Kazakhstan was one of the most important Union
republics during the Soviet era (1920–1991), with a
large part of the Soviet Nuclear Arsenal. Extensive oil
resources created a good economic development and rising
standard of living for many Kazakhs until 2015. The
country was ruled by the authoritarian president
Nursultan Nazarbayev from independence from 1991 to
2019, when his hand-picked successor Kasym-Zyomart
Tokayev took over. However, Nazarbayev has maintained a
great political influence.
Brief profiles of Kazakhstan, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Kazakhstan is on the surface the ninth
largest country in the world, or just over six times as
large as Sweden. It is located in the inland of Asia and
has a 700 km long border with Russia in the north.
Kazakhstan consists largely of desert and steppe. The
country is located in the temperate zone and has a
distinct continental climate: quite dry with large
temperature differences between day and night and
between summer and winter.
Kazakhstan also borders China and the three Central
Asian neighboring republics of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan
and Turkmenistan. Three large saltwater lakes are
located wholly or partly in Kazakhstan: the Caspian Sea,
the Aral Sea and Lake Balchasj.
From the Caspian Sea to the west, sparsely populated
lowlands extend. In the northwest lies the Kirgizstäppen.
Intensive cultivation during the 1950s has led to some
areas on the Kyrgyz steppe now lacking vegetation. In
the north, the country consists of grassy highlands,
while sandy deserts spread out in the south. To the
east, Kazakhstan rises to a plateau of gently rolling
grassy steppes. Here and there are individual forest
The farthest to the east is the Altaj Mountains, and
in the southeast is the Tien Shan mountain range. At the
border with Kyrgyzstan in the south-east is the Khan
Tengri mountain peak, which reaches over 7,000 meters
above sea level if the glacier ice is included at the
top. In the mountains are wolf, bear and snow leopard.
Wildlife on the steppes is more sparse, but in some
places there is the rare steppe antelope.
The soils of Kazakhstan are often nutrient-poor and
muddy with a naturally high salt content that is not
infrequently diluted by irrigation. When it rains, the
hard surface layer dissolves to clay. Where hills and
hillsides are covered by such soil, heavy landslides can
occur during rain or snowmelt.
In the southwest, the country has a coast towards the
Caspian Sea, the world's largest lake. To the south, the
border with Uzbekistan crosses the Aral Sea. In the
early 1960s, the Aral Sea was the world's fourth largest
lake, but large parts are now dry due to one of the
world's worst environmental disasters (see Natural
Resources, Energy and the Environment). Remaining in
Kazakhstan is Lake Lilla Aral, which shows signs of
In northern Kazakhstan, winter lasts from late
October to mid-April. There, the average daily
temperature in January is –18 degrees to –3 in the
south. In July, the average temperature is 20 degrees to
the north and 28 to 30 degrees to the south. The climate
is colder and the rainfall richer at higher altitudes.
In all seasons, strong, dry steep winds can occur,
especially in the northern, western and central parts of
FACTS - GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
2 717 300 km2 (2018)
Swedish + 4-5 hours
Adjacent country (s)
Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan
Capital with number of inhabitants
Nursultan (formerly Astana) 1,078,000 (official
estimate 2019) 1
Other major cities
Almaty 1,900,000, Symmetric 1,000,000, Qaraghandy
498,000, Aqtöbe 488,000 (official estimate 2019)
Khan Tengri (south-east, 7,010 m asl)
Lake Balchasj and part of the Caspian Sea and the
Average Precipitation / month
Astana 50 mm (July), 15 mm (Feb)
Average / day
Astana 20 °C (July), –18 °C (Jan)
- On March 20, 2019, Astana was renamed
Nursultan to honor Nursultan Nazarbayev, who
resigned as president a day earlier.Sources
Twelve people are sentenced to prison for involvement in the assault in
Aqtöbe (see April 2011).
At least 15 protesters are killed in Shanghai
At least 15 protesters are shot dead when police enter to clear the square in
Zhangözen (see May 2011). Protesters set fire to several
buildings in the city, including one of the oil companies' offices. The
government faces a state of emergency and Nazarbayev dismisses several
executives at the oil companies concerned, including his son-in-law Timur
Parliamentary elections are announced in advance
Nazarbayev dissolves parliament and announces parliamentary elections six
months in advance, in January 2012. 53 MEPs have signed a request to have the
election postponed so that Parliament can then devote itself to the aftermath of
the euro crisis. Otherwise, the election would have been held in August.
Islamists are suspected of explosions
Two explosions that occur in Atyrau are reported to require a life. A
militant Islamist group that calls itself Jund al-Khilafah (Caliphate's
soldiers) says they are behind the deed and states that they want to protest a
new law forcing religious organizations to register (see Religion).
The ruling party wins Senate elections
An electoral assembly conducts the election of 16 senators. All places go to
governing the Fatherland.
Struggles with suspected Islamists
Nine suspected Islamists and three police officers die in several violent
clashes in Aqtöbe County. Three people also die when an explosive charge
New partial alliance is formed
The Communist Party, together with Forward (Alga) and several individual
organizations, form a new political group, the People's Front.
Striking oil workers are dismissed
Oil workers in the city of Zhanganga in the west go on strike for higher
wages. About a thousand workers are laid off and their lawyers are imprisoned.
Strict workers occupy the city's central square.
Suspected suicide in Aqtöbe
A man triggers an explosive charge in the city of Aqtöbe in the northwest in
what is suspected to be Kazakhstan's first suicide attack.
Almost everyone votes on the president
Nazarbayev wins the presidential election by almost 96 percent of the vote
after basically calling on the entire opposition to boycott. The turnout is
reported to be just over 95 percent.
Presidential elections must be held in advance
As a result of a decision in the Constitutional Court (see January
2011), Nazarbayev announces presidential elections early in April 2011.
The President stops attempts to extend his term
President Nazarbayev vetoes Parliament's decision to try to extend his
mandate until 2020 (see December 2010).