Saturday, March 21, 2015

Republic of Kazakhstan

The Republic of Kazakhstan is the largest country in Central Asia.  It is the 9th largest country in the world but is home to just more than 18 million people.  Almaty is the largest city, and until 1997, was the country's capital when it was moved to Astana.

The country is huge.  It is almost four times the size of Texas.  Қазақстан  shares borders with China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  Except for its access to the Caspian Sea, it is the world's largest landlocked country.  

 
The land was inhabited by nomadic tribes until Genghis Khan occupied the area in the 13th century but eventually the nomads regained power.  During the 18th century the Russians came and by the middle of the 19th century all of Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire.  In 1936 it became part of the Soviet Union.  


During the 1950s and 1960s, many Russians, and people deported from other Soviet republics went to Kazakhstan to cultivate agriculture in the north.  So many arrived that ethnic Kazakhs were outnumbered.  Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence from the USSR.  In the mid-1990s many non-Kazakhs left the country while many Kazakhs returned.  Today the country is about 63% Kazakh and almost 24% Russian.  Roughly 70% of the country is Muslim and over 25% are Russian Orthodox.

Although no longer part of the Soviet Union the country maintains close relations with Russia.  Aside from being part of the Eurasian Economic Union, Russia leases about 6000 km² (+2300 miles²) around the Baikonur Cosmodrome.  This is Russia's space launch site where the first man ever was launched into space.  The current lease runs until 2050.


Kazakh (Cyrillic) alphabet
Kazakh is the country's official language and is spoken by around 64% of the population.  Russian is a co-official language which most people speak.  The plan is to replace the Kazakh Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin script by 2025.

The Tenge (₸) is the official currency.  Kazakhstan has the largest economy in Central Asia.  The country is rich in fossil fuel reserves, uranium, copper, zinc, and agriculture.  In order to cut its dependence on energy and mining, the country is building up its transportation, pharmaceutical, telecommunication and food processing industries.  The government's strategy is to make Kazakhstan one of the 30 most developed countries by 2050.  

President Nazarbayev
Kazakhstan is a republic where the president holds almost all power.  Presidential terms are 5 years and there is a two term maximum.  Except here's the catch...  The current president is Nursultan Nazarbayev.  He was in charge of Soviet Kazakhstan prior to independence and became the country's first post communist president.  Since his official status is "First President of Kazakhstan" he alone is allowed unlimited terms in office therefore he's been in charge of the country since 1991.  In the last election he won with almost 98% of the vote.

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