A huge country covering a territory equivalent to the whole of Western Europe, Kazakhstan has vast mineral resources and enormous economic potential. The varied landscape stretches from the mountainous, heavily populated regions of the east to the sparsely populated, energy-rich lowlands in the west, and from the industrialised north, with its Siberian climate and terrain, through the arid, empty steppes of the centre, to the fertile south.
Kazakhstan Tourist Attractions
Ethnically, the country is as diverse, with the Kazakhs making up over half the population, the Russians comprising just over a quarter, and smaller minorities of Ukrainians, Germans, Chechens, Kurds, Koreans and Central Asian ethnic groups accounting for the rest. These groups generally live in harmony, though ethnic Russians resent the lack of dual citizenship and having to pass a Kazakhstan language test in order to work for government or state bodies. Astana: Oil money is driving the new capital's development. Canada
Since independence, there has been major foreign investment in the Caspian oil sector. Oil development has brought rapid economic growth.
An oil pipeline linking the Tengiz oil field in western Kazakhstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk opened in 2001.
There are plans to escalate oil exports by linking Kazakh resources to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which began operating in summer 2005. A pipeline to China was opened in late 2005 and other routes are also being explored.
Nevertheless, poverty is still widespread and Kazakhstan continues to face major economic challenges, particularly with unemployment and inflation.
At the same time, an elite group of people have grown very rich since independence through privatization and other business deals which opposition figures allege to have been corrupt. The people of Kazakhstan also have to live with the aftermath of Soviet-era nuclear testing and toxic waste dumping and with increasing drug addiction and a growing incidence of HIV/Aids.
Inefficient irrigation projects have led to severe shrinkage of the heavily polluted Aral Sea.
Full name: Republic of Kazakhstan
Population: 15.4 million (UN, 2007)
Largest city: Almaty
Area: 2.7 million sq km (1 million sq miles)
Major languages: Kazakh, Russian
Major religions: Islam, Christianity
Life expectancy: 62 years (men), 72 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Kazakh tenge = 100 tiyn
Main exports: Oil, uranium, ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery, chemicals, grain, wool, meat, coal
GNI per capita: US $2,930 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .kz
International dialling code: +7