The Remarkable Nation of Kazakhstan

flag-of-kazakhstanKazakhstan, a country that perhaps many are quick to overlook and forget about or a country that many are passionate about and want to learn more of. I myself represent the latter and will write about a variety of topics surrounding Kazakhstan. Like most of my postings, allow me to give some background. To start, Kazakhstan is a country located in Central Asia as well as Eastern Europe, therefore classifying it as “Transcontinental”. It is also the world’s largest landlocked country and ninth largest (in geographic area) in the world. It shares borders with China, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is a country that gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the last Soviet Republic to do so. Several days later, the Soviet Union itself, the Iron Curtain, fell, was dissolved and was no longer.

Since gaining independence, Kazakhstan has been ruled by only one President; Nursultan Nazarbayev. It is said that he rules with an authoritarian manner, which citizens thoroughly believed would be good for the country to begin. Kazakhstan is also well recognized for it’s oil industry which generates much of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for Central Asia. The country’s original capital was Almaty which is the largest city in Kazakhstan and is located in the south eastern portion of the country. In 1997 however, it was changed to Astana, located in the North. The change in capital was for a variety of reasons but most importantly, President Nazarbayev wanted the economies of the North to benefit from the change and to spread wealth more evenly around the country.

Onto the demographic side of things, Kazakhstan’s most dominant ethnicities are as follows; 65.5% Kazakh, 21.5% Russians, 3.0% Uzbeks and 1.8% Ukrainians. Kazakhstan officially allows freedom of religion however religious leaders who oppose the Kazakh government are suppressed. With this in mind, the most prominent religion in Kazakhstan is Islam with 70.2%, followed by Christianity (predominantly Orthodoxy) at 26.2% and 2.8% Atheist. Language in Kazakhstan is rather unique. Because of its historical connection to Russia, Kazakh and Russian are the most important languages, both being declared “official languages” and both used in everyday life. The language percentage break down is as follows; Kazakh 53.4% (continuously on the rise), Russian 30%, Ukrainian 3.7% and Uzbek 2.5%. The country’s current population is approximately 17 million people and as mentioned, covers a large geographical area.

The land itself is said to be historically inhabited by nomads. The climatic conditions in Kazakhstan are perfect for nomads and their traditional customs. It is said to have cold winters, possibly reaching temperatures such as -45°C, and hot summers with temperatures reaching +30°C. It’s landscapes are said to have  low-lying plains to mountainous regions to many steppes, which consist of flat unforested grass land.

Kazakhstan is also a country that has developed many well known athletes in a variety of sports. To start, Nik Antropov, Anton Khudobin, and my favourite goaltender of all time Evgeni Nabokov all former NHL players who, oddly enough, were all born in Oskemen – must be a great city for hockey. Aside from Ice Hockey, Kazakhstan has produced a wealth of Boxers, such as Bakhtiyar Artayev who won Gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Vassiliy Jirov, nicknamed “The Tiger” won Gold at the 1996 Olympics and Serik Sapiyev, who won the world title in the light welterweight division in 2005 to name a few. Lastly, Kazakhstan is Zulfiya Chinshanlo’s home country, an Olympic weightlifter who won Gold at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Being a flag lover, I will now give you the background of the symbolism and representation of the Kazakh flag. As you can see, the flag consists of a beautiful gold sun with exactly 32 rays around it. Under the sun, you can identify an eagle which, with the sun, is centred on a lovely sky blue colour. It is said that on the far left of the flag, displays a national ornamental pattern known as “koshkar-muiz” which means “the horns of the ram” represented in gold. The blue colour was selected to represent the Turkic peoples, an ethnic group that lived in the area. The flag as a whole is also to represent endless sky and water (the blue), a source of life and energy (the sun), and lastly, power and freedom (the eagle). The flag itself was designed by Shaken Niyazbekov, a Kazakh artist and designer.

I could continue discussing this country. I could discuss its military presence, an in-depth look at its political sphere and also its education system which is something I would love to do but instead I will leave you with five interesting facts about the country.

1. Kazakhstan is home to the “Baikonur Cosmodome”, the world’s first and largest space launch facility.

2. Apples are said to originate from the area, apple forests still exist in the country.

3. Fermented Horse Milk is the national drink

4. Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet Republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2000, seven years before it was due.

5. The word “Stan” is an ancient Persian word meaning “land” or “nation,” and the word “Kazakh” means “wanderer”, “adventurer” or “outlaw.” Therefore, the name Kazakhstan translates to “Land of the Wanderers”.

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About Chameleon

-Multi-Sport Athlete, Coach, Geographer/Cartographer, Linguaphile, Statistician, Vexillologist
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