Kazakhstan is a country in Central Asia. It is south of Russia, with which it shares the most border, as well as west of China, and north of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. In addition, it lies along the Aral Sea and the Caspian Sea, which also forms part of its western boundary. Its lowest point is 433 feet below sea level (-132 m) in a depression, and its highest point is Khan Tangiri Shyngy 22,946.19 feet (6994 m), a mountain on the border shared with Kyrgyzstan.
The capital of Kazakhstan is Astana. Its area is 1,049,155.4 square miles (2,717,300 sq km), making it the ninth largest country in the world, following Russia, Canada, the United States, China, Brazil, Australia, India, and Argentina. The country is divided into 14 provinces, and is the site of the Kara Kum Desert, which is the fourth largest desert in the world.
Known as the Republic of Kazakhstan, the country was once called the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, when it was a member of the USSR. The local name is Qazaqstan Respublikasy. It celebrates its independence from the Soviet Union, achieved on 16 December 1991, as its Independence Day.
The July, 2008 population of Kazakhstan was estimated to be 15,340,533. The population is primarily Kazakh, with a large percentage of Russians, as well as Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Germans, Tatar, Uygur, and other ethnicities. The state language is Kazakh, but Russian is both the official language as well as the language designated for “interethnic communication.” While a large percentage of the population speaks Kazakh, most speak Russian as well.
The overall literacy rate in Kazakhstan is 99.5%, with a half percent difference between the literacy of men and women. There are two main religious affiliations: Muslim and Russian Orthodox, with a far smaller number of Protestants, and a few others. Over half the population is estimated to be in the work force, with half of the labor force devoted to the service sector, about a third in agriculture, and about a fifth in industry.
Kazakhstan’s resources include fossil fuels, minerals, and metals, and its main industries are closely related. The minerals include manganese, phosphates, and sulfur, while the metals include copper, iron ore, lead, titanium, and zinc, as well as gold and silver. In addition, there is 8umanufacturing of agricultural machinery, motors, and construction materials.
The Kazakh diet includes lamb, horse meat, and beef. Dishes include basturma, sautéed, marinated lamb; kuyrdak or kuirdak, a dish made with organ meats; and plov, a rice pilaf with nuts, fruit, and ground lamb. Some foods are associated with religious festivals, for example, Baursaki, a type of fried doughnut, with the feast that ends Ramadan.