Factsheet on Kazakhstan

General

  • Kazakhstan has been independent since 1991. Soon after independence, Kazakhstan voluntarily renounced the world’s fourth biggest nuclear arsenal, which it inherited from the Soviet Union.
  • Kazakhstan is the 9th largest and the biggest land-locked country in the world, covering an area the size of Western Europe but with a population of just 17 million people.
  • Kazakhstan is among the most diverse countries on earth, with over 130 different ethnic groups living here. Among other things, this is reflected in the wide variety of food available in Kazakhstan, including Korean pickled vegetables, Russian borsht, Chinese dumplings and Kazakh noodles.
  • Kazakhstan is home to the world’s largest and oldest space launch facility. The Baikonur Cosmodrome, established in 1955, launched the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into space in 1961. And since NASA ended its space shuttle programme in 2011, Baikonur became the sole launch site for all manned missions to the International Space Station.
  • Astana has been the capital since 10 December 1997. It includes landmarks designed by the British architect Lord Norman Foster, such as the Palace of Peace and Harmony (the Pyramid) and a shopping mall inside the biggest tent in the world, the Khan Shatyr.
  • Kazakhstan is home to some of the rarest animals in the world, including the snow leopard, the Caspian seal and the Saiga. Huge efforts are being made to save the Saiga, one of Central Asia’s strangest looking creatures. The numbers roaming the Kazakh steppe have doubled in less than five years.
  • Approximately 70% of Kazakhstan’s population are considered followers of Islam. Both Islam and Orthodox Christianity, as well as other religions, have enjoyed a revival since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan is a secular state, however, and a lot of citizens share secularist worldview.
  • In recent years Kazakhstan has achieved great sporting success, particularly in weight-lifting, boxing, wrestling and cycling. In London’s 2012 Olympics it unexpectedly came 12th in the medals table.
  • As a country of cold climate, Kazakhstan has a strong tradition of winter sports, with Olympic champions and medallists in cross-country skiing, speed skating, and figure skating. The nation’s largest city of Almaty is shortlisted as a candidate to hold the Winter Olympic Games in 2022, with the decision on its competition with Beijing coming on July 31, 2015 at the IOC congress in Malaysia.

Economy and sustainable development

  • Since independence, GDP has increased 16 fold. According to the International Monetary Fund, Kazakhstan ranks in the top 10 fastest growing countries.
  • Kazakhstan avoided the global recession. The government expects GDP to grow by 4-5% this year, with per capita GDP rising to $15,000. Unemployment is low and overall inequality has been declining since independence.
  • Kazakhstan is a regional leader in terms of economic reform, openness to international trade, investment and political stability. It is the leading recipient of foreign direct investment per capita among the post-Soviet countries, with around $200 billion accumulated since early 1990s.
  • As of January 1, 2015, Kazakhstan’s gold and foreign currency reserves amounted to $102.5 billion, including $73.6 billion in the National Fund, a fund established in 2000 to accumulate excess revenues from the extractive industries.
  • Kazakhstan is known for the richness of its resources; it is among the top twenty producers of oil, the fifth biggest exporter of wheat – and the biggest exporter of uranium.
  • Kazakhstan is investing its resource wealth into health and education. According to the UN Education Index measuring educational attainment, Kazakhstanis ranked 21st out of 176 countries, ahead of countries such as the UK, Germany, Italy, Japan and Switzerland.
  • Kazakhstan is strongly committed to sustainable development. The country is diversifying its energy resources by investing in wind and solar power. It has one of the highest potentials for wind power in the world.
  • Kazakhstan aims to produce 50% of its energy from renewable resources by 2050. The total investment needed to implement this programme annually will average US$3.2 billion, roughly 1% of annual output every year. Astana is hosting EXPO 2017, which will have the theme, “Future Energy.”
  • Kazakhstan is committed to supporting and maintaining its beautiful landscapes and biodiversity. There are 106 protected nature sites in Kazakhstan and the government is working with the World Bank to regenerate the Aral Sea. There are numerous eco-tourism projects, which help to sustain the regional economies.
  • Kazakhstan expects to join the World Trade Organization in 2015, which should also help develop the manufacturing and service sector base.
  • Kazakhstan and the EU have recently negotiated and initialled a new enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which will further develop political and security cooperation, as well as continue to support economic and trade relations. 
  • The economy provides opportunities for foreign investors and local entrepreneurs alike. Almost 700,000 small and medium-sized businesses now employ more than 2.5m Kazakh workers and represent more than 30% of GDP.

International cooperation

  • Since independence, Kazakhstan has played a constructive role in regional and international security. The country maintains friendly relations and develops mutually beneficial cooperation will all of its international partners.
  • The restoration of peace and rebuilding of Afghanistan is a major priority for Kazakhstan. The country has provided aid, a $50 million-worth scholarship programme for 1,000 Afghan youth, and training programmes for the police.
  • In 1991, Kazakhstan closed the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and gave up the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Since then, Kazakhstan has been a vocal supporter of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
  • Kazakhstan’s decision to relinquish nuclear weapons is viewed internationally as a useful example for other states. It has used its international reputation as well as good international standing to successfully offer and host two rounds of multilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear programme in 2013 which resulted in the resumption of progress in this process.
  • Kazakhstan has recently announced that it will be contributing peacekeepers to the UNs security forces.
  • Kazakhstan is increasingly playing a more active role as an international donor. The government has decided to formalise this by establishing an international development organisation called KazAID, which is expected to be launched in 2015. Its original focus will be on providing assistance to neighboring countries in Central Asia.
  • Kazakhstan is bidding to take a non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council in 2017-2018 from the Asian quota. The Kingdom of Thailand is its sole competitor.