"Kazakhstan--at the very junction of civilizations!" Kazakhstan by WorldPassenger

Kazakhstan Travel Guide: 674 reviews and 1,504 photos

Kazakhstan? Where in the world is that – is probably what many, many people reading this information are thinking. So do not be despondent if you do not know where Kazakhstan is located. I did not when it was first proposed that I visit this country on a business trip. What I found out is that Kazakhstan is a beautiful country; however, it has not yet been discovered by most tourists.

So here are some of the basic facts about Kazakhstan – the world's largest landlocked country and a country of ancient nomads and the very junction of civilizations.

It is the 9th largest country in the world, equal in size to the whole of Western Europe, five times the size of France and half the size of the USA. And Kazakhstan is the second largest state in the Commonwealth of Independent States, behind Russia itself, and is bordered by Russia to the north and west, the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the southwest, Kyrgyzstan to the south and China to the southeast. The whole country has only 16 million inhabitants and about 2 million of those are in the Almaty area.

Kazakhstan has been a crossroad of nomad populations and different cultures for a thousand years so it offers extraordinary evidence of civilizations, history, traditions and natural beauty. At its heart lies a history rooted in antiquity and a culture suffused with tradition. It boasts a nomadic past and warrior legacy stirring up images of Genghis Khan and Mongol Hordes.

The ethnic Kazakhs, who now account for almost half of Kazakhstan's population, were primarily pastoral nomads until the middle of the last century. Nomadic tribes have been living in Kazakhstan since the first century BC. From the fourth century AD through the beginning of the 13th century, the territory of Kazakhstan was ruled by a series of nomadic nations. Following the Mongolian invasion in the early 13th century, administrative districts were established under the Mongol Empire. These nomads lived in yurts - portable, dome-shaped tents of felt made from boiled camel's wool. Even the word "Kazakh", meaning "independent," "free," "wanderer," depicted their nomadic existence long before it became an ethnic connotation. Kazakhstan was conquered by Russia in the 18th century and then became a Soviet Republic in 1936. On Christmas Day, 1991, Kazakhstan became an independent country, the last Soviet republic to do so. The president of Kazakhstan was also its leader under Soviet rule. His tendency has been for a balanced foreign policy but he is very protective and jealous of his power. He has made a great effort to develop his hydrocarbon resources to benefit the country.

Kazakhs have strong ties to family, respect for elders, competitiveness, and a high regard for courtesy to others. These are traits which may well ensure the continued survival of this people in a time of globalization and the reformation of its culture.

The landscape of Kazakhstan is diverse. The northern forest-steppe turns into half-deserts and deserts in the south and towering mountains and thousands of lakes in the southeast. Tourists who enjoy wilderness and remoteness, wide open spaces, lunar landscapes, natural beauty, exotic places and people with a craving for horse sausage will definitely be in their element.

The Republic is a multinational state inhabited by representatives of more than 100 nationalities. The main religions are Islam and Orthodox Christianity, but religious toleration is the norm. Interestingly unique, Kazakhstan is not as religious as other republics of Central Asia, and as a heritage of its domination by the Soviet Union, a great number of Kazakhs are not religious at all.

Kazakhstan is mineral rich. Enterprises involved in extraction and processing of coal, oil, gas, non-ferrous and ferrous metals play a leading role in the national economy.

Some interesting and unique facts about Kazakhstan

Now let me tell you some unique things about Kazakhstan that are often overlooked.

There are more horses in Kazakhstan than women!

Kazakhstan contained the main Soviet test area for nuclear weapons. From 1949 to 1989 there were hundreds of nuclear blasts at the Semipalatinsk site—this highly radioactive range was closed by the Kazakh government in 1991.

Kazakhstan has always had the main launch site for Soviet and Russian space exploration! Russia still uses the Baykonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as the principal site for Soviet space launches. It is the world's oldest and largest spaceport.

Southeast Kazakhstan is the place where apples were first cultivated and from where they spread around the world. The nearby city of Almaty is even named after the Kazakh for apple 'alma'.

The tulip, a recognized symbol of Holland, has its roots in the mountains of Kazakhstan. The beautiful Greyg tulip grows in southeastern Kazakhstan and they are the ancestors of thousands of types of tulips that exist today. At the beginning of the 15th century tulip bulbs were taken from this area to the Ottoman Empire. Later on the flowers appeared in Vienna and then in Amsterdam.

After visiting Kazakhstan myself, I am sure that tourism to Kazakhstan will become more popular over the coming years. In particular the outdoors lovers will be able to appreciate all the wonderful things that Kazakhstan has to offer!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful country; interesting people; friendly
  • Cons:Visa is not easy to get; it is a long flight; English is not common
  • In a nutshell:I enjoyed visiting Astana and Almaty and would enjoy going back.
  • Last visit to Kazakhstan: Mar 2008
  • Intro Updated Jul 20, 2008
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