The Republic of Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country, and the ninth largest country in the world, with an area of 2,724,900 square kilometres (1,052,100 square miles). The country is largely located in Asia but the most western parts are located in Europe. Kazakhstan generates 60% of the region’s GDP, primarily through its oil/gas industry. It also has vast mineral resources.
Kazakhstan shares its borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea. Its terrain includes flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts. In 2018, it was estimated that the country has a population of 18.3 million people. The country’s largest city is Almaty but the capital was moved from here to Astana in 1997.
Kazakhstan only came into existence in the 1920s under the Soviet Regime. Before then, the great bulk of the territory was the domain of nomadic animal herders that stretched right across the Eurasian steppe.
By 500 BCE southern Kazakhstan was inhabited by the Saka, part of the vast network of nomadic Scythian cultures that stretched across the steppes from the Altay to Ukraine. The Saka left many burial mounds, containing hoards of gold jewellery. Most splendid of all is the ‘Golden Man’, a warrior’s costume that has become a Kazakhstan national symbol.
From 200 BCE the Huns, followed by various Turkic peoples, arrived from what are now Mongolia and northern China. The Karakhanid Turks from the southern Kazakh steppe ousted the Samanids in the late 10th century, taking up the Samanids’ settled ways (and Islam) and constructing some of Kazakhstan’s earliest surviving buildings in and around Taraz.
In the 13th century, the territory joined the Mongolian Empire under Genghis Khan. By the 16th century, the Kazakh emerged as a distinct ruling group. The Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century, they nominally ruled the area.