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The Republic of Kazakhstan is in Central Asia. It has a coastline on the northeastern Caspian Sea, and is bounded by China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and is separated from Mongolia by just over twenty miles. The Aral Sea is shared between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Kazakhstan was the last Soviet republic to declare its independence after the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dissolved in 1991. Today, its government is a unitary republic, whose president has the authority to veto legislation passed by parliament, and is also the commander-in-chief of the military. The prime minister serves as the head of government.

People have been living in the region of Kazakhstan since the Paleolithic era, and the area was an important part of the Eurasian Steppe Route, which preceded the Silk Roads. Among the early inhabitants of the region were the Scythians, who are believed to have first domesticated the horse.

Through most of the history of Kazakhstan, its people lived a nomadic life, raising livestock. Under the rule of the Mongol Empire, administrative districts were established, the most powerful of which was the Kazakh Khanate, from which Kazakhstan derived its name. The Khanate was at its most powerful in the early 1700s, when it controlled large parts of Central Asia.

In the 1800s, the Russian Empire began to expand into Central Asia, constructing military garrisons in order to increase its influence in the region. By the mid-1800s, the Russian military had disrupted the nomadic lifestyle of the Kazakhs by restricting their movement. A Kazakh nationalist movement began in the late 1800s. However, increasing numbers of settlers from the Russian Empire began moving into the area, particularly after the Trans-Aral Railway was completed. The competition for land between the Kazakh people and the immigrants increased resentment. The Central Asian Revolt of 1916 occurred when the Kazakhs attacked Russian and Cossack settlers and garrisons.

Kazakhstan enjoyed a period of autonomy during the Russian Revolution and the collapse of the Russian Empire. However, in 1920, it became an autonomous republic within the control of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, which became the USSR. Forced collectivism under Soviet rule led to famine and mass emigration, which led to a population decline of about 40%. By 1960, the Kazakh had become a minority in their own country, while ethnic Russians accounted for more than 40% of the population.

In the late 1900s, growing dissatisfaction with Soviet rule led to protests and riots. In 1990, Kazakhstan declared sovereignty over its territory and, in August of 1991, after an aborted coup attempt in Moscow, Kazakhstan declared its independence from the USSR. The Soviet Union dissolved ten days later.

Kazakhstan is divided into fourteen regions. Clockwise, its regions are North Kaz, Pavlodar, East Kazakhstan, Almaty, Zhambyl, South Kaz, Kyzlorda, Aktobe, Mangystau, Atyrau, West Kazakhstan, and Kostanav, while its interior regions are Akmola and Karagandy. Its largest cities, by population, are Almaty, Astana, Shymkent, Karaganda, Aktobe, Taraz, Pavlodar, Oskemen, Semey, and Oral.

The economy of Kazakhstan is the largest in Central Asia, and was the first former Soviet republic to repay the loans it has received from the International Monetary Fund. Kazakhstan exports oil, uranium, wheat, textiles, and livestock.

Today, more than 60% of the country's population is made up of ethnic Kazakhs, with ethnic Russians making up more than 20%, and the remainder made up largely of Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Tatars, Belarusians, Germans, and others. Kazakh and Russian are both official languages, although the use of Russian has been decreasing. English and Turkish are becoming increasingly popular among young Kazakhs.

After years of suppression under the USSR, Kazakhs have embraced religion following independence. About 70% of the Kazakh population is Muslim, about 25% Christian, with Buddhism, Judaism, and others having a presence in the country. However, there are few Christians outside of the Slavic and German ethnic populations.

The adult literacy rate in Kazakhstan is nearly 100%. Schooling is mandatory through the secondary level. In the senior levels, some students follow a general education track, while others are engaged in a vocational tract. Primary and secondary education is paid for by the government, with parents responsible only for extracurricular expenses. Higher education in Kazakhstan largely follows the Russian system, with a focus on teaching rather than research.

Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world, and the largest landlocked country. Western Kazakhstan is on the European continent.



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