LOCATION AND LANDSCAPE
Kazakhstan is a vast country covering more than 2.7 million sq km. The country spans over 2,600 km from its western border with Russia to its eastern flank on the Chinese border, thus located in the core of the Eurasian continent. The territory of Kazakhstan is greater than that of the twelve countries of the European Union, and is the ninth largest country of the world. Kazakhstan has a most varied landscape, stretching from the mountainous regions of the east to the energy-rich lowlands in the west, and from the industrialized north, with its Siberian climate and terrain, through the vast, arid steppes of the center, to the fertile south.
Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic country, home to people of over 100 nationalities. In 2000 Kazakhstan had an estimated population of 14,843,700 with an average population density of 5.5 persons per sq km. Over the last 10 years, the ethnic Kazakh population increased by 22.9%, and today it constitutes 53.4% of total Kazakhstan population. Among the country's other ethnic groups are Russians (30%), Ukrainians (3.7%), Uzbeks (2.5%), Germans (2.4%), Tatars (1.7%), Uygurs (1.4%), Tajiks, Belorussians, Koreans, Azerbaijanis, Bashkirs, Chechens, Dungans, Ingushs, Jews, Kurds, Kyrgyzs, Dargyns, Meskhetian Turks and others. The urban-rural dimension is almost evenly split, with 56% of the population living in urban areas and 44% in rural regions. The Kazakh ethnic group is spread all over the world, including China, Uzbekistan, Russia, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, the USA, and European countries. Worldwide, the total number of Kazakhs is estimated at 10,823,479 people.
Astana (formerly called Akmola) is the official capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan since December 10, 1997. It is located 1,300 km north of Almaty (the biggest Kazakhstan city and the former capital), and has the population of 322,400 people (2000 est.). Kazakhstan is administratively composed of 14 oblasts (regions), 84 cities, 160 rayons (districts), 241 urban type settlements, and 2,042 auls (villages).
Independence and sovereignty was proclaimed in 1991. Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic with strong presidency. The head of state is the President Nursultan Nazarbayev, first elected in 1991, then re-elected in 1995 and 1999. The head of the Government is Prime Minister Kassymzhomart Tokaev. The bicameral Parliament comprises the upper house (Senate) and the lower house (Majilis). The higher judicial bodies are the Supreme Court and Constitutional Council.
The official state language is Kazakh, a Turkic language closely related to Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Turkish. Russian is the language of inter-ethnic communication, widely spoken in urban areas, whereas people from rural regions tend to speak more Kazakh. English is used by international organizations and the foreign business community in Kazakhstan. Uygur, Korean and other ethnic minorities speak their national regional languages and dialects.
Kazakhstan is officially a secular state, but Sunni Islam is the major religion. The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant Christian denomination. There are also Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish communities. The Kazakhs do not express their religious feelings fervently. Kazakhstan is on the periphery of the Muslim world and a meeting point of Russian, Chinese and Central Asian civilizations. Islam plays a minor role in state policy and there are no significant Islamic political organizations in the country. Muslim 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, Catholic 2-3 %, mostly Russians and Koreans Buddhists 0.3%, Korean, Buryet, Kalmyk Jews 0.1%, etc.
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY
Today, 16 political parties of differing ideological orientation are registered in Kazakhstan. There are 3,500 NGOs in the Republic, their activities covering more than thirty activity directions, including entrepreneurship support, people’s rights, protection activities, promotion of legal knowledge among the public, preventing social conflicts, and assistance in social development of rural areas, among others. Seventy per cent of the 1,431 mass media operating in Kazakhstan are non-governmental. Of 1,292 periodicals currently being published, 218 are printed in Kazakh, 540 in Russian, 407 in both languages and 127 in various other languages used in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan's citizens read newspapers in 11 languages, watch TV programs in 12 and listen to radio broadcasts in 6.
Main element of Kazakhstan flag is its color. The light blue color is a symbol of sky and water. The pure light blue color also symbolizes cultural and ethnic unity of Kazakhstan people and the indivisibility of Kazakhstan country.
The sun is the source of life and energy. That's why the silhouette of the sun symbolizes life. Human being is not eternal and human life is measured in some way by time. Nomads - the ancestors of Kazakhstan people - used the sun's movements to measure the time. The sun is also a symbol of wealth and abundance. If you look at Kazakhstan flag a little closer you will see that the sun's rays are like grain. And the grain is the basis of abundance and prosperity.
Among the nomad people the golden eagle plays very important role. People of different Kazakhstan tribes had the golden eagle on their flags for centuries. The eagle symbolizes the power of the state and astuteness. For Kazakhstan people as for people of the steppe the eagle is a symbol of independence, freedom and flight to future. Also the eagle is strong enough to repulse anyone who is preventing this flight to future. The eagle symbolizes the attempt of young Kazakhstan state to become the important part of world civilization.
The line placed in parallel with Kazakhstan flag staff consists of national ornamental pattern. It is Kazakhstan national ornamental pattern "koshkar-muiz" - horns of the ram.