Location: Central Asia
Capital City: Astana
Population: 17.5 Million
Government: Presidential republic
Currency: Tenge (KZT)
Main Languages: Kazakh and Russian.
Main Religions: Islam and Christianity
Kazakhstan is a country situated in Central Asia of Eurasian continent. The official name is the “Republic of Kazakhstan”. Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world with total area 2.7 million square kilometres. Kazakhstan has the ninth land area and borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The territory of the country stretches 3,000 km from low reaches of the Volga River in the West to the foothills of the Altai Mountains in the East, 2,000 km from West Siberian Lowland in the North to the Kyzylkum Desert and the Tien Shan mountain range in the South.
Kazakhstan consists of 14 regions and two cities of republican importance – Astana and Almaty. Since 1997 Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan. The word “Astana” means “capital” in the Kazakh language. It is located in the centre of the country on the Yessil River. Astana is the administrative capital with a population over 800 000 people. Former capital Almaty remains the largest cultural and business city with a population over 1.5 million people. Being situated in the south of the country it is also well-known as “south capital”. Almaty is famous for its picturesque nature and considered the homeland of apples. Even the name of city “Almaty” means “apple” (adj.).
Kazakhstan is a multiethnic country (around 120 nations and ethnic groups) with a population over 17.5 million people living in peace and agreement. The majority of the population are ethnic Kazakhs – 63%, then comes Russians – 23%, Uzbeks – 2.85%, Ukrainians -2.08%, Uighurs – 1.4%, Tatars – 1.28%, Germans – 1,11% and others – 4.51%.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991 Kazakhstan got its independence. The Republic of Kazakhstan is a unitary, secular and democratic state with the presidential form of government. The head of state is the president of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The legislative branch of power represented by the Parliament which consists of two Chambers: the Senate and the Majilis.
The official language of the country is Kazakh. Russian is a language of international communication and used in business and administrative spheres. Every citizen freely uses tjheir own native language. Recently, the Government has promoted “trilingual” policy when a person should know Kazakh, Russian and English.
Historical events and religious beliefs influenced on the development of cultures and traditions. Many traditions originate from Tengriism, pagan beliefs about world creation. People believed in Tengri – the sky (father), Umai – the earth (mother) and ancestors’ spirits. Later culture and traditions were changed by the penetration of Muslim religion on the territory of ancient Kazakhstan. This way Kazakh culture is a complex combination of customs and traditions related to stages of a human being’s life: pregnancy, birth, wedding, upbringing a child, hospitality and funerals.
One of the prominent traditions is respect and esteem for elder generation and ancestors. It is a duty of every Kazakh to know his/her ancestors up to the seventh branch. This knowledge helps to know the family tree and avoid the marriage of close relatives. Another important cultural feature is hospitality. From early childhood, children are grown in an atmosphere of hospitality and respect to mother and elder generation. Guests are very welcomed in Kazakhstan and it does not matter whether they have been invited or not. A guest is served the tastiest food and drinks. There is a proverb “If a guest comes, he brings happiness”.
Modern Kazakhstan is a diverse combination of ethnic cultures, languages, music and cuisine. This is especially evident in big cities like Almaty, Astana, and Shymkent, which are inhabited by around or more than a million people of different nations.
Food and Drink
Eating habits in Kazakhstan are strongly influenced by multiethnicity, historical roots and modern trends. In big cities, one can easily find restaurants, cafes with Japanese, Italian, American, Chinese cuisine which is quite popular all over the world. However, in everyday life, people prefer to eat and cook traditional Kazakh food (beshbarmak, kuurdak), Uzbek and Uigur food (plov, lagman, manty), Russian, Ukranian (borsh, pelmeny, varenyky).
The most popular Kazakh food suggested to respected guests is “Beshbarmak” which means “five fingers” as people eat it by hands. Beshbarmak is served on a big round plate with pasta cut into small pieces covered by lamb or horse meat.
A popular drink is tea. Kazakhstani people like drinking tea several times a day. Mostly they drink black tea with milk, sometimes with lemon. There are also traditional Kazakh drinks such as kumis – fermented mare’s milk, shubat – fermented camel’s milk and airan – fermented cow’s milk.
Nowadays urban population of the country is very sport-driven. Plenty of people several times a week go in for sports sections: fitness, cross-fit, yoga, dancing, cycling, boxing, karate and etc. At weekends people prefer to relax and have a fun time with friends or relatives often in various restaurants, cafes, pubs and night-clubs. For those who prefer cultural pursuits, there are plenty of museums, theatres, opera houses and exhibitions.
Another popular activity of all generations in Kazakhstan is going to cinemas and watching new movies with popcorn and soft drinks. A lot of people are fond of singing and going to karaoke. Good karaoke places are of high demand and places there need to be reserved in advance.
In south capital Almaty there is a great variety of activities connected with mountains as the city situated at the foothills of Zailiiskoe Alatau of the Tian Shan. Citizens and tourists love going to mountains for hiking, picnic, climbing and rafting in summer, and in winter for skiing and skating. Shymbulak ski resort and Medeo skating rink are favourite destinations for active holidays.
The climate of Kazakhstan is sharply continental. Weather peculiarities are due to the location of the country deep in Eurasian continent. The territory is landlocked and there are no oceans close to Kazakhstan. As a result, temperature differs significantly between winter and summer, the air is dry, precipitation is low, winters are long and cold and summers are short in the north, and vice versa in the south.
In Kazakhstan, people can enjoy all four seasons: cold winters, warm springs, hot summers and rainy autumns. The coldest month is January, the temperature in the north can be as low as -19 C0, and the south -4 C0. Sometimes, the temperature can fall below -50 C0. In summer the temperature is usually between +19 C0 and +26 C0, quite often it rises up to +35 C0 or +40 C0.
Safety and Security
Kazakhstan is a comparatively safe country. To avoid negative experiences, you should follow the ordinary safety rules. Do not walk alone at night, especially in city outskirts or rural areas. Do not talk or come into contact with strangers who you think may be aggressive. It is recommended to use official taxi services instead of private ones. Criminal incidents usually happen around local nightclubs, bars, cafes, late at night.