How much do you know about the largest landlocked country in the world? Let the richness of the world surprise you once more with these interesting facts about Kazakhstan.
Interesting Facts About Kazakhstan
Turning thirty. Does that make you young or old?
That’s the question I found myself asking as I travelled through Kazakhstan in the run up to its 30th celebration of independence.
Thirty Years Young
Thirty years ago, this largest landlocked country in the world split from Russia as the Soviet Union dissolved. The Soviet Union had spanned the years 1922 to 1991 but centuries before that, Kazakhstan had been swept into the Russian Empire.
Where is Kazakhstan?
As the ninth largest country in the world, Kazakhstan's territories run from the edge of the Caspian Sea in the west, to the mountainous city of Almaty in the east. The northern border travels 4750 miles with Russia nearer the capital of Nursultan (formerly Astana.)
Shaggy-haired camels stalk the windswept central Steppe, the eastern border runs hand in hand with China and to the south lies the collection of stans: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
Back home and still sifting through my thoughts about the trip, let's start with these interesting facts about Kazakhstan: the large former Soviet republic in Central Asia.
Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world
Guys, the place is huge. But for obvious reasons, don't expect a lot of seafood. Not that Kazakhstan is completely without water. On the west, it borders the Caspian Sea, itself the largest inland body of water. Experts debate whether this makes it a lake or a sea.
Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world
The only countries larger than that are: Russia, China, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Australia, India and Argentina. That means, you'll find a huge range of landscapes, from ski resorts to windswept plains and stunning natural reservoirs.
KAZAKHSTAN FOUGHT WITH THE UK AND US IN BOTH WORLD WARS
As part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, Kazakh soldiers fought on the Allied side against Germany during both World Wars. They suffered horrific casualties and losses and the conflict looms large in living memory. So, too, does the conflict in Afghanistan as part of the USSR. You can find poignant memorials to each of these conflict in Panfilov Park in Almaty.
The biggest festival is Nauryz
Perhaps more sensibly than those of us in the UK, Kazakhstan celebrates the New Year at the start of spring instead of randomly in winter. Nauryz takes place each March, around the time of the spring equinox, with processions, parties and dancing in the streets.
Kazakhstan connected the earth to outer space
The Baikonur Cosmodrome which launched Yuri Gagarin into space lives in Kazakhstan. You can visit, if you have the right paperwork. But if you don't, there's something special about walking in the same country as the first satellite and human space launch in human history.
The capital has recently changed names
Nursultan Nazarbayev, the republic's first president since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, now has his first name as the same of the capital city. Astana is now known as Nursultan.
Genghis Khan Made Enemies Here
The city of Otrar was once a magnificent, glittering metropolis along the Silk Road. But an altercation with the son of Genghis Khan led to retribution on an epic scale. Today, you can just see the sandy ruins of Otrar, while the wind whips up the dust and moans.
Kazakhstan is rich in oil and gas
Kazakhstan's main source of income comes from these two resources, making up 35% of GDP and 75% of exports.
Kazakhstan became independent in 1991
Kazakhstan has a rich history and people. It celebrates its 30th birthday as an independent state in December 2021, having formed part of the USSR before that and the Imperial Russian Empire for centuries before that.
Food is a BIG THING in Kazakhstan
I'll write an entire article about the flavours and traditions behind the food in Kazakhstan. Until then, I'll simply leave you with these interesting facts about Kazakhstan: camel milk is a festive drink, horse meat is a national staple and hosts will keep on feeding you until you cannot eat any more!
Kazakhstan owns the original Big Apple and the Garden of Eden
Well, kinda. The city of Almaty, and former capital, grows some very big apples. The word Almaty even means apple. Locals tell me that a professor from Oxford studied the genetic makeup not only of Almaty apples but apples the world over. He concluded that the Almaty apple was the one and only, the original, the first and only true apple. All other apples derive from here.
And since Almaty was home to the very first apple, it must also be home to the Garden of Eden…Right?!
Kazakhstan is secular
Despite that story, Kazakhstan is officially a secular nation. The two dominant religions found here are Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity. Even after the years of Soviet Rule, when religion was forbidden, both have since flourished during independence.
You’ll see stunning mosques and cathedrals across the country.
People like to dance during dinner
As in, in between courses. Several restaurants have tables that surround a central dancefloor with a DJ and flashing lights. In between courses, people get up and have a boogie…
Kazakhstan has the highest ice skating rink in the world
As befits a nation with plenty of snowy mountains, you’ll find ski resorts aplenty and even the highest ice skating rink in the world.
Kazakhstan is not a tee-total state
Contrary to popular opinion, Kazakhstan does serve and sell alcohol, as well as pork. However, since the majority religion is Islam, not everyone partakes.
KAZAKHSTAN HAS FIVE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES
Western Tien-Shanand Saryarka are natural World Heritage Sites, whereas the cultural ones are as follows:
- The Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi
- The petroglyphs of Tanbaly
- The Silk Roads along the Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor
More About Travel in Kazakhstan
Check back soon for even more articles about this fascinating country in Central Asia. Until then...
Disclosure: I visited Kazakhstan as a guest of the Foundation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, established in 2000 by Nursultan Nazarbayev, the First President of Kazakhstan. As ever, I kept the right to write what I like! Otherwise, what's the point?
So what does this foundation do? They are focused on:
- supporting the development of an inclusive society
- developing a competitive think tank
- expanding international cooperation
- preserving the cultural code of the nation
Come back for a lot more about Kazakhstan, both traditional and new, very soon!