Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is a big country which ranks among the ten biggest countries of the world. The territory of the republic stretches from the lower reaches of the Volga River eastward to the foot of the Altai Mountains and from the Western Siberian Lowland southward to the Kyzyl-Kum Desert. Desolate plains seem to be endless. The Kazakh relief represents the ancient mountain country eroded and smoothed to a level of monotonous lowland. The climate is sharply continental. A Siberian-like severe winter with frosts and snowstorms is followed by a dry sultry summer. Precipitation is minimal, and only in the north, where semi-deserts give place to dry steppes, green bushes and pine coppices brighten a landscape a little. Mid-spring is the best season for Kazakh steppe: it is the time when the entire steppe obtains its green grass cover that resembles a meadow. It is pleasant to see fresh verdure, bright blossoming poppies, tulips, buttercups, multi-colored carpets of sedge and fowl-grass. In spring steppe is filled with life: birds sing and twitter, lizards prowl, butterflies flit, scarabs crawl to and fro.

The millennia-old history of Kazakhstan as a state formation is reckoned from early-feudal state - Turkic Khanate which was formed on this territory in the 6th century. In the 13th century the country was conquered by the Mongol tribes and became a part of the Golden Horde. Independent Kazakh Khanate shaped up in the 16th century. During the centuries to follow the fate of the country was closely connected with Russia. In the 18th century Western and Central Kazakhstan (Minor and Middle Juzes) were annexed to Russia. And, finally, in the mid-19th century the whole territory of Kazakhstan with the Elder (Eastern) Juz, became a part of the Russian Empire.

Together with the other republics of the ex-USSR Kazakhstan have experienced Soviet period. In 1925 there was formed Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic which obtained the status if a Union republic in 1936. On December 16th, 1991, Kazakhstan proclaimed its independence.

Since ancient times Kazakhstan has been connected with the Great Silk Road, which stretched from the coast of Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The northern section of the road in particular extended from Turphan to Sogd, where at the territory of neighboring Uzbekistan it joined the main highway. There was also the western road, along which caravans moved from Khorezm along the coast of the Caspian Sea to the Volga River and further to the Russian Princedoms.

Quite a lot of monuments of antiquity have survived on the territory of Kazakhstan to the present day. Erected in 1397 by the order of Amir Temur, the mausoleum of Khodja Ahmad Yassavy in the town of Turkestan can truly be considered a unique sample of medieval architecture. Numerous rooms of the mausoleum are grouped round a square hall, covered with one of the biggest domes in Central Asia: its diameter is about eighteen metres. This majestic erection is included in UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage List.

Of great interest are such historical and cultural monuments as Abat-Baytak and Aisha-Bibi mausoleums, Karaman-Ata and Shopan-Ata necropolises, palaces of Akyrtas and Baba-Ata, settlements of Koylik, Issyk, Saraychik, Berel. Altogether, there are twenty five thousand monuments of history, archaeology, architecture and monumental art.

Kazakh vast expanses are mostly semi-deserts, which are called 'steppe' by local people. This area is used as fertile pastures. Here sheep and horned cattle put on weight quite easily, horses and camels have their fill of rich green fodder. Nomads were the ancestors of present-day Kazakhs and, of course, their customs and traditions were inseparably connected with the steppe. National horse-games kiz kuu (catch up with a girl), kokpar (fight for goat's carcass), kumis alu (pick up the coin) are known since ancient times. According to some historians, Alexander the Great, when he had seen kumis alu, exclaimed: "Here is the real game for a warrior-horse rider!"

Here one can also meet the flocks of saiga, northern antelope. These relic animals were practically totally extirpated by the beginning of the twentieth century. By imposing the ban on the shoot of these animals, it became possible to bring the number of saiga to hundreds of thousands. Such a large head of saiga made it possible to even grant the hunting license for shooting this animal. Famous German traveler and zoologist Bernhardt Grzhimek called the saving of saiga from extinction "a Kazakh miracle".

Kazakhstan is the plain country edged by the mountains. Almaty, where the peaks of the Zaaliyskiy Alatau can be seen just from the windows of a house, can be one of the examples. This is a popular region of the Tyan-Shan, which is famous for the beauty of its mountain woodlands and alpine landscapes. Here, within an area of almost a thousand square kilometers, where a five-thousand-metre high snowy mountain Talgar Range towers the mountains, Almaty preserve is located. Outskirts of Almaty are famous for their gardens, where wonderful aport apples are cultivated. At the foothills there are chains of tourist centers, mountain-ski complexes, climatic and balneology health resorts. Among sports facilities there should be mentioned the famous alpine skating-rink Medeo, which used to be a forge of world sport records.

One more nature phenomenon is Lake Balkhash, one half of which consists of fresh water whereas another half consists of salt water. The lake with its pale-blue water surface stretching for 600 kilometres, circled by sandy hills and deserted pastures, rests at an altitude of 340 meters above sea level. The health resort on Borovoye Lake, with its relic pine woods and odd granite 'sculptures' modeled by rain and wind, is another natural wonder. No less attractive to the tourists are the virgin beaches of the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. And, of course, Baikonur, the firing pad of the modern cosmonautics, is to be included in the list of tourist attractions.

A rather peculiar situation has arisen in respect of the capital of the country. In spite of the fact that Almaty has lost its status of Kazakhstan's capital, it is still the economic, scientific and cultural metropolis of the country. Among many museums located in Almaty there should be mentioned the Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which numbers more than two hundred thousand exhibits, and a unique Museum of the national musical instruments, where not only Kazakh instruments, but also the instruments from other countries of the world are displayed. The new capital Astana (former Akmolinsk), is growing fast. Recently, Kazakh Center of Musical Comedy and Presidential Centre for Culture, which includes a museum, a library and a concert hall, have been opened. The construction of the National Library is being completed. The buildings of the Circus and the Concert hall are being erected.

Location of Kazakhstan in the centre of Eurasian Continent predetermines its growing significance in the sphere of transit transportation and is of an interest to many countries of the world. Most of the cargo and passengers is transported by railway. At the same time the network of motorways is expanding. With due regard to the size of the republic, of paramount importance is the air transport represented by the National Company Air Kazakhstan. The airliners of this company make regular flights to Turkey, China, India, and Germany, Australia and other European and Asian countries.

Wheat is considered to be the principal agriculture crop in the republic. Older generation still remembers the 50's of the past century, when millions of hectares of virgin and long-fallow lands were put to use for cultivation of wheat. Kazakhstan possesses considerable reserves of oil and gas. This allows the country to be among the biggest world producers of this mineral fuel. The discovery within the Eastern Turgay hollow of a new oil-field broadens the perspectives of future development of this sphere. Large-scale coal mining takes place in the country. Ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, engineering industry, and chemical industry - these are well developed branches of the country's economy.

Kazakhstan is a secular and independent state pressing towards democracy. The republic is a full member of the world community. Country's abundant natural resources, developed economy, social and political stability make this region one of the most attractive regions among the republics of ex-USSR for foreign capital investments. At present the number of joint ventures has increased, the representative offices of the world largest companies have been opened in the republic; many projects on mutual development and exploitation of natural resources have been launched and are being realized; progressive technologies in the processing of raw-materials and materials are being applied

Kazakhstan is a great country, and as proverb says, "a great ship needs deep waters".