Kazakhstan is in central Asia. It borders Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is the ninth largest country in the world and roughly the size of Western Europe or four times the size of Texas.
Russia had been expanding into Kazakhstan in various ways since the 1700’s. In 1920, Kazakhstan officially became part of Russia (and later the USSR). It regained it’s independence in 1991.
The USSR’s space program was in Kazakhstan. Russia’s space program still is! Russia leases and administrates 2300 square miles in Kazakhstan, including the Baikonur Cosmodrome and the city of Baikonur.
Kazakhstan has some very significant oil and gas reserves. The influx of capital has enabled Kazakhstan to build a new capital city, Astana. The construction in Astana has been compared to Dubai. (There are currently 1700 cranes in operation in Astana.) We probably won’t see Astana since most Western airlines still fly into the old capital, Almaty.
The original Kazakh people are of Asian descent. Many Caucasian Russians moved to (or were moved to) Kazakhstan while it was part of the USSR. Most children adopted from Kazakhstan are Asian or mixed. (“Kazakhstani” is used to refer to citizens of Kazakhstan. “Kazakhs” are descendants of the ethnic group who may live in Kazakhstan or elsewhere.)
Regarding Borat: I thought the movie was hilarious. But people from Kazakhstan do not look or act like Borat! The “Kazakhstan scenes” were not filmed there and do not look like Kazakhstan. I do worry that some people might not have understood that the film was making fun of American ignorance not Kazakhstanis.
- Wikipedia entry.
- Encyclopædia Britannica entry.
- The CIA World Factbook entry.
- Wikitravel entry.
- Lonely Planet overview.
- Lots of maps.
- Kazakhstan’s embassy to the U.S.
- A good article on the culture.
- Time Out Almaty!! (Russian) (in google-translated English)
- Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared
- A very interesting article comparing the history of the arid steppe of Kazakhstan, specifically Karaganda, to the American high plains, specifically Billings, Montana.