Stretching from China on its eastern border to the Caspian Sea on its western edge, Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is one of the most fascinating countries in Central Asia. in Central Asia. Boasting a rich history, an incredible array of landscapes, surprising ethnic diversity, and captivating culture, Kazakhstan is a country worth getting to know. Here are some interesting facts about Kazakhstan.
Facts about Kazakhstan
1. Kazakhstan is the largest country in Central Asia and the ninth largest country in the world.
Occupying a total area of 2,724,900 km² (1,052,100 sq mi), Kazakhstan is easily the largest nation in Central Asia and is also the ninth-largest nation in the world. Comparatively, it is almost four times the size of the US state of Texas.
2. Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world.
One of the most interesting Kazakhstan facts is that it is the largest out of the 45 landlocked countries in the world.
3. Kazakhstan shares a land border with five nations.
Kazakhstan is bordered by Turkmenistan (413 km/257 mi), Uzbekistan (2,330 km/1,448 mi), and Kyrgyzstan (1,212 km/753 mi) to the south; Russia (7,644 km/4,750 mi) to the north and west; and China (1,765 km/1,097 mi) to the east.
4. Kazakhstan is one of the few transcontinental countries in the world.
As it extends across both sides of the Ural River, considered the dividing line separating Europe and Asia, Kazakhstan is one of the few transcontinental nations in the world.
In addition, Kazakhstan is one of the handful of contiguous (countries that have one continuous or immediately adjacent piece of territory that spans a continental boundary) nations in the world.
5. Kazakhstan is the most sparsely populated country in Central Asia.
With a population of around 19 million and a population density of 7/km² (17/mi²), Kazakhstan is the least crowded country in Central Asia. Consequently, it is also one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
6. Kazakhstan is home to the largest steppe region in the world.
One of the lesser-known facts about Kazakhstan is that it is home to the largest dry steppe region in the world. A Steppe region consists of treeless, savannah grasslands with hot, dry summers and cold, snowless winters.
According to the Guinness World Records, the largest area of dry steppe land is the Kazakh Steppe of Central Asia, which measures 804,500 km² (310,600 sq mi). This vast region of open grassland can be found in northern Kazakhstan and adjacent portions of Russia.
8. Despite being landlocked, Kazakhstan has a navy.
One of the more surprising Kazakhstan facts is that despite being landlocked and having no access to the open sea, the country still maintains a navy! The Kazakhstan Navy was officially established in 2003 and is based on the landlocked Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water — essentially the world’s biggest lake.
The Caspian Sea region is home to vast amounts of oil and natural gas and Kazakhstan has invested in building its naval capabilities to defend its interests.
9. The name ‘Kazakhstan’ can be literally translated as “land of the wanderers”.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Kazakhstan literally translates as “land of the wanderers.” The name “Kazakh” comes from the ancient Turkic word qaz which means “to wander.” The Persian suffix -stan means “land”.
10. Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union (USSR) for nearly seven decades.
Having formerly been a part of the Russian Empire, Kazakhstan was subsequently incorporated as one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1991. The country was initially part of the Kirghiz Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic and from 1936 to 1991 existed as the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic.
11. Kazakhstan was the last Soviet Republic to leave the USSR.
One of the intriguing facts about Kazakhstan is that it was the last Soviet Republic to leave the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), proclaiming independence on 16 December 1991. This was even four days later than Russia, which formally left the USSR on 12 December to form the Russian Federation.
This means that for four days the entirety of the USSR consisted solely of Kazakhstan meaning world maps would have shown the Soviet Union as being located solely within what is today Kazakhstan!
12. After gaining independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has only had two presidents.
Following independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has been led by only two individuals. Nursultan Nazarbayev served as the first President of Kazakhstan for nearly three decades until his resignation in 2019.
Nazarbayev was among Central Asia’s vicious and repressive autocrats and his regime was heavily criticized by human rights groups for restricting freedom of speech.
Nevertheless, Nazarbayev bears the honorary title “Elbasi,” or “father of the nation.” Since 2019, the President of Kazakhstan has been Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
13. Kazakhstan is a multiethnic nation.
Kazakhstan is one of Central Asia’s most diverse countries. According to the CIA World Factbook, the main ethnic groups in Kazakhstan are Kazakh 68%, Russian 19.3%, Uzbek 3.2%, Ukrainian 1.5%, Uighur 1.5%, Tatar 1.1%, and German 1%. Other small groups include Azerbaijanis, Poles, Chechens, Dungans, Kalmyks, Chuvashes, and Lithuanians.
14. Kazakhstan has two official languages, Kazakh and Russian.
Kazakh is a Turkic language that contains many words from Russian and Arabic, as well as Mongol, Persian, and other Turkic languages. It is written in the Cyrillic script.
Russian is mostly used in everyday business and is the designated language of interethnic communication.
15. The city of Almaty was formerly the capital of Kazakhstan.
Almaty, which is also Kazakhstan’s largest city and its major commercial hub, was the capital of Kazakhstan from 1929 to 1997 to Nur-Sultan (then known as Akmola).
16. Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan was formerly known as Astana.
On 10 December 1997, the Kazakh government moved the capital of Kazakhstan from Almaty to Akmola. On 6 May 1998, Akmola’s name was changed to Astana, which means “capital city” in Kazakh.
On 20 March 2019, the capital was renamed from Astana to its current name Nur-Sultan in honor of Kazakhstan’s first President Nursultan Nazarbayev after he finally resigned from power.
17. Kazakhstan is rich in mineral resources.
Kazakhstan has been blessed with a variety of minerals. Out of the 118 elements in the periodic table of Mendeleev, 99 are found in the soil of the country. Moreover, Kazakhstan also has vast oil reserves and is the world’s ninth-largest crude oil exporter.
18. Kazakhstan is a Muslim majority nation.
Almost three-fourths of Kazakhstan’s population is Muslim. Christians (mostly Russian Orthodox) constitute the nation’s largest religious minority and make up almost a fourth of Kazakhstan’s population.
19. Kazakhstan has the world’s largest uranium reserves.
As mentioned earlier, Kazakhstan is well endowed with a vast array of mineral resources. It is also the world’s leading producer of uranium, the heavy metal used widely in nuclear energy production.
20. The tallest chimney in the world is located in Kazakhstan.
One of the more obscure Kazakhstan facts is that it boasts the world’s tallest chimney. The GRES-2 Power Station chimney at Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan, which at 419m (1,377ft) is the tallest chimney in the world.
21. Apples originated in Kazakhstan.
That’s right. Apples come from Kazakhstan. Recent DNA analysis indicates that apples (known as “alma” in Kazakh) originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan. The wild apple Malus sieversii is regarded as the ancestor of Malus domestica, the modern domesticated apple.
22. Kazakhstan is one of only four countries to have voluntarily given up its nuclear weapons.
One of the coolest Kazakhstan facts is that it is one of only four nations to have voluntarily given up its nuclear weapons. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan inherited over 1,400 nuclear weapons from the USSR.
However, Kazakhstan voluntarily denuclearized and handed over all of its nukes back to Russia by 1995. Only three other nations have gone through a complete denuclearization — Belarus, South Africa, and Ukraine.
23. Kazakhstan is home to the highest ice skating rink in the world.
Situated 1,691 meters (5,548 ft) above sea level, the Medeu outdoor skating rink in Almaty, Kazakhstan is the world’s highest skating rink. It also has a surface area as large as two football fields
24. The first man in space and the first satellite were both launched from Kazakhstan.
Sputnik 1, Earth’s first artificial satellite, was launched on 4 October 1957 from Baikonur Cosmodrome at Tyuratam in the barren steppes of Kazakhstan. The rocket that took Yuri Gagarin, the first human in orbit, was also launched from Baikonur in 1961.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome is still in use today and it remains the largest space launch facility in the world.
25. The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in Kazakhstan.
On 29 August 1949, the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb, known in the West as Joe-1, at the remote Semipalatinsk Test Site, also known as “The Polygon”, in northeastern Kazakhstan.
26. The ‘most nuked place on earth’ is in Kazakhstan.
One of the most shocking Kazakhstan facts is that during the Cold War, nearly a quarter of all the world’s nuclear testing took place in Kazakhstan.
Between 1949 and 1989, the USSR detonated a whopping 456 atmospheric and underground nuclear tests at the Semipalatinsk Test Site making it ‘the most nuked place on earth.’ The bombs detonated at Semipalatinsk released energy 2,500 times greater than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
The impact of prolonged atomic testing on people in the area has been devastating. Many are still suffering from the horrific effects of radiation following the tests.
27. Kazakhstan is home to the world’s most northern 7,000-meter peak.
The Khan Tengri mountain of the Tian Shan mountain range is the highest point in Kazakhstan. At 7,010 m (23,000 ft), it is also the world’s most northern 7000-meter peak, located at 42°12′39″N 80°10′30″E.
28. Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), Kazakhstan’s capital city, is the second coldest capital city in the world.
Isolated in the vast grasslands of northern Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan is the world’s second-coldest capital (the coldest is Ulaanbaatar, in Mongolia.)
Temperatures in Nur-Sultan remain in the low single digits for most of the winter months with average January and February temperatures landing around -15 °C (5 °F). The average yearly temperature of Nur-Sultan is 3 °C (37.5 °F).
29. Horses were first domesticated in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is the location of the earliest archaeological evidence for horse domestication. Horses were first domesticated by the Botai people on the plains of northern Kazakhstan some 5,500 years ago.
30. The national animal of Kazakhstan is the golden eagle.
The national animal of Kazakhstan is the golden eagle (Aquila Chrysaetos). This predator is an important symbol of the country and its culture. It is even featured on the national flag of Kazakhstan.
31. Kazakhstan is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Despite its large size, Kazakhstan doesn’t possess the same proportion of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as other comparably sized countries. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan are:
- Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi (cultural)
- Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly (cultural)
- Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor (cultural)
- Saryarka – Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan (natural)
- Western Tien-Shan (natural)
32. Kazakhstan has two official time zones.
Owing to its vastness, Kazakhstan has two time zones. The western part of the country is four hours ahead of GMT, while the eastern part is five hours ahead of GMT. Daylight saving is not observed in Kazakhstan.
33. Kumys, the national drink of Kazakhstan, is made from fermented mare’s (adult female horse) milk.
Often referred to as “milk champagne”, kumys is a sour bitter-tasting milky drink, made by adding yeast cultures to a mare’s milk mixture. This popular drink has an alcoholic content of about 3 percent and is regarded as a panacea for everything from the common cold to tuberculosis.
34. The national dish of Kazakhstan is Beshbarmak.
Widely considered the national dish of Kazakhstan, Beshbarmak literally means “five fingers” because it is traditionally eaten with one’s hands using all five fingers.
The classic recipe of Beshbarmak consists of a boiling broth of cooked horse, mutton, beef, camel, or a combination of those four types of meat served along traditionally prepared thin pasta squares.
35. Kazakhstan is the birthplace of Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional eponymous character in the 2006 satirical movie Borat.
Most people aren’t well-versed in facts about Kazakhstan, and when filmmaker Sasha Baron Cohen satirized it in his 2006 mockumentary film Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, it was the first time many people had even heard the name.
The film is widely considered the highest-grossing mockumentary of all time although it also sparked anger in Kazakhstan for its portrayal of Kazakhstanis as misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and backward. This led to the Kazakh government banning the film when it was released and resulted in the country threatening legal action against Cohen and his distributors.
However, in 2012, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister officially thanked Sasha Baron Cohen, for boosting tourism to the country by as much as 1000% due to the increased public interest in Kazakhstan as a result of the film.
36. After the second Borat movie was released in 2020, Kazakhstan adopted the titular character’s catchphrase in a new tourism campaign.
The second Borat film – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was released in 2020 and stars Sascha Baron Cohen again as the film’s titular character Borat Sagdiyev.
Unlike the backlash the first Borat film faced in Kazakhstan, the Kazakh government responded very differently to the sequel. The country’s tourism board even launched a new campaign adopting Borat’s viral catchphrase “Very nice!” as their official new slogan.
37. In 2012, when Kazakhstan’s shooting team won a medal at a competition in Kuwait during the medal ceremony the organizers accidentally played the film Borat’s version of the national anthem.
In what can only be described as a major faux pas, the 2006 film Borat’s version of Kazakhstan’s national anthem was accidentally played by organizers at a medal ceremony at the Arab Shooting Championships in 2012.
The first Borat film’s version of the Kazakhstan national anthem extols prostitutes and begins with the words: “Kazakhstan greatest country in the world, all other countries run by little girls.” (Kazakhstan’s real national anthem begins: “Sky of golden sun, steppe of golden seed.”) Needless to say, Kazakh officials back home were miffed and demanded a formal apology.
38. Kazakhstan suffered a terrible famine from 1930-33 that led to the deaths of approximately a quarter of the country’s population.
In the early 1930s, the Soviet Union pushed collectivization and starved the nomadic Kazakh population of food, shipping it to Russia instead.
Sparked by Stalin’s brutal policies to transform society, industry, and agriculture the Kazakh famine of 1930-1933 devastated Soviet Kazakhstan, leading to the death of approximately 1.5 million people (roughly a quarter of the republic’s population).
More than a third of all ethnic Kazakhs perished in Kazakhstan and it would take decades before ethnic Kazakhs would outnumber ethnic Russians in the nation. The famine also triggered a dramatic reorientation of Kazakh identity because Kazakhs, who were mostly pastoral nomads till that point, were forced to take up settled life.
39. Football is the most popular sport in Kazakhstan.
Though football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Kazakhstan, the Kazakh men’s national football team has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup.
40. Kazakhstan is one of the few countries in the world that has a single-digit ISD calling code.
The ISD calling code for Kazakhstan is +7 making it one of the few countries in the world that has a single-digit ISD calling code along with Russia, Canada, and the US.
41. The currency of Kazakhstan is the Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT).
The Tenge has been used as the currency of Kazakhstan since it replaced the Russian Ruble in 1993.
42. If the popular word game Scrabble allowed place names (proper nouns are not permitted), Kazakhstan would have the second-highest score of all the one-word countries.
This is one of the random bits of trivia about Kazakhstan. If Scrabble allowed proper nouns, Kazakhstan would be worth 30 points (along with Kyrgyzstan). Of all the countries made up of just one word, only Mozambique could top it (34).
43. Nauryz is the biggest festival in Kazakhstan.
Nauryz is the most important holiday in the Kazakh calendar. Meaning ‘new day’, Nauryz is a pre-Islamic festival celebrated annually on the vernal equinox (21 March).