Kazakhstan is one of the world’s most fascinating, yet less-known countries in terms of its people, culture, cuisine, and history. The country is significantly large and borders several influential nations such as Russia and China. What do you know about the country, its geography, resources, and the Kazakhstan culture?
Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country and the ninth-largest country in the world. It is vastly rich in natural resources and is ranked among the world’s largest oil-producing countries. The vibrant Kazakhstan culture has a diverse mix of languages, religions, practices, and beliefs.
Are Kazakhs Asian?
The Kazakhstan people are commonly referred to as Kazakhs, Turkic people of Western China descent. In terms of appearance, Kazakhs are quite similar to Mongolians. However, Kazakhs are not the majority of people in the country. Russians are still the dominant people, making up more than 34% of the entire population.
Where is Kazakh?
The country is located in the central region of Asia. It is bordered by Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan in the south, China to the east, Russia to the north, and the Caspian Sea to the west. Some of its major cities include Almaty, Astana (now known as Nur-Sultan), and Taraz.
How to pronounce Kazakhstan
The country’s name, similar to others in Central Asia such as Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, is significantly hard to pronounce. Here is a look at the American and British pronunciations of the name. An audio file is also available on the site for those who wish to listen to the pronunciation.
- (UK) IPA: /ˈkæzəkstæn/, /ˈkɑːzəkstɑːn/
- (US) IPA: /ˈkɑzəkˌstæn/
A brief Kazakhstan history
Similar to other countries under the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan was heavily affected by the Iron Curtain policy, which shielded the Soviet States from European influence. The country became part of the Soviet socialist republic in 1936.
Despite being one of the lesser-known soviet countries, Kazakhstan is known as the place where Joseph Stalin exiled numerous prisoners. Additionally, the country was a test site for several nuclear programs, as well as the infamous Virgin Lands program by Nikita Khrushchev’s.
In 1991, Nursultan Nazarbayev became the country’s first president and exercised authoritarian rule, which some of the citizens felt was necessary. His main aim was first to convert Kazakhstan into a market economy and later deal with political reforms. By the end of 2006, the country was generating about 60% of the entire Central Asia GDP.
In 1997, Kazakhstan’s capital was moved from Almaty to Nur-Sultan (formerly known as Astana). This was reportedly due to geopolitical and strategic reasons.
Is Kazakhstan part of Russia?
No, it is not. In October 1990, the country gained sovereignty as a republic within the Soviet Union. About a year later, on 16th December 1991, Kazakhstan declared independence, making it the last Soviet nation to do so. Ten days after this declaration, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
The country’s population still reflects its former affiliation with the Soviet Union. At 34.7%, Russians make up the biggest section of the population. Chechnians, Tatars, Turks, Koreans, and Ukrainians make up 17% of the country’s population. The government’s attempts to make Kazakh the central culture in the country are often met by resistance and disdain from the non-Kazakh groups.
In 1999, the country’s population was slightly below 17 million people, a figure which later dropped slightly before rising to the current 18 million. The low population growth rate is highly attributed to mass emigration and low birth rates.
Life in Kazakhstan
How do you say hello in Kazakh? Here is a look at the phrases and pronunciation for the formal and informal versions of the greeting.
- Hello (formal): Сәлеметсіз бе?/Амансыз ба? (sah-lem-met-siz be?/ah-mahn-siz ba?)
- Hello (informal): Сәлем! (sah-lem!)
What language is spoken in Kazakhstan?
Language has always been one of the most controversial issues in the country. While most nations have a common language that transcends ethnic barriers, Kazakhstan does not. The country’s official state language is Kazakh, but it is only spoken by 40% of the residents. Russian, on the other hand, is spoken by almost everyone and is the primary dialect among most groups that make up the diverse Kazakhstan ethnicity.
Additionally, Russian seems more important in the region than the Kazakhstan language, thus making the latter hard to nationalize.
Kazakhs were historically nomadic people, and thus most of their cultural symbols are a reflection of the nomadic way of life. The horse is perhaps the most common animal in Kazakh culture. Rural residents use horses for farming, racing, transportation, and food.
Another common cultural symbol is the Yurt, a mobile house resembling a teepee. Today, the structures are still a common sight around the country but are now only used as murals, tourist crafts, and during celebrations.
What is the primary Kazakhstan religion? Islam is the dominant religion in the country. Historically, the Kazakhs’ nomadic lifestyle allowed for a more permissive and informal application of Islam. However, when the lifestyle changed, and people moved into formal settlements, the generation of young children began to attend madrasahs and maktabs.
These turned them into urban Muslims for a short while before the Soviet Union communists took over in the 1920s. The communists discouraged, and at times suppressed religious life. After the fall of the USSR, Kazakhs resumed their freedom of religion. A quarter of the country is part of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Kazakh clothing is usually made of materials suitable for the country’s extreme weather conditions. Traditional clothes were made using fur, felt, and skin. However, similar to other countries, traditional clothes are gradually being replaced by western-inspired apparel.
It is common to see Kazakhs’ clothes decorated using animal horns, birds’ beaks, and feet. Contemporary Kazakhs usually wear clothes made out of cotton, silk, velvet, brocade, and polyester.
The national cuisine represents Kazakhstan’s traditions, culture, and history. Hospitality has always been one of the Kazakhs’ defining traits. Guests are always treated warmly, which begins by giving them the best seat at the table.
Guests are first offered horse milk (known locally as kumys), ayran (made from cow’s milk), or shubat (made from camel’s milk). This is followed by puffy buns with raisins and cream, which are served with tea. The table is then filled with chunks of lamb, horse meat, and local bread.
The country’s most popular dish is known as besbarmak, which is eaten by hand. Its classic recipe involves boiling a thick broth with various types of meat, such as lamb, beef, camel meat, and horse meat. The broth is eaten over rectangular-shaped pasta.
What race are Kazakhs?
Kazakhs are part Asian and Part Caucasian. Their ancestor hailed from a mixture of Scythian Iranian, Turkic, and Mongol descents. Most people from Kazakhstan look like typical Asian, albeit with some minor differences. The mixed-race aspect has probably been brought about by the large number of ethnic groups residing in the country since the USSR era.
Economy, resources, and government
Here is a look at some of the details regarding the country’s government and economy.
Is Kazakhstan in Asia?
Yes, much of the country’s land is in Central Asia. However, Kazakhstan is part of a few countries whose territories extend to two continents. Part of the country’s western part is classified as part of the European continent. This implies that the country is in Asia as well as Europe.
Kazakhstan has one of the most vibrant economies in Central Asia. Its main export is oil, followed by wheat, textiles, uranium, and livestock. The country became the first nation from the former USSR to repay its IMF debt, seven years before it was due.
The country’s official currency is the Kazakhstani Tenge (symbolized as ₸). It is distributed by The National Bank of Kazakhstan, as is currently equivalent to about $0.00223.
Cost of living
The Kazakhstan cost of living is significantly high compared to other Central Asian countries. However, transport costs are quite low. For example, a 12-hour train ride on the platzkart only costs $10. Accommodation is a bit pricier, with some town charging $25 per night for a basic room. The country’s hospitality industry mostly caters to business travelers.
Kazakhstan government type
The country’s politics takes place in a presidential republic setting. The head of state (president) nominates the head of government (prime minister). The former is elected by popular vote for a five-year term.
The government is structured into three arms, the executive, judiciary, and legislature. The presidency is the highest office of the executive, and the Supreme Court is the highest level in the judiciary. The legislative arm is divided into the 107-member Mazhilis and the 15-member senate.
Famous people from Kazakhstan
Here are some of the notable figures born in the country.
- Alan Buribayev, a bandmaster
- Dmitriy Salamatin, Defence Minister of Ukraine. He lived and worked in Kazakhstan until 1991.
- Dzhamilya Stekhlikova, the first Kazakh minister in Europe
- Marat Bissengaliyev, a famous violin player
- Marat Zhylanbayev, a marathon runner from Ekibastuz
- Oleg Yankovskiy, a People’s Artist of the USSR
- Raushan Kanapyanova, a politician.
- Ruslan Aushev, former president of Ingushetia
- Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a scientist who currently lives and works in the US
- Yevgeniy Nabokov, a professional hockey player
Fascinating Kazakhstan fun facts
Here are some interesting Kazakhstan facts to enlighten you more.
- The country has the world’s largest space launch facility, currently leased by the Russians.
- It is the world’s largest country without a seaport. Kazakhstan size is 2,724,900 square kilometers.
- Nursultan Nazarbayev has been the country’s president since 1991.
- Fermented horse milk is widely regarded as the national drink.
- It is one of the most ethnically diverse countries with around 131 different ethnicities.
- There is a horse sport between men and women, which ends with a kiss (victory for the man) or whipping (victory for the woman).
The Kazakhstan culture is, without a doubt, quite interesting. The unique cuisine, traditions, and history make the country worth visiting. What did you find most exciting about this fantastic landlocked country?