Kazakhstan

NATURE AND GEOGRAPHY

LOCATION

The Republic of Kazakhstan – the 9th largest country in the world is located in the central part of the Eurasian continent, at an equal distance from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The area of 2724.9 thousand square km allows Kazakhstan to be titled the 4th largest country in Eurasia. Scientists — surveyors presume that this area allows to simultaneously placing on the territory seven largest countries in Europe, such as France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Kazakhstan borders with Russia (on the east, north and north-west), China (on the south-east) and the countries of Central Asia – Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan (on the south). Border length of the vast country is 12.2 thousand km, 600 km of which run over the Caspian Sea.

Kazakhstan is proud of the richness of its land, which is full of minerals, and contains nearly all the elements of the Mendeleev’s table.

Another unique feature of the country is the landscape diversity. 58% of the territory of Kazakhstan is desert or semi-desert, 10% of the territory is the mountains. The north of the country is rich in steppe and forest-steppe zones. More than seven thousand rivers of over 10 kilometers long cross these areas. The largest rivers of Kazakhstan are Irtysh (2482 km), Ishim (2450 km), Syr-Darya (2219km) and Ili (1439 km). Most of the rivers belong to the basins of the Caspian and Aral seas, and to the lakes Balkhash and Tengiz. Three rivers discharge its waters into the Caspian Sea — Irtysh, Ishim and Tobol.

Kazakhstan natural features include northern range of mountains, which is a part of the Tien-Shan, the part of Altai mountain system and Saryarka — Kazakh Hammocks.

Kazakhstan consolidates 86 agglomerations with the status of city. The percentage of urban population in the country is 56%. The largest cities of the Republic are Astana, Almaty, Karaganda, Kyzylorda, Kokshetau, Kostanay, Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk, Taraz, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Uralsk and Shymkent.

FLORA

The nature of Kazakhstan is multifaceted and unique. Any of its area is beautiful in its own way. A lot of peculiar «pantries wildlife» can be found on the vast territory of the Republic. Each of them is unique and is distinguished by special, inherent quality. Vegetation has a zonal distribution. Northern areas fall into forest-steppe zone, there is steppe to the south, semi-desert and the desert are in further south. Steppes, semi-deserts and deserts create the main landscaped appearance of the Republic.

Nowadays, there are 68 Kazakhstan flora species of trees, 266 species of shrubs, 433 species subshrubs, shrubs and semi herbs, 2598 species of herbs.

There are 115 species of endemic trees and shrubs in the Republic, i.e., growing only on the territory of Kazakhstan and occur nowhere in other places on the globe.

Tien Shan spruce, ash, moisture-loving (Sogdian) Karatausky goat’s-wheat, Regel pear, Korol'kov hawthorn, pistachio, Semenov maple and others refer to relict species, i.e., which is part of the vegetation covering the Republic as the flora of previous times.

Rice growing is developed in Kazakhstan. Rice fields are peculiar, surrounded by ramparts, filled with water and give a rich harvest. Other cultures such as cotton, tobacco, corn are also grown on many plantations in the country.

Sivers apple sprouts in Kazakhstan — the ancestor of all cultivated varieties of apples. Kazakh variety of apple is «Aport» is considered delicious varieties of apple, which is well-known in the world.

Tulips that are ancestors of some species tulips also grow in Kazakhstan.

FAUNA

Wildlife of Kazakhstan is truly unique — 172 species of mammals, 490 species of birds, 150 species of fishes. Reptiles and insects inhabit mostly deserts and semi-deserts. Steppe zones are inhabited by gazelles, antelopes, wolves, hares, foxes, jackals and various rodents (mice, ground squirrels and hamsters).

The lakes of Kazakhstan are seasonal station areas for geese, swans, ducks, gulls and flamingos. Lake is a permanent home for many birds. The richest wildlife areas are mountainous areas. It is inhabited by mountain goats and sheep, snow leopards, deer and many species of birds. The reserves, the task of which is to protect wildlife are established as in deserts so in the highlands.

TIEN SHAN BROWN BEAR

Tien Shan brown bear or white-clawed bear is considered the rarest subspecies of brown bears. Beautiful light color of fur and long claws masse, which can exceed 200 kg, makes bear the king of mountain animals. The habitat of Tien Shan brown bear is mountain Pamir-Alai and Tien Shan. It is also can be found in the Western Himalayas, Karakoram and other mountains of South Asia. In Kazakhstan, this bear lives on Ugam and Pskem ridges, on the mountains Karzhantau, Ketmen, Talas, Kirghiz, Zailiyskiy, Kungeiand Terskey-Alatau.

CENTRAL ASIAN LYNX

Externally the lynx resembles a domestic cat, it is only larger by size. Lynx has short body, short tail and massive long legs. The most curious feature is black tassels on the tips of the ears. One can notice the «whiskers» on the cheeks of lynx. In winter, the animal is mostly of light color, monochrome, brownish-whitish or grayish, without spots or almost invisible spots on the back and upper parts of the limbs. Summer fur is very short and rough, with a reddish tint of color.

Central Asian lynx inhabits the mountains of Middle and Central Asia. Today lynx is extremely rare in Kazakhstan on Ugam, Pskem, Talas and Chatkal ridges and Boroldai mountains. In the east, lynx is abundant across the Northern Tien Shan and its spurs, also in Junggar Alatau, Tarbagatai and Saur.

RELIGION

Republic of Kazakhstan is a secular state where religion is separated from power and do not play a crucial role in governing the country. The most common religions in the country today are Islam and Orthodox branch of Christianity. Also the country celebrates several festivals of religious significance.

Religious composition of the country is a visual reflection of the history of Kazakhstan and the entire population of the Republic. Historically, the Kazakhs are Sunni Muslim. However, in the Soviet Union in connection with the relocation of various nationalities in Kazakhstan ethnic composition of the country has changed markedly. So along with Russian and Ukrainian the Orthodoxy came to Kazakhstan. During USSR regime religion was banned in the society.

During the years of independence in Kazakhstan there is now rebirth of religion. To date, 97% of the population identified themselves as believers, 70% of them consider themselves Muslims.

Today Kazakhstan is a land where more than 130 nationalities live in peace and harmony. They live in religious tolerance and interfaith unity. Each of these nationalities has the right to practice their religion and learn their native language.

In Kazakhstan there are more than three thousand religious unions belonging to the 17 concession. Today, almost all the world's religions are represented in this country: Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity (Protestant denominations, Orthodox, Catholic), as well as modern neoplasms and polytheistic cults.

CULTURE AND ART

TRADITIONS

YURTA

Yurta is an unique artifact of the Eurasian nomads, a symbol of the Kazakhs’ everyday life and traditions. Yurta is a portable dwelling, functional house that reflects unity with nature, the major principle of the Kazakhs’ ideology. Yurta is the perfect house where it is warm in winter and cool in summer. Yurta is easy to transport and quickly mount.

Yurta symbolizes splendor of mountain peaks and freedom of interminable steps, connects the present and the past. The unique dwelling was used by the nomads and is still used by the Kazakhs nowadays on pastures of cattle in summer time and during holidays.

DASTARKHAN

Dastarkhan – ancient tradition of Kazakh feast, saturated with the philosophy of hospitality, family and communicating. Visiting dastarkhan allows entering the spirit of zest of Kazakh customs and even today these traditions are rich in them in particular: good dish of Kazakh cuisine, national games, songs and contests.

Special attention is given to tea-drinking that is as sophisticated and consistent as the ceremonies of other Oriental nations. Every guest is welcomed with tea.

Tea is made with the boiled water from samovar in akkuman, a porcelain teapot. Often the Kazakhs drink tea with cream and milk. Modern dastarkhan is based on traditions and customs including traditional dishes and drinks.

NAURYZ

The biggest holiday of people in Kazakhstan is Nauryz. Nauryz is celebrated on the day of vernal equinox, March 22nd, when people shake free of winter severities and enjoy prosperity, safety of wealth and cattle.

The main ritual course of the festival is nauryzdyk that consists of seven traditional products – there was a belief that after having eaten this course a person would never be in need of those products throughout the whole year.

Wishing each other happiness and wellbeing people celebrate Nauryz for three days. They used to begin celebration of “New Year” with symbolic battle of winter and spring – aytys between a girl and a dzhigit. The festival comes to an end with national games and competitions in which everybody takes part irrespective of their age.

TUSAU KESU

Tusau Kesu – a ceremony that accompanies first steps of a child. For many centuries aqsaqals believed that when making first steps a child falls and cannot walk freely because his legs are tied by the invisible rope.

The oldest and most respected person was invited to the house and he was supposed to cut with knife special ropes tying the legs of the child (ripping hobbles) for a child to live his life easily and confidently.

AITYS

Aitys – contest of Kazakh akyns (folk singers), traditionally songs are written under way, with improvisation. Every aitys consists of several statements on a specific topic. Aityses have publicist nature as they cover topics relevant to people.

The topics are actively discussed afterwards that help resolve some issues. The battle between akyns is satirical, they challenge outlooks on life at the same time comically exaggerating read poems with singing accent, sing songs, use recitative, often playing on the musical instruments. The winner will be the akyn who excelled his opponent at songs and music-making.

CUISINE

BESHBARMAK

Besbarmak is traditional meal of the Kazakh national cuisine. The name means «five fingers», because this dish is eaten by hands.

The dish is made up of thin slices of soft paste boiled in broth, they are served up on lyagan with boiled beef or mutton (less often, but horsemeat traditionally) and stewed onions and spicy herbs. The dish is added by tea bowl of chorpa, spicy broth.

BAWYRSAK

Bawyrsak – small doughnuts from fermented or unfermented dough fried in large cooking pot. This is universal farinaceous dish that can be served alone or for example, in addition to chorpa. Bawyrsaks dressed with honey syrup are served for tea.

KUMYS

Kumys – sour-milk sparkling, white drink made from horse milk. Kumys’ taste is nice, with slightly acid flavor and sweet. General tonic characteristics and tastiness of this refreshing drink is appreciated not only in Kazakhstan. Kumys is prepared differently depending on ferment and conditions of preparation. Kumys with high concentration of alcohol is quite strong; it intoxicates and brings people into drunken and excited state.

Sometimes it is vice versa, kumys can make people feel relaxed, quiet almost sleepy. Kumys contains antibacterial substance generated by microorganisms during the process of fermentation that provides this drink with antibacterial characteristics, feed value, and capacity to stimulate biological processes in human body. Regular use of kumys stimulates appetite, digestion and fixation, weight gain.

AYRAN

Ayran – a type of sour-milk drink on the basis of katyk, kefir, that is widespread among Turkic, North and South Caucasian, Balkan nations. In different regions and among various nations the name of ayran and the technology of processing it have some differences. The common thing is that this milk drink is prepared using lactic-fermentation bacteria.

Ayran of settled peoples is liquid well allays thirst, and ayran of nomads is thick that simplifies its storage and transportation. In order to allay thirst ayran is diluted with water, milk or kumys.

SHUBAT

Shubat – traditional summer sour-milk drink of Kazakhs made from camel milk. The drink is useful against such diseases as asthma, tuberculosis, hepatitis, diabetes and psoriasis.

The process of shubat preparations is simple. Fresh camel milk is poured into wooden container after having added ferment, covered and left to sour. Shubat is stirred up before bringing to the table.

KURT

Kurt– dry product made of yoghurt cheese with specific brackish-acid taste. With its origin the kurt owe to nomads who needed substantial and useful food with extended storage. Today kurt is also used as an easy-to-store source rich in calcium.

HOLIDAYS

1st January — New Year

Celebrating New Year in Kazakhstan goes back to the Soviet past of Kazakhstan. The feast is celebrated according to European tradition — from December 31 to January 1. This is not the only New Year festival in Kazakhstan; it’s common here to celebrate the New Year festival according to Oriental tradition as well which is called – Nauryz meiramy. Both celebrations are the official New Year's holidays in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

8th March — International Women's Day

In Kazakhstan, this day is associated with mothers and it is a public holiday. The first gift is usually presented to a mother. At the same time all women are paid attention: wives, sisters, daughters, teachers and friends.

22nd March – Nauryz meiramy

New Year according to the Eastern tradition is a symbol of spring renewal, the triumph of love, fertility and friendship. This is a New Year festival according to astronomical solar calendar of Iranian and Turkic people. Nauryz was declared as an International Day after it had been included in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO (30th September 2009).

1st May – Celebration of unity of the people of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan inherited this holiday from the Soviet Union as on the 1st of May all countries of the Soviet Union used to celebrate the International Workers' Day. In the independent Kazakhstan the 1st of May holiday gained the status of the Day of unity of the people of Kazakhstan. On this day parades and entertainment events are organized in the main streets and squares.

7th May – Defender of the Motherland Day. 

May 7, 1992 the President of Kazakhstan, Supreme Commander, Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree establishing the national armed forces. The tradition of allocating military ranks and awards was formed on that day.

9th May — Victory Day

On May 9, 1945 the Soviet Union countries got a victory in World War II that, the victory formed the future of world civilization. On this day the people of Kazakhstan celebrate the victory that was won thanks to the great sacrifice of life. On this day people bring flowers to memorials of the defenders of the fatherland, salute them and hold in honor the «eternal flame». On this day various concerts are organized, and in the evening Kazakhstan people watch festival fireworks.

6th July — The Day of the Capital

The Day of the Capital in Kazakhstan relates to the interesting fact — the transfer of the state capital from the city of Alma-Ata to Akmola city. After that the cities were renamed. Initially at the local level The Day of the Capital was celebrated on June 20. Since 2006, the Day of the Capital has been celebrated on July 6. It is noteworthy that on this day the first President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was born.

30th August — Constitution Day.

The Constitution as the fundamental law of the country reflects the will of the people of Kazakhstan, its desire to approve the country «as a democratic, secular, legal and social state the highest values of which are an individual, his life, rights and freedoms» (Nazarbaev). The Constitution Day of the Republic of Kazakhstan is celebrated on 30th August, when was ratified at the national Referendum in 1995. On this day city festivals and concerts are traditionally organized.

1st December — The First President Day.

First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has a special status, constitutionally prescribed. Nursultan Nazarbayev has the credit of the Republic of Kazakhstan that is honored by the people of Kazakhstan on the Day of the First President.

16th December – The Independence Day.

The Independence Day is the major national holiday. On this day, in 1991 the Supreme Soviet of Kazakhstan adopted a law on the independence and state sovereignty of the Republic. Since The Independence Day is celebrated every year. During the holiday all cities and villages have a lot of holiday concerts and evening sky lights up with firecrackers and fireworks.

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