Fast Facts

Population:
15,079,000
Capital:
Astana; 332,000
Area:
2,717,300 square kilometers (1,049,155 square miles)
Language:
Kazakh (Qazaq), Russian
Religion:
Muslim, Russian Orthodox
Currency:
Tenge
Life Expectancy:
66
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $7,200
Literacy Percent:
98
Flag: Kazakhstan
Map: Kazakhstan

Stretching across Central Asia, Kazakhstan is a landlocked and mostly dry land. Flat in the west, it rises to high mountains in the east. More than a hundred ethnic groups live in Kazakhstan; 28 percent of the population is Russian—most live in the north near the Russian border. Second in size only to Russia among the former Soviet Republics, Kazakhstan contained the main Soviet test area for nuclear weapons. From 1949 to 1989 there were 456 nuclear blasts at the Semipalatinsk site, 116 in the air—this highly radioactive range was closed by the Kazakh government in 1991. Russia still uses the Baykonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the principal site for Soviet space launches and the world's oldest and largest spaceport.

In the 15th century the Kazakhs emerged as nomadic stock herders of the steppe, speaking a Turkic language and practicing Islam. Imperial Russia colonized the region in the 19th century. An estimated one million Kazakhs died during Soviet campaigns in the 1930s to forcibly settle the nomads. The nation confronts a legacy of environmental abuse left behind by the Soviets, who dictated industrial development in this mineral-rich republic. Kazakhstan faces ecological disaster in the Aral Sea area and is trying to preserve the northern part of the sea in order to prevent desertification. The country is enjoying strong economic growth because of its large oil, gas, and mineral reserves.

ECONOMY

  • Industry: Oil, coal, iron ore, manganese, chromite, lead, zinc, copper, titanium
  • Agriculture: Grain (mostly spring wheat), cotton; livestock
  • Exports: Oil and oil products, ferrous metals, chemicals, machinery, grain

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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