Kazakhstan (Kazakh: Қазақстан, translit. Qazaqstan, IPA: [qɑzɑqˈstɑn] (About this
sound listen); Russian: Казахстан, IPA: [kəzɐxˈstan]), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan
(Kazakh: Қазақстан Республикасы, translit. Qazaqstan Respýblıkasy; Russian: Республика Казахстан, tr.
Respublika Kazakhstan), is the world's largest landlocked country, and the ninth largest in
the world, with an area of 2,724,900 square kilometres (1,052,100 sq mi). Kazakhstan is the dominant
nation of Central Asia economically, generating 60% of the region's GDP, primarily through its oil/gas
industry. It also has vast mineral resources.
Kazakhstan is officially a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic with a diverse cultural
heritage. Kazakhstan shares borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and
also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea. The terrain of Kazakhstan includes flatlands, steppe,
taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts. Kazakhstan has an estimated 18
million people as of 2014. Given its large land area, its population density is among the lowest, at
less than 6 people per square kilometre (15 people per sq mi). The capital is Astana, where it was
moved in 1997 from Almaty, the country's largest city.
The territory of Kazakhstan has historically been inhabited by Turkic nomads who trace their ancestry
to many Turkic states such as Turkic Khaganate etc. In the 13th century, the territory joined the
Mongolian Empire under Genghis Khan. By the 16th century, the Kazakh emerged as a distinct group,
divided into three jüz (ancestor branches occupying specific territories). The Russians began
advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century, they nominally
ruled all of Kazakhstan as part of the Russian Empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and
subsequent civil war, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganised several times. In 1936, it was
made the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union.
Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence during the dissolution of the
Soviet Union in 1991. The current President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been leader of the country since
then, and is characterised as authoritarian, with a government history of human rights abuses and
suppression of political opposition. Kazakhstan has worked to develop its economy, especially its
dominant hydrocarbon industry. Human Rights Watch says that "Kazakhstan heavily restricts freedom of
assembly, speech, and religion," and other human rights organisations regularly describe Kazakhstan's
human rights situation as poor.
Kazakhstan's 131 ethnicities include Kazakhs (63% of the population), Russians, Uzbeks, Ukrainians,
Germans, Tatars, and Uyghurs. Islam is the religion of about 70% of the population, with Christianity
practised by 26%. Kazakhstan officially allows freedom of religion, but religious leaders who oppose
the government are suppressed. The Kazakh language is the state language, and Russian has equal
official status for all levels of administrative and institutional purposes. Kazakhstan is a
member of the United Nations, WTO, CIS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasian
Economic Union, CSTO, OSCE, OIC, and TURKSOY.