آستانه، پایتخت کنونی قزاقستان شهری است بسیار سرد و بادخیز که دمای هوا در زمستان در آن به منفی ۴۰ درجه میرسد. گروههایی از ملیگرایان روس در روسیه و داخل قزاقستان دعوی الحاق مجدد شمال قزاقستان به روسیه را داشتند، و این یکی از انگیزههای رئیسجمهوری قزاقستان برای انتقال پایتخت به شهری در مرکز کشور و نزدیک به روسیه بود و این امر باعث شد که شمار زیادی از قزاقها به این شهر منتقل و این دعوی به خودی خود خاموش شود.
هونها در اوایل سده هشتم قبل از میلاد به این منطقه آمدند و در سالهای بعدی ترکان قبچاق که از کوهستانهای آلتای آمده بودند در حوالی دریاچه آرال ودشت قبچاق ساکن شدند قزاقها شعبهای از ترکان قبچاق هستند. در سده سیزدهم، این منطقه توسط امپراتوری چنگیزخان مغول تصرف شد. پس از مرگ او، این امپراتوری بین فرزندان او قسمت شد و قزاقستان کنونی به چاگادای، پسر چنگیزخان رسید؛ ولی قسمت غربی و بیشتر قسمتهای شمالی به گنقیز نوه چنگیزخان رسید. به دلیل حکومت طولانی مغولها بر این منطقه عناصر مغولی در این منطقه نفوذ کرده است. واژهٔ قزاقستان از دو بخش "قزاق" و پسوند فارسی "ستان" تشکیل شده است، که به معنای "سرزمین قزاقها" است.
قزاقستان در تاریخ ۱۶ دسامبر ۱۹۹۱ آخرین جمهوری شوروی بود که اعلام استقلال کرد.
حکومت قزاقستان دمکراتیک و از نوع جمهوری ریاستی است. رئیس جمهور در راس کشور و دولت قرار دارد. قدرت اجرایی دست دولت بوده و قدرت قانونی دست پارلمان میباشد.
رهبر زمان کمونیسم قزاقستان یعنی نورسلطان نظربایف پس از استقلال به ریاستجمهوری قزاقستان رسید و همچنان در این منصب باقیماندهاست.
وسعت قزاقستان ۲٬۷۱۷٬۳۰۰ کیلومتر مربع (بیش از سه برابر ترکیه یا پاکستان) است و حدود ۲۰٪ آن در سوی کوههای اورال قرار گرفته و به لحاظ جغرافیایی بخشی از آن در اروپا است. البته قزاقستان معمولاً یک کشور آسیایی طبقهبندی میشود.
قزاقستان ۲۷۰۰٬۰۰۰ کیلومتر مربع مساحت دارد و بزرگترین کشور محصور در خشکی دنیا است. قزاقستان به بزرگی اروپای غربی است و از دریای خزر در غرب تا کوههای آلتای در شرق ادامه مییابد. مرزهای شمالی قزاقستان در دشتهای سیبری غربی و مرزهای جنوبی آن در بیابانهای آسیای میانه قرار دارند.
دشت قزاق با مساحت ۸۰۴۵۰۰ کیلومتر مربع یکسوم کشور را دربر میگیرد و بزرگترین منطقه خشک استپی در جهان است. علفزارها و شنزارهای گسترده شاخصه این دشت هستند.
رودها و دریاچههای مهم قزاقستان عبارتند از دریاچه آرال، رود ایلی، رود ایرتیش، رود ایشیم، رود اورال، سیردریا، رود چارین، دریاچه بالخاش و دریاچه زایسان. دره چارین که ۱۵۰ تا ۳۰۰ متر عمق و ۸۰ کیلومتر درازا دارد فلات سنگی و سرخرنگ را در مینوردد و در راستای رودخانه چارین در شمال تیانشان ادامه مییابد. دهانه بیگاچ، دهانهای برخوردی است که از برخورد یک سیارک در حدود ۵ میلیون سال پیش بهوجود آمده و ۸ کیلومتر قطر دارد.
آبوهوای قزاقستان بری است و تابستانهای گرم و زمستانهای سرد دارد. بارندگی در این کشور نسبتاً کم است و اراضی آن در شرایط خشک تا نیمهخشک قرار دارند.
شهرهای اصلی قزاقستان عبارتند از آستانه، آلماتی، قراغندی، چیمکند، آتیراو و اسکمن. شهرهای بزرگ قزاقستان به ترتیب آلماتی با حدود ۱٫۵ میلیون نفر، آستانه و قراغندی با حدود ۷۰۰ هزار نفر هستند. به جز شهرهای نامبرده میتوان به شهرهای آکتاو، پاولودار، پتروپاولسک و اوست کامنگورسک نیز اشاره کرد.
نوشتار اصلی: استانهای قزاقستان
مردم و فرهنگ
نوشتار اصلی: فرهنگ در قزاقستان
جمعیت قزاقستان در سال ۲۰۰۵ میلادی ۱۵٬۱۰۰٬۵۰۰ نفر تخمین زده شده که تراکم پایین جمعیت در این کشور را نشان میدهد. میزان جمعیت که در سال ۱۹۸۹ به بیش از ۱۶ میلیون نفر رسیده بود، پس از استقلال قزاقستان و مهاجرتهای زیاد به کشورهای دیگر به ۱۵ میلیون در سال ۲۰۰۶ کاهش یافت.
قزاقستان کشوری چندقومی است و قزاقها حدود ۶۳ درصد ساکنان آن را تشکیل میدهند. ۲۳٫۷ درصد مردم این کشور روس و بقیه ازبک، اوکراینی، اویغور، و غیره هستند. دین ۷۰ درصد از مردم اسلام و مذهب بقیه ساکنان مسیحیت است.
فرهنگ و هنر سنتی که با نوع زندگی ساکنان عمدتاً قزاق و البته کرهایها و اویغورها و اقوام کوچکتر این سرزمین مرتبط است؛ همانند شعرها، آهنگها و رقصهای فولکلور، موسیقی قزاق که با سازهای سنتی آنان اجرا میشود، همچون فرشها و پارچههای دست بافت و صنایع دستی گوناگون که در طول قرنها در این سرزمین به حیات خود ادامه داده و پیشرفت کردهاند. در مجموع شعر، موسیقی و رقص جایگاه خاصی در فرهنگ قزاق داشته و دارند.
البته همه این انواع فرهنگی و هنری در میان قزاقها به مقبولیت کامل دست نیافتند. اما در نتیجه سیاستهای حکومت بلشویکی اتحاد شوروی، قزاقستان در دهههای گذشته پذیرای جمعیت بزرگی از روسها و اقوام غیر قزاق بوده است، به گونهای که قزاقها در سرزمین خودشان به یک اقلیت بدل شدند.
حضور چنین جمعیت بزرگ و با فرهنگهای گوناگون و بسیار متفاوت موجب شکوفایی هنر و فرهنگ غربی در این کشور شده است. موفقیت قزاقها و حتی آثار هنری که در قزاقستان ساخته شده یا به این کشور مربوط است، در جشنوارههای بینالمللی از آثار مثبت این تنوع فرهنگی است.
در قزاقستان گروهی از مردم آذربایجانی ایرانی هم وجود دارند که در شهر مرکه در نزدیکی مرز قرقیزستان زندگی میکنند. این افراد از آذربایجانیهای عشایری بودند که در مرز ارس تردد میکردند و پس از این که در سال ۱۹۱۸ مرزها بسته شد، در آن سوی مرز گرفتار و محبوس شدند. حکومت شوروی از ترس شورش این افراد، آنها را به قزاقستان کوچاند و تا امروز نیز در آنجا ساکن هستند. آنها هنوز هم به زبان ترکی آذربایجانی صحبت میکنند.
زبان قزاقی که زبان مردم قزاق و زبان ملی این کشور است، زبانی است از زیرگروه شرقی زبانهای ترکیتبار که خود زیر شاخه از زبانهای آلتای است. از نزدیکترین زبانها به قزاقی، زبان کشور همسایه قرقیزی است. زبان روسی با توجه به سابقه تاریخی و حضور گسترده خود همچنان موقعیت زبان رسمی (در قانون اساسی قزاقستان از اصطلاح زبان ارتباطات بینالمللی استفاده شدهاست) را حفظ کردهاست.
زبانهای زبان اوکراینی، زبان تاتاری، قرقیزی، اویغوری، ازبکی، ترکی آذربایجانی، باشقیری، فارسی تاجیکی، زبان آلمانی، زبان کرهای، زبان ترکمنی، زبان ارمنی و زبان مغولی تنها تعدادی از مهمترین زبانهایی هستند که بزرگترین اقلیتهای قومی این کشور به آنها سخن میگویند.
البته بسیاری از اقلیتهای قومی قزاقستان برای داشتن زبان مشترک به جز روسی، زبان قزاقی را هم میدانند. آموزش زبان انگلیسی به عنوان زبان بینالمللی در سالهای اخیر افزایش یافتهاست.
نوشتار اصلی: اقتصاد قزاقستان
این کشور از لحاظ منابع زیرزمینی هم بسیار غنی است، از سال ۱۹۹۳ تاکنون بیش از ۴۰ میلیارد دلار سرمایهگذاری خارجی در این بخش انجام شده است. همچنین تخمین زده میشود که قزاقستان صاحب دومین منابع بزرگ در اورانیوم، کروم، روی و سرب و سومین در منگنز، چهارمین در مس و در مورد زغال سنگ، آهن و طلا نیز در بین ۱۰ کشور اول دنیا قرار میگیرد. و همچنین یازدهمین منابع بزرگ هم در نفت و هم در گاز طبیعی را در اختیار دارد.
پایگاه فضایی بایکونور در کشور قزاقستان قرار دارد و قدیمیترین پایگاه فضایی جهان است. یوری گاگارین نخستین انسان فضانورد از این پایگاه به فضا سفر کرد. این پایگاه در دوران شوروی سابق و به خاطر موقعیت جغرافیایی مناسب در جمهوری قزاقستان ساخته شد. پس از فروپاشی شوروی، کشور روسیه این پایگاه را تا سال ۲۰۵۰ از قزاقستان اجاره کرده است.
Kazakhstan (i// or //; Kazakh: Қазақстан Qazaqstan, pronounced [qɑzɑqstɑ́n]; Russian: Казахстан [kəzɐxˈstan]), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a contiguous transcontinental country in Central Asia, with its smaller part west of the Ural River in Europe. Kazakhstan is the world's largest landlocked country by land area and the ninth largest country in the world; its territory of 2,727,300 square kilometres (1,053,000 sq mi) is larger than Western Europe. It has borders with (clockwise from the north) Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea. The terrain of Kazakhstan includes flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts. With an estimated 17 million people as of 2013 Kazakhstan is the 62nd most populous country in the world, though its population density is among the lowest, at less than 6 people per square kilometre (15 people per sq. mi.). The capital is Astana, where it was moved from Almaty in 1997.
The territory of Kazakhstan has historically been inhabited by nomadic tribes. This changed in the 13th century, when Genghis Khan occupied the country. Following internal struggles among the conquerors, power eventually reverted to the nomads. By the 16th century, the Kazakhs emerged as a distinct group, divided into three jüz (ancestor branches occupying specific territories). The Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century all of Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganized several times before becoming the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936, an integral part of the Soviet Union.
Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991; the current President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been leader of the country since then. Kazakhstan pursues a balanced foreign policy and works to develop its economy, especially its dominant hydrocarbon industry.
Kazakhstan is populated by 131 ethnicities, including Kazakh (who make up 63 percent of the population), Russian, Uzbek, Ukrainian, German, Tatar, and Uyghur. Islam is the religion of about 70% of the population, with Christianity practiced by 26%; Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion. The Kazakh language is the state language, while Russian has equal official status for all levels of administrative and institutional purposes.
While the word "Kazakh" is generally used to refer to people of ethnic Kazakh descent, including those living in China, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and other neighboring countries, within the country both terms "Kazakh" or "Kazakhstani" (Kazakh: қазақстандық qazaqstandyk ; Russian: казахстанец kazakhstanyets) are being used to describe all citizens of Kazakhstan, including non-Kazakhs. The ethnonym "Kazakh" is derived from an ancient Turkic word meaning "independent; a free spirit", reflecting the Kazakhs' nomadic horseback culture. The Persian suffix "-stan" (see Indo-Iranian languages) means "land" or "place of", so Kazakhstan means "land of the Kazakhs".
In February 2014, President Nursultan Nazarbayev suggested dropping "-stan" and officially renaming the country to "Kazakh Eli", meaning "country of the Kazakhs", in order to better reflect the diverse population of the country and also to attract greater foreign investment.
However, on the 13th of June 2014, it was reported on the Kazakhstan website, Tengri News, that Kazakhstan would not change the name by removing the "-stan". The Foreign Minister, Yerlan Idrissov labeled such speculations as "media tricks" in an interview with Spain's centrist La Vanguardia newspaper.
Main article: History of Kazakhstan
Main article: Kazakh Khanate
Kazakhstan has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age: the region's climate and terrain are best suited for nomads practicing pastoralism. Archaeologists believe that humans first domesticated the horse in the region's vast steppes.
The Cumans entered the steppes of modern day Kazakhstan around the early 11th century, where they later joined with the Kipchaks and established the vast Cuman-Kipchak confederation. While ancient cities Taraz (Aulie-Ata) and Hazrat-e Turkestan had long served as important way-stations along the Silk Road connecting East and West, real political consolidation only began with the Mongol invasion of the early 13th century. Under the Mongol Empire, administrative districts were established, and these eventually came under the rule of the emergent Kazakh Khanate (Kazakhstan).
Throughout this period, traditionally nomadic life and a livestock-based economy continued to dominate the steppe. In the 15th century, a distinct Kazakh identity began to emerge among the Turkic tribes, a process which was consolidated by the mid-16th century with the appearance of the Kazakh language, culture, and economy.
Nevertheless, the region was the focus of ever-increasing disputes between the native Kazakh emirs and the neighbouring Persian-speaking peoples to the south. At its height the Khanate would rule parts of Central Asia and control the land previously known as Cumania. The Kazakhs nomads would raid people of Russian territory for slaves until the Russian conquest of Kazakhstan. From the sixteenth through the early nineteenth century, the most powerful nomadic peoples were the Kazakhs and the Oirats.
By the early 17th century, the Kazakh Khanate was struggling with the impact of tribal rivalries, which had effectively divided the population into the Great, Middle and Little (or Small) hordes (jüz). Political disunion, tribal rivalries, and the diminishing importance of overland trade routes between East and West weakened the Kazakh Khanate. Khiva Khanate used this opportunity and annexed Mangyshlak Peninsula. Uzbek rule there lasted two centuries until the Russian arrival.
During the 17th century, Kazakhs fought Oirats, a federation of western Mongol tribes, including Dzungars. The beginning of the 18th century marked the zenith of the Kazakh Khanate. During this period the Little Horde participated in the 1723–1730 war against the Dzungars, following their "Great Disaster" invasion of Kazakh territories. Under the leadership of Abul Khair Khan, the Kazakhs won major victories over the Dzungar at the Bulanty River in 1726, and at the Battle of Anrakay in 1729. Ablai Khan participated in the most significant battles against the Dzungars from the 1720s to the 1750s, for which he was declared a "batyr" ("hero") by the people. Kazakhs were also victims of constant raids carried out by the Volga Kalmyks. Kokand Khanate used weakness of Kazakh jüzs after Dzungar and Kalmyk raids and conquered present Southeastern Kazakhstan including Almaty, formal capital at first quarter of 19th century. Also, Emirate of Bukhara ruled Chimkent before Russian arrival.
Kazakhstan under Russian Empire Rule
In the 19th century, the Russian Empire began to expand into Central Asia. The "Great Game" period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. The tsars effectively ruled over most of the territory belonging to what is now the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The Russian Empire introduced a system of administration and built military garrisons and barracks in its effort to establish a presence in Central Asia in the so-called "Great Game" between itself and the British Empire. The first Russian outpost, Orsk, was built in 1735. Russia enforced the Russian language in all schools and governmental organizations. Russian efforts to impose its system aroused the resentment by the Kazakh people, and by the 1860s, most Kazakhs resisted Russia's annexation largely because of the influence it wrought upon the traditional nomadic lifestyle and livestock-based economy, and the associated hunger that was rapidly wiping out some Kazakh tribes. The Kazakh national movement, which began in the late 19th century, sought to preserve the native language and identity by resisting the attempts of the Russian Empire to assimilate and stifle them.
From the 1890s onwards, ever-larger numbers of settlers from the Russian Empire began colonizing the territory of present-day Kazakhstan, in particular the province of Semirechye. The number of settlers rose still further once the Trans-Aral Railway from Orenburg to Tashkent was completed in 1906, and the movement was overseen and encouraged by a specially created Migration Department (Переселенческое Управление) in St. Petersburg. During the 19th century about 400,000 Russians immigrated to Kazakhstan, and about one million Slavs, Germans, Jews, and others immigrated to the region during the first third of the 20th century. Vasile Balabanov was the administrator responsible for the resettlement during much of this time.
The competition for land and water that ensued between the Kazakhs and the newcomers caused great resentment against colonial rule during the final years of Tsarist Russia, with the most serious uprising, the Central Asian Revolt, occurring in 1916. The Kazakhs attacked Russian and Cossack settlers and military garrisons. The revolt resulted in a series of clashes and in brutal massacres committed by both sides. Both sides resisted the communist government until late 1919.
Kazakhstan under Soviet rule
Main article: Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic
Although there was a brief period of autonomy (Alash Autonomy) during the tumultuous period following the collapse of the Russian Empire the Kazakhs eventually succumbed to Soviet rule. In 1920, the area of present-day Kazakhstan became an autonomous republic within the Soviet Union.
Soviet repression of the traditional elite, along with forced collectivization in the late 1920s–1930s, brought mass hunger and led to unrest (see also: Famine in Kazakhstan of 1932–33). The Kazakh population declined by 38% due to starvation and mass emigration. Estimates today suggest that the population of Kazakhstan would be closer to 28-35 million if there had been no starvation or migration of Kazakhs. During the 1930s, many renowned Kazakh writers, thinkers, poets, politicians and historians were killed on Stalin's orders, both as part of the repression and as a methodical pattern of suppressing Kazakh identity and culture. Soviet rule took hold, and a Communist apparatus steadily worked to fully integrate Kazakhstan into the Soviet system. In 1936 Kazakhstan became a Soviet republic. Kazakhstan experienced population inflows of millions exiled from other parts of the Soviet Union during the 1930s and 1940s; many of the deportation victims were deported to Siberia or Kazakhstan merely due to their ethnic heritage or beliefs. For example, after the German invasion in June 1941, approximately 400,000 Volga Germans were transported from Ukraine to Kazakhstan.
Deportees were interned in some of the biggest Soviet labor camps, including ALZHIR camp outside Astana, which was reserved for the wives of men considered "enemies of the people" (see also Population transfer in the Soviet Union and Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union). The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic contributed five national divisions to the Soviet Union's World War II effort. In 1947, two years after the end of the war, the Semipalatinsk Test Site, the USSR's main nuclear weapon test site, was founded near the city of Semey.
World War II led to an increase in industrialisation and mineral extraction in support of the war effort. At the time of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death, however, Kazakhstan still had an overwhelmingly agriculturally based economy. In 1953, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev initiated the ambitious "Virgin Lands" program to turn the traditional pasture lands of Kazakhstan into a major grain-producing region for the Soviet Union. The Virgin Lands policy brought mixed results. However, along with later modernizations under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, it accelerated the development of the agricultural sector, which remains the source of livelihood for a large percentage of Kazakhstan's population. By 1959, Kazakhs made up 30% of the population. Ethnic Russians accounted for 43%.
Growing tensions within Soviet society led to a demand for political and economic reforms, which came to a head in the 1980s. A factor that contributed to this immensely was Lavrentii Beria's decision to test a nuclear bomb on the territory of Kazakh SSR in Semey in 1949. This had a catastrophic ecological and biological consequences that were felt generations later, and Kazakh anger toward the Soviet system escalated.
In December 1986, mass demonstrations by young ethnic Kazakhs, later called Jeltoqsan riot, took place in Almaty to protest the replacement of the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR Dinmukhamed Konayev with Gennady Kolbin from the Russian SFSR. Governmental troops suppressed the unrest, several people were killed and many demonstrators were jailed. In the waning days of Soviet rule, discontent continued to grow and found expression under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost.
On 16 December 1991, Kazakhstan became the last Soviet republic to declare independence. Its communist-era leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, became the country's first President, a position he has retained for more than two decades.
Caught up in the groundswell of Soviet republics seeking greater autonomy, Kazakhstan declared its sovereignty as a republic within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in October 1990. Following the August 1991 aborted coup attempt in Moscow and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan declared independence on 16 December 1991.
Kazakhstan is a unitary republic. Its first and, to date (2014), only President is Nursultan Nazarbayev. The President may veto legislation that has been passed by the Parliament and is also the commander in chief of the armed forces. The Prime Minister chairs the Cabinet of Ministers and serves as Kazakhstan's head of government. There are three deputy prime ministers and sixteen ministers in the Cabinet.
Kazakhstan has a bicameral Parliament composed of the Majilis (the lower house) and Senate (the upper house). Single-mandate districts popularly elect 107 seats in the Majilis; there also are ten members elected by party-list vote. The Senate has 47 members. Two senators are selected by each of the elected assemblies (Maslikhats) of Kazakhstan's sixteen principal administrative divisions (fourteen regions plus the cities of Astana and Almaty). The President appoints the remaining seven senators. Majilis deputies and the government both have the right of legislative initiative, though the government proposes most legislation considered by the Parliament.
Nuclear weapons non-proliferation
When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, Kazakhstan inherited 1,410 nuclear warheads and the Semipalatinsk nuclear-weapon test site. By April 1995, Kazakhstan had returned the warheads to Russia and, by July 2000, had destroyed the nuclear testing infrastructure at Semipalatinsk.
On 2 December 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Republic of Kazakhstan designated 29 August as International Day against Nuclear Tests, the same day the Semipalatinsk test site closed in 1991.
Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said Kazakhstan will take responsibility to advance the issues on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation within the United Nations Security Council, if it is granted the place of nonentity member of the Security Council during 2017–2018.
The ATOM Project (est. August 2012) is an international campaign by the Nazarbayev Center of Kazakhstan. The primary goal of the campaign is to build international support for the abolishment of nuclear testing. ATOM stands for "Abolish Testing. Our Mission." The goal is to achieve the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty through online petitions and other methods.
Main article: Elections in Kazakhstan
Elections to the Majilis in September 2004 yielded a lower house dominated by the pro-government Otan Party headed by President Nazarbayev. Two other parties, the agrarian-industrial bloc AIST and the Asar Party, founded by President Nazarbayev's daughter, won most of the remaining seats. Opposition parties, which were officially registered and competed in the elections, won a single seat.
On 4 December 2005, Nursultan Nazarbayev was reelected in a landslide victory. The electoral commission announced that he had won over 90% of the vote. The Xinhua News Agency reported that observers from China, responsible in overseeing 25 polling stations in Astana, found that voting in those polls was conducted in a "transparent and fair" manner.
On 17 August 2007, elections to the lower house of parliament were held and a coalition led by the ruling Nur-Otan Party, including the Asar Party, Civil Party of Kazakhstan and Agrarian Party, won every seat with 88% of the vote. None of the opposition parties have reached the benchmark 7% level of the seats. This has led some in the local media to question the competence and charisma of the opposition party leaders. Opposition parties made accusations of serious irregularities in the election, and Daan Everts, OSCE mission chief at the time, said: "It has not been a competitive race."
In 2010, President Nazarbayev rejected a call from constituents to hold a referendum to keep him in office until 2020 and instead insisted on presidential elections for a five-year term. In a vote held on 3 April 2011, President Nazarbayev received 95.54% of the vote with 89.9% of registered voters participating. Nazarbayev outlined the progress made by Kazakhstan in March 2011.
In October 2013, the OSCE provided a series of seminars aimed at promoting political parties' development in Kazakhstan. More than 120 political party representatives participated in discussions of the organizational, legislative, financial and PR aspects of party-building as well as the their representation in parliament and local self-government bodies.
Main article: Foreign relations of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan has stable relationships with all of its neighbors. Kazakhstan is also a member of the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It is an active participant in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Partnership for Peace program.
On 11 April 2010, Presidents Nazarbayev and Obama met at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., and discussed strengthening the strategic partnership between the United States and Kazakhstan and pledged to intensify bilateral cooperation to promote nuclear safety and non-proliferation, regional stability in Central Asia, economic prosperity, and universal values.
In April 2011, President Obama called President Nazarbayev and discussed many cooperative efforts regarding nuclear security, including securing nuclear material from the BN-350 reactor, and reviewed progress on meeting goals that the two presidents established during their bilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in 2010.
Kazakhstan is also a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Economic Cooperation Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The nations of Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan established the Eurasian Economic Community in 2000 to re-energize earlier efforts at harmonizing trade tariffs and the creation of a free trade zone under a customs union. On 1 December 2007, it was revealed that Kazakhstan had been chosen to chair OSCE for the year 2010. Kazakhstan was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the first time on 12 November 2012.
Since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has pursued what is known as the "multivector foreign policy" (Kazakh: көпвекторлы сыртқы саясат), seeking equally good relations with its two large neighbors, Russia and China as well as with the United States and the rest of the Western world.
Russia currently leases approximately 6,000 square kilometres (2,317 sq mi) of territory enclosing the Baikonur Cosmodrome space launch site in south central Kazakhstan, where the first man was launched into space as well as Soviet space shuttle Buran and the well-known space station Mir.
Main article: Military of Kazakhstan
Most of Kazakhstan's military was inherited from the Soviet Armed Forces' Turkestan Military District. These units became the core of Kazakhstan's new military which acquired all the units of the 40th Army (the former 32nd Army) and part of the 17th Army Corps, including six land-force divisions, storage bases, the 14th and 35th air-landing brigades, two rocket brigades, two artillery regiments and a large amount of equipment which had been withdrawn from over the Urals after the signing of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. The largest expansion of the Kazakhstan Army has been focused on armored units in recent years. Since 1990, armored units have expanded from 500 to 1,613 in 2005.
Kazakhstan sent 49 military engineers to Iraq to assist the US post-invasion mission in Iraq. During the second Iraq War, Kazakhstani troops dismantled 4 million mines and other explosives, helped provide medical care to more than 5,000 coalition members and civilians and purified 718 cubic metres (25,356 cu ft) of water.
Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) was established on 13 June 1992. It includes the Service of Internal Security, Military Counterintelligence, Border Guard, several Commando units, and Foreign Intelligence (Barlau). The latter is considered as the most important part of KNB. Its director is Nurtai Abykayev.
August 2011 marked the ninth year of the joint tactical peacekeeping exercise "Steppe Eagle" hosted by the Kazakhstan government. "Steppe Eagle" focuses on building coalitions and gives participating nations the opportunity to work together.
In December 2013, Kazakhstan announced it will send officers to support United Nations Peacekeeping forces in Haiti, Western Sahara, Ivory Coast and Liberia.
In August 2014, President Nazarbayev reorganized the Government by consolidating ministries, agencies and committees. The reorganisation decreased the number of ministries by five, to 12 total; and the number of committees now totals 30, down from 54.
Ministry of Investments and Development
During the reorganization of the Government a new Ministry was created: the Ministry of Investments and Development. The newly formed Ministry is responsible for industrial-innovative, scientific and technological development of Kazakhstan. The head of the Ministry is Asset Issekeshev. It took over the functions of the abolished Ministry of Industry and New Technologies, Ministry of Transport and Communications, Agency for Communication and Information and National Space Agency (Kazcosmos).
With an area of 2,700,000 square kilometres (1,000,000 sq mi) – equivalent in size to Western Europe – Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country and largest landlocked country in the world. While it was part of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan lost some of its territory to China's Xinjiang and some to Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan. It shares borders of 6,846 kilometres (4,254 mi) with Russia, 2,203 kilometres (1,369 mi) with Uzbekistan, 1,533 kilometres (953 mi) with China, 1,051 kilometres (653 mi) with Kyrgyzstan, and 379 kilometres (235 mi) with Turkmenistan. Major cities include Astana, Almaty, Karagandy, Shymkent, Atyrau and Oskemen. It lies between latitudes 40° and 56° N, and longitudes 46° and 88° E. While located primarily in Asia, a small portion of Kazakhstan is also located west of the Urals in Eastern Europe.
Kazakhstan's terrain extends west to east from the Caspian Sea to the Altay Mountains and north to south from the plains of Western Siberia to the oases and deserts of Central Asia. The Kazakh Steppe (plain), with an area of around 804,500 square kilometres (310,600 sq mi), occupies one-third of the country and is the world's largest dry steppe region. The steppe is characterized by large areas of grasslands and sandy regions. Major seas, lakes and rivers include the Aral Sea, Lake Balkhash and Lake Zaysan, the Charyn River and gorge and the Ili, Irtysh, Ishim, Ural and Syr Darya rivers.
The Charyn Canyon is 80 kilometres (50 mi) long, cutting through a red sandstone plateau and stretching along the Charyn River gorge in northern Tian Shan ("Heavenly Mountains", 200 km (124 mi) east of Almaty) at . The steep canyon slopes, columns and arches rise to heights of between 150 and 300 metres. The inaccessibility of the canyon provided a safe haven for a rare ash tree that survived the Ice Age and is now also grown in some other areas. Bigach crater, at , is a Pliocene or Miocene asteroid impact crater, 8 km (5 mi) in diameter and estimated to be 5±3-million years old.
Almaty and Astana cities have the status of State importance and do not relate to any region. The city of Baikonur has a special status because it is currently being leased to Russia with Baikonur cosmodrome until 2050.
Each region is headed by an akim (regional governor) appointed by the president. Municipal akims [akimi?] are appointed by region akims. Kazakhstan's government transferred its capital from Almaty to Astana on 10 December 1997.
Main article: Economy of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan has the largest and strongest performing economy in Central Asia. Supported by rising oil output and prices, Kazakhstan’s economy grew at an average of 8% per year over the past decade. Kazakhstan was the first former Soviet Republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund, 7 years ahead of schedule.
Buoyed by high world crude oil prices, GDP growth figures were between 8.9% and 13.5% from 2000 to 2007 before decreasing to 1–3% in 2008 and 2009, and then rising again from 2010. Other major exports of Kazakhstan include wheat, textiles, and livestock. Kazakhstan predicted that it would become a leading exporter of uranium by 2010, which has indeed come true.
Kazakhstan’s fiscal situation is stable. The government has continued to follow a conservative fiscal policy by controlling budget spending and accumulating oil revenue savings in its Oil Fund – Samruk-Kazyna. The global financial crisis forced Kazakhstan to increase its public borrowing to support the economy. Public debt increased to 13.4 per cent in 2013 from 8.7 per cent in 2008. Between 2012 and 2013 the government achieved an overall fiscal surplus of 4.5 per cent.
Since 2002, Kazakhstan has sought to manage strong inflows of foreign currency without sparking inflation. Inflation has not been under strict control, however, registering 6.6% in 2002, 6.8% in 2003, and 6.4% in 2004.
In 2000, Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), seven years ahead of schedule. In March 2002, the U.S. Department of Commerce granted Kazakhstan market economy status under U.S. trade law. This change in status recognized substantive market economy reforms in the areas of currency convertibility, wage rate determination, openness to foreign investment, and government control over the means of production and allocation of resources.
Economic Stewardship during Global Financial Crisis
In September 2002, Kazakhstan became the first country in the CIS to receive an investment grade credit rating from a major international credit rating agency. As of late December 2003, Kazakhstan's gross foreign debt was about $22.9 billion. Total governmental debt was $4.2 billion, 14% of GDP. There has been a noticeable reduction in the ratio of debt to GDP. The ratio of total governmental debt to GDP in 2000 was 21.7%; in 2001, it was 17.5%, and in 2002, it was 15.4%.
Economic growth, combined with earlier tax and financial sector reforms, has dramatically improved government finance from the 1999 budget deficit level of 3.5% of GDP to a deficit of 1.2% of GDP in 2003. Government revenues grew from 19.8% of GDP in 1999 to 22.6% of GDP in 2001, but decreased to 16.2% of GDP in 2003. In 2000, Kazakhstan adopted a new tax code in an effort to consolidate these gains.
On 29 November 2003, the Law on Changes to Tax Code which reduced tax rates was adopted. The value added tax fell from 16% to 15%, the social tax, from 21% to 20%, and the personal income tax, from 30% to 20%. On 7 July 2006, the personal income tax was reduced even further to a flat rate of 5% for personal income in the form of dividends and 10% for other personal income. Kazakhstan furthered its reforms by adopting a new land code on 20 June 2003, and a new customs code on 5 April 2003.
Energy is the leading economic sector. Production of crude oil and natural gas condensate from the oil and gas basins of Kazakhstan amounted to 79.2 million tons in 2012 up from 51.2 million tons in 2003. Kazakhstan raised oil and gas condensate exports to 44.3 million tons in 2003, 13% higher than in 2002. Gas production in Kazakhstan in 2003 amounted to 13.9 billion cubic meters (491 billion cu. ft), up 22.7% compared to 2002, including natural gas production of 7.3 billion cubic meters (258 billion cu. ft). Kazakhstan holds about 4 billion tons of proven recoverable oil reserves and 2,000 cubic kilometers (480 cu mi) of gas. According to industry analysts, expansion of oil production and the development of new fields will enable the country to produce as much as 3 million barrels (480,000 m3) per day by 2015, and Kazakhstan would be among the top 10 oil-producing nations in the world. Kazakhstan's oil exports in 2003 were valued at more than $7 billion, representing 65% of overall exports and 24% of the GDP. Major oil and gas fields and recoverable oil reserves are Tengiz with 7 billion barrels (1.1×109 m3); Karachaganak with 8 billion barrels (1.3×109 m3) and 1,350 km³ of natural gas; and Kashagan with 7 to 9 billion barrels (1.4×109 m3).
Kazakhstan instituted an ambitious pension reform program in 1998. As of 1 January 2012, the pension assets were about $17 billion (KZT 2.5 trillion). There are 11 saving pension funds in the country. The State Accumulating Pension Fund, the only state-owned fund, was privatized in 2006. The country's unified financial regulatory agency oversees and regulates the pension funds. The growing demand of the pension funds for quality investment outlets triggered rapid development of the debt securities market. Pension fund capital is being invested almost exclusively in corporate and government bonds, including government of Kazakhstan Eurobonds. The government of Kazakhstan is studying a project to create a unified national pension fund and transfer all the accounts from the private pension funds into it.
The banking system of Kazakhstan is developing rapidly and the system's capitalization now exceeds $1 billion. The National Bank has introduced deposit insurance in its campaign to strengthen the banking sector. Due to troubling and non-performing bad assets the bank sector yet is at risk to lose stability. Several major foreign banks have branches in Kazakhstan, including RBS, Citibank, and HSBC. Kookmin and UniCredit have both recently entered the Kazakhstan's financial services market through acquisitions and stake-building.
According to the 2010–11 World Economic Forum in Global Competitiveness Report, Kazakhstan was ranked 72nd in the world in economic competitiveness. One year later, the Global Competitiveness Report ranked Kazakhstan 50th in most competitive markets.
During the first half of 2013, Kazakhstan's fixed investment increased 7.1% compared to the same period in 2012 totaling 2.8 trillion tenge ($18 billion US dollars).
Kazakhstan’s economy grew at an average of 8% per year over the past decade on the back of hydrocarbon exports. Despite the lingering uncertainty of the global economy, Kazakhstan’s economy has been stable. GDP growth in January–September 2013 was 5.7%, according to preliminary calculations of the Ministry Economy and Budget Planning.
Main article: Agriculture in Kazakhstan
Agriculture accounts for approximately 5% of Kazakhstan's GDP. Grain, potatoes, vegetables, melons and livestock are the most important agricultural commodities. Agricultural land occupies more than 846,000 square kilometres (327,000 sq mi). The available agricultural land consists of 205,000 square kilometres (79,000 sq mi) of arable land and 611,000 square kilometres (236,000 sq mi) of pasture and hay land.
Chief livestock products are dairy products, leather, meat, and wool. The country's major crops include wheat, barley, cotton, and rice. Wheat exports, a major source of hard currency, rank among the leading commodities in Kazakhstan's export trade. In 2003 Kazakhstan harvested 17.6 million tons of grain in gross, 2.8% higher compared to 2002. Kazakh agriculture still has many environmental problems from mismanagement during its years in the Soviet Union. Some Kazakh wine is produced in the mountains to the east of Almaty.
Kazakhstan is thought to be one of the places that the apple originated, particularly the wild ancestor of Malus domestica, Malus sieversii. It has no common name in English, but is known in its native Kazakhstan as alma. The region where it is thought to originate is called Almaty: "rich with apple". This tree is still found wild in the mountains of Central Asia, in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Xinjiang in China.
See also: Energy policy of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan has an abundant supply of accessible mineral and fossil fuel resources. Development of petroleum, natural gas, and mineral extractions, such as Potassium, has attracted most of the over $40 billion in foreign investment in Kazakhstan since 1993 and accounts for some 57% of the nation's industrial output (or approximately 13% of gross domestic product). According to some estimates, Kazakhstan has the second largest uranium, chromium, lead, and zinc reserves, the third largest manganese reserves, the fifth largest copper reserves, and ranks in the top ten for coal, iron, and gold. It is also an exporter of diamonds. Perhaps most significant for economic development, Kazakhstan also currently has the 11th largest proven reserves of both petroleum and natural gas.
In total, there are 160 deposits with over 2.7 billion tons of petroleum. Oil explorations have shown that the deposits on the Caspian shore are only a small part of a much larger deposit. It is said that 3.5 billion tons of oil and 2.5 trillion cubic meters of gas could be found in that area. Overall the estimate of Kazakhstan's oil deposits is 6.1 billion tons. However, there are only 3 refineries within the country, situated in Atyrau, Pavlodar, and Shymkent. These are not capable of processing the total crude output so much of it is exported to Russia. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration Kazakhstan was producing approximately 1,540,000 barrels (245,000 m3) of oil per day in 2009.
Kazakhstan also possesses large deposits of phosphorite. One of the largest known being the Karatau basin with 650 million tonnes of P2O5 and Chilisai deposit of Aktyubinsk/Aqtobe phosphorite basin located in north western Kazakhstan, with a resource of 500–800 million tonnes of 9% ore.
On 17 October 2013, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) accepted Kazakhstan as "EITI Compliant", meaning that the country has a basic and functional process to ensure the regular disclosure of natural resource revenues.
Main article: Transport in Kazakhstan
A new highway between Almaty and the border with China will reduce transit times from around six to three hours. Most cities are connected by railroad; high-speed trains go from Almaty (the southernmost city) to Petropavl (the northernmost city) in about 18 hours.
The banking industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan has experienced a pronounced boom and bust cycle over 2000s decade. After several years of rapid expansion in the mid-2000s, the banking industry collapsed in 2008. Several large banking groups, including BTA Bank J.S.C. and Alliance Bank, defaulted soon after. Since then, the industry has shrunk and been restructured, with system-wide loans dropping to 39% of GDP in 2011 from 59% in 2007. Although the Russian and Kazakh banking systems share several common features, there are also some fundamental differences. Banks in Kazakhstan have experienced a lengthy period of political stability and economic growth. Together with a rational approach to banking and finance policy, this has helped push Kazakhstan’s banking system to a higher level of development. Banking technology and personnel qualifications alike are stronger in Kazakhstan than in Russia. On the negative side, past stability in Kazakhstan arose from the concentration of virtually all political power in the hands of a single individual – the key factor in any assessment of system or country risk. The potential is there for serious disturbances if and when authority passes into new hands.
The government has set the goals that a transition to the green economy in Kazakhstan occur by 2050. The green economy is projected to increase GDP by 3% and create more than 500 thousand new jobs.
The government of Kazakhstan has set prices for energy produced from renewable sources. The price of 1 kilowatt-hour for energy produced by wind power plants was set at 22.68 tenge ($0.12). The price for 1 kilowatt-hour produced by small hydro-power plants is 16.71 tenge ($0.09), and from biogas plants it’s 32.23 tenge ($0.18).
Foreign Direct Investment
As of September 30, 2012, foreign investors had placed a total of $177.7 billion in Kazakhstan. According to the US State Department, Kazakhstan is widely considered to have the best investment climate in the region.
President Nazarbayev signed into law tax concessions to promote foreign direct investment which include a 10-year exemption from corporation tax, an 8-year exemption from property tax, and a 10-year freeze on most other taxes. Other incentives include a refund on capital investments of up to 30 percent once a production facility is in operation.
Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the President of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), co-chaired the Kazakhstan Foreign Investors’ Council with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In May 2014, the EBRD and government of Kazakhstan created the Partnership for Re-Energizing the Reform Process in Kazakhstan to work with international financial institutions to channel US$2.7 billion provided by the Kazakh government into important sectors of Kazakhstan’s economy. The partnership will boost investment and drive forward reforms in the country.
In October 2014 Kazakhstan introduced its first overseas dollar bonds in 14 years. Kazakhstan issued $2.5 billion of 10-and 30-year bonds on 5 October 2014 in what was the nation’s first dollar-denominated overseas sale since 2000. Kazakhstan sold $1.5 billion of 10-year dollar bonds to yield 1.5 percentage points above midswaps and $1 billion of 30-year debt at 2 percentage points over midswaps. The country drew bids for $11 billion.
Kazakhstan achieved its goal of entering the top 50 most competitive countries in 2013 and has maintained its position in the 2014-2015 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report that was published at the beginning of September, 2014. Kazakhstan is ahead of other states in the CIS in almost all of the report’s pillars of competitiveness, including institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market development, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation, lagging behind only in the category of health and primary education. The Global Competitiveness Index gives a score from 1 to 7 in each of these pillars, and Kazakhstan earned an overall score of 4.4.
The housing market of Kazakhstan grows progressively since 2010. In 2013, the total housing area in Kazakhstan amounted to 336.1 million square meters. The housing stock rose over the year to 32.7 million squares, which is nearly 11% increase. Between 2012 and 2013, the living area per Kazakh citizen rose from 19.6 to 20.9 square meters. The urban areas concentrate 62.5 percent of the country’s housing stock. The UN’s recommended standard for housing stands at 30 square meters per person. Kazakhstan will be able to reach the UN standards by 2019 or 2020, if in the medium term the housing growth rate remains within 7 percent.
Kazakhstan is the highest ranked CIS country in the World Economic Forum's Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator for determining the development level of a country’s information and communication technologies. Kazakhstan ranked number 38 overall in the NRI ranking in 2014, up from 43 in 2013.
Main article: Demographics of Kazakhstan
The US Census Bureau International Database list the current population of Kazakhstan as 15,460,484, while United Nations sources such as the UN Population Division give an estimate of 15,753,460. Official estimates put the population of Kazakhstan at 16.455 million as of February 2011, of which 46% is rural and 54% is urban. In 2013, Kazakhstan's population rose to 17,280,000 with a 1.7% growth rate over the past year according to the Kazakhstan Statistics Agency.
The 2009 population estimate is 6.8% higher than the population reported in the last census from January 1999. The decline in population that began after 1989 has been arrested and possibly reversed. Men and women make up 48.3% and 51.7% of the population, respectively.
The ethnic Kazakhs represent 63.1% of the population and ethnic Russians 23.7%, with a rich array of other groups represented, including Tatars (1.3%), Ukrainians (2.1%), Uzbeks (2.8%), Belarusians, Uyghurs (1.4%), Azerbaijanis, Poles, and Lithuanians. Some minorities such as Germans (1.1%) (Germans who had previously settled in Russia, especially Volga Germans), Ukrainians, Koreans, Chechens, Meskhetian Turks, and Russian political opponents of the regime had been deported to Kazakhstan in the 1930s and 1940s by Stalin; some of the bigger Soviet labour camps (Gulag) existed in the country.
Significant Russian immigration also connected with Virgin Lands Campaign and Soviet space program during the Khrushchev era. In 1989, ethnic Russians were 37.8% of the population and Kazakhs held a majority in only 7 of the 20 regions of the country. Before 1991 there were one million Germans in Kazakhstan; most of them emigrated to Germany following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Most members of the smaller Pontian Greek minority have emigrated to Greece. In the late 1930s thousands of Koreans in the Soviet Union were deported to Central Asia. These people are now known as Koryo-saram.
The 1990s were marked by the emigration of many of the country's Russians and Volga Germans, a process that began in the 1970s. This has made indigenous Kazakhs the largest ethnic group. Additional factors in the increase in the Kazakh population are higher birthrates and immigration of ethnic Kazakhs from China, Mongolia, and Russia.
Kazakhstan is officially a bilingual country: Kazakh, a Turkic language spoken natively by 64.4% of the population, has the status of "state" language, while Russian, which is spoken by most Kazakhstanis, is declared an "official" language, and is used routinely in business, government, and inter-ethnic communication, although Kazakh is slowly replacing it. Other minority languages spoken in Kazakhstan include Uzbek, Ukrainian, Uyghur, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Mongolian. English has gained popularity among youth since the collapse of USSR. Education across Kazakhstan is conducted in either Kazakh, Russian, or both.
Main articles: Religion in Kazakhstan, Islam in Kazakhstan, Christianity in Kazakhstan, Judaism in Kazakhstan, Hinduism in Kazakhstan and Bahá'í Faith in Kazakhstan
According to the 2009 Census, 70% of the population is Muslim, 26% Christian, 0.1% Buddhists, 0.2% others (mostly Jews), and 3% Irreligious, while 0.5% chose not to answer. According to its Constitution, Kazakhstan is a secular state.
Religious freedoms are guaranteed by Article 39 of Kazakhstan's Constitution. Article 39 states: "Human rights and freedoms shall not be restricted in any way." Article 14 prohibits "discrimination on religious basis" and Article 19 ensures that everyone has the "right to determine and indicate or not to indicate his/her ethnic, party and religious affiliation." The Constitutional Council recently affirmed these rights by ruling that a proposed law limiting the rights of certain individuals to practice their religion was declared unconstitutional.
Islam is the largest religion in Kazakhstan, followed by Eastern Orthodoxy. After decades of religious suppression by the Soviet Union, the coming of independence witnessed a surge in expression of ethnic identity, partly through religion. The free practice of religious beliefs and the establishment of full freedom of religion led to an increase of religious activity. Hundreds of mosques, churches, and other religious structures were built in the span of a few years, with the number of religious associations rising from 670 in 1990 to 4,170 today.
Some figures show a majority being non-denominational Muslims while others showing a majority of Muslims are Sunnis following the Hanafi school, including ethnic Kazakhs, who constitute about 60% the population, as well as by ethnic Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Tatars. Less than 1% are part of the Sunni Shafi`i school (primarily Chechens). There are also some Ahmadi Muslims. There are a total of 2,300 mosques, all of them are affiliated with the "Spiritual Association of Muslims of Kazakhstan", headed by a supreme mufti. Un affiliated mosques are forcefully closed. The Eid al-Adha is recognized as a national holiday.
One fourth of the population is Russian Orthodox, including ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. Other Christian groups include Catholics and Protestants. There are a total of 258 Orthodox churches, 93 Catholic churches, and over 500 Protestant churches and prayer houses. The Russian Orthodox Christmas is recognized as a national holiday in Kazakhstan. Other religious groups include Judaism, the Bahá'í Faith, Hinduism, Buddhism, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
According to the 2009 Census data, there are very few Christians outside the Slavic and Germanic ethnic groups:
Main article: Education in Kazakhstan
Education is universal and mandatory through to the secondary level and the adult literacy rate is 99.5%. Education consists of three main phases: primary education (forms 1–4), basic general education (forms 5–9) and senior level education (forms 10–11 or 12) divided into continued general education and vocational education. Vocational Education usually lasts 3 or 4 years. (Primary education is preceded by one year of pre-school education.) These levels can be followed in one institution or in different ones (e.g., primary school, then secondary school). Recently, several secondary schools, specialized schools, magnet schools, gymnasiums, lyceums and linguistic and technical gymnasiums have been founded. Secondary professional education is offered in special professional or technical schools, lyceums or colleges and vocational schools.
At present, there are universities, academies and institutes, conservatories, higher schools and higher colleges. There are three main levels: basic higher education that provides the fundamentals of the chosen field of study and leads to the award of the Bachelor's degree; specialized higher education after which students are awarded the Specialist's Diploma; and scientific-pedagogical higher education which leads to the Master's Degree. Postgraduate education leads to the Kandidat nauk ("Candidate of Sciences") and the Doctor of Sciences (Ph.D.). With the adoption of the Laws on Education and on Higher Education, a private sector has been established and several private institutions have been licensed.
Over 2,500 students in Kazakhstan have applied for student loans totaling about $9 million. The largest number of student loans come from Almaty, Astana and Kyzylorda.
The Ministry of Education of Kazakhstan runs a highly successful Bolashak scholarship scheme, awarded annually to around 5,000 Kazakhstan citizen applicants. The scholarship funds their education and all living expenses abroad as well as transportation expenses once in a year from home to a university and back home. The choice of an institution of higher education and research as well as any corporation that provides both undergraduate and postgraduate education has no restrictions, if an applicant complies with the eligibility requirements of an institution abroad. Awarded students can study at a number of institutions including the University of Aberdeen, University of Edinburgh, University of Cambridge, Harvard University, King's College London, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, University of Oxford, University College London, Purdue University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Sydney, Technical University Munich, Imperial College London, University of Tokyo, University of Warwick and others. The terms of the program include mandatory return to Kazakhstan for at least five years of consecutive employment.
Human rights and media
In November 2012, 183 members of the United Nations General Assembly elected Kazakhstan to serve a three year term on the Human Rights Council, the United Nations key forum for tackling entrenched human rights concerns around the world.
With support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative opened a media support center in Almaty to bolster free expression and journalistic rights in Kazakhstan.
In 2002, Kazakhstan created a Human Rights Ombudsman with the mandate to protect the human rights of Kazakhstan’s citizens from encroachments by state officials, to ensure the development of protective legislation and to introduce and expand educational programs.
Kazakhstan is ranked 161 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders. A mid-March 2002 a court order, with the government as a plaintiff, stated that Respublika were to stop printing for three months. The order was evaded by printing under other titles, such as Not That Respublika. In early 2014 a court also issued a cease publication order to the small-circulation Assandi-Times newspaper, saying it was a part of the Respublika group. Human Rights Watch said: "this absurd case displays the lengths to which Kazakh authorities are willing to go to bully critical media into silence."
The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have signed an agreement to help the Kazakh government develop child protection systems and laws that meet international standards. This agreement will support the existing Kazakh program called ‘The Improvement of the Justice for Children and Child Rights Protection System” that focuses on the rights of child victims, children who are witnesses of crime and children in conflict with the law.
Rule of Law
ABA Rule of Law Initiative
The Rule of Law Initiative of the American Bar Association has programs to train justice sector professionals in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court has taken recent steps to modernize and to increase transparency and oversight over the country’s legal system. With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative began a new program in April 2012 to strengthen the independence and accountability of Kazakhstan’s judiciary.
In November 2012, Kazakhstan hosted the European Union's Rule of Law Initiative’s first Regional Seminar “Administrative Justice: Theory and Practice in European and Central Asian Countries” in Astana. At this seminar, led by Germany, concrete proposals regarding rules for an Administrative Procedure Code were introduced.
The Procurator General of Kazakhstan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation collaborated in a complex seven year investigation into an 11 February 2006 triple homicide of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, Baurzhan Baibosyn, and Vasiliy Zhuravlev. The ranking American diplomat in Kazakhstan, Ambassador John Ordway, praised in a press conference the "exceptional cooperation between Kazakhstani and American law enforcement." Ordway emphasized that the FBI's investigation was independent from the Procurator General's office, and the FBI had full and immediate access to all materials and information."
The international non-government organization, the World Justice Project, presented the Rule of Law Index 2014. The overall rule of law score for Kazakhstan is 71 points, Uzbekistan - 73 points, China – 76 points, Kyrgyzstan – 78 points, Russia – 80 points.
Transparency International-supported Anti-Corruption School opens in Almaty
Main articles: Culture of Kazakhstan, Kazakh clothing, Kazakh cuisine, Music of Kazakhstan, Sport in Kazakhstan and Kazakh wedding ceremony
Before the Russian colonization, the Kazakhs had a highly developed culture based on their nomadic pastoral economy. Although Islam was introduced to most of the Kazakhs in the 15th century, the religion was not fully assimilated until much later. As a result, it coexisted with earlier elements of Tengriism.
Traditional Kazakh belief held that separate spirits inhabited and animated the earth, sky, water and fire, as well as domestic animals. To this day, particularly honored guests in rural settings are treated to a feast of freshly killed lamb. Such guests are sometimes asked to bless the lamb and to ask its spirit for permission to partake of its flesh. Besides lamb, many other traditional foods retain symbolic value in Kazakh culture.
Because livestock was central to the Kazakhs' traditional lifestyle, most of their nomadic practices and customs relate in some way to livestock. Kazakhs have historically been very passionate about horse-riding. Traditional curses and blessings invoked disease or fecundity among animals, and good manners required that a person ask first about the health of a man's livestock when greeting him and only afterward inquire about the human aspects of his life. Even today, many Kazakhs express interest in equestrianism and horse-racing.
Kazakhstan is home to a large number of prominent contributors to literature, science and philosophy: Abay Qunanbayuli, Mukhtar Auezov, Gabit Musirepov, Kanysh Satpayev, Mukhtar Shakhanov, Saken Seyfullin, Jambyl Jabayev, among many others.
Kazakhstan features a lively music culture, evident in massive popularity of SuperStar KZ, a local offspring of Simon Fuller's Pop Idol. Almaty is considered to be the musical capital of the Central Asia, recently enjoying concerts by well-known artists such as Deep Purple, Tokio Hotel, Atomic Kitten, Dima Bilan, Loon, Craig David, The Black Eyed Peas, Eros Ramazzotti, José Carreras, Ace of Base, Scorpions, Timati, Tiësto, among others.
Tourism is a rapidly growing industry in Kazakhstan and it is joining the international tourism networking. In year 2010, Kazakhstan joined The Region Initiative (TRI) which is a Tri-regional Umbrella of Tourism related organisations. TRI is functioning as a link between three regions: South Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Armenia, Bangladesh, India, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Nepal, Tajikistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Ukraine are now Partners and Kazakhstan is linked with other South Asian, Eastern European and Central Asian countries in tourism market.
In the national cuisine, livestock meat can be cooked in a variety of ways and is usually served with a wide assortment of traditional bread products. Refreshments often include black tea and traditional milk-derived drinks such as ayran, shubat and kymyz. A traditional Kazakh dinner involves a multitude of appetisers on the table, followed by a soup and one or two main courses such as pilaf and beshbarmak. They also drink their national beverage, which consists of fermented mare's milk.
Main article: Sport in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan has developed itself as a formidable sports-force on the world arena in the following fields: boxing, chess, kickboxing, skiing, gymnastics, water polo, cycling, martial arts, heavy athletics, horse-riding, triathlon, track hurdles, sambo, Greco-Roman wrestling and billiards. The following are all well-known Kazakhstani athletes and world-championship medalists: Bekzat Sattarkhanov, Vassiliy Jirov, Alexander Vinokourov, Bulat Jumadilov, Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov, Olga Shishigina, Andrey Kashechkin, Aliya Yussupova, Dmitriy Karpov, Darmen Sadvakasov, Yeldos Ikhsangaliyev, Askhat Zhitkeyev, Maxim Rakov, Aidar Kabimollayev, Yermakhan Ibraimov, Vladimir Smirnov, Ilya Ilin.
Current World Boxing Association and IBO middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin was born and raised in Kazakhstan. Nowadays the champion has proudly been representing Kazakhstan, his motherland, to the people around the world.
Main article: Cinema of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan's film industry is run through the state-owned Kazakhfilm studios based in Almaty. The studio has produced award winning movies such as Myn Bala, Harmony Lessons, and Shal. Kazakhstan is host of the International Astana Action Film Festival and the Eurasian Film Festival held annually. Hollywood director Timur Bekmambetov is from Kazakhstan and has become active in bridging Hollywood to the Kazakhstan film industry. One of his protégés, Igor Tsay, runs the Kun-Do Action Studios that has provided stunt work for many Kazakh, Bollywood and Hollywood films (most notably Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).
Kazakhstan journalist Artur Platonov won Best Script for his documentary "Sold Souls" about Kazakhstan's contribution to the struggle against terrorism at the 2013 Cannes Corporate Media and TV Awards.
UNESCO World Heritage sites
Kazakhstan has three cultural and natural heritages on the UNESCO World Heritage list: the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yassaui, Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly and Korgalzhyn & Nauryzumsky reserves.
a Eid al-Adha, the Islamic "Feast of the Sacrifice".
Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy
During his annual state of the nation address in Astana on 15 December 2012, President Nazarbayev introduced the new Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, a state plan aimed at bringing Kazakhstan into the ranks of the world’s thirty most-developed countries by the middle of the twenty-first century.
At his 2014 State of the Nation address, President Nazarbayev expanded on his strategic vision for the country, calling the Strategy 2050 "a beacon, which will allow us to achieve our goal while we work on day-to-day living." He further outlined its implementation in two stages and its core principles.
A roundtable discussion titled “The Implementation of theKazakhstan 2050 Strategy and the Role of Kazakhstan in the International Community” was held on 15 September 2014 in Astana. Foreign diplomats, deputies of parliament and officials from the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs gathered i to discuss progress on key goals set out in the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy. The participants commended the 2050 strategy for its comprehensive character; focus on qualitative development and stability.
Chargé d'Affaires of the United States to Kazakhstan John Ordway stressed that Kazakhstan is an important strategic partner of the United States. Meanwhile, Acting UN Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan, UNFPA Sub-regional Office Director Nikolai Botev, lauded Kazakhstan's initiatives in nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear safety, as well as intercultural cooperation.
Membership of international organizations
Kazakhstan's membership of international organizations includes: