The Republic of Kazakhstan is a democratic, constitutional, unitary and secular state with a presidential form of government. </b>
On 16 December 1991 Kazakhstan became independent from the Soviet Union (after around 70 years as a member of the USSR). This day is celebrated as a national holiday.
The capital city of Kazakhstan is Astana. For six years after independence, the country’s capital was Almaty, but in 1997, a decision was made to move the capital to Akmola, renamed Astana (‘capital’ in the Kazakh language) in 1998.
The population at the beginning of 2015 was 17.4 million people. Just over 40% of the population is aged 25 or under; the literacy rate at age 15 is 99.8%.
The largest city is Almaty (pop: 1.5m); the state capital is Astana (pop: 825,000). Other major cities are Shymkent, Karaganda, Aktobe, Taraz, Pavlodar, and Ust-Kamenogorsk. Overall, there are 86 cities in Kazakhstan.
The state language is Kazakh. According to the Constitution, the Russian language is on a par with the Kazakh language and is officially used in state organizations and local authorities. English is the language of international communication and higher education, and the scope of its spread in Kazakhstan is growing rapidly.
Kazakhstan is the largest country in Central Asia and the ninth largest in the world, with an area of 2.7 million square kilometers (1 million square miles). It shares borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The world’s largest land-locked country, Kazakhstan has two ports on the Caspian Sea, and three major river ports.
Kazakhstan is divided into 14 administrative regions (oblasts) and two cities of national significance.
The country is home to over 130 ethnic groups. The most numerous nationality is Kazakh (63%). Other major ethnic groups are Russians (23.7%), Uzbeks, Uighurs, Ukrainians, Tatars, Germans, Koreans, Turks, Azeris, and others.
Kazakhstan’s national currency is Kazakhstan tenge (KZT). Russian rubles, US dollars, euro and other major currencies can be freely exchanged at banks and exchange offices throughout the country.
Kazakhstan has two time zones: UTC +5 and UTC +6: Astana and Almaty are in the UTC +6 time zone. The country does not move to daylight saving time in summer. The main religions are Islam and Orthodox Christianity.
State symbols are essential attributes of any country, representing its sovereignty and national identity. The Republic of Kazakhstan’s National Flag, National Emblem and National Anthem were adopted on 4 June 1992.
The national flag is a rectangular sky-blue cloth; in the centre is the sun with 32 rays above a soaring steppe eagle. The blue background is a reference to the ancient Turkic sky god Tengri and represents unity, peace, and fidelity. The eagle has been a symbol of Kazakh tribes for many centuries, representing power, independence and freedom; the sun is a primal symbol of life and energy, and the sun’s rays are shaped like grains of wheat, symbols of the nation’s wealth and abundance. A vertical strip on the left (hoist) edge shows the national ornamental patterns symbolizing ram’s horns, the koshkar muiz, which represents Kazakh art and cultural traditions. The images of the sun, its rays, the eagle and the national ornament are golden. The flag’s designer is Shaken Niyazbekov, Honored Artist of Kazakhstan.
The national emblem in blue and gold represents many elements of Kazakh history and culture. At the centre of the sky-blue disc is a circle with crossed bars representing a shanyrak (the domed top of the Kazakh yurt) surrounded by rays representing uyks (yurt supports) and the light of the sun. To either side of the shanyrak are tulpars, or winged horses. Tulpars symbolize the Kazakh equestrian culture, the quality of courage, and aspiration to pure ideals. The horses have horns – another deeply significant and ancient symbol of fertility and plenty. At the top of the disc is a five-pointed star, an ancient image of light and truth, and the pursuit of the eternal. At the bottom lies the inscription Kazakhstan. The blue of the background represents the endless sky, water, peace and unity, while the golden symbols represent wealth, justice and strength. The renowned architects, Zhandarbek Malibekov and Shot-Aman Valikhanov are the State Emblem’s designers.
The National anthem
The National Anthem was adopted in 2006. It is based on Menin Kazakhstanym – ‘My Kazakhstan’, a popular song written in 1956 by well-known composer Shamshi Kaldayakov, with lyrics by Zhumeken Nazhimedenov. After independence, the government ran a competition to write new lyrics to the music of the old Kazakh SSR anthem, but this anthem never won the hearts of the people; so the much-loved song ‘My Kazakhstan’ was proposed as the new anthem. To update the lyrics for the modern independent nation, President Nursultan Nazarbayev rewrote part of the song. When the anthem is played in Kazakhstan, everyone present should stand, with the citizens of Kazakhstan placing their right hand over their heart.