(pronounced "nor-sool-TAN nah-zahr-BAI-eff")
"The path from totalitarianism to democracy lies through enlightened authoritarianism."
The Republic of Kazakhstan is located in the heart of the Eurasian landmass. Covering 2.7 million sq km (1.05 million sq mi), the land area is 12% of the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan is the second largest of the former Soviet republics, after the Russian Federation. It is about four times the size of Texas.
Kazakhstan is one of the most populous of the Central Asian states, with an estimated population of 16,741,519 as of July 2002. In 1995, the Kazakh legislature endorsed moving the nation's administrative capital to a windswept small town in northern Kazakhstan, renamed Astana, in a bid to strengthen control over areas heavily populated by ethnic Russians. According to the 1999 census, ethnic Russians constitute 30% of the population and Kazakhs (Qazaks)53.4%. There are more than 100 other small ethnic communities. Kazakhs are divided into tribes called hordes. The Great Horde occupies southeastern Kazakhstan; the Middle Horde occupies the center and north of the country; the Little Horde can be found in the west. Horde identity has been reasserting itself, with the Great Horde dominating the government. Because of earlier immigration by Russians, the death of Kazakhs during the collectivization and purges of the Soviets, and the deportation of nationals to Kazakhstan under Soviet rule, Kazakhs became an ethnic minority. Recent immigration from Mongolia and elsewhere, a relatively high birthrate, and the departure of other ethnic groups have restored the Kazakhs as a majority of the population. Kazakhs are traditionally Sunni Muslims while the Russians tend to be Orthodox Christians. Official languages for government business include Kazakh (a Turkic language) and Russian, though Russian is increasingly discouraged. Few ethnic Russians have endeavored to learn Kazakh, although many have lived in the region for several generations. Kazakh-Russian ethnic tensions have not yet grown into broader conflict, but a more nationalistic Kazakh government could fuel separatism in the Russian-dominated north.
Kazakhstan introduced its own currency, the tenge, in 1993. Gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated in 2001 at US $98.1 billion, and per capita GDP at about US $5,900. There is widespread poverty, affecting approximately 25% of the population as of 2001.
Office of the President
Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan