Background: Ethnic Kazakhs, a mix of Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes who migrated into the region in the 13th century, were rarely united as a single nation. The area was conquered by Russia in the 18th century, and Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936. During the 1950s and 1960s agricultural "Virgin Lands" program, Soviet citizens were encouraged to help cultivate Kazakhstan's northern pastures. This influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-ethnic Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Independence in 1991 drove many of these newcomers to emigrate. Kazakhstan's economy is larger than those of all the other Central Asian states largely due to the country's vast natural resources. Current issues include: developing a cohesive national identity; expanding the development of the country's vast energy resources and exporting them to world markets; diversifying the economy outside the oil, gas, and mining sectors; enhancing Kazakhstan's economic competitiveness; developing a multiparty parliament and advancing political and social reform; and strengthening relations with neighboring states and other foreign powers.
Location: Central Asia, northwest of China; a small portion west of the Ural (Zhayyq) River in eastern-most Europe
Area land: 2,699,700 sq km
Area water: 25,200 sq km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked); note - Kazakhstan borders the Aral Sea, now split into two bodies of water (1,070 km), and the Caspian Sea (1,894 km)
Country name conventional long form: Republic of Kazakhstan
Country name conventional short form: Kazakhstan
Country name former: Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic
Population: 15,522,373 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 21.6% (male 1,709,929/female 1,637,132); 15-64 years: 71% (male 5,373,755/female 5,654,461); 65 years and over: 7.4% (male 392,689/female 754,407) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 0.4% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 16.65 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 9.38 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.27 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.058 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.53 male(s)/female; total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 24.15 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 28.44 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 19.62 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 68.51 years; male: 63.24 years; female: 74.08 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 1.87 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 13,000 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: fewer than 500 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Kazakhstani(s); adjective: Kazakhstani;
Ethnic groups: Kazakh (Qazaq) 53.4%, Russian 30%, Ukrainian 3.7%, Uzbek 2.5%, German 2.4%, Tatar 1.7%, Uighur 1.4%, other 4.9% (1999 census);
Religions: Muslim 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, other 7%;
Languages: Kazakh (Qazaq, state language) 64.4%, Russian (official, used in everyday business, designated the "language of interethnic communication") 95% (2001 est.);
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 99.5%; male: 99.8%; female: 99.3% (1999 est.);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $197.7 billion (2010 est.); $184.8 billion (2009 est.); $182.6 billion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $131 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 7% (2010 est.); 1.2% (2009 est.); 3.3% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $12,800 (2010 est.); $12,000 (2009 est.); $11,900 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 5.4%; industry: 42.8%; services: 51.8% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 8.2% (2009);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.3%; highest 10%: 26.5% (2004 est.);
Labor force: 8.718 million (2010 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 28.2%; industry: 18.2%; services: 53.6% (2010);
Unemployment rate: 5.5% (2010 est.); 6.3% (2009 est.);
Budget: revenues: $27.5 billion; expenditures: $31.6 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: oil, coal, iron ore, manganese, chromite, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, bauxite, gold, silver, phosphates, sulfur, uranium, iron and steel; tractors and other agricultural machinery, electric motors, construction materials;
Industrial production growth rate: 7.3% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 78.4 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 77.9 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - exports: 3.617 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - imports: 1.94 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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Unlike governments of the Middle East that have failed to deliver what the people need, Kazakhstan remains on a dynamic path of development that is widely supported in society.
Students branch out to Niger, Kazakhstan or China, taking a bite out of Europe study abroad programs.
In one of the more mysterious stories of the year, Kazakh security agents arrested 22 people in November on charges of plotting to seize Eastern Kazakhstan province and establish a breakaway Russian republic there.
During much of Murat Auezov's tenure as Kazakhstan's ambassador to China in the early 1990s, he was puzzled by the term Xi Yu, which means "northwest province" in Chinese.