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Travel Guide > Asia > Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan Travel Guide

  
 
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Kazakhstan is by far the largest of the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union. It has borders with Russia, China, and the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. It is the world's ninth biggest country by size, and it is more than twice the size of the other Central Asian states combined. Its lack of significant historical sites and endless featureless steppe have put many off Kazakhstan, while many still are captivated by the emptiness and mystery of this goliath state. It will be many travellers' first port of call on their Central Asian adventure, and there is much for the intrepid traveller to enjoy. Kazakhstan is the richest country in Central Asia, due to its large oil and natural gas reserves. The country is also said to be the largest landlocked country as well.

Native Kazakhs, a mix of Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes who migrated into the region in the 13th century, were united as a single nation in the middle of 16th century. The area was conquered by Russia in the 18th century, and Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936.

During the launching of the 1950s and 1960s agricultural "Virgin Lands" program, Soviet citizens were encouraged to help cultivate Kazakhstan's northern pastures. This influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities, including the Volga Germans) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Independence has caused many of these newcomers to emigrate.

Current issues include: Developing a cohesive national identity; expanding the development of the country's vast energy resources and exporting them to world markets (an oil pipeline to China has been built; the gas pipeline is under construction); achieving a sustainable economic growth outside the oil, gas, and mining sectors, and strengthening relations with neighboring states and other foreign powers.






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