Kazakhstan is like making a journey into unexplored territory, for it is one of the least known yet most surprising nations of the post Soviet world. Oil rich and politically stable, multi-ethnic and home to scores of nationalities, Kazakhstan is a Muslim majority secular state with a significant Slavic Orthodox Christian minority. The ninth largest country in the world, its borders, stretching from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Tien-Shan Mountains, which it shares with north-western China, are the product of Stalin’s nationalities policies during the Soviet era. Kazakhstan occupies an ecological zone historically the domain of steppe nomads, the most recent of which were the Kazakhs.
Location and landscape. Kazakhstan is located in the center of the Eurasian continent. Its territory is as large as 2 million 724,9 thousand square kilometers and accordingly it occupies the ninth place in the world by its size. In the North and West the republic has common borders with Russia - 7 591 km (the longest continuous overland border in the world), in the East with China - 1 783 km, in the South with Kyrgyzstan - 1 242 km, with Uzbekistan - 2 351 km and with Turkmenistan - 426 km. The total length of overland borders - 13 200 km. Besides that, there are two midland seas in its territory – the Caspian and Aral. Kazakhstan is the largest country in the world that has no direct access to the World ocean.
Population. Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic country, home to people of over 100 nationalities. The population of Kazakhstan as of June 1, 2012 was 16 million 760 thousand people. According to the national census the ethnic structure of the Kazakhstan society by 2009 looks as follows: Kazakhs - 63,07 %, Russians - 23,70 %, Uzbeks - 2,85 %, Ukrainians - 2,08 %, Uygurs - 1,40 %, Tatars - 1,28 %, Germans - 1,11 %, Others - 4,51 %.
Governance. Independence and sovereignty was proclaimed in 1991. Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic with strong presidency. The head of state is the President Nursultan Nazarbayev, first elected in 1991, then re-elected in 1995 and 1999. The head of the Government is Prime Minister Kassymzhomart Tokaev. The bicameral Parliament comprises the upper house (Senate) and the lower house (Majilis). The higher judicial bodies are the Supreme Court and Constitutional Council.
Languages. The official state language is Kazakh, a Turkic language closely related to Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Turkish. Russian is the language of inter-ethnic communication, widely spoken in urban areas, whereas people from rural regions tend to speak more Kazakh. English is used by international organizations and the foreign business community in Kazakhstan. Uygur, Korean and other ethnic minorities speak their national regional languages and dialects.
Religion. Kazakhstan is officially a secular state, but Sunni Islam is the major religion. The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant Christian denomination. There are also Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish communities. The Kazakhs do not express their religious feelings fervently. Kazakhstan is on the periphery of the Muslim world and a meeting point of Russian, Chinese and Central Asian civilizations. Islam plays a minor role in state policy and there are no significant Islamic political organizations in the country. Islam 70.2%, Orthodoxy 23.9%, Atheism 2.8%, Other Christian 2.3%, Undeclared 0.5%, Others 0.3%.
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