of politics and society in Kazakhstan. However, amendments were added in May 2002 to the Law on Mass Media to make free expression via the Internet considerably less free.

The National Kazakh Security Committee, the successor to the famed Soviet KGB, has been empowered by the ruling regime to "monitor e-mail traffic, access to the internet, faxes and phone calls by any organization, company or person it deemed suspicious," according to BBC Monitoring. In May 2002 the president approved amendments to the Mass Media Law, already a restrictive piece of legislation. The amendments essentially labeled web sites as "mass media," shifting them to a new category and making them subject to state monitoring and censorship.

Education & TRAINING

The education of journalists takes place primarily in seven departments of journalism located at state universities throughout Kazakhstan. Prospective journalists receive four years of training, costing them about US$600 per year, a fee which many reportedly find affordable. However, improvements in the training of journalists are clearly needed, in order to develop a more fact-oriented, investigative style of reporting that would represent an advancement over the more commonly used Soviet style of journalistic practice emphasizing "analytic" writing. As IREX's 2001 report noted, "The need for reform in journalism education is long overdue. But lack of resources, qualified staff, donor interest, and investment, together with authoritarian rule and the practice of journalism to promote interests rather than present objective news and events to the public, still plague this unre-formed society."

The principal school of journalism is the Department of Journalism at the Kazakh State University, where students planning careers as television and print journalists, public relations professionals, and international affairs journalists receive training. Private training facilities also exist, but the majority are state funded.

Short-term and international training opportunities also are available to some journalists through international donor organizations such as the U.S. Information Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the UN Development Program, UNESCO, the Soros Foundation, the Eurasia Foundation, and the British Council, according to IREX. Better opportunities for training journalists in the areas of reporting, legal issues, marketing, and media management would be beneficial, based on the comments of the panelists IREX interviewed in 2001.

Journalists are generally very underpaid in Kazakh-stan, which leads many to leave the journalistic profession and seek higher-paying government jobs. A few rather well-financed private media outlets do offer more lucrative work for journalists. Nonetheless, journalists in the rural areas earned about US$50 monthly in 2001, while those working in Almaty made about US$200-250 each month.

Several active media associations operate in Kazakhstan. According to IREX, in 2001 the following six organizations represented journalists' interests: "the Association of Independent Mass Media of Kazakhstan and Central Asia (ANESMICA); the National Association of TV Broadcasters; the Association of Kazakh Broadcasters; the Journalists in Trouble Foundation; the International Foundation for the Protection of Glasnost (Adil Sez); and the Kazakh Branch of the Internews International Network." The most effective of these appeared to be ANESMICA, established in 1995, and Adil Sez, set up in 2000 in connection with the Russian Glasnost Defense Foundation. To a certain extent, at least some of the associations help journalists in legal difficulty, providing them with legal defense and monitoring government treatment of journalists and the media.

Besides the above associations, two press clubs were operating in 2001: the Kazakh Press Club and the National Press Club. Rather than being effective tools for introducing journalists' interests into legislative decision-making or for protecting the rights of journalists, the press clubs have operated in more commercial directions such as organizing public relations events and press conferences and sometimes running training seminars with the support of international donor organizations.

The Union of Journalists is the direct descendent of the earlier press union that operated during Soviet days. Media professionals in Kazakhstan appear to view the current Union as doing little to represent their interests before the legislature. As IREX observed, "Media professionals in Kazakhstan do not have a single trade union, because of the conflicting interests between different media outlets."



President Nazarbayev met with President George W. Bush in December 2001 and pledged to support human rights and further efforts to democratize Kazakhstan. However, recent confirmation of the existence of Swiss bank accounts holding significant public monies from Kazakhstan and the strong likelihood that government officials have been involved in an oil scandal make it increasingly unlikely that Kazakhstan will follow an unbroken path toward economic development and greater democracy unless international pressure is applied or a widespread domestic movement prompts significant change in government leadership.

Among the numerous international critics of Nazarbayev and his non-democratic, authoritarian practices is U.S. Congressman Norman Dicks, who in a statement before the House of Representatives on July 18, 2002 observed that Nazarbayev "has shut down many newspapers and television stations in Kazakhstan, preventing its citizens from having a free press." Congressman Dicks requested that the international community place special attention on the problematic behavior of President Nazarbayev and not allow the president to continue to act in repressive ways against the media in his country.

Congressman Dicks also asked that a July 12, 2002, letter from the Editorial Board of The Washington Post be included in the Congressional Record. In that letter ("New Allies, Old Formula"), the Washington Post's editors observed that in Kazakhstan, "A score of newspapers and an equal number of television stations have been forced to shut down in recent months, and a number of journalists have been attacked or threatened." The Editorial Board questioned in their letter of July 12 whether recent overtures by the U.S. Government to Kazakhstan, including a July 2002 agreement between the Nazarbayev regime and the Bush administration granting Kazakhstan's permission for U.S. military planes to stop and refuel in emergencies at the international airport in Almaty, might not be perceived by Kazakhstan officials as giving the green light to Nazarbayev's repressive tactics in trying to silence his critics.

The editors of The Washington Post raised the issue of whether the "War on Terrorism" being waged by the United States following the September 11, 2001, attacks was extending too broadly the U.S. tendency to condone government repression in certain countries in the name of fighting terrorism. As they succinctly put it, "Does the Pentagon really need another landing arrangement in Central Asia? If such agreements were withheldor frozenMr. Nazarbayev and other Central Asian dictators would be quick to get the message."

Trends and Prospects for the Media: Outlook for the Twenty-first Century

In the existing climate of government-imposed media restrictions, coupled with hostile government attitudes and practices toward the press, life in Kazakhstan is coming to resemble what seventeenth-century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes once described as the conditions of life where no government exists at all. In Hobbes's words, in a "state of nature" where people are left to their own devices and no government regulates their selfish pursuits, life is "a war of all against all" and is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." In Kazakhstan's case, it seems that life for journalists under the Nazarbayev regime ironically parallels Hobbes's depiction of life without government. The outlook appears similarly bleak for the readership of Kazakhstan's newspapers, considering their currently limited ability to access news representing a broad political spectrum where issues are debated in a journalistic style more typical of that in democratic countries.

Unless the international diplomatic community, foreign governments, and a wide-ranging, solidaristic, grassroots movement begins to exert pressure more concertedly on Nazarbayev and his ruling party to democratize the country and allow free expression, the future of objective journalism in Kazakhstan may be in dire jeopardy. Hashhuu Naranjargal, the author of a November 1998 report by the International Federation of Journalists on the rights of the media and of journalists in Central Asia, observed that in Kazakhstan, "supporters of democracy and most of the journalists stated they are in need of international support. International human rights organizations and international organizations and trade unions protecting media freedom must take urgent actions against the anti-democratic processes they currently see developing in the country." The message Naranjargal carried from journalists in Kazakhstan in 1998 to the rest of the world implores even greater attention in 2002 as the rule of law breaks down under Nazarbayev and as media professionals face ever-graver dangers and threats to their professional and personal lives.

Significant Dates

  • 1996 or 1997: Swiss bank account allegedly is opened by President Nursaltan Nazarbayev with US$1 billion in public funds from Kazakhstan's sale of oil shares to the Mobil Corporation.
  • 1999: Nazarbayev is reelected president in an election where leading opposition candidate Akezhan Kazhegeldin is barred from participating.
  • May 2000: Nazarbayev is placed on the annual list of the "Ten worst enemies of the press" published by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • February 2001: Television journalist and commentator, Gulzhan Yergaliyeva, and her husband and son are targeted in a robbery and beatings after the journalist airs her program, "Social Agreement," on which government policies are criticized.
  • May 2002: A decapitated dog is found outside the offices of a leading independent newspaper, Delovoe-Obozrenie Respublika (Respublika Business Review) with a note attached stating, "There will be no next time." Two days later, the head of the dog is found at the door of the paper's editor-in-chief, an open critic of the Nazarbayev regime who has suffered repeated harassment.
  • May and June 2002: Journalist Lira Baisetova's daughter, Leila, disappears after her mother publishes a story on the Nazarbayev corruption scandal in the independent newspaper SolDat. The daughter later is reported to be in a government hospital, reportedly in a coma, and dies five days later.
  • August 2002: Former governor of the Paladar region, Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, is convicted on charges of corruption and abuse of power and sentenced to 10 years in prison, amid international outcries and protests.


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Barbara A. Lakeberg Dridi, Ph.D.

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Republic of Kazakstan

Major City:

Other Cities:
Astana, Chimkent, Karaganda, Pavlodar, Semipalatinsk


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated June 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The Republic of KAZAKSTAN celebrated its tenth anniversary of independence in 2001. Kazakstan is the ninth largest country in the world, but has a relatively small population of 15 million. In 2000, the Government of Kazakstan completed its move to the new capital Astana. The U.S. Embassy is still located in Almaty, which remains the country's largest city, business center and transportation hub. Many Americans also travel to Atyrau and Aktau, cities in the heart of Kazakstan's oil producing region on the Caspian Sea

As in several other former Soviet republics, ethnic conflict has erupted into violence. In Kazakstan, the conflict is between the Kazakhs and Russians. The Kazakhs represent 53% of the population; Russians 30%.



Almaty (Formerly Alma-Ata) was the capital of Kazakstan from 1929 to 2000. It is the largest city with over 1.3 million residents. Almaty (apple place) is located just north of the Trans-Alay Alatau Mountains, near the border with Kyrgyzstan. The city is situated at an altitude of 2,300-3,000 feet above sea level.

Modern Almaty was founded by the Russians in 1854 and was settled by a variety of ethnic groups, but mainly Russians and Ukrainians.

In the 1930s, the population increased dramatically after the construction of the Turkish-Siberian Railroad. Industrial development followed and the capital is now a major industrial center.


The Almaty International School is a private, coeducational institution for children from preschool to grade eight. The University of Nebraska provides correspondence courses for grades nine through twelve. The school's curriculum is similar to U.S. schools.

Recreation and Entertainment

The mountainous area in which Almaty is located offers much of interest to the tourist. Chalets on the mountain slopes may be rented. Mountaineering, skiing, and winter sports are available. In the mountains, 12 miles from Almaty, is the Medeo Winter Sports Complex, where many skating records have been set.

Visits to other areas of Kazakstan should be made by air; the distances are great. Lake Balkhash is a 45-minute flight from Almaty. Part freshwater, part seawater, the lake is 400 miles long. Near Karaganda is Baykonur, which was the site of a Soviet space center. Space flights, with cosmonauts aboard, were launched from here.

Almaty is a pretty city with well-thought out urban planning. Trees line the wide streets and there are many parks for the residents to enjoy. The city's natural beauty is enhanced by the nearby mountain range. Built in 1907, the former Russian Orthodox Cathedral is the only historical building of note. Made of wood, it is the second highest such building in the world.

Kazakstan's academic and cultural life is centered in Almaty. Located here are 15 institutions of higher learning, including Kazakh State University, with 13,000 students, and many research organizations. Several museums have been established, including the Kasteyev Kazakh State Art Museum containing 20,000 exhibits and a library of 30,000 volumes, and the Central State Museum of Kazakstan, with 90,000 exhibits. The State Public Library, founded in 1931, has almost 3.5 million volumes in its collection. The city also has a botanical garden.

Cultural performances are offered by the Abay Opera and Ballet Theatre, Avez Drama Theatre, Lermontov Russian Drama Theatre, and the Uighur and Korean Theatre of Music and Drama. Reflecting the ethnic diversity of Almaty, performances are given in several languages.


With a population of 313,000 (1999 est.), ASTANA became the capital of Kazakstan in 1997. Officially, the move of the government from Almaty to Astana was due to Almaty's susceptibility to earthquakes and its proximity to the Chinese border. However, the government also hopes that relocation of the capital will both boost the economy in the northern regions and ease ethnic divisions between the predominantly Russian north and the Kazakh south.

Though much work is yet to be done in building the city as a more prosperous capital, Astana is set to become the most important cultural and scientific center of Kazakstan. The L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian University and Akmola State Medical Academy are located in Astana, as is the Kazakh Scientific-Research Institute of Grain and Agricultural Products. In the past few years, several major hotels have been built and the city now offers a modern trade center; Zhastar, a sports and entertainment complex; Kinderdorf, a children's park; two drama theatres; and a branch of the Union of Writers and Artists of Kazakhstan. A memorial to the famous Russian poet A.S. Pushkin is also located in Astana and construction of a national museum and library is already underway.

The surrounding Central Region offers a variety of sight-seeing excursions. Lake Balkash, is one of the largest lakes in the world and is half saltwater, half freshwater. The Bayan-Aul National Park has rock drawings, stone sculptures, and hiking opportunities around clean, sparkling lakes.

CHIMKENT (also spelled Cimkent) is located in southern Kazakstan by the Turkestan-Siberian Railroad line, approximately 75 miles north of Tashkent, Uzbeki-stan. Established in the 12th century, Chimkent is now a major industrial, cultural, and rail transportation center. The city has a population of 404,000.

Founded in 1856, KARAGANDA has a population of 596,000 and is Kazakstan's second largest city. It is a sprawling city, containing more than 300 square miles. Large coal deposits, major iron and steel works, and a railway link have contributed to the city's growth and importance. Karaganda has five institutions of higher education, including a university established in 1972.

PAVLODAR , with a population of 349,000, is 180 miles northwest of Semipalatinsk. Located in a fertile farming region, since the mid-1960s it has developed into a major industrial center with several heavy industries and an oil refinery.

SEMIPALATINSK , located in the northeastern section of the country near the Russian Federation border, has a population of 342,000. Founded in 1718, the gates of the old fort still exist. Semipalatinsk's growth has been due to its location at the junction of trade, caravan, and railway lines. The city is known for its food processing and meat packing industries. In the late 1980s, its factories produced one-third of Kazakstan's consumer goods. Residents of Semipalatinsk have been plagued with health problems that some attribute to nuclear fall out. In a forty year span, 1949-1989, 500 nuclear devices were detonated at the nuclear test site here.


Geography and Climate

Kazakstan is the second largest (after the Russian Federation) of the former Soviet republics. At 1,049,200 square miles, it represented 12 percent of the former U.S.S.R.'s total land area and is approximately four times the size of Texas. The country borders the Russian Federation to the north; China to the east; the Caspian Sea to the west; and Kyrgyzstan, Turkmeni-stan, and Uzbekistan to the south.

The country has a diversified landscape. Lowlands account for more than one-third of its territory, mountainous regions for one-fifth, and the rest consists of hilly plains and plateaus. There are also several sparsely inhabited desert regions. Khan-Tengri Peak on the Kazak-stan-Kyrgyzstan border is the highest point.

The area around Almaty is subject to earthquakes and mud slides. Earthquakes in 1887 and 1911, along with a serious mud slide in 1921, resulted in much destruction. A dam, built in 1966, has reduced considerably the chances of another catastrophic mud slide.

Most of Kazakstan's climate is continental with hot summers and cold winters. However, the different elevations result in wide variations in temperature and precipitation. In Almaty, daytime temperatures in July average 81°F; in January the average is 23°F.


The estimated population of Kazakstan is approximately 16,820,000 (2000). Kazakhs (a Turkish people with Mongol features) make up 46 percent of the population; Russians, who live mainly in the north, comprise 35 percent; and Germans, residing mostly in the northeast, three percent. More than 100 other ethnic groups live in the country.

Deaths of Kazakhs during the U.S.S.R.'s collectivization programs and purges plus the immigration of many ethnic groups has resulted, until recently, in the Kazakhs being a minority in their own country. Much of the German immigration resulted from forced deportation by Stalin as German troops invaded Russia in the early 1940s. Recently, many Germans living in Kazakstan have migrated to Germany.

Russians were sent to Kazakstan to work in the industrial sector and to suppress Kazakh nationalism. The large Russian population has led to ethnic conflict with the Kazakhs. There were riots in December 1986, in 1989 when Kazakh was declared the official language, and again in 1991 when Kazakhs became leery about Russian Federation designs on the mostly Russian inhabited area along the northern border. Independence and the resulting fall of Kazakstan's Russians as the more privileged class have led to an increase in ethnic tension.

Russian was the official language for many years, but in 1989 a law was passed declaring Kazakh the official language. Russian is still commonly used. Uighur, German, and Korean are spoken by small portions of the population.

Most Kazakhs are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. Kazakstan has 60 mosques and 230 Islamic religious communities. An Islamic institute is located in Almaty. The major Christian denomination is Russian Orthodox, attended by the Slavic minorities. Protestant churches, mainly Baptist, are also found.


Kazakstan's declared its sovereignty in October 1990, and its independence on December 16, 1991, one of the last two Soviet republics to do so. The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic then adopted the name Republic of Kazakstan, and United Nations membership followed on March 2, 1992. The Kazakh Communist Party disbanded seven months later.

Kazakstan is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency. The president is the head of state and the commander in chief of the armed forces. Nursultan Nazarbayev, an ethnic Kazakh and former leader of the Communist Party, was elected as present in 1990 and reelected in 1999. The prime minister chairs the Cabinet of Ministers and serves as Kazakstan's head of government. There are four deputy prime ministers, 14 ministers, and 11 chairmen of state agencies. Kasimzhomart Tokayev, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, has been Prime Minister since 1999.

Kazakstan has a bicameral parliament, comprised of a Lower House (the Mazhilis) and upper house (the Senate). The 77-seat Mazhilis is popularly elected by single mandate districts, with 10 members elected by party-list vote. The Senate has 39 members. Two senators are selected by each of the elected assemblies (Maslikhats) of Kazakstan's 16 principal administrative divisions. The president appoints the remaining seven senators.

Political parties have traditionally played little role in local politics, where personal and family ties are more important. Several new parties formed and were registered in 1999 following passage of a constitutional amendment that created 10 new seats in the Mazhilis attributed by party-list voting.

Arts, Science, Education

Education is free and compulsory between the ages of seven and 14. More than 60 percent of primary and secondary students are taught in Russian. However, since Kazakh was established as the official language in 1989, there have been attempts to increase the number of schools using it as the language of instruction. There are 55 institutions of higher education, including three universitiesKaraganda State University, Kazakh State University, and the Technical University at Karaganda Metallurgical Combine.

Commerce and Industry

Kazakstan has vast quantities of a variety of natural resources. Almost one-fifth of the coal mined in the former Soviet Union was from here and the country has major oil reserves, much of it not yet exploited. A focus on oil production and increased prices in the world market provided a much needed boost to the economy in 2000. In that year, the GDP grew nearly 10%.

Foreign investments in oil and mineral exports have been significant for the industry with over $12 billion in investments since 1993. The Tengiz oil field, developed by the Tengiz Chevroil joint venture, established by the Government and Chevron in 1993 and subsequently expanded to include ExxonMobil and Lukarco, is the flagship foreign investment project in Kazakstan. Kazakstan's current oil production is not that vast, almost 800,000 barrels/day, but offshore oil discoveries in the North Caspian Sea look promising.

Kazakstan has become a major regional grain exporter, supplying markets in Russia, Iran, China and other Central Asian countries. Important agricultural crops are grain, meat, and cotton.

With unemployment at about 12.8% in 2000, the government is taking an active role in seeing that foreign firms give preference to Kazakstanis in their employment practices. The government has also tightened its policy on foreign labor, which has made it more difficult for foreign companies to obtain work permits for expatriate employees.


Several airlines have frequent flights to and from Kazakstan.

Railroad service is also available within Kazakstan and neighboring major cities.

Roads are in poor repair, especially in rural areas. The road between Almaty and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is especially treacherous at night or during poor weather. Americans and other travelers have been killed in traffic accidents on that road, and travel at night is not recommended. Street lighting, especially on side streets, may be turned off at night. Drivers often ignore lane markings. Potholes are common, and they are often dangerously deep. Pedestrians frequently dart out in front of cars. Visitors should use special caution if driving at night. Defensive driving is a must because many local drivers do not follow traffic laws. Accidents involving severe injury and/or death are common. Traffic police have reportedly stopped cars to seek bribes on main city streets and at periodic checkpoints on major highways.

Travelers should be particularly careful when using public transportation and taxis. Buses tend to be very crowded and can be unsafe and unreliable. Due to the danger of theft or assault, travelers should be selective regarding which taxi they contract and always avoid entering a cab that already contains persons other than the driver.


Telephone service is considered fair to good. Phone service to the other former Soviet republics is by land line or microwave; to other foreign countries, by the Moscow international gateway switch.

Kazakh Radio broadcasts in several languages: Kazakh, Russian, Uighur, German, and Korean. State TV broadcasts informational programs and films in both Kazak and Russian languages, with filler shows about Kazak music and dance. In the cities, independent television stations are popular. Their main fare is poorly-dubbed pirated American films and cartoons. They also focus on local news shows. Talk shows with interesting discussions but uninspiring production values are also popular. Televised classified advertising is also a favorite among the people.

Kazakstanis are avid newspaper readers, but the print media is in poor financial health. Most newspapers have drastically reduced their circulation due to the cost and difficulty in obtaining paper. The government supports freedom of the press. Investigative reporting and political commentaries are popular. English-language and German-language newspapers and magazines are available at newsstands in major hotels and the airports.


Medical care has declined since independence and does not meet Western standards. There is a severe shortage of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics. U.S. citizens in frail health are strongly advised not to visit Kazakstan.

Several regions of the country have high rates of infant deaths, birth defects, and illness. Most severely affected are the areas around the Aral and Caspian Seas, which suffer from pesticide damage; the area around Semipalatinsk, which was a nuclear test site; and in industrialized cities, which have pollution from their factories.


Passage, Customs and Duties

A valid passport and visa are required. The Kazakstan Embassy in Washington, D.C., issues visas (based on an invitation from an individual or organizational sponsor in Kazakstan). The U.S. Embassy in Almaty does not issue letters of invitation to citizens interested in private travel to Kazakstan. All travelers, even those simply transiting Kazakstan for less than 72 hours, must obtain a Kazakstan visa before entering the country. Travelers may also be asked to provide proof at the border of their onward travel arrangements. Travelers transiting through Kazakstan are reminded to check that their visas allow for sufficient number of entries to cover each transit trip and to check the length of validity of the visa. Crossing the land border to and from the neighboring Kyrgyz Republic can result in delays or demands from border officials to pay fines. For complete information concerning entry requirements, U.S. citizens should contact the Kazak-stan Embassy at 1401 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202) 232-5488. The Kazakstan Embassy may also be reached by Email:[email protected], and at their home page:

Several border areas with China and cities in close proximity to military installations require prior permission from the government to enter. In 2001, the government declared the following areas closed to foreigners: Gvardeyskiy village, Rossavel village, and Kulzhabashy railway station in Zhambyl Oblast; Bokeyorda and Zhangaly districts in Western Kazakstan Oblast; the town of Priozersk and Gulshad village in Karaganda Oblast; and Baykonur, Karmakshy, and Kazakly districts in Kyzylorda Oblast. Americans traveling within Kazakstan have on occasion reported local officials who demand documentation authorizing travel within their area of jurisdiction, despite appropriate registration in Almaty or Astana. Americans should report any trouble with local authorities to the U.S. Embassy in Almaty.

There are local Kazakstani registration requirements. All travelers staying for more than three business days must register with the Office of Visas and Registration (OVIR). OVIR offices are located in Almaty, Astana and all other major cities. Visitors who do not register may have to pay fines upon departure. All visitors who plan to stay more than 30 days must also present to the OVIR office within 30 days of arrival a certificate indicating a negative HIV test conducted no more than one month before registration. Evidence of an HIV test performed abroad is acceptable. Testing may also be done at the Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS (7 Talgarskaya Street, Almaty).

Tenge, Kazakstan's currency, can be exported in amounts up to $10,000 without written certification on the origin of funds. For legal requirements on the export of tenge, travelers should consult with local Customs officials. In practice, travelers have been erroneously charged duty on tenge exports or asked to surrender tenge before departing the country. Kazakstani customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning export from Kazakstan of items such as antiquities. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Republic of Kazak-stan in Washington for specific information at 1401 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202) 232-5488.

Americans living in or visiting Kazakstan are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy Consular Section in Almaty and obtain updated information on travel and security within Kazakstan. Registration with the Embassy is different from Kazakstani OVIR registration. It can help the U.S. Embassy contact you in case of an emergency, and it can streamline replacement of a lost or stolen passport. The U.S. Embassy in Almaty is 11 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time and is located at 99/ 97A Furmanova Street, tel. 7-3272-63-39-21, after-hour emergencies 7-3272-50-76-27, fax 7-3272-50-62-69, and e-mail: [email protected].

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

Kazakstan remains largely a cash economy. Traveler's checks and credit cards are not widely accepted, except at large hotels and restaurants catering to international visitors. U.S. dollars can easily be exchanged for the local currency (tenge) at local and authorized currency exchanges, but all denominations of U.S. dollar bills must have been issued after 1990 and be in good condition (not worn or torn and without any writing or marks).

Disaster Preparedness

Kazakstan, especially the mountainous southeast region, is an earthquake-prone country. The U.S. Department of State has ranked the earthquake threat level within Almaty as a Level 4 (the highest level assigned). Building practices within Kazakstan do not generally meet U.S. seismic standards. In addition, local authorities do not have sufficient resources to respond to a large-scale disaster. American citizens traveling to Kazakstan are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy Consular Section to assist in contacting them in the event of an emergency. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 7 Christmas (Orthodox)

Mar. 8 International Women's Day

Mar. 22 Nauryz Meyrami (Traditional Spring Holiday)

May 1 Labor Day/People's Unity Day

May 5 Constitution Day

May 9 Victory Day

Aug. 24 Flag Day

Aug. 30 Constitution Day

Oct. 25 Republic Day

Dec. 16 Independence Day



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Allworth, Edward, ed. Central Asia:

One Hundred Twenty Years of Russian Rule. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1989.

, Edward, ed. The Nationality Question in Soviet Central Asia. New York: Praeger, 1973.

Bodger, Alan. The Kazakhs and the Pugachev Uprising in Russia 1773-1775. Bloomington, IN: Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, Indiana University, 1988.

Bradley, Catherine. Kazakhstan. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1992.

Demko, George J. The Russian Colonization of Kazakhstan 1896-1916. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1969.

Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States 1992. London: Europa (distributed in the U.S. by Gale Research), 1992.

Larin, Veniamin. Kazakhstan. Moscow: Novosti Press Agency Pub. House, 1980.

Olcott, Martha Brill. The Kazakh-stan. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1987.

Warner, Warren. Kazakhstan: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Houston, TX: R. and M. Cullen, 1989.

Winner, Thomas G. The Oral Art and Literature of the Kazakhs of Russian Central Asia. New York: Arno Press, 1980.

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LOCATION: Kazakstan; China; Uzbekistan; Turkmenistan; Tajikistan.

POPULATION: More than 8 million

LANGUAGES: Kazak; Russian

RELIGION: Islam (Sunni Muslim)


For centuries the Kazak people were nomads. They have traditionally divided themselves into three territorial zhüz (tribal unions, or hordes): Greater, Central, and Lesser. The Greater Horde occupied much of what is now southern Kazakstan. The Central Horde occupied the northern and eastern parts of modern Kazakstan. The Lesser Horde occupied the land between the Ural and Volga Rivers.

Since the Kazaks were nomads, during the 1800s it was possible for large numbers of Slavic settlers to move into and seize the land inhabited by the Kazaks. Many of these were ethnic Russians. Eventually, the modern land of Kazakstan became part of the Soviet Union. Kazakstan became an independent nation in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. It changed its name from Kazakhstan to Kazakstan (dropping the h ) in 1996.


The Kazak homeland covers more than 1 million square miles (2.6 million square kilometers). Approximately 80 percent of the area consists of long plains and plateaus. Strong winds often sweep through these flat lands. The only mountains are the Tien Shan and Altai ranges in the southeast and east.

The climate in Kazakstan varies greatly. Some areas become bitterly cold in the winter and intensely hot during the summer. The massive Kara Kum Desert ("black sand") occupies much of central Kazakstan. It is the world's fourth largest desert. Much of it extends into other nations of Central Asia.

There are presently between 8 and 9 million Kazaks. About 80 percent live in Kazakstan, with the others living in China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Kazaks make up only 42 percent of the population in Kazakstan. Ethnic Russians make up about 38 percent of the population. The remainder are Germans, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, and Tatars (ethnic group living in Russia).


Kazak is a central Turkic language. Modern Kazak has many words borrowed from Russian, Arabic, Persian, and other languages. There are three primary dialects that correspond to the three historic Kazak hordes. Written Kazak, which dates back only to the late nineteenth century, is based on the dialect of the Central Horde.

Examples of the Kazak language include words for traditional occupations, like balykshi (fisher) and eginshi (grain-grower). Words for animals that played an important part in the traditional way of life include at or jïlqï (horse), qazaqi qoy (fat-tailed sheep), ayïr tüye (Bactrian camel), and yeshki (goat).

A traditional Kazak greeting that is still sometimes used in rural areas literally translates as: "Are your livestock and your soul still healthy?" A traditional Kazak wish for good fortune is literally translated as: "May God give you one thousand sheep with lambs, eighty camels, and eight married sons."


Oral tradition forms the basis of Kazak folklore. Over the centuries, sagas were passed down by memory from one generation to the next. Most of the stories are heroic epics where the batir (warrior) and his trusty horse save the clan and its livestock from danger. There are also stories about Alash, the legendary first Kazak.

The most famous heroic stories are Koblandy-Batir, Er Sain, and Er Targyn, all of which are from the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The most famous poetic epics are Kozy KorpeshBain Sulu and AimanSholpan. The most famous Kazak love story is Kiz-Jhibek, which contains historic information about Kazak betrothal and marriage customs and ceremonies.

The folklore of the "White Swan" explains the creation of the Kazak people. One version tells of an orphan shepherd who dreamed one night of a white swan coming from the sky singing and dancing before him. The next day, his dream came true. Unfortunately, a windstorm appeared from nowhere and scattered all his sheep. The swan rescued him and helped him find his sheep. To the shepherd's surprise, the swan turned into a beautiful lady. The two were married, and together produced a number of children who became the first Kazaks. A similar story tells of a general who was rescued in the desert by a white swan. It turned into a beautiful lady. They married and had a son who grew up, married, and had three sonsthe ancestors of the three largest tribes of Kazak.


Most Kazaks are Sunni Muslim. The Kazaks were introduced to Islam through contact with the Tatars. Tatars traditionally were not as conservative as other Muslim peoples.

Because the Kazaks were wanderers who depended on livestock for their survival, animals were at the core of the ancient Kazak religion. Until the mid-1800s, elements of this ancient animist belief system (including shamanism and ancestor worship) were still widely practiced among many Kazak Muslims.


The Republic of Kazakstan celebrates the following national holidays: New Year's Day (January 1), International Women's Day (March 8), Nawruz (the day of the spring equinox around March 21), May Day (May 1), Victory Day (May 9), Independence Day (October 25), and Democracy Day (December 16). To celebrate Nawruz, families will take kuji, a meal made of seven ingredients including beef, barley, wheat, and milk products.

The Kazak also celebrate religious holidays. December 10 (Islamic calendar) is the Corban Festival. The word corban in Arabic means "sacrificial offering." When the day comes, the Kazak kill oxen or sheep as a sacrifice, entertain guests, and present gifts to their friends or relatives.

The Festival of Fast-Breaking (Lesser Bairam) is the day ending the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. According to Islamic tradition, in September (Islamic calendar) every year, every adult Kazak should abstain from food and drink from daybreak to sunset. The beginning and the end of the month of fast depend on the new moon being visible. When the fast is broken, there are festive activities in a lively atmosphere.


Kazaks typically have large birthday parties with many relatives and friends. Celebrations are held for a birth, a baby's fortieth day of life, the first day of school, and graduation. Voting and driving privileges are granted at eighteen years of age.

Weddings are very important in Kazak society, not only for honoring the married couple, but also as an event to assemble an extended family or clan. The traditional wedding is called the toi. In the past, arranged marriages were common. The payment of kalym (a dowry) was expected upon betrothal.

When a person dies, the horse he or she used during his or her lifetime is not allowed to be ridden any longer. The horse tail is cut after the master's death, and the horse is killed one year later as a sacrifice. When nomadic Kazaks migrate to new pasture lands, the hat and clothes of the deceased are put on horseback and moved with the family.


Hospitality is an important part of Kazak culture. A traveler, no matter what his or her nationality, will be put up for the night in any Kazak's home. Proverbs recognize Kazak hospitality. For example, one states: "As long as there are Kazak on the way, you may travel for a year without a cent or a grain in your bag." A host will be offended if a guest does not accept offers of refreshments. Asking a guest questions is considered bad manners. Guests in a Kazak home are allowed to rest and are given fermented mare's milk to drink. The guests sit cross-legged on a felt rug. They must not straighten their legs. It is considered impolite to take off one's shoes or to point.

Long-separated friends usually embrace when meeting again. They talk about the well-being of their livestock first, then the families greet each other.

Kazak men and women are skilled horseback riders; riding therefore plays an important role in their festivals.


At one time, the nomadic Kazaks lived in yurts, cone-shaped tents of white felt stretched over a framework of wooden poles. Yurts are light and easy to assemble, dismantle, and transport. Today, yurts are only used as temporary shelters by shepherds in remote, seasonal pastures.

The modern Kazak home is typically an apartment in the city or a permanent single dwelling in rural areas. To keep their homes clean, Kazaks always remove their shoes upon entering. Kazak interior design emphasizes the use of stucco walls and artwork as well as ornate carpets.


The average urban Kazak family has two children. The typical rural family has three or four. By tradition, every Kazak is supposed to know the names of his or her ancestors going back seven generations.

According to custom, a Kazak woman is supposed to compose her own wedding song before getting married. A popular tradition at weddings, anniversaries, and holidays is the kyz-kuu (girl chase). A kyz-kuu is a lighthearted event in which a man on horseback chases a woman on horseback and tries to catch her in order to steal a kiss. The woman tries to flee. She may even use a small horsewhip to keep the man or his horse away.

Before 1950, wealthy men and nobles were polygynous (had more than one wife). Now they practice monogamy. Men and women share authority in the family. Each spouse performs the tasks required of them to maintain their household. As soon as a young man has grown up and married, he leaves his parents and receives a part of the property from his father. The family property will ultimately be inherited by the youngest son.

In the past, if a husband died, his widow had to marry her brother-in-law or another member of the clan. Although a married woman had no right to ask for divorce, a man was allowed to abandon his wife at any time. Nowadays, according to the new laws, Kazak women are free to marry and to divorce.


Kazaks like to wear boots with a pair of felt stockings in winter. By the late 1990s, some women in rural areas still wore the traditional dress, but most young women and men wore modern, Western-style clothes.

Young people living in towns dress much like school children everywhere, and carry backpacks to school.


A unique Kazak culinary custom is the dastarkhan, a feast for special occasions consisting primarily of meat dishes and dairy products. For a dastarkhan, an entire animal (usually a sheep) is slaughtered. The oldest member of the family gets the honor of carving the head and serving the family. The various parts of the animal symbolize desired traits for those eating them. For example, children are often served the ears as a symbol of being better listeners. Someone who is served the tongue will speak more eloquently. The person who receives the eye should seek wisdom.

Most food comes from livestock. There are a variety of milk products, including cheese, butter, and boiled milk. In spring or summer, the herders pour mare's milk into a leather bag, stir it frequently, and wait for it to ferment. The final product is a semitransparent sour milk wine, a favorite beverage in summer. The Kazak eat a lot of mutton, mostly boiled in water and eaten without silverware. Horse meat is also popular. Kuirdak is a dish prepared from a freshly slaughtered horse, sheep, or cow and consists of the animal's liver, heart, kidneys, and other organs cut into pieces, boiled in oil, and served with onions and pepper.


The Kazak educational system consists of kindergarten (not required), secondary school (eleven years), higher education institute (four to five years), graduate research program (two years), and postgraduate program (three years). There are also three-year colleges for training to become a professional such as a lawyer, pharmacist, or business manager.

In the past, children of Kazaks who practiced nomadism lived in boarding schools in small towns during the school year. Today, most live with their parents in villages and cities during the school year. For those children whose families do not live in a village or town, there are mobile primary schools. The teacher visits the yurt (the cone-shaped tent dwelling) and teaches the children on the spot.

Higher education carries much prestige, and parents strongly encourage children to earn their diplomas. Kazakstan has more than sixty institutions of higher learning.


The ancient Kazak homeland has produced numerous talented musicians and singers. Music is a part of everyday Kazak life. It is played for military expeditions, weddings, funerals, parties, and games. Almost every Kazak knows how to sing and play a musical instrument by ear.

A traditional form of Kazak music is the sazgen, a folk music quintet that includes traditional string and percussion instruments. The most popular folk instrument is the dombra, which has two strings and is played by plucking. Other traditional instruments include the sybyzgy and uran (wind instruments), the dangyra and dabyl (percussion instruments), and the sherter and kobyz (stringed instruments).

The fifteenth-century poetry of Asan Kaigy, and the seventeenth-century poems of Zhyrau and Dosmambet are highly revered among the Kazak people. The founder of modern Kazak literature was the humanist and poet Abai Ibragim Kunanbayev (18451904). Prominent Kazak writers during the Soviet years (191791) included Zhambyl Zhabaev, Saken Seifullin, Mailin, Ilias Dzansugurov, Sabit Mukanov, and Mukhtar Auezov.


During the Soviet years (191791), many Kazaks worked on large, state-run farms growing cotton. A very high birth rate among the Kazaks during the 1980s has led to higher unemployment today. This has caused bitterness among young Kazaks.


Playing soccer is popular among Kazaks in the warmer months, and hockey is popular during the winter. The national sport of Kazakstan is Kazak-style wrestling, which is similar to judo.

In the country, horse racing and other horse events are common. Among the Kazaks living in China, "Snatching the Lamb" (diaoyang) is a popular game played during festivals. A respected elder puts a headless lamb carcass on the grass. Five to eight horsemen, riding their horses at full gallop, try to bend down and grab the lamb with one hand. The winner is the first horseman who brings the lamb to a designated place.

Although the risk of an avalanche is fairly high, skiing in the Tien Shan Mountains is popular. The slopes have received international attention as a future site for expert and world-class skiing. Skiers are flown by helicopter to the tops of slopes, from which they make their descent.


City dwellers often spend the weekends with their families in recreational parks, which can be found in almost any Kazak town. Urban Kazaks frequently go to the movies or watch videos.

A popular Kazak pastime is the itys, a formal or informal competition of wit between two singers. During the itys, each singer plays the dombra (a two-stringed instrument) and cleverly makes up the lyrics as he or she sings. This requires a rich knowledge of the Kazak language. Usually the singer will brag about aspects of his or her hometown or region and make fun of the other person's. The loser is the first person who cannot sing a comeback quickly enough.


In recent years, there has been a revival in Kazak folk art and crafts, including carpet and jewelry making. Collecting stamps and small pins are also popular hobbies.


Since the 1970s, nationalist attitudes among the Kazaks have grown, leading to violence several times. In 1979, Kazaks rioted because there were rumors that the government was going to set aside land for local Germans who wanted to create their own independent region. Suspicion of ethnic Russians increased during the late 1980s because the Soviet Union often gave them preference in leadership positions.

Testing of nuclear bombs in northern Kazakstan in the 1950s weakened the health of many residents. These people and their descendants are often born with deficient immune systems, a condition similar to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Some researchers have estimated that it will take another fifty years for the condition to reverse through intermarriage with people from unaffected families.


Allworth, Edward, ed. Central Asia: 130 Years of Russian Dominance, A Historical Overview. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994.

Bradley, Catherine. Kazakstan. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, 1992.

Geography Department. Kazakstan. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications Co., 1993.

Olcott, Martha Brill. The Kazaks. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1987.


World Travel Guide. Kazakstan. [Online] Available, 1998.

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Basturma....................................................................... 2
Plov (Rice Pilaf).............................................................. 3
Mutton Kespe ............................................................... 4
Baursaki (Fried Doughnuts) ........................................... 4
Rice Sorpa..................................................................... 7


Kazakhstan is located in southern Asia between Russia and Uzbekistan. Approximately 80 percent of the land consist of lowlands, plains, and plateaus. Strong winds often sweep through these flat lands. The country is about the size of two Alaskasaround one million square miles. However, its population is only about 17 million, less than New York City.

The climate in Kazakhstan is varied, and different plants and animals are found according to region. Parts of Kazakhstan become extremely cold in the winter and very hot during the summer. The Kara Kum Desert, the world's fourth largest desert, occupies most of central Kazakhstan.

Kazakhs constitute 46 percent of the population and Russians, 35 percent. The remaining population consists of Ukrainians, Germans, Uzbeks, Tatar, and other groups.


For hundreds of years, Kazakhs were herders who raised qazaqi qoy (fat-tailed sheep), cattle, ayïr tüye (Bactrian camels), and at (horses). Kazakh nomads heavily relied on their animals for transportation, clothing, and food. They usually ate mutton (sheep), milk, cheese, and flat bread baked on a griddle.

Kazakh nomads migrated from region to region, depending on available water and pastures for their livestock. They also produced goods that they traded for grain, vegetables, and fruits at markets in the more settled cities of south Kazakhstan. Cone-shaped tents called yurts were their homes, which were easy to set up, dismantle, and carry.

The nomadic way of life began to change in the 1800s, when the Russian Empire conquered the Kazakhstan region. Many Russians settled in the area, which greatly reduced the grazing lands needed for herds. Kazakhstan became part of the Soviet Union in 1922, and Kazakh nomads began to settle in rural villages or cities. There are, however, some Kazakhs who still live the nomadic way of life, moving with their yurts and herds to summer pastures every year.

The Silk Road was a major trade and travel route that ran through present-day Kazakhstan between Asia, the Middle East, and Europe in ancient times. Present-day Kazakh cuisine includes some Uzbek, Russian, and Korean foods mainly found in cities. Traditional Kazakh foods reflect the nomadic peoples and also Middle Eastern influences. Horsemeat and mutton are the most common foods. Middle Eastern methods of preparing and seasoning rice, vegetables, kebabs (skewered meat), and yogurt have been added. Although Kazakh cuisine has some Russian influence (and viceversa), the Russian people living in Kazakhstan have generally retained their native culture and cuisine. A traditional Russian meal includes meat, potatoes, dumplings, and vegetables. Cold dishes called zakuski (smoked fish, pickles, or onions) may be served first. Borscht (beet soup) may be eaten next, followed by meat or fish with bread. Favorite drinks such as black tea and vodka are part of Kazakh and Russian custom. Russian food is found in abundance in northern Kazakhstan and larger cities.


Based on nomadic roots, horse meat and mutton (meat from sheep) are the basis of a majority of Kazakh dishes. Dishes include shuzhuk (a type of sausage made from smoked horse meat), and kuyrdak. Kuyrdak (also spelled kuirdak) is prepared from a freshly slaughtered horse, sheep, or cow, and consists of the animal's heart, liver, kidneys, and other organs. They are cut into pieces, boiled in oil, and served with onion and pepper. Basturma is mutton eaten with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. Round, flat loaves of bread accompany most meals.



  • 1¾ pounds lamb meat (with or without bones), cut into pieces
  • 4 onions, sliced
  • 6 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 6 tomatoes, sliced
  • 6 cucumbers, sliced


  1. Pour the vinegar over the lamb in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the onions and cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.
  4. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium heat and add lamb mixture.
  5. Brown both sides of the lamb, then cover.
  6. Cook about 15 minutes.
  7. Serve with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.

Serves 5.

Beshbarmak, a traditional dish of meat (such as mutton) is eaten with boiled dough. The dough is rolled into thin strips and cooked in mutton broth. It is served with mutton over the top and flavored with garlic and onions. Qazy is smoked horsemeat sausage, sometimes served sliced over cold noodles.

Native fruits are grown in mewäzar bagh (orchards) and include orik (apricots), shäftali (peaches), qawun (melons), apples, and uzum (grapes).Plov (rice pilaf) is a side dish usually made with rice, dried apricots, dates, prunes, or Kazakh apples.

Plov (Rice Pilaf)


  • 1½ cups cooked rice
  • cup slivered almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • cup prunes, pitted and chopped
  • 3 dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • ½1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped


  1. Cook the rice according to package directions. Set aside.
  2. Mix the lamb, almonds, fruits, onion, salt, and garlic in a large bowl.
  3. In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  4. Brown the lamb mixture until lamb is no longer pink.
  5. In a serving bowl, combine the lamb with oil and rice then mix.

Serves 8.

Mutton Kespe


  • 2½ pounds lamb (with or without bones), cut into pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon dried dill
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups cooked noodles (egg noodles are best)


  1. Place the cut lamb into a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook for about 1 hour.
  3. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté carrots, onion, and bay leaves about 10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the cooked noodles, onion, bay leaves, and carrots. Remove and discard bay leaves before serving.
  5. Top with boiled lamb and dill.

Serves 4.


Because the early nomads heavily depended on livestock for survival, animals were at the core of ancient Kazakh religion. Traditional beliefs held that separate spirits inhabited animals. Honored guests were sometimes asked to bless an animal and ask its spirit for permission to taste its flesh.

Most Kazakhs of the twenty-first century are Sunni Muslims. The Islam religion did not become widely practiced until the late 1700s. This is because the nomads of that time settled in rural areas, and the Muslims worshiped in mosques that were in the cities. Muslims in Kazakhstan celebrate the Festival of Fast-Breaking (known as Id al-Fitr or Eid al-Fitr elsewhere), which is the day ending Ramadan. Ramadan is a month-long fast, where Muslims cannot eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. During the Festival of Fast-Breaking, Kazakh Muslims visit each other and hand out deep-fried dough twists and other fried doughnuts, such as baursaki, as a form of celebration.

Baursaki (Fried Doughnuts)


  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 Tablespoons yeast
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1½ Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. Combine all ingredients into a large mixing bowl to form dough.
  2. Knead the dough on a floured surface, then return to mixing bowl.
  3. Cover with a towel and let sit for 30 minutes. Heat oil in deep skillet over high heat.
  4. Pull off Tablespoon-size pieces of the dough and roll into a ball.
  5. Press down slightly, then drop carefully into oil and fry until golden brown.
  6. Drain on paper towels.
  7. Optional: sprinkle with sugar.

Secular (non-religious) holidays include International Women's Day (March 8) and New Year's Day. On March 8, all women (not just mothers) are honored and celebrated by food and dancing. New Year's Day is celebrated much like Christmas in the United States. People decorate trees in their homes, exchange gifts, and gather with family and friends to sing and eat together.


Hospitality is an important part of Kazakh culture. A Kazakh host will feel offended if a guest does not have some refreshments, or at least a cup of tea. Refreshments might include dried and fresh fruits (grapes or melon), nuts, cakes, or baursaks (a type of bread). They also may be offered some fermented kymyz (milk from a female horse) to drink. Tea and kymyz are served in a piala (Asian teacup) or a wooden bowl. A guest is usually offered a place of honor at the table.

If invited to a person's yurt (tent-like dwelling), diners step outside to wash their hands before a meal. A prayer is said and the guest is served first. Eating is usually done with the right hand, or a knife and fork. Tea is usually served after dinner. Once the adults have eaten, children eat the leftovers.

A unique custom in Kazakhstan is the dastarkhan, a feast for visiting guests and special occasions that includes meat dishes and dairy products. Appetizers may be smoked or boiled meat, zhuta (pasta stuffed with pumpkin or carrot), and flat cakes. Vegetables, sorpa (rich broth), and shubat (a milk drink) may be offered next. For the feast, an entire animal, usually a sheep, is slaughtered and the oldest member of the family carves the head and serves the family. This is considered an honor in Kazakhstan. Besbarmak is the animal's meat, boiled, and served on a platter with dough that has been boiled in broth. Different parts of the animal symbolize traits desired by those eating them. For example, children are often served the ears as a symbol to listen better. The person who receives the eye should seek wisdom, and a tongue means that a person should be more expressive.



Smoked lamb

Gutap (deep-fried fritters)

Sorpa (rich broth)

Besbarmak (meat with boiled dough)

Shubat (milk tonic)

Rice Sorpa


  • 1½ pounds beef or lamb (with or without bones), cut into pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 Tablespoons dried dill
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves


  1. Place meat in a large pot and fill with enough cold water to cover. Add remaining ingredients except cooked rice.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook, about 45 minutes. Add rice and cook 5 additional minutes.
  3. Serve in individual bowls.

Serves 4.


Kazakhstan was the site of the former Soviet Union's nuclear testing programs, and areas of the country have been exposed to high levels of nuclear radiation. This exposure has weakened the health of many Kazakh residents. These people generally have weak immune systems, which is passed down to their children.

A significant percentage of children under the age of five suffer from anemia (insufficient iron in the blood). Some researchers have estimated it will take 50 years for these conditions (weak immune systems and anemia) to reverse, which may be accomplished by the unhealthy people marrying those who are healthy.

Because of the sparse (for its area) population, most Kazakhs have adequate food and do not have a problem with nutrition. Almost half of the population is employed in agriculture. Crops such as wheat, barley, beets, melon, grapes, and apples are grown. Kazakhstan's natural pastures provide good feeding for sheep, horses, cattle, and goats.



Bradley, Catherine. Kazakhstan. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1992.

Central Asia. Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia; Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet Publications, 2000.

Web Sites

Gateway to Kazakhstan. [Online] Available (accessed April 24, 2001). [Online] Available (accessed April 24, 2001).

Kazakhstan National Cooking. [Online] Available (accessed August 16, 2001). [Online] Available (accessed April 24, 2001).

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Official name: Republic of Kazakhstan

Area: 2,717,300 square kilometers (1,049,149 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Khan Tangiri Shyngy (6,398 meters/20,991 feet)

Lowest point on land: Karagiye Depression (132 meters/433 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 5 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Not available

Land boundaries: 12,012 kilometers (7,447 miles) total boundary length; China 1,533 kilometers (950 miles); Kyrgyzstan 1,051 kilometers (652 miles); Russia 6,846 kilometers (4,245 miles); Turkmenistan 379 kilometers (235 miles); Uzbekistan 2,203 kilometers (1,366 miles)

Coastline: Landlocked with no ocean coasts; borders the Aral Sea (1,070 kilometers/663 miles) and the Caspian Sea (1,894 kilometers/1,174 miles)

Territorial sea limits: None


Kazakhstan lies in the center of western Asia, with a small part of the northwestern corner of the country in Europe. At 2,717,300 square kilometers (1,049,149 square miles), it is the world's seventh-largest country, the largest country in Central Asia, and the second largest of the former Soviet republics, surpassed only by Russia. Both the Caspian and the Aral Seasactually inland bodies of water despite their namesare situated partially within Kazakhstan.


Kazakhstan has no territories or dependencies.


The climate of Kazakhstan, which is located thousands of miles from the ocean, is extremely continental, with cold winters and hot summers. Temperatures also vary greatly by region. Average January temperatures are -3°C (-2°F) in the north and 18°C (25°F) in the south; July temperatures average 19°C (66°F) in the north and range from 28° to 30°C (66° to 79°F) in the south. Temperature extremes can reach much higher or lower than these averages, however. In the winter they may fall below -45°C (-49°F), and in summer they can reach 45°C (113°F). Strong, cold northern winds make winters in the steppes especially harsh.

Generally, very little precipitation falls in Kazakhstan; roughly three-quarters of the country is considered arid or semi-arid. Annual precipitation ranges from less than 10 centimeters (4 inches) in the south-central desert regions to between 25 and 35 centimeters (10 and 14 inches) on the steppes, where flash floods are common after summer thunderstorms. In the mountains, yearly precipitation (largely in the form of snow) averages 150 centimeters (60 inches). The sun shines a great deal in Kazakhstan; on average, the country experiences 260 sunny days in the south and 120 sunny days in the north.


Topography varies greatly across this vast, landlocked country. There are three mountainous regions: the Altay Shan in the northeast, the Tian Shan in the southeast, and the southernmost of the Ural Mountains in the northwest. Between these widely separated mountain ranges are vast stretches of desert and steppe, a harsh terrain of bare rock and sand dunes. Most of Kazakhstan (about 75 percent) is desert, semi-desert, or steppe (arid grassy plains).


The Aral Sea is really a very large saltwater lake that lies across the border of southwestern Kazakhstan and northwestern Uzbekistan. Located east of the much larger Caspian Sea, the Aral is surrounded by deserts and has no outlets to other bodies of water. This inland lake, which was once the fourth-largest in the world, has been steadily shrinking over the last several decades, as water from the rivers that feed into it is diverted for crop irrigation. Since 1988, the drop in sea level has caused the Aral Sea to divide into two distinct bodies of water.

Nearly half of Kazakhstan's western border is on the Caspian Sea. Like the Aral Sea to its east, the Caspian is landlocked; it has no outlet to other seas, lakes, or oceans. While this means that it could technically be considered a lake, it is rarely treated as such because of its salty waters and vast size. The Caspian Sea is the world's largest landlocked body of water. It covers approximately 371,000 square kilometers (143,000 square miles) and has a mean depth of about 170 meters (550 feet).

Seacoast and Undersea Features

For unknown reasons, water levels have been rising steadily in the Caspian Sea since the late 1970s. Millions of acres of land north of the sea have been flooded.

Coastal Features

Kazakhstan's shoreline on the Caspian Sea runs for 1,894 kilometers (1,174 miles). Irregular in shape, the coast juts deeply into the country at its northern end. Farther to the south are two deep indentations in the shoreline, and the Mangyshlak Peninsula juts northwest into the water.


In southeastern Kazakhstan lies Lake Balkhash, an inland lake that is partially fresh and partially saline from the salts that leech into its waters from the land. The lakewhich forms a long, narrow arcactually consists of two parts separated by the narrow Uzun-Aral Strait. The largest lake in the country, it covers a total area of some 18,200 square kilometers (7,030 square miles) and is fed principally by the Ili River, which enters near the lake's southern tip. Kazakhstan has three other significant lakes. Lakes Alakol' and Tengiz are both salt lakes. In the far northeast, near the border with China, lies freshwater Lake Zaysan.


Although many of Kazakhstan's rivers and streams, as well as its lakes, evaporate in summer, it does have some permanent rivers of major economic and geographic significance. The Tobol and Ishim Rivers originate in north-central Kazakhstan and flow northward into Russia, where they join other rivers and eventually reach the ocean. The Irtysh River enters the country from China and flows west through Lake Zaysan, then curves northwest into Russia. The longest river to pass through Kazakhstan, and among the largest rivers in Asia, the Irtysh flows for 4,441 kilometers (2,760 miles) before emptying into the Ob' River in Russia, which eventually leads to the Arctic Ocean. It is navigable for most of its length in Kazakhstan, and many cities are located nearby.

Other than these three rivers of northeastern Kazakhstan, all of the country's rivers and streams are landlocked. In southeastern Kazakhstan, the Ili River flows westerly about 1,287 kilometers (800 miles) from its headwaters in China through the city of Qapshaghay and northwest into Lake Balkhash. With origins in Uzbekistan, the Syr Darya, one of the major rivers of Central Asia, flows northwest through Kazakhstan into the Aral Sea. It is 2,200 kilometers (1,370 miles) in total length. The Ural River flows from the Ural Mountains in southern Russia into northwestern Kazakh-stan. It runs south through the town of Oral into the Caspian Sea.


The largest deserts, the Kyzyl Kum and the Betpaqdala, are located in the south. Only a few scrub plants grow in these areas. The Greater Barsuki Desert lies northwest of the Aral Sea.


Kazakhstan's terrain dips down to form numerous great basins and depressions. Some are filled with water, forming the country's lakes and seas. Others are dry. The Caspian Depression is a vast lowland extending between Kazakhstan and Russia. Located in both Europe and Asia, it has some of the lowest elevations to be found on either continent. Lying north of the Caspian Sea, the depression covers roughly 200 square kilometers (75 square miles). Located entirely within Kazakhstan, the Karagiye Depression lies in the extreme southwest, east of the Caspian Sea. This is the site of Kazakhstan's lowest elevation, 132 meters (433 feet) below sea level.

Roughly 10 percent of Kazakhstan consists of prairie grassland areas located in the Ural River basin in the north and west of the country. An estimated 60 percent of the nation's original pastureland has been desertified by wind erosion that resulted from the Soviet introduction of large-scale wheat farming during the 1950s and 1960s.


In the southeast of Kazakhstan, extending across the borders with Kyrgyzstan and China, are the rugged Tian Shan. These are one of Central Asia's major mountain systems. The Tian Shan cover an area of roughly 1,036,000 square kilometers (400,000 square miles), which makes them comparable in size to the North American Rocky Mountains. The chain is some 2,414 kilometers (1,500 miles) in length and 320 to 480 kilometers (200 to 300 miles) in width. There are many high peaks in the Tian Shan; in fact, Kazakhstan's tallest mountain, Khan Tangiri Shyngy (Mount Tengri; 6,398 meters/20,991 feet), can be found here. The Altay Mountains enter the country in its northeastern corner. With impressive peaks that exceed 4,572 meters (15,000 feet), most of this range lies in Russia and China.

The Urals are a large mountain chain stretching all the way across Russia from the Arctic Ocean and into northwestern Kazakhstan for approximately 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles). These mountains, along with the Ural River, form the physical boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia. In Kazakhstan, they run in three parallel chains. The easternmost range is particularly low, with peaks reaching about 670 to 850 meters (2,200 to 2,800 feet). Moving west, the other two chains are higher, reaching up to 1,594 meters (5,230 feet).


Southeast Kazakhstan's rugged Tian Shan Mountains contain several dramatic gorges, including the gorge of the Big Almaty Lake, the Ozyomy and Prokhodnoi Gorges, and the Turgen Gorge, known for its seven waterfalls. With walls that rise from 150 to 300 meters (492 to 984 feet), the Charyn Canyon in the northern Tian Shan has been compared to the Grand Canyon in the United States. In addition to its size, Charyn Canyon is known for its unusually shaped caves and grottoes. The Aleksandrov Caves in western Kazakhstan are also a significant natural feature.


There are many elevated but relatively flat areas in central and western Kazakhstan. South and east of the Karagiye Depression is the Ustyurt (Ust Urt) Plateau, an elevated region separating the Caspian and Aral Seas. Further east, beyond the Aral Sea, is the Turan Steppe, a vast region of plateaus and desert that extends south into Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.


The Irtysh-Qaraghandy Canal, located in the uplands of central Kazakhstan, was the largest water-diversion project (by volume) in the former Soviet Union. The canal supplies water for recreational, agricultural, industrial, and other uses. A dam located nearby has restricted the flow of water from the Ili River to Lake Balkhash by about a third.

Crop irrigation projects have heavily diverted the waters of the two principal rivers that feed into the Aral Sea: the Amu Darya in the south (in Uzbekistan) and the Syr Darya in the east (in Kazakhstan). This water diversion has significantly reduced the size of the Aral Sea and caused many other negative environmental changes.


At 132 meters (433 feet) below sea level, the Karagiye Depression is the second-lowest spot on Earth, surpassed only by the Dead Sea (408 meters/1,339 feet below sea level).



Cartlidge, Cherese, and Charles Clark. The Central Asian States. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2001.

Curtis, Glenn, ed. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan: Country Studies. Federal Research Division. Library of Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1997.

Ferdinand, Peter. The New States of Central Asia and Their Neighbors. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994.

Mandelbaum, Michael, ed. Central Asia and the World: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994.

Web Sites

Fort-Inform. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Kazakhstan International Committee for UNESCO. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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Kazakhstan or Kazakstan (kä´zäkstän´), officially Republic of Kazakhstan, republic (2005 est. pop. 15,186,000), c.1,050,000 sq mi (2,719,500 sq km), central Asia. It borders on Siberian Russia in the north, China in the east, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan in the south, and the Caspian Sea and European Russia in the west. Astana is the capital and Almaty (Alma-Ata) is the largest city. Other major cities include Shymkent, Semey, Aqtöbe, and Öskemen.

Land and People

Kazakhstan consists of a vast flatland, bordered by a high mountain belt in the southeast. It extends nearly 2,000 mi (3,200 km) from the lower Volga and the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mts. in the east. It is largely lowland in the north and west (W Siberian, Caspian, and Turan lowlands), hilly in the center (Kazakh Hills), and mountainous in the south and east (Tian Shan and Altai ranges). Kazakhstan is a region of inland drainage; the Syr Darya, the Ili, the Chu, and other rivers drain into the Aral Sea and Lake Balkash. Most of the region is desert or has limited and irregular rainfall.

More than 60% of the population of Kazakhstan are Kazakhs, who are historically Muslim, while about 23% are Russians, many of whom belong to the Russian Orthodox Church; there are smaller minorities of Tatars, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Uigurs, Germans, and others. Kazakh, a Turkic language and the official language under the constitution, and Russian, the country's most common language and widely used in business, are both used officially. There is considerable friction between the now dominant Kazakhs and the formerly favored ethnic Russians, who have emigrated in large numbers. Nearly a million ethnic Kazakhs, meanwhile, have immigrated since 1991, with the largest number coming from Uzbekistan.


Despite Kazakhstan's largely arid conditions, its vast steppes accommodate both livestock and grain production. In the 1950s, the Virgin Lands Program under Soviet Communist party chief Khrushchev brought hundreds of thousands of Russian, Ukrainian, and German settlers to the area. Wheat, cotton, sugar beets, and tobacco are the main crops. The raising of cattle and sheep is also important, and Kazakhstan produces much wool and meat. In addition, in the N Caspian there are rich fishing grounds, famous for their caviar-producing sturgeon, although these have been hurt by overfishing.

The Kazakh Hills in the core of the region have important mineral resources. Coal is mined at Qaraghandy and Ekibastuz, and there are major oil fields in the Emba basin (which includes the important Tengiz fields), in the Mangyshlak Peninsula, and at Karachaganak (near the Russian border NE of Aksai). Kashagan, an oil field S of Atyrau in the NE Caspian Sea, appears to have great potential; it began production in 2013. A pipeline was built in the 1990s to connect the nation's oil fields to the Black Sea. There are also large deposits of natural gas, iron ore, manganese, chrome, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, bauxite, gold, silver, phosphates, sulfur, uranium, and nickel. The Irtysh River hydroelectric stations are a major source of power.

Kazakhstan's industries are located along the margins of the country. Steel, agricultural and mining machinery, electric motors, construction materials, and fertilizers are among the manufactured goods. Temirtau is the iron and steel center. Semey was the Soviet center of space-related industries, and the surrounding region was the site of Soviet nuclear testing; radiation pollution is widespread in the area, which experienced a severe economic downturn following the end of nuclear testing in 1991. The Baikonur (Bayqongyr) Cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan was the Soviet space-operations center and continues to serve Russian space exploration through an agreement between the two nations. The main exports are oil and petroleum products, natural gas, ferrous metals, chemicals, machinery, grain, wool, meat, and coal. Imports include machinery and equipment, metal products, and foodstuffs. The main trading partners are Russia, China, and Germany.


Kazakhstan is governed under the constitution of 1995 as amended, The president, who is head of state, is elected by popular vote to a five-year term (prior to 2007, a seven-year term); government power is disproportionately concentrated in the presidency. There is a two-term limit on the president, except for Nursultan Nazarbayev, as the first president of the republic. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. There is a bicameral Parliament. Of the 47 members of the Senate, 15 are appointed by the president and the rest are elected by local governments; all serve six-year terms. The 107 members of the Mazhilis serve five-year terms; 98 are popular elected, and 9 are chosen by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, which represents Kazakhstan's ethnic minorities. A party must receive 7% of the vote to be represented in the Mazhilis. Administratively, the country is divided into 14 provinces, or oblasts, and 3 cities.


The original nomadic Turkic tribes inhabiting the region had a culture that featured the Central Asian epics, ritual songs, and legends. These Kazakh groups were conquered by the Mongols in the 13th cent. and ruled by various khanates until the Russian conquest (1730–1840). The 19th cent. saw the growth of the Kazakh intelligentsia. A written literature strongly influenced by Russian culture was then developed.

In 1916 the Kazakhs rebelled against Russian domination and were in the process of establishing a Western-style state at the time of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, but by 1920 the region was under the control of the Red Army. Organized as the Kirghiz Autonomous SSR in 1920, it was renamed the Kazakh Autonomous SSR in 1925 and became a constituent republic in 1936. During the Stalin era, collectivization was instituted and millions of Kazakhs were forced to resettle in the region's south in order to strengthen Russian rule. In the early 1960s parts of republic saw extensive agricultural development as the Virgin Lands Territory.

Kazakhstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union on Dec. 16, 1991, and the new nation became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Nursultan Nazarbayev became the country's first president and soon began a gradual movement toward privatization of the economy. In 1994, Kazakhstan signed a series of security agreements with the United States, in which the latter would take control of enriched uranium usable for nuclear weapons and aid Kazakhstan in removing extant nuclear weapons, closing missile silos, converting biological-weapons-production centers, and destroying its nuclear test ranges. These projects were financed by the United States, and most of the work was completed by 2005.

Elections in 1994 gave a parliamentary majority to allies of Nazarbayev, but they resisted his reform plans. In Apr., 1995, after the 1994 election results were dismissed as invalid by the constitutional court, he suspended parliament and ruled by decree. New elections in Dec., 1995, gave his allies a majority in parliament but were criticized by the opposition and others as flawed. On the basis of referendums held in 1995 and 1996 that were denounced by the opposition, Nazarbayev's term in office was extended to the year 2000 and his powers were increased. In an election rescheduled to Jan., 1999, Nazarbayev was reelected after disqualifying the major opposition candidate. Later the same year, the governing party and its allies won a majority in parliament.

Kazakhstan, along with Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, signed an economic cooperation pact with Russia in 1996. In 1997 the capital was moved from Almaty to the more centrally located Astana (formerly Aqmola). In 1999, as Kazakhstan's economy worsened, the government agreed to sell some of its stake in the vast Tengiz oil field. In Sept., 2003, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine signed an agreement to create a common economic space. It was later agreed (2009) to establish the customs union in 2010, but Ukraine was not a party to that accord. An agreement to establish the Eurasian Economic Union, to increase economic coordination and integration, was signed by Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Russia in May, 2014.

Parliamentary elections in 2004 were criticized by foreign observers as biased toward the government, and the main moderate opposition party accused the government of tampering with the vote. Following the collapse of the government in neighboring Kyrgyzstan in 2005, the parliament passed a series of repressive measures intended to prevent a similar popular revolt in Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev was reelected in Dec., 2005, but the campaign and balloting was called undemocratic by European observers.

The killing of a leading opposition figure in February (the second such killing since Nov., 2005) provoked an outcry from opposition politicians and media. The government announced that a senior senate adminstrative official had confessed to ordering the February murder, and that members of a special forces unit had been arrested for carrying it out. Both murdered men were former government officials who had accused the president's family of corruption, and many opponents of the government believed that the accused senate official was a scapegoat. The official and the alleged assassin, who recanted their confessions during the trial, and eight others were convicted in Aug., 2006.

Constitutional amendments adopted in 2007 removed the term limits on President Nazarbayev, decreased the length of the president's term, and increased the number of representatives in the parliament. In May, 2007, the government moved to arrest the president's son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, on kidnapping and assault charges involving bank officials. Aliyev, who had long been viewed as an example of nepotism, had been rumored in 2002 of plotting to oust Nazarbayev, and in Feb., 2007, had been demoted from deputy foreign minister to ambassador to Austria. Aliyev had also been critical of the 2007 constitutional changes. Kazakhstan sought, unsuccessfully, his extradition from Austria, and Nazarbayev's daughter divorced him; he was convicted in absentia in 2008 of corruption and plotting to overthrow the government.

Parliamentary elections in Aug., 2007, resulted in all 98 elected seats being won by the ruling Light of the Fatherland party. The largest opposition parties denounced the result as fraudulent, and international observers noted problems with the way votes were counted and questioned the outcome. In June, 2010, the president was named "leader of the nation" by legislation that gave him additional powers (including control over national policies after he retires as president) and protection from prosecution. In 2011, after rejecting a referendum on extending his term until 2020, he called an early presidential election, and the generally popular president was reelected in a landslide. The campaign and voting, however, suffered from significant irregularities.

In Dec., 2011, a half-year strike by oil workers in Zhanaozen, in the southwestern province of Mangystau, led to violence and an uncertain number of deaths when police fired on protesters; demonstrations subsequently spread to other provincial towns including Aqtau (Aktau), the provincial capital. Early parliamentary elections in Jan., 2012, were again won by the ruling party in a landslide, and again criticized by international observers; the two oppositions parties that won some seats were generally supportive of Nazarbayev. In a snap presidential election, Nazarbayev was reelected in Apr., 2015, by a landslide; he faced no significant opposition, but there also were indications of ballot stuffing.


See S. Akiner, The Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union (1986); M. B. Olcott, The Kazakhs (1987).

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2,717,300sq km (1,049,150sq mi)



capital (population):

Astana (280,500)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Kazak 54%, Russian 30%, Ukrainian 4%, Uzbek 2%, German 2%, Uighur 1%


Kazak (official); Russian, the former official language, is widely spoken


Islam 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%



Republic in central Asia. Kazakstan is a vast, flat country in w central Asia. It stretches more than 3000km (2000mi) from the Volga and Caspian Sea lowlands in the w to the Altai and Tian Shan mountains in the e. The Caspian Sea lowlands extend e through the Aral Sea region and include the Karagiye depression at 132m (433ft) below sea level. Eastern Kazakstan contains several freshwater lakes, the largest of which is Lake Balkhash. Kazakstan's rivers have been used extensively for irrigation, causing ecological problems: the Aral Sea has shrunk from 66,900sq km (25,830sq mi) in 1960 to 33,642sq km (12,989sq mi) in 1993. Whole fishing villages are now barren desert.


Kazakstan has a continental dry climate. Winters are cold. At Almaty, snow covers the ground for an average of 100 days each year.


Kazakstan has very little woodland. Grassy steppe covers much of the n, while the s is desert or semidesert. Large, dry areas between the Aral Sea and Lake Balkhash have become irrigated farmland.

History and Politics

Little is known of the early history of Kazakstan, except that it was the home of nomadic peoples. In 1218, the Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan conquered the region. Following his death, the Empire was divided into khanates. Feudal trading towns emerged beside the oases. In the late 15th century, the towns formed a Kazak state that fought for its independence from the neighbouring khanates. In 1731, Kazakstan appealed to Russia for protection and voluntarily acceded to the Russian Empire. In the early 19th century, Russia abolished the khanates and encouraged Russian settlement throughout Kazakstan.

The conscription of Kazaks during World War I aroused much resentment, and after the Russian Revolution (1917) demands for independence grew. In 1920, Kazakstan became an autonomous Soviet republic, and in 1936 a full constituent republic. During the 1920s and 1930s, the process of Russification increased. Stalin's forced collectivization of agriculture and rapid industrialization led to great famine. Soviet minorities were transported to Kazakstan. In the 1950s, the “Virgin Lands” project sought to turn vast areas of grassland into cultivated land to feed the Soviet Union. The Soviets placed many of their nuclear missile sites in Kazakstan, and also built their first fast-breeder nuclear reactor at Mangyshlak. In 1986, nationalist riots were prompted by the imposition of a Russian to lead the republic.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakstan declared independence (December 1991) and joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Nursultan Nazarbayev, a former leader of the Communist Party, became Kazakstan's first elected president. He maintained a close relationship with Russia. Multiparty parliamentary elections were held in 1994, and a new constitution (1996) increased the powers of Nazarbayev. In 1997, the government officially moved the capital from Almaty to Astana. Nazarbayev won a second term in 1999, but the elections were widely regarded as fraudulent.


Kazakstan is a developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$5000). The break-up of the Soviet Union hit Kazak exports. In 1994, it entered into a single market agreement with other Central Asian states. Free-market reforms encouraged much inward investment in the era immediately after independence.

Kazakstan is rich in many mineral resources. It is the world's ninth-largest producer of bituminous coal, and its gas, oil, and gold reserves are being increasingly exploited. The first major pipeline transporting oil direct from the Caspian opened in 2001. Agriculture is also becoming highly developed. Grain is the principal crop, and cotton and wool are also produced.

Political map

Physical map



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Culture Name

Kazakh, Kazakhstani, Republic of Kazakhstan (note the spelling of Kazakhstan can be found with or without an h ; currently it is officially spelled with an h )

Alternative Names

Kazak, Central Asian or Post-Soviet People


Identification. The Kazakh steppeland, north of the Tien Shan Mountains, south of Russian Siberia, west of the Caspian Sea, and east of China, has been inhabited since the Stone Age. It is a land rich in natural resources, with recent oil discoveries putting it among the world leaders in potential oil reserves. The newly independent Republic of Kazakhstan ranks ninth in the world in geographic size (roughly the size of Western Europe) and is the largest country in the world without an ocean port.

The Kazakhs, a Turkic people ethnically tied to the Uighur (We-goor) people of western China and similar in appearance to Mongolians, emerged in 1991 from over sixty years of life behind the Iron Curtain. Kazakhstan, which officially became a full Soviet socialist republic in 1936, was an important but often neglected place during Soviet times. It was to Kazakhstan that Joseph Stalin exiled thousands of prisoners to some of his most brutal gulags. It was also to Kazakhstan that he repatriated millions of people of all different ethnicities, in an effort to "collectivize" the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan was also the site of the Soviet nuclear test programs and Nikita Khrushchev's ill-conceived "Virgin Lands" program. These seventy years seem to have had a profound and long-lasting effect on these formerly nomadic people.

The process of shedding the Soviet Union and starting anew as the democratic Republic of Kazakhstan is made difficult by the fact that a large percentage of Kazakhstan is not Kazakh. Russians still make up 34.7 percent of the population, and other non-Kazakhs such as Ukrainians, Koreans, Turks, Chechnians, and Tatars, make up another 17 percent. Many of the non-Kazakh people of Kazakhstan have met attempts by the Kazakh government to make Kazakh the central, dominant culture of Kazakhstan with great disdain and quiet, nonviolent resistance. The picture is further complicated by the fact that many Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs are struggling (out of work and living below the poverty level). Democracy and independence have been hard sells to a people who grew accustomed to the comforts and security of Soviet life.

Location and Geography. Kazakhstan, approximately 1 million square miles (2,717,300 square kilometers) in size, is in Central Asia, along the historic Silk Road that connected Europe with China more than two thousand years ago. Five nations border current-day Kazakhstan: China to the east; Russia to the north; the Caspian Sea to the west; and Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan to the south. A pair of beautiful mountain ranges, the Altay and the Tien Shan, with peaks nearly as high as 22,966 feet (7,000 meters), runs along Kazakhstan's southeastern border. The area north and west of this is the vast Kazakh steppe. Life on the steppe is harsh, with extreme temperatures and intense winds. The lands leading up to the Caspian Sea in the west are below sea level and rich in oil. The historic Aral Sea is on Kazakhstan's southern border with Uzbekistan. In recent years the sea has severely decreased in size and even split into two smaller seas due to environmental mismanagement. The climate of Kazakhstan is extremely variable. The very south experiences hot summers, with temperatures routinely over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The very north, which is technically southern Siberia, has extreme winters, with lows of well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius), with strong winds, making the temperature feel like -50 to -60 degrees Fahrenheit (-46 to -51 degrees Celsius). There are beautiful parts of Kazakhstan, with lakes and mountains that would rival many tourist destinations in the world. There are also parts of Kazakhstan that are flat and barren, making it seem at times like a forsaken place.

The capital of Kazakhstan was moved in 1996 to Astana, in the north-central part of the country far from any of Kazakhstan's borders. The former capital, Almaty, is still the largest city and most important financial and cultural center. It is located at the base of the Tien Shan Mountains in the far southeast near both China and Kyrgyzstan.

The move of the capital was very controversial among many in Kazakhstan. There are three main theories as to why the move was made. The first theory contends that the move was for geopolitical, strategic reasons. Since Almaty is near the borders with China and Kyrgyzstan (which is a friend but too close to the Islamic insurgent movements of Tajikistan and Afghanistan), this theory maintains that the new, central location provides the government with a capital city well separated from its neighbors. A second theory asserts that the capital was moved because Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev wanted to create a beautiful new capital with new roads, buildings, and an airport. The final theory holds that the Kazakh government wanted to repatriate the north with Kazakhs. Moving the capital to the north would move jobs (mostly held by Kazakhs) and people there, changing the demographics and lessening the likelihood of the area revolting or of Russia trying to reclaim it.

Demography. The population of Kazakhstan was estimated to be 16,824,825 in July 1999. A census taken just after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 indicated a population of more than 17 million. The decreasing nature of Kazakhstan's population (-.09 percent in 1999) is due, in part, to low birth-rates and mass emigration by non-Kazakhs, mainly Russians and Germans (Kazakhstan's net migration rate was -7.73 migrants per 1,000 people in 1999). Given the emigration, Kazakhstan's ethnic make up is ever-changing. For 1999 the best estimates were Kazakhs 46 percent, Russians 34.7 percent, Ukrainians 4.9 percent, Germans 3.1 percent, Uzbeks 2.3 percent, Tartar 1.9 percent, and others 7.1 percent. Many observers predict that continued emigration by non-Kazakhs and encouraged higher birthrates of Kazakhs by the government will lead to Kazakhs increasing their numbers relative to other ethnicities in Kazakhstan.

Linguistic Affiliation. Language is one of the most contentious issues in Kazakhstan. While many countries have used a common language to unite disparate ethnic communities, Kazakhstan has not been able to do so. Kazakh, the official state language of Kazakhstan, is a Turkic language spoken by only 40 percent of the people. Russian, which is spoken by virtually everyone, is the official language and is the interethnic means of communications among Russians, Kazakhs, Koreans, and others.

The move to nationalize Kazakhstan through the use of Kazakh has presented two main problems. During Soviet times, when Russian was the only real language of importance, Kazakh failed to keep up with the changing vocabulary of the twentieth century. In addition, Russian is still very important in the region. Knowledge of Russian allows Kazakhstan to communicate with the fourteen other former Soviet republics as well as with many people in their own country.

Symbolism. Kazakhs are historically a nomadic people, and thus many of their cultural symbols reflect nomadic life. The horse is probably the most central part of Kazakh culture. Kazakhs love horses, riding them for transportation in the villages, using them for farming, racing them for fun, and eating them for celebrations. Many Kazakhs own horses and keep pictures of them in their houses or offices. Also a product of their formally nomadic lives is the yurt, a Central Asian dwelling resembling a tepee, which was transportable and utilitarian on the harsh Central Asian steppe. These small white homes are still found in some parts of Kazakhstan, but for the most part they are used in celebrations and for murals and tourist crafts.

Also central to Kazakh symbolism are Muslim symbols. Kazakhs are Muslim by history, and even after seventy years of Soviet atheism, they incorporate Islamic symbols in their everyday life. The traditionally Muslim star and crescent can be widely seen, as can small Muslim caps and some traditionally Muslim robes and headscarves in the villages.

Kazakhs are also very proud of their mountains, rare animals such as snow leopards, eagles, and falcons (a large eagle appears on the Kazakh flag under a rising sun), and their national instrument, the dombra, a two-stringed instrument with a thin neck and potbelly base, resembling a guitar.

The symbols of Soviet Kazakhstan still exist and are important to some people. At its peak there was hardly a town that did not have a statue of Lenin; a street named after the revolution; or a large hammer, sickle, and Soviet red star on many of its houses and public buildings. Much like the attempt to assert the Kazakh language, the increased use of Kazakh symbols on money, in schools, on television, and in national holidays has been tempered by those who do not wish to part with the Soviet symbols of the past.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Humans have inhabited the Central Asian steppe since the Stone Age. Dramatic seasonal variations coupled with movements, conflicts, and alliances of Turkic and Mongol tribes caused the people of Central Asia often to be on the move.

In the eighth century a confederation of Turkish tribes, the Qarluqs, established the first state in Kazakhstan in what is now eastern Kazakhstan. Islam was introduced to the area in the eighth and ninth centuries, when Arabs conquered what is now southern Kazakhstan. The Oghuz Turks controlled western Kazakhstan until the eleventh century.

The eleventh through the eighteenth centuries saw periodic control over Kazakhstan by Arabs, Turks, and Mongols. The people of Kazakhstan consider themselves great warriors and still honor many of the war heroes of this time period.

What might be called the modern-day history of Kazakhstan started in the eighteenth century, when the three main hordes (groups) of Kazakh nomads (who had begun to distinguish themselves linguistically and culturally from the Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, and Turkmen) started seeking Russian protection from Oryat raiders from the Xhinjian area of western China.

In 1854 the Russian garrison town of Verny (modern-day Almaty) was founded. It was not long before Russian incursions into Central Asia became much more frequent. By the end of the nineteenth century the Russians had a firm foothold in the area and were starting to exert their influence on the nomadic Kazakhs, setting the stage for the twentieth century transformation of the region by the Soviets.

The Soviet Union's interaction with Kazakhstan started just after the 1917 October Revolution, with Lenin granting the peoples of Central Asia the right to self-determination. This did not last long, and during the 1920s Moscow and the Red Army put down Muslim revolts throughout Central Asia after the Russian civil war. Centuries of nomadic tribal wars among Turks, Mongols, and Arabs were being replaced by a new kind of domination: the military might of the Red Army and the propagandistic Soviet machine of Stalin's Kremlin.

In 1924 Kazakhstan was given union republic status, and in 1936 full Soviet socialist republic statusa status that did not change until Kazakhstan was the last Soviet republic to break from Moscow and declare independence, on 16 December 1991.

The years between 1924 and 1991 were truly transformative for the people and land of Kazakhstan. Factories were built, schools reorganized, borders closed, and life changed in almost every facet. Soviet years were a time of immigration into Kazakhstan. Stalin's collectivization campaign after World War II brought people from the Caucasus, southern Russia, and the Baltic to Kazakhstan. Khrushchev's "Virgin Land" campaign in 1954 made much of Kazakhstan into farmland, run by huge collective farms, largely made up of the Russian and Ukrainian settlers brought in to run them.

Soviet wars were also very difficult for this region. World War II and the war in Afghanistan in the late 1970s killed many young Kazakh men and women. Kazakhstan was integral to the Soviet Union for its oil and minerals, fertile farmlands, tough warriorlike heritage, and its vast, wide-open lands suitable for nuclear testing.

In 1986 the Soviet Union and the world got a glimpse of how intact Kazakh nationalism remained. Riots broke out on 16 December in reaction to the Russian Gennady Kolbin being named head of the Kazakh Communist Party machine. Kazakhstan had been changed by the Soviet Union; its people looked and acted differently and its language had partially been neglected, but the Kazakh people were still proud of their history and their heritage.

In 1991, then Kazakh Communist Party leader Nursultan Nazarbayev declared independence for Kazakhstan. He had stayed faithful to Moscow the longest and supported Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to keep the Union intact. The years since 1991 have seen many changes in Kazakhstan and its people. Democracy is attempting to take root in a land that hasn't known democracy at any time in its three thousand-year history. Nomadism, tribal warfare, Mongol dynasties, foreign domination, and Soviet communism have been all the Kazakh land has known.

National Identity. Several factors that are unique to Kazakhstan, its land, and its history, unite its people. Kazakhstanis are proud of the nation's abundant natural resources, agricultural potential, and natural beauty. They are also united in their shared history as a neglected republic during the Soviet years. While they toiled under Soviet rule, producing much of the agricultural and industrial product for the Soviet Union, the rest of the Union looked upon Kazakhstan as a barren place.

A very structured and uniform educational system exists in Kazakhstan. All ethnicities, whether urban or rural, study a similar curriculum. Thus, students throughout the country share the same education.

Ethnic Relations. According to many people of Kazakhstan, during the Soviet years they wanted for very little. Everyone had jobs, everyone had a house or an apartment, and food was abundant. The Kazakhs were part of a powerful union that challenged the United States and the other powers of the world. They lived in a socialist system that based its success on the hard work of its people. But to say that everything was equal and that there were no underlying tensions, especially between Russians and Kazakhs, would be untrue. Since the very days of Russian influence in Central Asia, many Kazakhs have met their presence with contempt and skepticism. This was furthered during the Soviet years when Russian language, Russian culture, and the power in Moscow took very prominent places in Kazakhstan. While tensions between the two groups were often subtle and barely visible, they erupted violently during the 16 December, 1986 riots over Russian control of the Kazakh Communist Party. The day of 16 December is a very important and proud one in recent Kazakh history, as evidence of their nationalism and unity as a people (in 1991, when independence was declared, 16 December was symbolically chosen as Independence Day).

The latent tensions of 150 years of Russian influence in Kazakhstan, coupled with the increasingly more visible disapproval by Kazakhs of Russian domination, set the stage for the difficult first years of post-Soviet life. Kazakh nationalism has been unpopular with many non-Kazakhs, especially the Russians, and thousands have left as a result. Streets and schools have been renamed, statues of Lenin taken down, the national anthem and flag changed, old Soviet holidays forgotten, and new Kazakh holidays promoted. Ethnic tensions have been further strained by an economy and a political system that has produced extreme haves and have-nots. The guarantee of work, an apartment, free health care, and higher education that kept tensions low for seventy years have been replaced by unemployment, decaying health care, and expensive higher education.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The yurt is the main architectural remnant from the Kazakh nomadic years. The yurt is a round, transportable dwelling not unlike the Native American tepee (the yurt being shorter and flatter than the tepee). The yurt was very useful to the nomadic Kazakhs, who needed a sturdy dwelling to protect them from the elements of the harsh plains, and its inhabitants would sit and sleep in them on thick mats on the floor. Very few Kazakhs live in yurts today, but sitting on the floor is still very common in many Kazakh homes, many preferring it to sitting in chairs or at a regular table. Yurts are widely used in national celebrations and in Kazakh arts and poetry as reminders of the Kazakhs' nomadic past.

Russian settlers in Kazakhstan also had an effect on Kazakhstani architecture. Small A-frame houses, Russian orthodox churches, and many new wooden buildings went up as Russians settled the area in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Very few of these building have survived the times besides some churches, which have been restored and protected.

The twentieth century and the Soviet Union brought many architectural changes to Kazakhstan. Hard work and unity were two central themes of the socialist years in Kazakhstan, and the architecture from this period is a large reflection of that. Most of the buildings built during this period were big and utilitarian. Hospitals, schools, post offices, banks, and government buildings went up from Moscow to Almaty in basically the same shape, size, and color. The materials used were usually just as rough, with concrete and brick being the most common.

Large Soviet apartment blocks went up in all of the cities across Kazakhstan. Arranged in small microdistricts, these buildings were usually five or six stories high and had three to four apartments of one, two, or three bedrooms each per floor.

The villages and collective farms of Kazakhstan were of a different kind of Soviet architecture. Small two- to three-room, one-story houses, usually painted white and light blue (the light blue is thought to keep away evil spirits), adorn the countryside in Kazakhstan. The government built all houses, and there was no individualizing, excessive decorating, or architectural innovation. Very few, if any, houses were allowed to be more than one story high. A big house or an elaborate apartment was thought to be gaudy and very bourgeois.

While work and utilitarianism had definite effects on Kazakhstan's architecture, so did the belief in unity and the rights of the people. Public space was very important to the Soviets; in fact, nothing was privately owned, including one's home. Large collective farms were formed, transforming small villages into working communities, all with the same goal. Large squares and parks were built in almost every town and city. Everything belonged to the people, through the Communist apparatus in Moscow.

Times have certainly changed, as has the architecture in these post-Soviet days of independence. The old buildings, and the people who designed and built them, still exist. Some parts of Kazakhstan are in good repair and upkeep, while other parts look like an old amusement park that hasn't been used in years. In some cases cranes and forklifts stand in the exact places they were in when independence was declared and government money ran out. Rusted and covered in weeds and grass, much of the Soviet architecture and the people occupying it are in desperate need of help. This picture is further complicated and contrasted by the introduction of new buildings and new wealth by some people in Kazakhstan.

Oil money, foreign investments, and a new management style have created a whole new style in Kazakhstan. Almaty and Astana both have five-star high-rise hotels. The big cities have casinos, Turkish fast food restaurants, and American steak houses; modern bowling alleys and movie theaters are opening up amid old and decaying Soviet buildings. Private homes are also changing; sometimes next to or between old Soviet-style one-story austere houses, new two- and three-story houses with two-car garages and large, fenced-in yards are being built.

Food and Economy

Food in Kazakh culture is a very big part of their heritage, a way of respecting guests and of celebrating. When sitting down to eat with a Kazakh family one can be sure of two things: There will be more than enough food to eat, and there will be meat, possibly of different types.

Food in Daily Life. In daily life Kazakhs eat some of their own national dishes, but have borrowed some from the Russians, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, and Turks that they live among. Daily meals for Kazakhs usually are very hearty, always including bread and usually another starch such as noodles or potatoes and then a meat. One common dish is pilaf, which is often associated with the Uzbeks. It is a rice dish usually made with carrots, mutton, and a lot of oil. Soups, including Russian borscht, also are very common. Soups in Kazakhstan can be made of almost anything. Borscht is usually red (beet-based) or brown (meat-based), with cabbage, meat, sometimes potatoes, and usually a large dollop of sour cream. Pelimnin, a Russian dish that is made by filling small dough pockets with meat and onions, is very popular with all nationalities in Kazakhstan and is served quite often as a daily meal.

A more traditional Central Asian dish, although not conclusively Kazakh, is manti, a large dough pocket filled with meat, onions, and sometimes pumpkin.

Bread (commonly loaves or a flat, round bread called leipioskka ) and seasonal fruits and vegetables are served with almost every meal. Kazakhstan is known for its apples, and the Soviets are known for their love of potatoes (for both eating and making vodka).

Shashlik, marinated meat roasted over a small flame and served on a stick, is of great popularity in this region. The style of meat, which locals claim originated in the Caucasus is not often eaten on a daily basis at home but is eaten quite often at roadside cafés and corner shashlik stands. High quality shashlik in large quantities is served at home on special occasions or if an animal is slaughtered.

With their daily meals, Kazakhs drink fruit juices, milk, soft drinks, beer, water, and tea. Tea is an integral part of life in Kazakhstan. Many people sit down and drink tea at least six or seven times a day. Every guest is always offered tea, if not forced to stay and drink some. Tea is almost always consumed hot, as people in Kazakhstan think that drinking cold beverages will make one sick. Soft drinks, beer, and other drinks are drunk cold but never too cold, for fear of sickness.

Tea drinking habits vary between Russians and Kazakhs. Russians drink their tea in teacups filled to the brim with hot tea. Kazakhs drink their tea in small wide-mouthed saucers called kasirs that they never fill more than halfway (usually only a quarter full). The intent is that the tea should never get cold, and the passing of the empty cup by a guest or a family member to the woman pouring tea serves as a way to keep them interacting, a way of showing respect. Kazakhs take tea drinking very seriously, and the ritualistic brewing, drinking, passing, and refilling of teacups take on a real rhythm and beauty when observed.

Kazakhs are both very traditional and superstitious and thus have a multitude of food and drink taboos. As Muslims, Kazakhs do not eat pork. This is a general rule, followed much more closely in the villages than in the more secular cities. Kazakhs also have great respect for bread. It should never be wasted or thrown away and should always be placed on the table right side up. Kazakhs will often forbid you to leave their house unless you have eaten at least some of their bread, even if it is just a small crumb.

A national habit is eating with one's hands. This is naturally more common in the villages, where traditions are more evident, but it is not uncommon to see Kazakhs in cities eat with their hands. In fact, the Kazakh national dish beshbarmak means "five fingers" in Kazakh.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Kazakhs have always held guests in high regard. Certain traditional Kazakh foods are usually served only on special occasions such as parties, holidays, weddings, and funerals. The most notable of these is beshbarmak, most traditionally made of horse meat. It is essentially boiled meat on the bone served over noodles and covered in a meat broth called souppa. The host, usually a man, takes the various pieces of meat and gives them out in an order of respect usually based on seniority or distance traveled. Each different piece of the horse (or goat, sheep or cow, never chicken or pig) symbolizes a different attribute such as wisdom, youth, or strength. Beshbarmak is always served in large quantities and usually piping hot.

When beshbarmak is made of sheep, the head of the sheep also will be boiled, fully intact, and served to the most honored guest. That guest then takes a bit of meat for himself or herself and distributes other parts of the head to other people at the table.

Another national food that is present at all celebrations is bausak, a deep-fried bread with nothing in the middle and usually in the shape of a triangle or a circle. The bread is eaten with the meal, not as dessert, and is usually strewn all over the traditional Kazakh table, which is called destrakan (the word refers more to a table full of traditional food than to an actual table). Bausak is strewn all over the table so that no part of the table is showing. Kazakhs like to have every inch of service area covered with food, sometimes with more food than will fit on the table, as a way of showing respect and prosperity.

A fermented horse's milk called kumis in Kazakh is also occasionally drunk at ceremonial occasions. This traditional milk dates back to the nomadic days, and many people in Central Asia think that the intoxicating beverage is therapeutic.

Vodka is consumed at all ceremonies. It is usually consumed in large quantities, and can be homemade or bought from a store (although usually only Russians make it at home). Toasts almost always precede a drink of vodka, and are given not only at special events but also at small, informal gatherings. Vodka permeates Kazakh and non-Kazakh culture and is central to all important meals and functions.

Basic Economy. Because of the richness of its land and resourcefulness of its people, the Kazakh basic economy is not very dependent on foreign trade and imports. The degree to which this is true varies greatly between the cities and towns, and the villages of the countryside. Almost every rural Kazakh has a garden, sheep and chickens, and some have horses. There are many meals in rural Kazakhstan where everything people eat and drink is homemade and from the person's garden or livestock. People in this region have been taught to be very resourceful and careful with what little they have. Most men can fix their own cars, houses, and farm equipment; women can cultivate, cook, sew, or mend almost everything they use in daily life. In fact, many rural dwellers make a living of growing foods or handmaking goods for sale in the local markets or in the cities.

For other goods, Kazakhs rely on a local market, where they buy clothes, electronics or other goods, mostly from Russia, Turkey, China, and South Korea. Urban Kazakhs rely much on grocery stores and now even big shopping malls in some cities for their goods and services.

Land Tenure and Property. Most people in Kazakhstan now own a house or an apartment for which they paid very little. Houses and property built and subsidized by the former Soviet government were very cheap and available to all during the Soviet years. With the collapse of the USSR most people retained the property that they had during Soviet years. New houses have been built and new property developed, and these are bought and sold in much the same way property is in any Western country. Most apartments are bought outright, but slowly the concept of developing an area and renting out the apartments and stores is becoming more popular. The area may face a real crisis as the houses and apartments that remain from the Soviet era need to be torn down or rebuilt, as people do not have much money for property or building supplies.

Commercial Activities. Seventy years of living in a land without imports or major foreign trade made the people of Kazakhstan rely heavily on their Soviet neighbors and on producing for themselves. In local markets, all types of goods and services are for sale, from produce to clothes, cars, and livestock. Kazakh carpets and handicrafts are probably some of the most famous exports from Kazakhstan. In addition, mineral and oil exports bring in much-needed revenue.

Major Industries. The major industries of Kazakhstan are oil, coal, ore, lead, zinc, gold, silver, metals, construction materials, and small motors. Kazakhstan produces 40 percent of the world's chrome ore, second only to South Africa. Besides the major fossil fuels and important minerals extraction, which is being supported by both foreign investment and the Kazakh government, much of the major industrial production in Kazakhstan has slowed or stopped. An industrial growth rate of -2.1 percent in 1998 was very frustrating to a country and people with such a rich land but with such a poor infrastructure and rate of capital investment.

Trade. Kazakhstan trades oil, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, chemicals, grains, wool, meat, and coal on the international market mostly with Russia, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the Netherlands, China, Italy, and Germany. For the years between 1990-1997, 28 percent of working males were active in agriculture; 37 percent in industry; and 35 percent in services. During that same time period, 15 percent of working women were engaged in agriculture; 25 percent in industry; and 60 percent in services.

Division of Labor. Liberal arts colleges have only existed in Kazakhstan since independence in 1991. Until that time all institutes of higher education trained workers for a specific skill and to fill a specific role in the economy. This is still very much the case with high school seniors deciding among careers such as banking, engineering, computer science, or teaching.

A system of education, qualifications, work experience, and job performance is for the most part in place once a graduate enters the workforce. In recent years there have been widespread complaints of nepotism and other unfair hiring and promotion practices, often involving positions of importance. This has lead to cynicism and pessimism regarding fairness in the job market.

Social Stratification

Class and Castes. Some would argue that there is no bigger problem in Kazakhstan than rising social stratification at all levels. Kazakh capitalism has been a free-for-all, with a few people grabbing almost all of the power regardless of who suffers.

The terms "New Kazakh" or "New Russian" have been used to describe the nouveau riche in Kazakhstan, who often flaunt their wealth. This is in contrast to the vast number of unemployed or underpaid. A culture of haves and have-nots is dangerous for a country composed of many different ethnic groups used to having basic needs met regardless of who they were or where they came from. Poverty and accusations of unfair treatment have raised the stakes in tensions between Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs, whose interactions until recently have been peaceful.

Symbols of Social Stratification. The symbols of stratification in Kazakhstan are much like they are in many developing countries. The rich drive expensive cars, dress in fashionable clothes, and throw lavish parties. The poor drive old Soviet cars or take a bus, wear cheap clothes imported from China or Turkey, and save for months just to afford a birthday party or a wedding.

Political Life

Government. American legal and constitutional experts helped the Kazakhstani government write their constitution and form their government in1995. The system is a strong presidential one, with the president having the power to dissolve the parliament if his prime minister is rejected twice or if there is a vote of no confidence. The president also is the only person who can suggest constitutional amendments and make political appointments. There are some forms of checks and balances provided by a bicameral legislature called the Kenges. The Majlis, or lower house, has sixty-seven deputies and the upper house, the Senate, has forty-seven senators. The powers of the legislature are severely limited; most glaringly, they don't even have the power to initiate legislation. The legal system is based on the civil law system. There is a Supreme Court of forty-four members and a Constitutional Court of seven members. While much of the control is centered in Astana with the president, legislature, and courts, there are fourteen provinces or states, called oblasts in Russian, with governors and certain rights.

Leadership and Political Officials. The president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was the top Communist leader of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991. After independence, Nazarbayev was easily elected president in November 1991. In March 1995 he dissolved parliament, saying that the 1994 parliamentary elections were invalid. A March 1995 referendum extended the president's term until 2000, solidifying Nazarbayev's control and raising serious doubts among Kazakhstani people and international observers as to the state of Kazakhstani democracy.

Multiparty, representative democracy has tried to take hold in Kazakhstan but has been met by opposition from Nazarbayev's government. The main opposition parties are the Communist Party, Agrarian Party, Civic Party, Republican People's Party, and the Orleu, or progress movement. A number of smaller parties have formed and disbanded over the years. The opposition parties have accused Nazarbayev and his Republican Party of limiting any real power of the opposition by putting obstacles and loopholes in their way, if not actually rigging the elections.

The most notable example of suppression of political opposition has been the case of Akezhan Kazhageldin, who was Nazarbayev's prime minister from 1994 to 1997. In 1999 Kazhageldin was banned from running in the 1999 presidential elections. He and his wife were charged with tax evasion (the conviction of a crime under the Kazakhstani constitution prevents a potential candidate from running for office) and arrested in September 1999 at the Moscow airport after arriving from London. Sharp criticism by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) over how the arrest was set up and carried out allowed Kazhageldin to return to London. The end result was that he was still not registered for the October election, and Nazarbayev won easily, with more than 80 percent of the vote. The OSCE and the United States criticized the election as unfair and poorly administered.

Social Problems and Control. In urban areas, robberies and theft are common. Murder, suicide, and other violent crimes are on the rise. The system for dealing with crime in Kazakhstan is based, in theory, on a rule of law and enforced by the police and the courts. Local and state police and local and national courts are set up much as they are in the United States and much of the rest of the Western world. The problem is the lack of checks and controls on this system. There are so many police and so many different units (remnants of the Soviet apparatus still exist, such as intelligence gatherers, visa and registration officers, and corruption and anitgovernmental affairs divisions, as well regular police and border controls) that it is often that jurisdiction is unclear. The strong sense of community, with neighbors looking out for each other, acts as a deterrent against crime. Civic education and responsible citizenry is emphasized in schools, and the schools work closely with local communities in this area.

The drug trade from Afghanistan and long, hard-to-patrol borders have given rise to organized crime, putting a strain on Kazakhstan's police and border patrol.

White-collar crime, such as embezzlement, tax fraud, and abuse of power and privilege are almost daily events, which seem to be tacitly accepted.

Military Activity. The military of the Soviet Union was very strong and well-trained. The armies of the post-Soviet republics are much weaker and less supported by the government. The available Kazakhstani military manpower of males between ages fifteen and forty-nine was estimated at 4.5 million in 1999, with about 3.5 million of those available being fit for service. All males over age eighteen must serve in the military for two years. Exemptions are made for those in school and the disabled. The 1998 fiscal year expenditures on the military were $232.4 million (U.S.)1 percent of the GDP of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is in a semiprecarious location. It has a friendly, although weakened, neighbor to the north in Russia. Recent complaints by Russians in Kazakhstan have begun to resonate in Moscow, putting some strain on relations that are for the most part friendly. Kazakhstan has a historical fear of China and thus watches its border with that country closely, but the most unstable areas for Kazakhstan involve its neighbors to the south. Movements in Afghanistan have spread to the failed state of Tajikistan, forming a center of Islamic fundamentalism not far to Kazakhstan's south. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have already dealt with attacks from rebel groups in Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan has significantly increased its military presence on its borders with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The region does not seem to be one that will readily go to war, while memories of the war in Afghanistan in the late 1970s are fresh in most people's minds.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

There is a government-sponsored program of pension and disability benefits. There is also support for single mothers with multiple children. The problem is that there is very little money for these programs. Pension levels have not kept up with inflation, and pensions are rarely paid on time, with those elderly, disabled, or unemployed often going months without payment.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Kazakhstan and the rest of the former Soviet Union have seen a massive infusion of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international aid programs. The passage of the Freedom Support Act by the United States' Congress has provided millions of dollars for direct U.S. governmental involvement in Kazakhstan and much-needed money for NGOs to operate there. The Peace Corps, United Nations Volunteers, and many other aid and educational organizations have been working hard in Kazakhstan. The groups are well received by the people and, for the most part, allowed to do their work by the Kazakhstani government.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. There is a large distinction between work and the home in Kazakhstani society. Women occupy very important roles in the Kazakhstani workforce. Women are, for example, school principals, bank presidents, teachers, accountants, police officers, secretaries, and government workers and make up almost half of the workforce. This may be a carryover from Soviet times when women were very important parts of a system that depended on every citizen to work and contribute.

Women are often the best students in a school and more qualified than men for many of the jobs in Kazakhstan. However, often women have not been promoted to the top positions in national government and the private sector. With alcoholism on the rise, especially among men, and educational performance among men often lower than average, women may play an even more significant role in the future Kazakhstani economy.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Kazakh culture is traditionally a patriarchal one, with much respect being given to men, especially elderly men. Symbols in the culture often represent power and warriorlike behavior, often associated with men. This can be seen in many Kazakh households. In villages and small towns women always prepare the food, pour the tea, and clean the dishes. Men will often lounge on large pillows or stand outside and smoke while women prepare food or clean up after a meal. Men do work around the house, but it is usually with the horses, garden, or car. There are many marriage and courtship customs that further assert the male as dominant in Kazakh society.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage in Kazakhstan is similar to that in the United States and Europe. The reasons and even the process of marriage in Kazakhstan are also very similar. While years ago it was common for women to marry very young, times have changed; education has become much more important for both genders, and marriages for people in their mid-twenties are becoming more common. Marriages are not arranged by the parents but are usually formed through dating and courtship. Interracial marriage is rare but tolerated.

Three aspects of traditional Kazakh culture still occasionally affect marriage today in Kazakhstan. Marriage is forbidden to any couple related over the past seven generations. In addition, the male should be older than the female. Finally, the nomadic tradition of stealing a bride is still practiced, although rarely, by some Kazakhs.

Families of the bride and groom are usually heavily involved in the process of the wedding and subsequent marriage. The families meet before the wedding, and exchange gifts and dowries. Kazakh weddings are three-day events.

Divorce is not uncommon, especially in the urban centers. It is viewed in Kazakhstan as it is in other parts of the worldit is never ideal but some marriages were not meant to last. There are no formal rules for who gets what when a marriage ends, but women usually keep the children.

Domestic Unit. Households vary greatly in Kazakhstan. Some couples have only one or two children, while other families have eight or nine. Kazakhs tend to have more children than Russians. Men exercise most of the symbolic authority in both Kazakh and non-Kazakh households. But there are many very strong women and powerful matriarchs who wield all practical control.

Domestic units in Kazakhstan are very rarely just a mother, father, and their children. The practice of grandparents and extended family living within one household is very common. Kazakhs especially make very little distinctions among cousins, second cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Kazakhs also still largely adhere to an old custom of care for the elderly. The youngest son in Kazakh families is expected to stay at home until his parents die. He may take a wife and have a family of his own, but he is expected to care for his parents into their old age.

Kin Groups. Kin groups are central to the life of almost every Kazakh life. Who you are, who your family is, and where you are from are very important. Dating back hundreds of years to the times when the Kazakhs were divided into three distinct hordes or large tribes, it has been important to know about your kin groups. Extended families are large support networks, and relatives from far away can be expected to help financially in times of crisis.


Infant Care. Childbirth in Kazakhstan occurs in a hospital under the care of a doctor whenever possible. Every district in the country has a hospital, and medical care is free; patients only pay for drugs and specialized tests and care. Mothers usually stay in the hospital with their infants for a few days after birth. Some Kazakhs practice a custom of not letting anyone besides close family members see a newborn for the first forty days of life; then the family holds a small party and presents the baby to extended family and friends. Babies are well cared for and cherished by all cultures in Kazakhstan. Independence and access to markets have brought improved access to infant care products.

Child Rearing and Education. Generally children go to kindergarten at ages four or five in Kazakhstan. First grade and formal schooling start at age six, when many Kazakhs have large parties celebrating the event.

Children in Kazakhstan are assigned to classes of about twenty-five students in the first grade; the class remains together through the eleventh grade. The class has the same teacher from the first through the fourth grade and then a different teacher from the fifth through the eleventh grade. These teachers become like second mothers or fathers to the students in that class, with discipline being an important factor. Homework is extensive and grades difficult, and students are very grade-conscious.

Kazakhstani schools stress the basics: literature, math, geography, history, grammar, and foreign languages. Workdays are held where students clean the school and the town. Classes on citizenship and army training are required. After school, arts and dance performances are very popular.

Higher Education. Many high school studentsoften as high as 75 percentgo on to attend some form of schooling after graduation. Liberal arts schools, many run by foreigners, are opening in the bigger cities. Technical schools and state universities are widespread and very popular. A tendency still exists to pigeonhole students by making them choose a profession before they enter schoola Soviet remnant that preached that every citizen had a specific role in society and the sooner he or she realized it and learned the trade the better. Unfortunately this practice is less flexible in the ever-changing Kazakhstani economy, leaving many young people underqualified for many of the emerging jobs.


Etiquette and cultural norms related to acceptable and unacceptable behavior vary between urban and rural Kazakhs. As a rule, rural Kazakhs tend to follow the cultural norms more strictly.

Kazakh men always shake hands with someone they know when they see each other for the first time in a day. Usually the younger man initiates this, and shows respect by extending both hands and shaking the older man's hand.

Both Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs remove their shoes when inside a house. Guests always remove their shoes at the door and often put on a pair of slippers provided by the host or hostess. Central Asian streets often can be very dusty or muddy, so wearing shoes indoors is a serious social offense.

Greetings are also very structured in Kazakhstan. In Kazakh culture, elder women and men are greeted with certain phrases showing respect. A Russian system of patronymics is still widely used.

Kazakhs can be superstitious, and whistling inside a house is unacceptable in almost all Kazakh homes. It is believed that whistling inside will make the owner of the house poor.

In general smoking by women is not accepted, especially in rural areas, and women who are seen walking and smoking at the same time are considered prostitutes.

Kazakhs, and many other people from the former Soviet Union, often don't smile at people in public except to those they know. Kazakhs rarely form lines when boarding crowded buses.

Many people in Kazakhstan treat foreigners with a visible degree of skepticism. With the work of the Peace Corps and many other international groups and companies, the image of a foreigner as a spy is starting to fade. Nevertheless Kazakhstani people will often stare at foreigners as they walk by.

Public affection between friends is very common. Women and girls often hold hands as they walk; boys wrestle and often hook arms or walk with their arms around each other. Kissing cheeks and embracing is perfectly acceptable between good friends.


Religious Beliefs. Religion in Kazakhstan is in a time of change. Arabs brought Islam to the region in the ninth century, and more than a thousand years later, Russian Orthodoxy was introduced by Russian settlers from the north. For all intents and purposes no religion was practiced for the seventy years of Soviet influence over the region; religious participation was banned, and many churches and mosques were destroyedreligious traditions were lost in the name of Soviet atheism. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, 47 percent of the people profess to be Muslim (mainly Sunni branch) and 44 percent Russian Orthodox. However, few people practice religion in any formal way, but Kazakhs have incorporated religion into some parts of their everyday life; for example, they cover their faces in a short prayer when they pass graveyards where someone they know is buried, and they often say prayers after meals. Sayings such as "God willing" and "this is from God" are very common in everyday speech.

There are virtually no visible tensions between Muslims and Christians in Kazakhstan. Religion was such a nonfactor for so many years, and continues to occupy so little of everyday life, that it is simply not an issue of importance between Russians and Kazakhs.

Religious Practitioners. Most town mosques are cared for and staffed by a mullah, who conducts religious services at the mosque as well as funerals, weddings, and blessings. Russian Orthodox churches are in many parts of Kazakhstan, especially in the north and in large cities. Orthodox priests perform services and baptize children much as in the West.

Death and the Afterlife. Both Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs believe that the deceased go to a heaven after they die. Funerals and burials reflect this, as great care is taken in preparing bodies and coffins for burial. Funerals in this part of the world are very intense, with wailing being a sign of respect and love for the dead.

Funerals are usually held in the home of the deceased with people coming from afar to pay their respects. Russians and Kazakhs are usually buried in separate sections of the graveyard. If the means are available, a Kazakh can be buried in a mausoleum.

Medicine and Health Care

There are some hospitals in Kazakhstan where it is possible to get good health care, but many more are in poor repair, without heat or electricity, lacking basic drugs and medical supplies, and staffed by underqualified and severely underpaid doctors and nurses.

Doctors are still trained under the Soviet system of specialties, with very few general practitioners. Doctors also rely heavily on symptomatic diagnosis, as they do not have access to the latest machines and testing devices; often simple blood tests cannot be done. Nevertheless, doctors are trusted and respected.

People also rely heavily on home remedies such as hot teas, honey, vodka and Banya (a very hot version of a sauna used mainly for cleaning purposes, but also for sweating out diseases and impurities).

Secular Celebrations

Some of the principal secular celebrations are 8 March, Women's Day, a very important day in Kazakhstan and celebrated by all. Women are honored on this day and showered with flowers and entertained with skits and jokes by their male coworkers and family members. Narooz, Kazakh New Yeara holiday mainly celebrated by Kazakhs on 22 March, but also observed by Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Iranians. It occurs on summer solstice. Kazakhs cook traditional foods, have horse races, and set up many yurts.

Victory Day on 9 May commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. Day of the Republic, 25 October, was the day independence was declared. This day is a day of Kazakh nationalism, with many speeches, songs, and performances in Kazakh. Independence Day is celebrated on 16 Decemberthis date was chosen to remember the riots in Almaty on 16 December 1986. The riots were the first display of Kazakh nationalism and solidarity. Independence day is celebrated much like the Day of the Republic.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Under the Soviet Union, funding and support of the arts were available for those who enrolled in specialized schools for artists, dancers, and musicians. However today, government money for arts, besides what is provided through public schools and municipals houses of culture, has virtually dried up. Many artisans are supported through NGOs such as Aid to Artisans and the Talent Support Fund.

Literature. Students study both Kazakh and Russian literature. Great Russian and Kazakh writers such as Tolstoy, Pushkin, and Abai are well known in Kazakhstan. A high societal value is put on those who have read the famous works and can quote and discuss them.

Performance Arts. Despite funding cutbacks, plays, dance performances, art museums, and the upkeep of historical museums are very important to the people of Kazakhstan. There are beautiful theaters in the larger cities, and almost every town has a house of culture where plays, art classes, concerts, and dance performances can take place. Many cultures in Kazakhstan have a strong tradition of instrument playing, traditional dancing, and theatrical performances.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The Soviet Union had, and its now independent republics have, some very well respected science universities in the world. Higher education is very specialized in Kazakhstan, with many universities or programs focusing on specialized fields of physics, technology, engineering, math, philosophy, and politics. Many famous academics have come from this part of the world, and education in these fields has remained important, although funding for them has slowed with the economic downturn in the region.


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The people of Kazakstan are called Kazaks (or Kazakhs). About 38 percent of the population of Kazakstan is Russian; about 6 percent is German; and about 5 percent is Ukrainian. For more information on the Russians, see the chapter on Russia in Volume 7; on the Germans, the chapter on Germany in Volume 4; on the Ukrainians, the chapter on Ukraine in Volume 9.

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