Kazakhstan (also spelled Kazakstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a country in Eurasia ranked as the ninth largest country in the world. It is also the world's largest landlocked country. Its territory of 2,727,300 km² is greater than Western Europe. It is neighboured clockwise from the north by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and also borders on a significant part of the Caspian Sea. The capital moved in 1997 to Astana from Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city.
Vast in size, the terrain of Kazakhstan ranges from flatlands, steppes, taigas, rock-canyons, hills, deltas, and snow-capped mountains to deserts. With 16.4 million people (2009 census), Kazakhstan has the 62nd largest population in the world, though its population density is less than 6 people per square kilometre (15 per sq. mi.).
For most of its history the territory of modern-day Kazakhstan has been inhabited by nomadic tribes. By the 16th century the Kazakhs emerged as a distinct group, divided into three hordes. The Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century all of Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganised several times before becoming the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936, a part of the USSR. During the 20th century, Kazakhstan was the site of major Soviet projects, including Khrushchev's Virgin Lands campaign, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, and the Semipalatinsk "Polygon", the USSR's primary nuclear weapon testing site.
Kazakhstan declared itself an independent country on December 16, 1991, the last Soviet republic to do so. Its communist-era leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, became the country's new president. Since independence, Kazakhstan has pursued a balanced foreign policy and worked to develop its economy, especially its hydrocarbon industry. While the country's economic outlook is improving, President Nazarbayev maintains strict control over the country's politics. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan's international prestige is building. It is now considered to be the dominant state in Central Asia. The country is a member of many international organizations, including the United Nations, NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. In 2010, Kazakhstan is chairing the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Kazakhstan is ethnically and culturally diverse, in part due to mass deportations of many ethnic groups to the country during Stalin's rule. Kazakhs are the largest group. Kazakhstan has 131 nationalities including Kazakh, Russian, Ukrainian, Uzbek and Tatar. It has a population of 16.4 million, of whom around 67% percent are Kazakhs.
Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion, and many different beliefs are represented in the country. Islam is the primary religion. The Kazakh language is the state language, while Russian is also officially used as an "equal" language (to Kazakh) in Kazakhstan's institutions.
Politics Kazakhstan is a presidential republic. The president is Nursultan Nazarbayev. The president also is the commander in chief of the armed forces and may veto legislation that has been passed by the Parliament. The prime minister chairs the Cabinet of Ministers and serves as Kazakhstan's head of government. There are three deputy prime ministers and 16 ministers in the Cabinet. Karim Massimov has served as the Prime Minister since January 10, 2007.
Kazakhstan has a bicameral Parliament, made up of the lower house (the Majilis) and upper house (the Senate). Single mandate districts popularly elect 67 seats in the Majilis; there also are ten members elected by party-list vote rather than by single mandate districts. The Senate has 39 members. Two senators are selected by each of the elected assemblies (Maslikhats) of Kazakhstan's 16 principal administrative divisions (14 provinces, plus the cities of Astana and Almaty). The president appoints the remaining seven senators. Majilis deputies and the government both have the right of legislative initiative, though the government proposes most legislation considered by the Parliament.
Kazakhstan is divided into 14 provinces. The provinces are subdivided into districts .Each province is headed by an Akim (provincial governor) appointed by the president. Municipal Akims are appointed by province Akims. The Government of Kazakhstan transferred its capital from Almaty to Astana on December 10, 1997
- Almaty and Astana cities have the status of State importance and do not relate to any province.
- Baikonur city has a special status because it is currently being leased to Russia with Baikonur cosmodrome until 2050.
Buoyed by high world crude oil prices, GDP growth figures were in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005: 9.8%, 13.2%, 9.5%, 9.2%, 9.4%, and 9.2%, respectively. Other major exports of Kazakhstan include wheat, textiles, and livestock. Kazakhstan forecasts that it will become the world's leading exporter of uranium by the year 2010.
Its principal challenge since 2002 has been to manage strong foreign currency inflows without sparking inflation. Since that time, inflation has not been under strict control, registering 6.6% in 2002, 6.8% in 2003, and 6.4% in 2004.
In 2000 Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 7 years ahead of schedule. In March 2002, the U.S. Department of Commerce granted Kazakhstan market economy status under U.S. trade law. This change in status recognized substantive market economy reforms in the areas of currency convertibility, wage rate determination, openness to foreign investment, and government control over the means of production and allocation of resources.
Hotel DostykIn September 2002 Kazakhstan became the first country in the CIS to receive an investment-grade credit rating from a major international credit rating agency. As of late December 2003, Kazakhstan's gross foreign debt was about $22.9 billion. Total governmental debt was $4.2 billion. This amounts to 14% of GDP. There has been a noticeable reduction in the ratio of debt to GDP observed in past years; the ratio of total governmental debt to GDP in 2000 was 21.7%, in 2001 it was 17.5%, and in 2002 it was 15.4%.
The upturn in economic growth, combined with the results of earlier tax and financial sector reforms, has dramatically improved government finances from the 1999 budget deficit level of 3.5% of GDP to a deficit of 1.2% of GDP in 2003. Government revenues grew from 19.8% of GDP in 1999 to 22.6% of GDP in 2001, but decreased to 16.2% of GDP in 2003. In 2000, Kazakhstan adopted a new tax code in an effort to consolidate these gains.
On November 29, 2003 the Law on Changes to Tax Code was adopted, which reduced tax rates. The value added tax fell from 16% to 15%, the social tax from 21% to 20%, and the personal income tax from 30% to 20%. (On July 7, 2006 the personal income tax was reduced even further to a flat rate of 5% for personal income in the form of dividends and 10% for other personal income.) Kazakhstan furthered its reforms by adopting a new land code on June 20, 2003, and a new customs code on April 5, 2003.
Energy is the leading economic sector. Production of crude oil and natural gas condensate in Kazakhstan amounted to 51.2 million tons in 2003, which was 8.6% more than in 2002. Kazakhstan raised oil and gas condensate exports to 44.3 million tons in 2003, 13% higher than in 2002. Gas production in Kazakhstan in 2003 amounted to 13.9 billion cubic meters (491 billion cu. ft), up 22.7% compared to 2002, including natural gas production of 7.3 billion cubic meters (258 billion cu. ft);
Kazakhstan holds about 4 billion tons of proven recoverable oil reserves and 2,000 cubic kilometers (480 cu mi) of gas. Industry analysts believe that planned expansion of oil production, coupled with the development of new fields, will enable the country to produce as much as 3 million barrels (477,000 m³) per day by 2015, lifting Kazakhstan into the ranks of the world's top 10 oil-producing nations. Kazakhstan's 2003 oil exports were valued at more than $7 billion, representing 65% of overall exports and 24% of the GDP. Major oil and gas fields and their recoverable oil reserves are Tengiz with 7 billion barrels (1.1 km³); Karachaganak with 8 billion barrels (1.3 km³) and 1,350 km³ of natural gas); and Kashagan with 7 to 9 billion barrels (1.1 to 1.4 km³).
The Kazakhstani banking system is developing rapidly. The banking system's capitalization now exceeds $1 billion. The National Bank has introduced deposit insurance in its campaign to strengthen the banking sector. Several major foreign banks have branches in Kazakhstan, including RBS, Citibank, and HSBC. Raiffeisen Zentralbank and UniCredit have both recently entered the Kazakhstan's financial services market through acquisitions and stake-building.
Despite the strength of Kazakhstan's economy for most of the first decade of the 21st century, the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 has exposed some central weaknesses in the country's economy. The year on year growth of Kazakhstan's GDP dropped 19.81% in 2008. Four of the major banks were rescued by the government at the end of 2008 and real estate prices have sharply dropped.
Kazakhstan has stable relationships with all of its neighbors. Kazakhstan is also a member of the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It is an active participant in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Partnership for Peace program.
Kazakhstan is also a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Economic Cooperation Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The nations of Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan established the Eurasian Economic Community in 2000 to re-energize earlier efforts at harmonizing trade tariffs and the creation of a free trade zone under a customs union. On December 1, 2007, it was revealed that Kazakhstan has been chosen to chair OSCE for the year 2010.