Kazakhstan is the second largest country in the successor states of the USSR after the Russian Federation. It is five times the size of France. The state is located in Central Asia between the Caspian Sea in the west and China and Russia in the east. Its land area consists mainly of plains and low plateaus. In the south the high mountain range of the Tienschan extends with 7439 m (Pik Pobeda). The most important inland waters are the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea, the Balkhash Sea and the Saissonsee.
Kazakhstan’s climate is extremely continental and dry. The winters are cold and with little snow, the summers are hot and dry. The annual precipitation decreases from the north with about 400 mm to less than 100 mm to the south. In the high mountains they reach values of around 1000 mm. Forest steppe covers the north of the country. The real steppe zone joins it. It takes up about a third of the country’s area. It goes over semi-desert into full desert, which occupies most of Kazakhstan.
With 48%, the Kazakhs are the largest population group in the country, followed by Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Uzbeks and Tatars. The country’s urbanization is advanced. Around two thirds of the population now live in cities.
Short for KAZ on ABBREVIATIONFINDER.ORG, Kazakhstan is a developing country characterized by mining and industry. It is rich in natural resources. The extraction of crude oil, natural gas as well as lignite and hard coal are particularly important. Extensive heavy industry was created and promoted in Soviet times. The Baikonur space center has been continued as a joint project of the CIS since 1991.
The country’s name is derived from the word “Kazakh”, which means “steppe rider” or “independent” in the Turkic language. The capital of the country is Astana.
Important data about the country
|6 residents / km²
|Growth of population:
|-0.4% / year
|Form of government:
|Kazakh, Russian, minority languages
|Muslim 50%, Christian 50%
|Arable land 7%, forest 2%, pasture land 30% (remainder: non-usable semi-deserts and deserts)
(share of employees)
|Agriculture 8%, industry 38%, services 54%
|Fuels and oil products, ferrous metals, copper and copper products, chemicals
|Gross domestic product:
(share of economic sectors)
|$ 29,749 million (2003)
|Gross National Product:
|US $ 1,780 / resident (2003)
The west-east extension of Kazakhstan extends from the lowlands of the lower Volga and the Caspian Sea in the west over 3000 km to the Altai Mountains in the east. From the West Siberian lowlands in the north it stretches over 1700 km to the Aral Sea, the Kyzylkum and the Tienschan Mountains in the south. Kazakhstan consists mainly of plains and low plateaus.
The Mugodscharberge in the north-west of the country reach greater heights with 675 m, elevations in the central part of the Kazakh threshold (1566 m) and in the Northern Hunger Steppe.
In the east and south-east of Kazakhstan, in the border area with China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the high mountain range of the Tienschan extends with heights of up to 7439 m.
Great lakes are located in the south and east of the country. The border to Uzbekistan runs through the Aral Sea, which is only 30,900 km² in size and is threatened by dehydration (Fig. 2). Rivers that have their source in the Tienschan feed Lake Balkhash in the southeast. Its extent varies between 17,000 and 22,000 km² depending on the water supply.
The Saissonsee, which was created by the damming of the black Irtysh, is about half the size. The most important of the inland waters in which Kazakhstan has a share is the Caspian Sea, which is the largest lake on earth with around 400,000 km² today. The Urals flow through the west of the country.
Climate and vegetation
Kazakhstan is characterized by an extremely continental, dry climate. The winters are cold and with little snow. A short spring is followed by long, hot and dry summers. The January mean is around –18 °C in the north and –3 °C in the south. The July mean is 19 °C in the north and up to 30 °C in the south. Annual rainfall decreases from north to south. The humid extreme north has an annual average of around 400 mm, while in the south the values drop to less than 100 mm per year. In the high mountains, the annual rainfall increases in some cases to over 1000 mm (Fig. 3).
The vegetation becomes more sparse from north to south. In the far north, Kazakhstan has a share in Russia’s forest-steppe belt. The real one closes to the south – Grass step zone, which covers about a third of the country’s area. It turns into semi-desert and finally into full desert with no vegetation, which takes up the largest area of Kazakhstan.
Strong winds in the steppes and deserts lead to significant soil erosion.
The official language is Kazakh. It belongs to the Turkic languages. However, it is only dominated by 40% of the population. The most important lingua franca in the country is therefore Russian.
Between 1990 and 1995 the gross domestic product fell by 11% annually. It was not until 1996 that the economy recorded slight growth for the first time since independence in 1990. The prospects for Kazakhstan’s economy are good. Kazakhstan is a developing country characterized by mining and industry. The country is rich in natural resources. The oil deposits on the Caspian Sea have been exploited since 1960. Newly discovered oil and gas reserves on the north coast are being intensively extracted. Kazakhstan is rich in fuels thanks to its coal and lignite stores. After Australia, Kazakhstan has the largest uranium ore reserves in the world.
In addition, copper, tin, lead and iron ores as well as bauxite, gold, silver and phosphorites are mined.
Industrialization was already being promoted in Soviet times. An extensive heavy industry includes iron and non-ferrous metal smelting, an aluminum plant, agricultural and heavy engineering, defense industry, oil processing and chemical industry.
The Baikonur space center has been continued as a joint project of the CIS since 1991.
Traditional industries are food, textile and leather industries. The most important trading partners are Russia and the Central Asian republics.
Due to the unfavorable climatic conditions, only a small part of the land area can be used for agriculture. Almost 25% of employees work in agriculture. The north of Kazakhstan is part of the black earth belt and is very fertile. However, in many regions only irrigated agriculture is possible. Wheat
cultivation is the focus of arable farming. Forage crops, sunflowers, sugar beets, cotton, tobacco, vegetables and flax are also grown. Sheep, camel and goat breeding are practiced in the desert steppes.
The country’s transport network is relatively well developed with road and rail traffic, but the south of the country is poorly developed. In contrast, the shipping connections over the Caspian Sea, Lake Balkhash and on the Urals and Irtysh rivers are important. Almaty has an international airport.
1st century BC Chr.: East Iranian nomad tribes immigrate to the steppe areas of Kazakhstan.
10th century: The mighty Kazakhanid Empire emerges. It covers large parts of what is now Kazakhstan.
1219–1221: The Mongol ruler DSCHINGIS-KHAN conquers Kazakhstan.
until the end of the 18th century: Mongol Empire
1758: The Chinese Empire destroys the Western Mongolian Federation.
1822: Russia annexes the country as a settlement colony.
1920: After the First World War, the Soviets found the Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Republic, which was later renamed the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Republic.
1936: It becomes a Union republic.
since about 1930: settlement of Russian farmers. Industrialization of the country. Irrigation projects, reclamation, nuclear tests
October 25, 1990: Kazakhstan declares its sovereignty within the USSR.
December 16, 1991: Declaration of independence
December 21, 1991: Joins the CIS