Kazakstan - History
BY FAR THE LARGEST of the Central Asian republics of the former
Soviet Union, independent Kazakstan is the world's ninth-largest nation
in geographic area. The population density of Kazakstan is among the
lowest in the world, partly because the country includes large areas of
inhospitable terrain. Kazakstan is located deep within the Asian
continent, with coastline only on the landlocked Caspian Sea. The
proximity of unstable countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and
Azerbaijan to the west and south further isolates Kazakstan (see fig.
Within the centrally controlled structure of the Soviet system,
Kazakstan played a vital industrial and agricultural role; the vast coal
deposits discovered in Kazakstani territory in the twentieth century
promised to replace the depleted fuel reserves in the European
territories of the union. The vast distances between the European
industrial centers and coal fields in Kazakstan presented a formidable
problem that was only partially solved by Soviet efforts to
industrialize Central Asia. That endeavor left the newly independent
Republic of Kazakstan a mixed legacy: a population that includes nearly
as many Russians as Kazaks; the presence of a dominating class of
Russian technocrats, who are necessary to economic progress but
ethnically unassimilated; and a well-developed energy industry, based
mainly on coal and oil, whose efficiency is inhibited by major
Kazakstan has followed the same general political pattern as the
other four Central Asian states. After declaring independence from the
Soviet political structure completely dominated by Moscow and the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) until 1991, Kazakstan
retained the basic governmental structure and, in fact, most of the same
leadership that had occupied the top levels of power in 1990. Nursultan
Nazarbayev, first secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakstan (CPK)
beginning in 1989, was elected president of the republic in 1991 and
remained in undisputed power five years later. Nazarbayev took several
effective steps to ensure his position. The constitution of 1993 made
the prime minister and the Council of Ministers responsible solely to
the president, and in 1995 a new constitution reinforced that
relationship. Furthermore, opposition parties were severely limited by
legal restrictions on their activities. Within that rigid framework,
Nazarbayev gained substantial popularity by limiting the economic shock
of separation from the security of the Soviet Union and by maintaining
ethnic harmony, despite some discontent among Kazak nationalists and the
huge Russian minority.
In the mid-1990s, Russia remained the most important sponsor of
Kazakstan in economic and national security matters, but in such matters
Nazarbayev also backed the strengthening of the multinational structures
of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--see Glossary), the loose
confederation that succeeded the Soviet Union. As sensitive ethnic,
national security, and economic issues cooled relations with Russia in
the 1990s, Nazarbayev cultivated relations with China, the other Central
Asian nations, and the West. Nevertheless, Kazakstan remains principally
dependent on Russia.
Kazakstan entered the 1990s with vast natural resources, an
underdeveloped industrial infrastructure, a stable but rigid political
structure, a small and ethnically divided population, and a commercially
disadvantageous geographic position. In the mid-1990s, the balance of
those qualities remained quite uncertain.
Kazakstan - Early Tribal Movements
Humans have inhabited present-day Kazakstan since the earliest Stone
Age, generally pursuing the nomadic pastoralism for which the region's
climate and terrain are best suited. The earliest well-documented state
in the region was the Turkic Kaganate, which came into existence in the
sixth century A.D. The Qarluqs, a confederation of Turkic tribes,
established a state in what is now eastern Kazakstan in 766. In the
eighth and ninth centuries, portions of southern Kazakstan were
conquered by Arabs, who also introduced Islam. The Oghuz Turks
controlled western Kazakstan from the ninth through the eleventh
centuries; the Kimak and Kipchak peoples, also of Turkic origin,
controlled the east at roughly the same time. The large central desert
of Kazakstan is still called Dashti-Kipchak, or the Kipchak Steppe.
In the late ninth century, the Qarluq state was destroyed by invaders
who established the large Qarakhanid state, which occupied a region
known as Transoxania, the area north and east of the Oxus River (the
present-day Syrdariya), extending into what is now China. Beginning in
the early eleventh century, the Qarakhanids fought constantly among
themselves and with the Seljuk Turks to the south. In the course of
these conflicts, parts of present-day Kazakstan shifted back and forth
between the combatants. The Qarakhanids, who accepted Islam and the
authority of the Arab Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad during their dominant
period, were conquered in the 1130s by the Karakitai, a Turkic
confederation from northern China. In the mid-twelfth century, an
independent state of Khorazm (also seen as Khorezm or Khwarazm) along
the Oxus River broke away from the weakening Karakitai, but the bulk of
the Karakitai state lasted until the invasion of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan
After the Mongol capture of the Karakitai state, Kazakstan fell under
the control of a succession of rulers of the Mongolian Golden Horde, the
western branch of the Mongol Empire. (The horde, or zhuz , is
the precursor of the present-day clan, which is still an important
element of Kazak society--see Population and Society, this ch.) By the
early fifteenth century, the ruling structure had split into several
large groups known as khanates, including the Nogai Horde and the Uzbek
Kazakstan - Forming the Modern Nation
The present-day Kazaks became a recognizable group in the
mid-fifteenth century, when clan leaders broke away from Abul Khayr,
leader of the Uzbeks, to seek their own territory in the lands of
Semirech'ye, between the Chu and Talas rivers in present-day
southeastern Kazakstan. The first Kazak leader was Khan Kasym (r.
1511-23), who united the Kazak tribes into one people. In the sixteenth
century, when the Nogai Horde and Siberian khanates broke up, clans from
each jurisdiction joined the Kazaks. The Kazaks subsequently separated
into three new hordes: the Great Horde, which controlled Semirech'ye and
southern Kazakstan; the Middle Horde, which occupied north-central
Kazakstan; and the Lesser Horde, which occupied western Kazakstan.
Russian traders and soldiers began to appear on the northwestern edge
of Kazak territory in the seventeenth century, when Cossacks established
the forts that later became the cities of Oral (Ural'sk) and Atyrau
(Gur'yev). Russians were able to seize Kazak territory because the
khanates were preoccupied by Kalmyk invaders of Mongol origin, who in
the late sixteenth century had begun to move into Kazak territory from
the east. Forced westward in what they call their Great Retreat, the
Kazaks were increasingly caught between the Kalmyks and the Russians. In
1730 Abul Khayr, one of the khans of the Lesser Horde, sought Russian
assistance. Although Abul Khayr's intent had been to form a temporary
alliance against the stronger Kalmyks, the Russians gained permanent
control of the Lesser Horde as a result of his decision. The Russians
conquered the Middle Horde by 1798, but the Great Horde managed to
remain independent until the 1820s, when the expanding Quqon (Kokand)
Khanate to the south forced the Great Horde khans to choose Russian
protection, which seemed to them the lesser of two evils.
The Kazaks began to resist Russian control almost as soon as it
became complete. The first mass uprising was led by Khan Kene (Kenisary
Kasimov) of the Middle Horde, whose followers fought the Russians
between 1836 and 1847. Khan Kene is now considered a Kazak national
Kazakstan - Russian Control
In 1863 Russia elaborated a new imperial policy, announced in the
Gorchakov Circular, asserting the right to annex "troublesome"
areas on the empire's borders. This policy led immediately to the
Russian conquest of the rest of Central Asia and the creation of two
administrative districts, the Guberniya (Governorate General) of
Turkestan and the Steppe District. Most of present-day Kazakstan was in
the Steppe District, and parts of present-day southern Kazakstan were in
the Governorate General.
In the early nineteenth century, the construction of Russian forts
began to have a destructive effect on the Kazak traditional economy by
limiting the once-vast territory over which the nomadic tribes could
drive their herds and flocks. The final disruption of nomadism began in
the 1890s, when many Russian settlers were introduced into the fertile
lands of northern and eastern Kazakstan. Between 1906 and 1912, more
than a half-million Russian farms were started as part of the reforms of
Russian minister of the interior Petr Stolypin, shattering what remained
of the traditional Kazak way of life.
Starving and displaced, many Kazaks joined in the general Central
Asian resistance to conscription into the Russian imperial army, which
the tsar ordered in July 1916 as part of the effort against Germany in
World War I. In late 1916, Russian forces brutally suppressed the
widespread armed resistance to the taking of land and conscription of
Central Asians. Thousands of Kazaks were killed, and thousands of others
fled to China and Mongolia.
Kazakstan - In the Soviet Union
In 1917 a group of secular nationalists called the Alash Orda (Horde
of Alash), named for a legendary founder of the Kazak people, attempted
to set up an independent national government. This state lasted less
than two years (1918-20) before surrendering to the Bolshevik
authorities, who then sought to preserve Russian control under a new
political system. The Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was
set up in 1920 and was renamed the Kazak Autonomous Soviet Socialist
Republic in 1925 when the Kazaks were differentiated officially from the
Kyrgyz. (The Russian Empire recognized the ethnic difference between the
two groups; it called them both "Kyrgyz" to avoid confusion
between the terms "Kazak" and "Cossack.")
In 1925 the autonomous republic's original capital, Orenburg, was
reincorporated into Russian territory. Almaty (called Alma-Ata during
the Soviet period), a provincial city in the far southeast, became the
new capital. In 1936 the territory was made a full Soviet republic. From
1929 to 1934, during the period when Soviet leader Joseph V. Stalin was
trying to collectivize agriculture, Kazakstan endured repeated famines
because peasants had slaughtered their livestock in protest against
Soviet agricultural policy. In that period, at least 1.5 million Kazaks
and 80 percent of the republic's livestock died. Thousands more Kazaks
tried to escape to China, although most starved in the attempt.
Many European Soviet citizens and much of Russia's industry were
relocated to Kazakstan during World War II, when Nazi armies threatened
to capture all the European industrial centers of the Soviet Union.
Groups of Crimean Tatars, Germans, and Muslims from the North Caucasus
region were deported to Kazakstan during the war because it was feared
that they would collaborate with the enemy. Many more non-Kazaks arrived
in the years 1953-65, during the so-called Virgin Lands campaign of
Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev (in office 1956-64). Under that
program, huge tracts of Kazak grazing land were put to the plow for the
cultivation of wheat and other cereal grains. Still more settlers came
in the late 1960s and 1970s, when the government paid handsome bonuses
to workers participating in a program to relocate Soviet industry close
to the extensive coal, gas, and oil deposits of Central Asia. One
consequence of the decimation of the nomadic Kazak population and the
in-migration of non-Kazaks was that by the 1970s Kazakstan was the only
Soviet republic in which the eponymous nationality was a minority in its
Kazakstan - Reform and Nationalist Conflict
The 1980s brought glimmers of political independence, as well as
conflict, as the central government's hold progressively weakened. In
this period, Kazakstan was ruled by a succession of three Communist
Party officials; the third of those men, Nursultan Nazarbayev, continued
as president of the Republic of Kazakstan when independence was
proclaimed in 1991.
In December 1986, Soviet premier Mikhail S. Gorbachev (in office
1985-91) forced the resignation of Dinmukhamed Kunayev, an ethnic Kazak
who had led the republic as first secretary of the CPK from 1959 to
1962, and again starting in 1964. During 1985, Kunayev had been under
official attack for cronyism, mismanagement, and malfeasance; thus, his
departure was not a surprise. However, his replacement, Gennadiy Kolbin,
an ethnic Russian with no previous ties to Kazakstan, was unexpected.
Kolbin was a typical administrator of the early Gorbachev
era--enthusiastic about economic and administrative reforms but hardly
mindful of their consequences or viability.
The announcement of Kolbin's appointment provoked spontaneous street
demonstrations by Kazaks, to which Soviet authorities responded with
force. Demonstrators, many of them students, rioted. Two days of
disorder followed, and at least 200 people died or were summarily
executed soon after. Some accounts estimate casualties at more than
Kunayev had been ousted largely because the economy was failing.
Although Kazakstan had the third-largest gross domestic product
(GDP--see Glossary) in the Soviet Union, trailing only Russia and
Ukraine, by 1987 labor productivity had decreased 12 percent, and per
capita income had fallen by 24 percent of the national norm. By that
time, Kazakstan was underproducing steel at an annual rate of more than
a million tons. Agricultural output also was dropping precipitously.
While Kolbin was promoting a series of unrealistic, Moscow-directed
campaigns of social reform, expressions of Kazak nationalism were
prompting Gorbachev to address some of the non-Russians' complaints
about cultural self-determination. One consequence was a new tolerance
of bilingualism in the non-Russian regions. Kolbin made a strong
commitment to promoting the local language and in 1987 suggested that
Kazak become the republic's official language. However, none of his
initiatives went beyond empty public-relations ploys. In fact, the
campaign in favor of bilingualism was transformed into a campaign to
improve the teaching of Russian.
While attempting to conciliate the Kazak population with promises,
Kolbin also conducted a wholesale purge of pro-Kunayev members of the
CPK, replacing hundreds of republic-level and local officials. Although
officially "nationality-blind," Kolbin's policies seemed to be
directed mostly against Kazaks. The downfall of Kolbin, however, was the
continued deterioration of the republic's economy during his tenure.
Agricultural output had fallen so low by 1989 that Kolbin proposed to
fulfill meat quotas by slaughtering the millions of wild ducks that
migrate through Kazakstan. The republic's industrial sector had begun to
recover slightly in 1989, but credit for this progress was given largely
to Nursultan Nazarbayev, an ethnic Kazak who had become chairman of
Kazakstan's Council of Ministers in 1984.
As nationalist protests became more violent across the Soviet Union
in 1989, Gorbachev began calling for the creation of popularly elected
legislatures and for the loosening of central political controls to make
such elections possible. These measures made it increasingly plain in
Kazakstan that Kolbin and his associates soon would be replaced by a new
generation of Kazak leaders.
Rather than reinvigorate the Soviet people to meet national tasks,
Gorbachev's encouragement of voluntary local organi-zations only
stimulated the formation of informal political groups, many of which had
overtly nationalist agendas. For the Kazaks, such agendas were presented
forcefully on national television at the first Congress of People's
Deputies, which was convened in Moscow in June 1989. By that time,
Kolbin was already scheduled for rotation back to Moscow, but his
departure probably was hastened by riots in June 1989 in Novyy Uzen, an
impoverished western Kazakstan town that produced natural gas. That
rioting lasted nearly a week and claimed at least four lives.
Kazakstan - The Rise of Nazarbayev
In June 1989, Kolbin was replaced by Nazarbayev, a politician trained
as a metallurgist and engineer. Nazarbayev had become involved in party
work in 1979, when he became a protégé of reform members of the CPSU.
Having taken a major role in the attacks on Kunayev, Nazarbayev may have
expected to replace him in 1986. When he was passed over, Nazarbayev
submitted to Kolbin's authority and used his party position to support
Gorbachev's new line, attributing economic stagnation in the Soviet
republics to past subordination of local interests to the mandates of
Soon proving himself a skilled negotiator, Nazarbayev bridged the gap
between the republic's Kazaks and Russians at a time of increasing
nationalism while also managing to remain personally loyal to the
Gorbachev reform program. Nazarbayev's firm support of the major
Gorbachev positions in turn helped him gain national and, after 1990,
even international visibility. Many reports indicate that Gorbachev was
planning to name Nazarbayev as his deputy in the new union planned to
succeed the Soviet Union.
Even as he supported Gorbachev during the last two years of the
Soviet Union, Nazarbayev fought Moscow to increase his republic's income
from the resources it had long been supplying to the center. Although
his appointment as party first secretary had originated in Moscow,
Nazarbayev realized that for his administration to succeed under the new
conditions of that time, he had to cultivate a popular mandate within
the republic. This difficult task meant finding a way to make Kazakstan
more Kazak without alienating the republic's large and economically
significant Russian and European populations. Following the example of
other Soviet republics, Nazarbayev sponsored legislation that made Kazak
the official language and permitted examination of the negative role of
collectivization and other Soviet policies on the republic's history.
Nazarbayev also permitted a widened role for religion, which encouraged
a resurgence of Islam. In late 1989, although he did not have the legal
power to do so, Nazarbayev created an independent religious
administration for Kazakstan, severing relations with the Muslim Board
of Central Asia, the Soviet-approved oversight body in Tashkent.
In March 1990, elections were held for a new legislature in the
republic's first multiple-candidate contests since 1925. The winners
represented overwhelmingly the republic's existing elite, who were loyal
to Nazarbayev and to the Communist Party apparatus. The legislature also
was disproportionately ethnic Kazak: 54.2 percent to the Russians' 28.8
Kazakstan - Sovereignty and Independence
In June 1990, Moscow declared formally the sovereignty of the central
government over Kazakstan, forcing Kazakstan to elaborate its own
statement of sovereignty. This exchange greatly exacerbated tensions
between the republic's two largest ethnic groups, who at that point were
numerically about equal. Beginning in mid-August 1990, Kazak and Russian
nationalists began to demonstrate frequently around Kazakstan's
parliament building, attempting to influence the final statement of
sovereignty being developed within. The statement was adopted in October
In keeping with practices in other republics at that time, the
parliament had named Nazarbayev its chairman, and then, soon afterward,
it had converted the chairmanship to the presidency of the republic. In
contrast to the presidents of the other republics, especially those in
the independence-minded Baltic states, Nazarbayev remained strongly
committed to the perpetuation of the Soviet Union throughout the spring
and summer of 1991. He took this position largely because he considered
the republics too interdependent economically to survive separation. At
the same time, however, Nazarbayev fought hard to secure republic
control of Kazakstan's enormous mineral wealth and industrial potential.
This objective became particularly important after 1990, when it was
learned that Gorbachev had negotiated an agreement with Chevron, a
United States oil company, to develop Kazakstan's Tengiz oil fields.
Gorbachev did not consult Nazarbayev until talks were nearly complete.
At Nazarbayev's insistence, Moscow surrendered control of the republic's
mineral resources in June 1991. Gorbachev's authority crumbled rapidly
throughout 1991. Nazarbayev, however, continued to support him,
persistently urging other republic leaders to sign the revised Union
Treaty, which Gorbachev had put forward in a last attempt to hold the
Soviet Union together.
Because of the coup attempted by Moscow hard-liners against the
Gorbachev government in August 1991, the Union Treaty never was signed.
Ambivalent about the removal of Gorbachev, Nazarbayev did not condemn
the coup attempt until its second day. However, once the incompetence of
the plotters became clear, Nazarbayev threw his weight solidly behind
Gorbachev and continuation of some form of union, largely because of his
conviction that independence would be economic suicide.
At the same time, however, Nazarbayev pragmatically began preparing
his republic for much greater freedom, if not for actual independence.
He appointed professional economists and managers to high posts, and he
began to seek the advice of foreign development and business experts.
The outlawing of the CPK, which followed the attempted coup, also
permitted Nazarbayev to take virtually complete control of the
republic's economy, more than 90 percent of which had been under the
partial or complete direction of the central Soviet government until
late 1991. Nazarbayev solidified his position by winning an uncontested
election for president in December 1991.
A week after the election, Nazarbayev became the president of an
independent state when the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus
signed documents dissolving the Soviet Union. Nazarbayev quickly
convened a meeting of the leaders of the five Central Asian states, thus
effectively raising the specter of a "Turkic" confederation of
former republics as a counterweight to the "Slavic" states
(Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus) in whatever federation might succeed the
Soviet Union. This move persuaded the three Slavic presidents to include
Kazakstan among the signatories to a recast document of dissolution.
Thus, the capital of Kazakstan lent its name to the Alma-Ata
Declaration, in which eleven of the fifteen Soviet republics announced
the expansion of the thirteen-day-old CIS. On December 16, 1991, just
five days before that declaration, Kazakstan had become the last of the
republics to proclaim its independence.
Kazakstan - Geography
With an area of about 2,717,300 square kilometers, Kazakstan is more
than twice the combined size of the other four Central Asian states. The
country borders Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan to the south;
Russia to the north; Russia and the Caspian Sea to the west; and China's
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the east.
Topography and Drainage
There is considerable topographical variation within Kazakstan. The
highest elevation, Khan Tengri Mountain, on the Kyrgyz border in the
Tian Shan range, is 6,995 meters; the lowest point, at Karagiye, in the
Caspian Depression in the west, is 132 meters below sea level (see fig.
2). Only 12.4 percent of Kazakstan is mountainous, with most of the
mountains located in the Altay and Tian Shan ranges of the east and
northeast, although the Ural Mountains extend southward from Russia into
the northern part of west-central Kazakstan. Many of the peaks of the
Altay and Tian Shan ranges are snow covered year-round, and their
run-off is the source for most of Kazakstan's rivers and streams.
Except for the Tobol, Ishim, and Irtysh rivers (the Kazak names for
which are, respectively, Tobyl, Esil, and Ertis), portions of which flow
through Kazakstan, all of Kazakstan's rivers and streams are part of
landlocked systems. They either flow into isolated bodies of water such
as the Caspian Sea or simply disappear into the steppes and deserts of
central and southern Kazakstan. Many rivers, streams, and lakes are
seasonal, evaporating in summer. The three largest bodies of water are
Lake Balkhash, a partially fresh, partially saline lake in the east,
near Almaty, and the Caspian and Aral seas, both of which lie partially
Some 9.4 percent of Kazakstan's land is mixed prairie and forest or
treeless prairie, primarily in the north or in the basin of the Ural
River in the west. More than three-quarters of the country, including
the entire west and most of the south, is either semidesert (33.2
percent) or desert (44 percent). The terrain in these regions is bare,
eroded, broken uplands, with sand dunes in the Qizilqum (red sand; in
the Russian form, Kyzylkum) and Moyunqum (in the Russian form, Moin Kum)
deserts, which occupy south-central Kazakstan. Most of the country lies
at between 200 and 300 meters above sea level, but Kazakstan's Caspian
shore includes some of the lowest elevations on Earth.
Kazakstan - Climate
Because Kazakstan is so far from the oceans, the climate is sharply
continental and very dry. Precipitation in the mountains of the east
averages as much as 600 millimeters per year, mostly in the form of
snow, but most of the republic receives only 100 to 200 millimeters per
year. Precipitation totals less than 100 millimeters in the
south-central regions around Qyzylorda. A lack of precipitation makes
Kazakstan a sunny republic; the north averages 120 clear days a year,
and the south averages 260. The lack of moderating bodies of water also
means that temperatures can vary widely. Average winter temperatures are
-3°C in the north and 18°C in the south; summer temperatures average
19°C in the north and 28°-30°C in the south. Within locations
differences are extreme, and temperature can change very suddenly. The
winter air temperature can fall to -50°C, and in summer the ground
temperature can reach as high as 70°C.
Kazakstan - Environment
The environment of Kazakstan has been badly damaged by human
activity. Most of the water in Kazakstan is polluted by industrial
effluents, pesticide and fertilizer residue, and, in some places,
radioactivity. The most visible damage has been to the Aral Sea, which
as recently as the 1970s was larger than any of the Great Lakes of North
America save Lake Superior. The sea began to shrink rapidly when sharply
increased irrigation and other demands on the only significant
tributaries, the Syrdariya and the Amu Darya (the latter reaching the
Aral from neighboring Uzbekistan), all but eliminated inflow. By 1993
the Aral Sea had lost an estimated 60 percent of its volume, in the
process breaking into three unconnected segments. Increasing salinity
and reduced habitat have killed the Aral Sea's fish, hence destroying
its once-active fishing industry, and the receding shoreline has left
the former port of Aral'sk more than sixty kilometers from the water's
edge. The depletion of this large body of water has increased
temperature variations in the region, which in turn have had an impact
on agriculture. A much greater agricultural impact, however, has come
from the salt- and pesticide-laden soil that the wind is known to carry
as far away as the Himalaya Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Deposition
of this heavily saline soil on nearby fields effectively sterilizes
them. Evidence suggests that salts, pesticides, and residues of chemical
fertilizers are also adversely affecting human life around the former
Aral Sea; infant mortality in the region approaches 10 percent, compared
with the 1991 national rate of 2.7 percent.
By contrast, the water level of the Caspian Sea has been rising
steadily since 1978 for reasons that scientists have not been able to
explain fully. At the northern end of the sea, more than a million
hectares of land in Atyrau Province have been flooded. Experts estimate
that if current rates of increase persist, the coastal city of Atyrau,
eighty-eight other population centers, and many of Kazakstan's Caspian
oil fields could be submerged by 2020.
Wind erosion has also had an impact in the northern and central parts
of the republic because of the introduction of wide-scale dryland wheat
farming. In the 1950s and 1960s, much soil was lost when vast tracts of
Kazakstan's prairies were plowed under as part of Khrushchev's Virgin
Lands agricultural project. By the mid-1990s, an estimated 60 percent of
the republic's pastureland was in various stages of desertification.
Industrial pollution is a bigger concern in Kazakstan's manufacturing
cities, where aging factories pump huge quantities of unfiltered
pollutants into the air and groundwater. The capital, Almaty, is
particularly threatened, in part because of the postindependence boom in
private automobile ownership.
The gravest environmental threat to Kazakstan comes from radiation,
especially in the Semey (Semipalatinsk) region of the northeast, where
the Soviet Union tested almost 500 nuclear weapons, 116 of them above
ground. Often, such tests were conducted without evacuating or even
alerting the local population. Although nuclear testing was halted in
1990, radiation poisoning, birth defects, severe anemia, and leukemia
are very common in the area (see Health Conditions, this ch.).
With some conspicuous exceptions, lip service has been the primary
official response to Kazakstan's ecological problems. In February 1989,
opposition to Soviet nuclear testing and its ill effects in Kazakstan
led to the creation of one of the republic's largest and most
influential grass-roots movements, Nevada-Semipalatinsk, which was
founded by Kazak poet and public figure Olzhas Suleymenov. In the first
week of the movement's existence, Nevada-Semipalatinsk gathered more
than 2 million signatures from Kazakstanis of all ethnic groups on a
petition to Gorbachev demanding the end of nuclear testing in Kazakstan.
After a year of demonstrations and protests, the test ban took effect in
1990. It remained in force in 1996, although in 1995 at least one
unexploded device reportedly was still in position near Semey.
Once its major ecological objective was achieved,
Nevada-Semipalatinsk made various attempts to broaden into a more
general political movement; it has not pursued a broad ecological or
"green" agenda. A very small green party, Tagibat, made common
cause with the political opposition in the parliament of 1994.
The government has established a Ministry of Ecology and
Bioresources, with a separate administration for radioecology, but the
ministry's programs are underfunded and given low priority. In 1994 only
23 percent of budgeted funds were actually allotted to environmental
programs. Many official meetings and conferences are held (more than 300
have been devoted to the problem of the Aral Sea alone), but few
practical programs have gone into operation. In 1994 the World Bank (see
Glossary), the International Monetary Fund (IMF--see Glossary), and the
United States Environmental Protection Agency agreed to give Kazakstan
US$62 million to help the country overcome ecological problems.
Kazakstan - Population
Total population was estimated in 1994 at 17,268,000, making
Kazakstan the fourth most populous former Soviet republic. As of 1990,
57 percent of the country's residents lived in cities. Because much of
the land is too dry to be more than marginally habitable, overall
population density is a very low 6.2 persons per square kilometer. Large
portions of the republic, especially in the south and west, have a
population density of less than one person per square kilometer. In 1989
some 1.4 million Kazaks lived outside Kazakstan, nearly all in the
Russian and Uzbek republics. At that time, an estimated 1 million Kazaks
lived in China, and a sizeable but uncounted Kazak population resided in
The birth rate, which is declining slowly, was estimated at 19.4
births per 1,000 population in 1994 (see table 2, Appendix). The death
rate, which has been climbing slowly, was estimated at 7.9 per 1,000
population--leaving a rate of natural increase of 1.1 percent, by far
the lowest among the five Central Asian republics. In 1995 the total
fertility rate--2.4 births per woman, a drop from the 1990 figure of
2.8--also was far below the rates for the other Central Asian republics.
In the first six months of 1994, some 1.8 percent fewer babies were born
than in the same period the previous year. In the same months, the
number of deaths rose by 2.5 percent compared with those in the same
period in 1993. In some provinces, death rates are much higher than the
average, however. Shygys Qazaqstan (East Kazakstan) Province has a death
rate of 12.9 per thousand; Soltustik Qazaqstan (North Kazakstan)
Province, eleven per 1,000; and Almaty Province, 11.3 deaths per 1,000.
The cause of nearly half of these deaths is cardiovascular disease.
Because of declining life expectancy and decreases in the size of the
Russian population, which is demographically older and has a low birth
rate, the republic's residents are a relatively young group; in 1991
there were only 149 pensioners per 1,000 population, as opposed to 212
per 1,000 in the former Soviet Union as a whole (see table 3, Appendix).
The republic is experiencing a pronounced outflow of citizens, primarily
non-Kazaks moving to other former Soviet republics. Although figures
conflict, it seems likely that as many as 750,000 non-Kazaks left the
republic between independence and the end of 1995. Official figures
indicate that in the first half of 1994 some 220,400 people left,
compared with 149,800 in the same period of 1993. In 1992 and 1993, the
number of Russian emigrants was estimated at 100,000 to 300,000. Such
out-migration is not uniform. Some regions, such as Qaraghandy, have
lost as much as 10 percent of their total population, resulting in
shortages of technicians and skilled specialists in that heavily
To some extent, the outflow has been offset by in-migration, which
has been of two types. Kazakstan's government has actively encouraged
the return of Kazaks from elsewhere in the former Soviet Union and from
China and Mongolia. Unlike other ethnic groups, ethnic Kazaks are
granted automatic citizenship. More than 60,000 Kazaks emigrated from
Mongolia in 1991-94, their settlement--or resettlement--eased by
government assistance. Most were moved to the northern provinces, where
the majority of Kazakstan's Russian population lives. Because these
"Mongol Kazaks" generally do not know Russian and continue to
pursue traditional nomadic lifestyles, the impact of their resettlement
has been disproportionate to their actual numbers.
The other major source of in-migration has been non-Kazaks arriving
from other parts of Central Asia to avoid inhospitable conditions; most
of these people also have settled in northern Kazakstan. Although
officially forbidden and actively discouraged, this in-migration has
continued. In a further attempt to control in-migration, President
Nazarbayev decreed that no more than 5,000 families would be permitted
to take up residence in the republic in 1996.
<>The Role of Women
Updated population figures for Kazakstan.
Kazakstan - Ethnic Groups
Kazakstan is the only former Soviet republic where the indigenous
ethnic group is not a majority of the population. In 1994 eight of the
country's eleven provinces had Slavic (Russian and Ukrainian) population
majorities. Only the three southernmost provinces were populated
principally by Kazaks and other Turkic groups; the capital city, Almaty,
had a European (German and Russian) majority. Overall, in 1994 the
population was about 44 percent Kazak, 36 percent Russian, 5 percent
Ukrainian, and 4 percent German. Tatars and Uzbeks each represented
about 2 percent of the population; Azerbaijanis, Uygurs, and Belarusians
each represented 1 percent; and the remaining 4 percent included
approximately ninety other nationalities.
Kazakstan's ethnic composition is the driving force behind much of
the country's political and cultural life. In most ways, the republic's
two major ethnic groups, the Kazaks and the "Russian-speakers"
(Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Belarusians), may as well live in
different countries. To the Russians, most of whom live in northern
Kazakstan within a day's drive of Russia proper, Kazakstan is an
extension of the Siberian frontier and a product of Russian and Soviet
development. To most Kazaks, these Russians are usurpers. Of Kazakstan's
current Russian residents, 38 percent were born outside the republic,
while most of the rest are second-generation Kazakstani citizens.
The Nazarbayev government has announced plans to move the capital
from Almaty in the far southeast to Aqmola in the north-central region
by 1998. That change would cause a shift of the Kazak population
northward and accelerate the absorption of the Russian-dominated
northern provinces into the Kazakstani state. Over the longer term, the
role of Russians in the society of Kazakstan also is determined by a
demographic factor--the average age of the Russian population is higher,
and its birth rate much lower.
Kazakstan - Clans
One aspect of Kazak traditional culture, clan membership, is
acquiring importance in the postindependence environment. Historically
the Kazaks identified themselves as belonging to one of three groups of
clans and tribes, called zhuz , or hordes, each of which had
traditional territories. Because the Lesser Horde controlled western
Kazakstan and the Middle Horde migrated across what today is northern
and eastern Kazakstan, those groups came under Russian control first,
when colonial policies were relatively benign. The traditional nobles of
these hordes managed to retain many of their privileges and to educate
their sons in Russian schools. These sons became the first Kazak
nationalists, and in turn their sons were destroyed by Stalin, who tried
to eradicate the Kazak intelligentsia during his purges of the 1930s.
The Large, or Great, Horde was dominant in the south, and hence did
not fall under Russian control until colonialism was much harsher.
Substantially fewer Great Horde Kazaks became involved in politics
before the revolution, but those who did became socialists rather than
nationalists. For that reason, the Great Horde members came to dominate
once the Bolsheviks took power, especially after Kazakstan's capital was
moved from the Lesser Horde town of Orenburg (now in Russia) to a Great
Horde wintering spot, Almaty. Kunayev and Nazarbayev are said to have
roots in clans of the Great Horde.
With the collapse of the CPK and its patronage networks, and in the
absence of any other functional equivalent, clan and zhuz membership
has come to play an increasingly important role in the economic and
political life of the republic at both the national and the province
level. The power of clan politics has been visible in the dispute over
moving the national capital to Aqmola, which would bolster the prestige
of the Middle Horde, on whose lands Aqmola is located. In general,
members of the Lesser and Middle hordes are more Russified and, hence,
more inclined to cooperate with Russian industrial and commercial
interests than are the members of the Great Horde. Akezhan Kazhegeldin,
prime minister in 1996, was a Middle Horder, as was the opposition
leader Olzhas Suleymenov. Although mindful of Russia's strength, the
Great Horders have less to lose to Russian separatism than do the Lesser
and Middle horders, whose lands would be lost should the
Russian-dominated provinces of northern Kazakstan become separated from
Kazakstan - The Role of Women
Like its 1993 predecessor, the constitution of 1995 defends women's
rights implicitly, if not entirely explicitly. The document guarantees
citizens the right to work and forbids discrimination based on
geographic origin, gender, race, nationality, religious or political
belief, and language.
In practice, social opinion tends to associate women in the workplace
with the abuses of the Soviet past. The early 1990s saw the loss of more
than 100,000 day-care spaces, and public opinion strongly favors
returning primary responsibility for the rearing and educating of
children to mothers. In April 1995, President Nazarbayev said that one
of the republic's goals must be to create an economy in which a mother
can work at home, raising her children. This general opinion has been
reflected in governmental appointments and private enterprise; almost no
women occupy senior positions in the country, either in government or in
The declining birth rate is another issue with the potential to
become politicized because it affects the demographic "race"
between Kazaks and Russians. With demographic statistics in mind, Kazak
nationalist parties have attempted to ban abortions and birth control
for Kazak women; they have also made efforts to reduce the number of
Kazak women who have children outside marriage. In 1988, the last year
for which there are figures, 11.24 percent of the births in the republic
were to unmarried women. Such births were slightly more common in cities
(12.72 percent) than in rural areas (9.67 percent), suggesting that such
births may be more common among Russians than among Kazaks.
Women's health issues have not been addressed effectively in
Kazakstan. Maternal mortality rates average 80 per 10,000 births for the
entire country, but they are believed to be much higher in rural areas.
Of the 4.2 million women of childbearing age, an estimated 15 percent
have borne seven or more children. Nevertheless, in 1992 the number of
abortions exceeded the number of births, although the high percentage of
early-stage abortions performed in private clinics complicates data
gathering. According to one expert estimate, the average per woman is
five abortions. Rising abortion rates are attributable, at least in
part, to the high price or unavailability of contraceptive devices,
which became much less accessible after 1991. In 1992 an estimated 15
percent of women were using some form of contraception.
Kazakstan - Religion
By tradition the Kazaks are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school, and
the Russians are Russian Orthodox. In 1994, some 47 percent of the
population was Muslim, 44 percent was Russian Orthodox, and 2 percent
was Protestant, mainly Baptist. Some Jews, Catholics, and
Pentacostalists also live in Kazakstan; a Roman Catholic diocese was
established in 1991. As elsewhere in the newly independent Central Asian
states, the subject of Islam's role in everyday life, and especially in
politics, is a delicate one in Kazakstan.
Islam in the Past
As part of the Central Asian population and the Turkic world, Kazaks
are conscious of the role Islam plays in their identity, and there is
strong public pressure to increase the role that faith plays in society.
At the same time, the roots of Islam in many segments of Kazak society
are not as deep as they are in neighboring countries. Many of the Kazak
nomads, for instance, did not become Muslims until the eighteenth or
even the nineteenth century, and urban Russified Kazaks, who by some
counts constitute as much as 40 percent of the indigenous population,
profess discomfort with some aspects of the religion even as they
recognize it as part of their national heritage.
Soviet authorities attempted to encourage a controlled form of Islam
as a unifying force in the Central Asian societies while at the same
time stifling the expression of religious beliefs. Since independence,
religious activity has increased significantly. Construction of mosques
and religious schools has accelerated in the 1990s, with financial help
from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt. Already in 1991, some 170 mosques
were operating, more than half of them newly built; at that time, an
estimated 230 Muslim communities were active in Kazakstan
<>Islam and the
Kazakstan - Islam and the State
In 1990 Nazarbayev, then party first secretary, created a state basis
for Islam by removing Kazakstan from the authority of the Muslim Board
of Central Asia, the Soviet-approved and politically oriented religious
administration for all of Central Asia. Instead, Nazarbayev created a
separate muftiate, or religious authority, for Kazak Muslims. However,
Nazarbayev's choice of Ratbek hadji Nysanbayev to be the first Kazak
mufti proved an unpopular one. Accusing him of financial irregularities,
religious mispractice, and collaboration with the Soviet and Kazakstani
state security apparatus, a group of believers from the nationalist
Alash political party attempted unsuccessfully to replace the mufti in
With an eye toward the Islamic governments of nearby Iran and
Afghanistan, the writers of the 1993 constitution specifically forbade
religious political parties. The 1995 constitution forbids organizations
that seek to stimulate racial, political, or religious discord, and
imposes strict governmental control on foreign religious organizations.
As did its predecessor, the 1995 constitution stipulates that Kazakstan
is a secular state; thus, Kazakstan is the only Central Asian state
whose constitution does not assign a special status to Islam. This
position was based on the Nazarbayev government's foreign policy as much
as on domestic considerations. Aware of the potential for investment
from the Muslim countries of the Middle East, Nazarbayev visited Iran,
Turkey, and Saudia Arabia; at the same time, however, he preferred to
cast Kazakstan as a bridge between the Muslim East and the Christian
West. For example, he initially accepted only observer status in the
Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), all of whose member nations are
predominantly Muslim. The president's first trip to the Muslim holy city
of Mecca, which did not occur until 1994, was part of an itinerary that
also included a visit to Pope John Paul II in the Vatican.
By the mid-1990s, Nazarbayev had begun occasionally to refer to Allah
in his speeches, but he had not permitted any of the Islamic festivals
to become public holidays, as they had elsewhere in Central Asia.
However, certain pre-Islamic holidays such as the spring festival Navruz
and the summer festival Kymyzuryndyk were reintroduced in 1995.
Kazakstan - National Identity
As in the other Central Asian republics, the preservation of
indigenous cultural traditions and the local language was a difficult
problem during the Soviet era. The years since 1991 have provided
opportunities for greater cultural expression, but striking a balance
between the Kazak and Russian languages has posed a political dilemma
for Kazakstan's policy makers.
The two official languages in Kazakstan are Russian and Kazak. Kazak
is part of the Nogai-Kipchak subgroup of northeastern Turkic languages,
heavily influenced by both Tatar and Mongol. Kazak was first written
only in the 1860s, using Arabic script. In 1929 Latin script was
introduced. In 1940 Stalin decided to unify the written materials of the
Central Asian republics with those of the Slavic rulers by introducing a
modified form of Cyrillic. In 1992 the return of a Latin-based alphabet
came under discussion, but the enormous costs involved appear to have
stopped further consideration of the idea.
Kazak first became a state language in the late Soviet period, when
few of the republic's Russians gave serious thought to the possibility
that they might need Kazak to retain their employment, to serve in the
armed forces, or to have their children enter a Kazakstani university.
At that point, fewer than 5 percent of Russians could speak Kazak,
although the majority of Kazaks could speak Russian. However, with the
separation between Russia and Kazakstan that followed independence,
Russian nationalist sentiment and objections to alleged discrimination
in official language policies have increased, especially in the north,
as Russians have felt the threat of Kazak becoming the sole legal state
language. Meanwhile, Kazaks have strongly defended the preeminence of
their tongue, although mastery of the language is far from universal
even among Kazaks. According to some estimates, as much as 40 percent of
the Kazak population is not fluent in Kazak. The standard language of
business, for example, is Russian.
Even those who are fluent find Kazak a difficult language to work
with in science, business, and some administrative settings because it
remained largely a "kitchen" language in Soviet times, never
developing a modern technical vocabulary. Nor has there been extensive
translation of technical or popular literature into Kazak. Thus, for
most Kazaks Russian remains the primary "world language." In
fact, President Nazarbayev defended making Kazak the sole official
language on the grounds that decades of Russification had endangered the
survival of Kazak as a language. The practical primacy of Russian is
reflected in the schools. Despite efforts to increase the number of
schools where Kazak is the primary language of instruction, Russian
appeared to continue its domination in the mid-1990s. In 1990 about
twice as many schools taught in Russian as in Kazak. Although
institutions of higher learning now show a strong selection bias in
favor of Kazak students, Russian remains the language of instruction in
The issue of languages is one of the most politicized and contentious
in Kazakstan. The volatility of the language issue has been augmented by
Russia's controversial proposals, beginning in 1993, that Kazakstan's
Russians be granted dual citizenship. Although Nazarbayev rejected such
a policy, the language controversy prompted him to postpone deadlines
for implementation of laws making Kazak the sole official language.
Thus, it is unlikely that most adult non-Kazaks will have to learn
Kazak. Nevertheless, demographic trends make it probable that the next
generation will have to learn Kazak, a prospect that generates
considerable discomfort in the non-Kazak population. The 1995
constitution does not provide for dual citizenship, but it does
alleviate Russian concerns by declaring Russian an official language.
That status means that Russian would continue as the primary language of
communication for many ethnic Kazaks, and it will remain acceptable for
use in schools (a major concern of Russian citizens) and official
Kazakstan - Culture
Before the Russian conquest, the Kazaks had a well-articulated
culture based on their nomadic pastoral economy. Although Islam was
introduced to most of the Kazaks in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, the religion was not fully assimilated until much later. As a
result, it coexisted with earlier elements of shamanistic and animistic
beliefs. Traditional Kazak belief held that separate spirits inhabited
and animated the earth, sky, water, and fire, as well as domestic
animals. To this day, particularly honored guests in rural settings are
treated to a feast of freshly killed lamb. Such guests are sometimes
asked to bless the lamb and to ask its spirit for permission to partake
of its flesh. Besides lamb, many other traditional foods retain symbolic
value in Kazak culture.
Because animal husbandry was central to the Kazaks' traditional
lifestyle, most of their nomadic practices and customs relate in some
way to livestock. Traditional curses and blessings invoked disease or
fecundity among animals, and good manners required that a person ask
first about the health of a man's livestock when greeting him and only
afterward inquire about the human aspects of his life.
The traditional Kazak dwelling is the yurt, a tent consisting of a
flexible framework of willow wood covered with varying thicknesses of
felt. The open top permits smoke from the central hearth to escape;
temperature and draft can be controlled by a flap that increases or
decreases the size of the opening. A properly constructed yurt can be
cooled in summer and warmed in winter, and it can be disassembled or set
up in less than an hour. The interior of the yurt has ritual
significance; the right side generally is reserved for men and the left
Although yurts are less used for their original purpose than they
once were, they remain a potent symbol of "Kazakness." During
demonstrations against Nazarbayev in the spring of 1992, demonstrators
and hunger strikers erected yurts in front of the government building in
Almaty. Yurts are also frequently used as a decorative motif in
restaurants and other public buildings.
Because of the Kazaks' nomadic lifestyle and their lack of a written
language until the mid-nineteenth century, their literary tradition
relies upon oral histories. These histories were memorized and recited
by the akyn , the elder responsible for remembering the legends
and histories, and by jyrau , lyric poets who traveled with the
high-placed khans. Most of the legends concern the activities of a batir
, or hero-warrior. Among the tales that have survived are Koblandy-batir
(fifteenth or sixteenth century), Er Sain (sixteenth century),
and Er Targyn (sixteenth century), all of which concern the
struggle against the Kalmyks; Kozy Korpesh and Bain sulu
, both epics; and the love lyric Kiz-Jibek . Usually these
tales were recited in a song-like chant, frequently to the accompaniment
of such traditional instruments as drums and the dombra , a
mandolin-like string instrument. President Nazarbayev has appeared on
television broadcasts in the republic, playing the dombra and
The Russian conquest wreaked havoc on Kazak traditional culture by
making impossible the nomadic pastoralism upon which the culture was
based. However, many individual elements survived the loss of the
lifestyle as a whole. Many practices that lost their original meanings
are assuming value as symbols of post-Soviet national identity.
For the most part, preindependence cultural life in Kazakstan was
indistinguishable from that elsewhere in the Soviet Union. It featured
the same plays, films, music, books, paintings, museums, and other
cultural appurtenances common in every other corner of the Soviet
empire. That Russified cultural establishment nevertheless produced many
of the most important figures of the early stages of Kazak nationalist
self-assertion, including novelist Anuar Alimzhanov, who became
president of the last Soviet Congress of People's Deputies, and poets
Mukhtar Shakhanov and Olzhas Suleymenov, who were copresidents of the
political party Popular Congress of Kazakstan (see Structure of
Government; Political Organizations, this ch.). Shakhanov also chaired
the commission that investigated the events surrounding the riots of
An even more powerful figure than Shakhanov, Suleymenov in 1975
became a pan-Central Asian hero by publishing a book, Az i Ia ,
examining the Lay of Igor's Campaign , a medieval tale vital to
the Russian national culture, from the perspective of the Turkic
Pechenegs whom Igor defeated. Soviet authorities subjected the book to a
blistering attack. Later Suleymenov used his prestige to give authority
to the Nevada-Semipalatinsk antinuclear movement, which performed the
very real service of ending nuclear testing in Kazakstan. He and
Shakhanov originally organized their People's Congress Party as a
pro-Nazarbayev movement, but Suleymenov eventually steered the party
into an opposition role. In the short-lived parliament of 1994-95,
Suleymenov was leader of the Respublika opposition coalition, and he was
frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.
The collapse of the Soviet system with which so many of the Kazak
cultural figures were identified left most of them in awkward positions.
Even more damaging has been the total collapse of public interest in
most forms of higher culture. Most of the books that Kazakstanis buy are
about business, astrology, or sex; the movies they see are nearly all
American, Chinese, or Turkish adventure and action films; most concerts
feature rock music, not infrequently accompanied by erotic dancing; and
television provides a diet of old Soviet films and dubbed Mexican soap
operas. Kazakstan's cultural elite is suffering the same decline
affecting the elites of all the former Soviet republics. Thus, cultural
norms are determined predominantly by Kazakstan's increasing access to
global mass culture.
Kazakstan - Education
The constitution of 1995 specifies that education through secondary
school is mandatory and free, and that citizens have the further right
to compete for free education in the republic's institutions of higher
learning. Private, paid education is permitted but remains subject to
state control and supervision.
In 1994 Kazakstan had 8,575 elementary and secondary schools (grades
one through twelve) attended by approximately 3.2 million students, and
244 specialized secondary schools with about 222,000 students. In 1992
about 51 percent of eligible children were attending some 8,500
preschools in Kazakstan. In 1994 some 272,100 students were enrolled in
the republic's sixty-one institutes of higher learning. Fifty-four
percent of the students were Kazak, and 31 percent were Russian.
The educational situation since independence is somewhat difficult to
judge because of incomplete information. The republic has attempted to
overhaul both the structure of its education system and much of its
substance, but the questions of what should be taught and in what manner
continue to loom large. A particularly sensitive and unresolved issue is
what the language of instruction should be, given the almost equal
distribution of the population between ethnic Kazaks and ethnic
Russians. In 1994 most instruction still was in Russian because
Kazak-language textbooks and Kazak teachers were in short supply.
Enrollment was estimated to be 92 percent of the total age-group in both
primary and secondary grades, but only 8 percent in the postsecondary
Serious shortages in funding and resources have hindered efforts to
revamp the education system inherited from the Soviet Union. Even in
1990, more than half the republic's schools were operating on two and
even three shifts per day; since then, hundreds of schools, especially
preschools, have been converted to offices or stores. Elementary- and
secondary-school teachers remain badly underpaid; in 1993 more than
30,000 teachers (or about one-seventh of the 1990 teaching staff) left
education, many of them to seek more lucrative employment.
Despite the obstacles, efforts have been made to upgrade the
education system, especially at the highest level. Kazakstani citizens
still can enroll in what once were the premier Soviet universities, all
of which are now in foreign countries, in particular Russia and Ukraine.
In the mid-1990s, however, such opportunities have become rare and much
more expensive. This situation has forced the upgrading of existing
universities in Kazakstan, as well as the creation of at least one new
private university, Al-Farabi University, formerly the S.M. Kirov State
University, in Almaty. The largest institution of higher learning in
Kazakstan, Al-Farabi had 1,530 teachers and about 14,000 students in
1994. A second university, Qaraghandy State University, had about 8,300
students in 1994. In addition, technical secondary schools in five
cities--Aqmola, Atyrau, Pavlodar, Petropavl (formerly Petropavlovsk),
and Taldyqorghan (formerly Taldy-Kurgan)--have been reclassified as
universities, increasing regional access to higher education.
Altogether, in 1994 Kazakstan had thirty-two specialized institutes of
higher learning, offering programs in agriculture, business and
economics, medicine, music, theater, foreign languages, and a variety of
engineering and technical fields. In the area of technical education,
the republic has taken aggressive advantage of offers from foreign
states to educate young Kazaks. In 1994 about 3,000 young people were
studying in various foreign countries, including the United States.
One trend that particularly worries republic administrators is the
pronounced "Kazakification" of higher education, as the
republic's Russians either send their children to schools across the
Russian border or find it impossible to enroll them in local
institutions. Kazakstan's law forbids ethnic quotas, but there is
evidence of prejudicial admittance patterns. The class that entered
university in 1991, for example, was 73.1 percent Kazak and only 13.1
Kazakstan - Health
The early years of independence have had a disastrous effect on
public health. In the 1980s, Kazakstan had an extensively developed
public health system that delivered at least basic care without charge
even to very remote communities. By 1993, however, Kazakstan rated below
average or lower among the former Soviet republics in medical system,
sanitation, medical industry, medical research and development, and
In 1994 the health system had twenty-nine doctors per 1,000 people
and 86.7 other medical personnel per 1,000. There were 1,805 hospitals
in the republic, with seventy-six beds per 1,000 people. There were
3,129 general health clinics and 1,826 gynecological and pediatric
clinics. Conditions and services at these facilities varied widely; it
was not uncommon, for example, for rural clinics and hospitals to be
without running water.
The constitution of 1995 perpetuates the Soviet-era guarantee of free
basic health care, but financing has been a consistent problem. In 1992
funding allotted to public health care was less than 1.6 percent of GDP,
a level characterized by the World Bank as that of an underdeveloped
Because doctors and other medical personnel receive very low pay,
many medical professionals have moved to other republics--a large
percentage of Kazakstan's doctors are Russian or other non-Kazak
nationalities--or have gone into other professions. Nonpayment even of
existing low wages is a common occurrence, as are strikes by doctors and
In the 1980s, Kazakstan had about 2,100 pharmaceutical-manufacturing
facilities; drugs were also available from other Soviet republics or
from East European trading partners within the framework of the Council
for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon). Since independence most such
supply connections have been terminated, and many domestic
pharmaceutical plants have closed, making some types of drugs virtually
unavailable. As a result, vaccination of infants and children, which
reached between 85 and 93 percent of the relevant age-groups in 1990,
decreased sharply in the early 1990s. Kazakstan ran out of measles and
tuberculosis vaccine in late 1991, and the World Health Organization
(WHO) estimated that more than 20 percent of children were not receiving
basic vaccinations in 1992.
To some extent, the provision of drugs has been taken over by a
government-owned company, Farmatsiya, which purchases about 95 percent
of the medical equipment and supplies for the government. There have
been persistent complaints that Farmatsiya pays far too much for foreign
equipment and medicines in return for nonmedical considerations.
Private medical practice is permitted in general medicine and in some
specialized fields; private surgical practice is forbidden, as is
private treatment of cancer, tuberculosis, venereal disease, pregnancy,
and infectious diseases. Some types of private practice have been
introduced directly into the state clinics, creating a confusing
situation in which identical procedures are performed by the same
personnel, some for state fees and others for higher private fees. A
substantial unofficial market has developed in the distribution of
hospital supplies; patients often are expected to pay for the bandages,
anesthesia, and other materials and services required for the
"free" treatment received at medical facilities. Kazakstan has
no system of medical insurance.
In the mid-1990s, the largest growth area in medicine was in services
not requiring large capital outlays by the practitioner. This area,
which includes acupuncturists, fertility consultants, substance-abuse
therapists, physical therapists, and dentists, is only lightly
regulated, and the incidence of charlatanism is high.
Kazakstan has negotiated some international agreements to improve
health care. In 1992 an association of scientific organizations
specializing in contagious diseases established its headquarters in
Almaty. The group, which includes doctors and technicians from
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, conducts joint
research with scientists in China, Mongolia, and Vietnam. A 1995 medical
cooperation agreement between the Kazakstani and Iranian ministries of
health called for exchanges of medical students and experts, joint
research projects, exchanges of information on the latest medical
advances (with an emphasis on contagious diseases), and mutual
Kazakstan - Health Conditions
The deterioration of the public health system has hit Kazakstan's
population hard. Rates of infant mortality and overall mortality have
risen in the 1990s as the fertility rate has decreased, contributing to
the first drop in the republic's population since World War II. Infant
mortality was twenty-seven per 1,000 live births in 1991, the lowest
rate among the five Central Asian republics but higher than that for any
non-Central Asian republic. A lack of medicines and facilities, together
with a general deterioration in physical environment and living
standards, has promoted outbreaks of several potentially epidemic
diseases, including diphtheria (its incidence increased from thirty-five
cases in 1993 to 312 in the first ten months of 1994), poliomyelitis
(two cases in 1994), viral hepatitis, and cholera (of which outbreaks
occurred in 1992 and 1993). The incidence of tuberculosis has grown
substantially, with as many as 11,000 new cases and 2,000 deaths
reported annually (see table 5, Appendix). According to a 1995 report of
the Contagious Disease Association in Almaty, a bubonic plague-carrying
rat population was moving from the Balkhash region, where the plague is
endemic, southward toward Almaty, whose municipal government had taken
no measures to control rats.
The first death in Kazakstan attributed to acquired immune deficiency
syndrome (AIDS) was reported in July 1993. At that time, nineteen
carriers of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) reportedly were
registered in Kazakstan. Of that number, three were identified as
homosexuals, two were preschool children, and nine were foreign
citizens, who were deported. In mid-1995, the WHO reported that
twenty-seven people had been diagnosed with AIDS or as HIV-positive
between 1993 and 1995. The Kazakstan AIDS Prevention and Control
Dispensary was established in Almaty in 1991, with twenty-two branch
offices and diagnostic laboratories elsewhere in the republic. However,
in the early 1990s diagnosis and treatment relied on foreign funds and
equipment because domestic health funds were barely sufficient to
maintain clinic buildings. Fewer than 500 requests for screening were
received in 1993. In mid-1995, the government set up the Coordinating
Council for Combating AIDS under the direct administration of the prime
The shortage of health care has put children at particular risk.
Approximately 15 percent of newborns in 1994 were unhealthy, most often
suffering from bronchiopulmonary and cardiovascular problems. Measles,
diphtheria, brucellosis, and other childhood diseases became more
prevalent during the early 1990s.
Extensive pollution and degradation of large segments of the natural
environment have increased the strain on public health. Both the air and
water of many of the large cities are badly polluted. Three regions have
been identified as having particularly hazardous environments. Öskemen
(formerly Ust-Kamenogorsk) in the far northeast has been rated the third
most polluted city in the former Soviet Union, with ten times the
maximum permitted levels of lead in the air and high concentrations of
beryllium, thallium, mercury, cadmium, antimony, and arsenic in the
municipal water supply. Just west of Öskemen, in Semey, a major site of
Soviet nuclear testing from 1949 to 1991, radiation has contaminated the
air and soil. Experts believe that the tests, which were conducted in
the atmosphere until 1963, contaminated the environment of the entire
country of Kazakstan. In one village, Kaynar, near the main proving
ground, 140 of 3,400 children were found to have been disabled since
birth; in a random sample of another 600 of the town's children, all
were found to be suffering ill health of one form or another. Radiation
is believed the cause of such statistics. The third major area of
environmental degradation is the Aral Sea Basin along the southwestern
border, where agricultural runoff and untreated sewage have caused
advanced pollution of groundwater (see Environmental Problems, this
Water contamination is a serious environmental health hazard in
Kazakstan because of poor management of drinking water and insufficient
sewage treatment. About 30 percent of rural communities obtain water
from shallow wells; the water is vulnerable to contamination by
materials leached from the surface. As late as 1985, only 37 percent of
homes had sewerage systems and running water, and even schools and
hospitals had primitive sanitary systems that caused frequent outbreaks
of intestinal illness.
The diet and lifestyle of many citizens, especially in the cities,
contribute further to poor health. The average diet is high in meat and
salt and low in vegetables and fruits. The hyperinflation of 1992-93 cut
deeply into family budgets, limiting both the variety and quantity of
food most ordinary people consume. Smoking is almost universal,
especially among men, and alcoholism is common. Other forms of substance
abuse such as the use of hemp, morphia products, and glue are common,
especially among young people.
Occupational hazards constitute another major health problem.
Especially during the economic hardships of the early 1990s, public
health authorities refrained from measures such as closing polluting
factories or restricting the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and
irrigation water out of a fear of accelerating the general decline in
production. Because of the dangers posed by exposure to toxic smoke and
fumes, lead and phosphate plants limit workers to ten years of
employment. With little restriction on how they are operated, factories
in Kazakstan note high rates of morbidity, absenteeism, and permanent
disability among their employees.
Kazakstan - Social Welfare
The Soviet system of social welfare, which remained in place in
Kazakstan in the early 1990s, presupposed a very high level of public
services. The 1993 constitution maintained most of the assumptions of
the Soviet era without providing a clear mechanism for paying for
"guaranteed" workers' benefits such as free education, medical
care, pensions, and vacations. The constitution ratified in 1995
somewhat reduces the list and scale of guaranteed protections, but
remaining guarantees include a minimum wage, pensions for the retired
and the disabled, social benefits for orphans and for people who are
elderly or infirm, legal assistance, housing, and what is called
"social defense against unemployment."
In practice, social benefits have proven difficult to supply because
of financial considerations and the lack of a firm organizational
structure for service provision. For example, in the Soviet period
housing was supplied by the state or by employers. In 1990 housing began
to be privatized, a process almost completed by the mid-1990s. The
result has been a healthy resale market for existing housing. In 1995
apartment costs in Almaty could exceed 15,000 tenge (for value of the
tenge, see Glossary) per square meter, but there had been no
corresponding boom in new housing construction, in part because
privatization of the land on which such housing would stand remained a
sensitive and unresolved issue. As a result, the republic's housing
crisis, already acute in the Soviet period, has grown far worse. In the
mid-1990s the housing shortage was especially serious in Almaty, where
tens of thousands were on waiting lists. In 1995 housing construction
decreased by about 25 percent.
Perhaps the biggest problems have emerged in the areas of pensions,
aid to large families and other social assistance, and unemployment
compensation. An independent pension fund was created in 1991 on the
basis of a social insurance tax on enterprises (37 percent of wages in
1992) and contributions by employees (1 percent of wages in 1992). The
national budget nominally covers remaining deficits in the pension fund.
Pensions initially were set at 60 percent of average pay, with minimal
pensions available even to elderly citizens such as housewives who never
had drawn a salary. However, the high inflation of 1991-93 badly eroded
existing pensions; the state has continually adjusted pensions upward in
a futile struggle to keep pace (see Prices, Wages, and Currency, this
ch.). In addition, the administration of pensions has been reconfigured
several times, leading to lengthy delays in the payment even of the
small sums pensioners are owed. Such delays have prompted numerous
public demonstrations. Although the value of pensions has shrunk
dramatically in real terms, by 1992 government expenditures on them were
4.7 percent of the GDP. In March 1995, the government had to divert 632
million tenge from the national budget to cover pension arrears.
Similar problems have occurred in other categories of allowances to
citizens, especially lump-sum payments to newborns; child allowances to
large families (those with four or more children) and abandoned
children; assistance to single mothers; and assistance to the children
of soldiers. In 1992 payments in these categories reached 5 percent of
Kazakstan's GDP. Slow payment and the lag between inflation and
cost-of-living adjustments have had a particularly severe effect on
Kazakstan's poorer families, for some of whom government subsidies
provide as much as one-quarter of total income. In 1994 about 2.1
million citizens received retirement pensions, and about 800,000
received other types of pension.
Unemployment is perhaps the most difficult category of social problem
because it is a phenomenon that officially did not exist until 1991 and
still carries a considerable social stigma. As of January 1, 1995, some
85,700 people officially were registered as unemployed, about 55 percent
of them in rural areas. However, this figure is commonly assumed to be
too low because many workers still are nominally employed, even though
their salaries have been reduced or stopped altogether under a variety
of cutback conditions. In January 1995, some 230 enterprises, with a
normal work force of about 51,000 employees, were standing idle; by
April 1995, the number had grown to 376 enterprises with more than
Kazakstan - The Economy
Although Kazakstan has the potential to be a wealthy nation, since
independence it has suffered consistent and precipitous economic
decline. Reporting problems and incompatibility of data make precise
measurement of the republic's economic shrinkage difficult, but it is
generally accepted that, by the mid-1990s, GDP had dropped to about half
of what it was in 1990 (see table 6, Appendix). Despite the presence of
rich deposits of natural resources, the republic's industrial sector was
developed in the Soviet period only in specific areas such as metal
processing, chemicals, textiles, and food processing. The semiarid
condition of much of Kazakstan's territory does not preclude the export
of wheat, meat, and some vegetables.
<>Banking and Finance
Kazakstan - Natural Resources
Soviet geologists once boasted that Kazakstan was capable of
exporting the entire Periodic Table of Elements. During the Soviet
period, Kazakstan supplied about 7 percent of the union's gold, or about
twenty-four tons per year. Since independence, the republic has
attracted large foreign partners to develop existing or new mines.
President Nazarbayev announced intentions to increase annual gold
production to fifty or sixty tons by 1995 or 1996.
In 1989 the mines of Kazakstan yielded 23.8 million tons of iron ore
and 151,900 tons of manganese. The republic also possesses deposits of
uranium, chrome, titanium, nickel, wolfram, silver, molybdenum, bauxite,
and copper. Major phosphate mines feed fertilizer plants in the southern
city of Zhambyl. Three major coal fields--Torghay, Qaraghandy, and
Ekibastuz--produced 140 million tons of hard coal in 1991, but by 1994
Kazakstan's national total had dropped to 104 million tons.
In the mid-1990s, all minerals in Kazakstan belonged to the republic.
Authority for decisions concerning their development was delegated to
the prime minister, provided that these decisions were consistent with
laws on natural resource development. The fundamental law "On
Natural Resources and the Development of Mineral Resources" was
passed in May 1992, but its treatment of foreign development of minerals
is limited to two brief paragraphs stipulating that foreign development
be conducted in accordance with international and national law.
Kazakstan - Agriculture
In the early 1990s, agriculture was the second largest sector of the
economy, contributing about 36 percent of GDP and employing about 18
percent of the workforce in 1993. The climate and soil of most of
Kazakstan are best suited to the light grazing by which the nomadic
Kazaks had traditionally supported themselves, following herds of sheep,
cattle, camels, and horses about the open steppe. Despite such natural
advantages, Soviet policy encouraged cultivation, especially in the
northern parts of the republic. The major transformation occurred under
premier Khrushchev during the Virgin Lands program of the late 1950s and
early 1960s. Its objectives were to reduce Soviet grain imports to
Central Asia and settle the remaining nomadic herdsmen of Kazakstan and
Kyrgyzstan. Under that program, 60 percent of Kazakstan's pastureland
went under cultivation. An estimated 30 percent of that land was not
suitable for cultivation, however, and Khrushchev was ousted in 1964
after a series of crop failures in Kazakstan. In 1992 the total area
under cultivation was 36.5 million hectares, of which 2.3 million
hectares were irrigated. Much of this land is dedicated to large-scale
wheat farming, which requires intensive capitalization and does not lend
itself to privatization. Even with the emphasis on grain production,
about 84 percent of the republic's agricultural land, or about 187
million hectares, remains devoted to pasturage, mainly of cattle and
sheep. Continuation of the Soviet system of intensive livestock
management, dependent on fodder more than on natural grazing, has left
much grazing land unused and has distorted cultivation in favor of
The primary agricultural regions are the north-central and southern
parts of the republic. Grain production is especially important in the
north-central region, and cotton and rice predominate in the south (see
table 7, Appendix). Kazakstan also is a major producer of meat and milk.
In 1993 only about 1.5 percent of agricultural land was in private
hands. Although some privatization had occurred, the bulk of Kazakstan's
agriculture remained organized in 7,000 to 8,000 state and collective
farms that averaged 35,000 to 40,000 hectares each. Many of those farms
had moved into a transitional stage of joint-stock ownership, private
collectives, or farming associations (see Post-Soviet Economic
Developments, this ch.). The state also has maintained control of
agricultural inputs and equipment, as well as some processing and
marketing policies and operations. In the wake of price liberalization,
the mandated state share of agricultural sales has decreased annually
from the 1991 level of 70 percent.
Until the early 1990s, western Kazakstan was an important fishing
area, but sharply increased salination has made the Aral Sea sterile.
Fishing output dropped from 105,300 tons in 1960 to 89,600 tons in 1989.
The current figure is probably close to zero, judging by the decision of
Soviet central planners in 1990 to fly Arctic fish to Kazakstan for
processing as a means of maintaining local employment in that operation.
Kazakstan - Industry
Kazakstan inherited a decaying but still powerful manufacturing and
processing capacity from the centrally managed Soviet system. In that
system, among Kazakstan's designated products for the general all-union
market were phosphate fertilizer, rolled metal, radio cables, aircraft
wires, train bearings, tractors, and bulldozers. Kazakstan also had a
well-developed network of factories producing military goods that
supplied about 11 percent of the total military production of the Soviet
Union. In some areas of military production, Kazakstan had a virtual
monopoly. In the post-Soviet era, much of the defense industry has
stopped or slowed production; some plants now produce nonmilitary
electronic equipment and machines.
Most of the republic's manufacturing, refining, and metallurgy plants
are concentrated in the north and northeast, in Semey, Aqmola,
Petropavl, and Aqtöbe (see fig. 5). In south-central Kazakstan, the
most important industrial centers are Shymkent (chemicals, light
industry, metallurgy, and food processing), Almaty (light industry,
machine building, and food processing), and Zhambyl (chemicals, machine
building, and food processing).
Structure of Industry
The energy sector is the most productive component of Kazakstan's
industrial structure, accounting for about 42 percent of total output.
Metallurgy generates about one-quarter of industrial output, divided
equally between the processing of ferrous and nonferrous metals (see
table 8, Appendix). Engineering and metalworking account for 6.2 percent
of industrial output, chemicals and petrochemicals for 3.6 percent, and
construction materials for 2.7 percent. Kazakstan's entire light
industry sector accounts for only 4.8 percent of industrial output. In
the Soviet era, the republic had more than fifty military-industrial
enterprises, employing as many as 75,000 workers. Because Baykonur, one
of the world's two largest spaceports, was located in Kazakstan, as were
1,350 nuclear warheads, the prosperity of this sector was assured during
the Soviet period. Military-related enterprises produced or processed
beryllium, nuclear reactor fuel, uranium ore, heavy machine guns,
antiship missiles, torpedoes, chemical and biological weapons, support
equipment for intercontinental ballistic missiles, tactical missile
launcher equipment, artillery, and armored vehicles.
In general, Kazakstan's industry suffered a disastrous year in 1994,
when overall output dropped 28.5 percent. The metallurgy and energy
industries were the main contributors to the 1994 decline, although by
percentage light industry (down 56 percent) and engineering and
metalworking (down 43 percent) suffered the sharpest reductions.
However, in the last few months of 1994 and the first half of 1995,
production decreased more slowly. Although monthly production continued
to decline compared with 1994, the rate of decline between 1994 and 1995
was about half the rate shown between 1993 and 1994. By mid-1995, the
chemical, oil-refining, natural gas, timber, ferrous metallurgy, and oil
extraction industries were showing higher outputs than they had for the
same periods of 1994. Reduced consumer purchasing power exacerbated
declines in most processing and consumer goods industries, however;
overall light industry output was 61.2 percent lower in the first five
months of 1995 than in the same period of 1994. In the first five months
of 1995, the republic's industries produced goods valued at 253.1
billion tenge, or about US$4 billion--a drop of 16.5 percent from the
five-month output value for 1994.
Kazakstan has remained highly dependent on Russia as a customer for
its manufactured products; this dependence has been the main cause of
the shrinkage in the industrial base, as Russia has reduced its demand
for most of Kazakstan's export products in the early and mid-1990s (see
International Financial Relations, this ch.). Although more than 80
percent of Kazakstan's industrial production is still intended for sale
in Russia, trade with Russia in 1995 was only about 20 percent of what
it was in 1991. In January 1995, some 230 enterprises, with about 51,000
employees, were idle; by April the figures had grown to 376 enterprises
and more than 90,000 employees. Also alarming is the growing debt load
of the enterprises, which continue to support their unprofitable
operations by unregulated borrowing among themselves. By March 1994,
total agricultural and industrial indebtedness had reached 230.6 billion
tenge. One consequence of falling production and growing indebtedness is
that the republic's enterprises are increasingly unprofitable. As of
March 1995, the government categorized 2,483 enterprises, or about
one-third of the republic's total, as unprofitable. As of early 1996,
however, very few had been forced into formal bankruptcy.
Kazakstan - Energy
Kazakstan is well endowed with energy resources, including abundant
reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas, which made the republic one of
the top energy-producing regions of the Soviet Union. In 1993 Kazakstan
was the second largest oil producer, third largest coal producer, and
sixth largest natural gas producer among the former Soviet republics.
Industry in Kazakstan is dominated by the energy sector; in 1994
electric power generation accounted for 19 percent of GDP, and fuel
extraction and processing accounted for nearly 23 percent. Thus, the
national economy is strongly affected by changes in levels of fuel
extraction and energy production (see fig. 6).
Kazakstan's oil reserves have been estimated at as much as 2,100
million tons, most of which is in relatively new fields that have not
yet been exploited. In addition, new offshore discoveries in the north
Caspian more than replaced the annual drawdown of known reserves in the
early 1990s. In 1993 Chevron Oil made an initial investment in a joint
venture, Tengizchevroil, to exploit the Tengiz oil fields at the
northern end of the Caspian Sea in what was envisioned as the leading
project among foreign oil investments. Recoverable reserves at Tengiz
are estimated at 25 billion barrels, or about twice the amount in the
Alaskan North Slope, although Tengiz oil is extremely high in sulfur.
The French firm Elf-Aquitaine has leased about 19,000 square kilometers
of land in the Emba region northeast of the Caspian, where there are
known to be large quantities of sulfur-free oil and natural gas. Other
oil deposits, with paraffin, asphalt, or tar (all harder to process),
have been found in the Caspian Sea near Novyy Uzen and Buzachiy.
Oil production, which increased by an average of 3 percent per year
through 1991, reached a peak production of 26.6 million tons that year
before output began to decline in 1992. The most productive region in
the early 1990s was the Mangyshlak Peninsula on the east shore of the
Caspian Sea. In the early 1990s, Mangyshlak yielded more than 50 percent
of the republic's oil output before experiencing a decline of 11 percent
in 1992. Kazakstan also is known to be rich in deposits of heavy oil,
which currently are not commercially viable but which are potentially
The republic planned to increase its oil exports from the 7.8 million
tons of 1992 (15 percent of total exports) to as much as 37 million tons
in 1996 (50 percent of total exports), for which anticipated revenue was
about US$2.9 billion. By 1993, however, domestic and CIS industry
conditions made such goals unrealistic. The most important obstacles to
increased oil production and export involve Russia. In 1994 Russian
refineries in western Siberia, upon which Kazakstan's oil industry
continues to rely heavily for processing, cut their operations
drastically because paying customers could not be found; this cut
resulted in the plants' lower demand for crude oil from Kazakstani
suppliers. Thus, in the first nine months of 1994, Kazakstan's oil sales
fell to 4.5 million tons from 8 million tons in the same period of 1993,
and production for the year fell 11.7 percent. Because of the
oil-exchange agreement with Russia, the cutback in Russian refinery
production also reduced domestic refinery production nearly 25 percent
The second obstacle to greater production and export of oil is
pipeline access through Russia to Western customers, which Russia has
curtailed because of capacity limits and political maneuvering. The lack
of pipeline facilities caused Chevron to announce substantial capital
investment cutbacks in the Tengiz oil fields for 1995. In the mid-1990s,
the pipeline that connects Kazakstani oil fields with the Russian Black
Sea port Novorossiysk provided the sole access to the oil of the Tengiz
fields for Chevron and its Western customers (see Transportation and
Telecommunications, this ch.). The uncertainties of relying on the
existing Russian line or on a second line passing through the war-torn
Caucasus region led to discussions of new pipeline projects passing
through Iran or even eastward across China to the Pacific Ocean. In
September 1995, a new agreement with Turkey laid plans for pipelines
crossing Georgia to ports in Georgia and Turkey, providing a new outlet
possibility for Kazakstan's Tengiz oil. Also, in October 1995 Kazakstan
joined in a new consortium with Russian and United States companies to
build a pipeline to the Black Sea. Chevron and Mobil Oil of the United
States, British Gas, Agip of Italy, and Russia's LUKoil enterprise were
to fund the entire pipeline project in return for a 50 percent share in
the pipeline. The governments of Kazakstan and Russia were to receive
the other 50 percent. However, pipeline construction was delayed amid
further international negotiation over alternative routes.
In the first quarter of 1995, major accidents and power shortages at
drilling sites reduced production by about 10 percent compared with
output in the first quarter of 1994. Refinery output in that period was
even lower; only about half the first quarter's oil was refined, and the
Pavlodar refinery closed entirely because it received no crude oil from
Kazakstan has enormous reserves of natural gas, most notably the
giant Karachaganak field in the northwest near the Russian border, under
codevelopment by a consortium of Agip of Italy, British Gas, and the
Russian Natural Gas Company (Gazprom). In 1992 natural gas production
was 8.5 million cubic meters, half of which came from Karachaganak. By
1994, however, production was only 4.1 million cubic meters because
Russian consumption had dropped drastically in the early 1990s. A 1995
deal with Gazprom gave that organization part ownership of Karachaganak
in exchange for a guaranteed purchase of natural gas from Kazakstan.
Foreign investment projects at Tengiz and Karachaganak were expected to
triple domestic gas output and enhance gas processing capabilities in
the later 1990s. The usefulness of increased output depends on new
pipeline agreements--still in the formative stage in 1996--with Russia
and other countries in the region.
In 1994 coal production decreased 6.7 percent to 104.4 million tons,
after a production peak of 140 million tons was reached in 1991. About
thirty major coalfields exist, most of them within 400 kilometers of
Qaraghandy in north-central Kazakstan. This region offers some of the
most accessible and cheaply extracted coal in the CIS; however, most of
Kazakstan's coal is high in ash. The largest open-pit mines are located
in the Ekibastuz Basin northeast of Qaraghandy. According to estimates,
presently exploited mines contain 100 years of coal reserves at today's
rate of consumption. Coal is a key input for industry; in the early
1990s, more than 75 percent of coal consumption in Kazakstan went to
thermoelectric stations for power generation, and another 14 percent
went to the steel industry. In the early 1990s, Kazakstan exported about
40 percent of its coal to CIS customers, mainly Russia.
The coal industry has been plagued by poor management and strikes
that shut down major underground operations at Qaraghandy and surface
operations at Ekibastuz in 1994 and 1995. The large metallurgical works
of Qaraghandy, built under the Soviet concept of the
territorial-industrial complex combining heavy industry with on-site
fuel reserves, has been forced to curtail production when strikes are
Current Fuel Supply and Consumption
Despite its fuel endowments, Kazakstan remains a net importer of
energy, partly because of falling production in the early 1990s and
partly because of remaining barter agreements from the Soviet era.
Undeveloped east-to-west transportation infrastructure has prevented
efficient supply of domestic fuels to industries, which are energy
intensive. As a consequence, Kazakstan still must import oil, natural
gas, lubricating oil, gasoline, and diesel fuel from Russia, which in
the postindependence years has taken advantage of its neighbor's
vulnerability to economic pressure. In the mid-1990s, the oil exchange
system between Kazakstan and Russia meant that declining demand in
Russia reduced availability of those Russian products to Kazakstan. In
1994 Russia sent only 40 percent of the crude oil and 48 percent of the
refined products prescribed in the bilateral agreement for that year.
Gas imports showed a similar drop.
The national electric power system is divided into three grids. The
northern grid, which serves a large part of heavy industry, is connected
to the adjacent Siberian grid in Russia, and the southern grid is
connected to the Central Asian System. Kazakstan depends on Russia for
electricity and fuel. Although the Siberian generating stations that
supply the northern grid are located in Russia, they are fired largely
by coal exported from Kazakstan. Some electric power also is received
from Kyrgyzstan's hydroelectric stations to the south in exchange for
coal (see Energy, ch. 2).
In 1991 Kazakstan consumed 101.6 billion kilowatt-hours of
electricity (84.7 percent of which was produced domestically), making it
a relatively heavy energy consumer among nations of its economic
stature. About 85 percent of domestic generation occurs in coal-fired
thermoelectric plants. A few thermoelectric plants use natural gas or
oil; the remaining 15 percent of energy comes from those plants and from
hydroelectric stations. The main sources of coal-generated electricity
are the fields of Ekibastuz, Maykubin, Torghay, and Borlin. There are
three large hydroelectric stations, at Bukhtarmin, Öskemen, and
Kapchagay. The republic's one nuclear power station is located near the
city of Aqtau.
Kazakstan - Work Force
In 1992 some 16 percent of Kazakstan's work force was employed in
manufacturing 24 percent in agriculture and forestry, 9 percent in
construction, 9 percent in transportation and communications, and 32
percent in trade and services (see table 9, Appendix). An estimated 28.3
percent of the work force had at least a secondary education at the time
of independence. Russians generally were employed in higher-paying
sectors such as industry, transportation, and science, and Kazaks
predominated in lower-paying areas such as health care, culture, art,
and education. Overall, about two-thirds of workers and about 80 percent
of industrial workers were non-Kazaks. In state enterprises, which
provided 95 percent of employment before independence, one-half of the
work force was female in 1990. The high participation rate of women
contributed to an overall participation rate of 79 percent of
working-age citizens in some form of employment.
In 1990 the working population of the republic peaked at around 6.7
million people, in a command economy where the legal requirement of full
employment of both men and women meant substantial underemployment not
revealed by official statistics. By the end of 1994, the number of
employed people had declined about 8.9 percent, to about 6.1 million.
This drop was caused in part by the privatization of Kazakstan's economy
(by 1993 about 7 percent of Kazakstanis were working outside the state
sector), but it also reflected growing unemployment and underemployment.
In January 1995, there were 85,700 officially registered unemployed
people in the republic, up from 4,000 in 1992. That figure does not
include an unknown but significant number of workers whose names
remained on official payroll lists while they were on forced leave,
reduced hours, and delayed wage-payment schedules.
Kazakstan - Post-Soviet Economic Developments
Until 1990, when the whole central planning system collapsed,
Kazakstan was part of the Soviet command economy. Even at the time of
the 1991 coup that led to independence, 43 percent of the republic's
industrial capacity was under Moscow's direct control, 48 percent was
under joint republic and union control, and only 8 percent was strictly
under republic control.
Although economic production declined dramatically in the early
1990s, some indicators showed a slower rate of decline by early 1995. In
1994 GDP declined 25.4 percent compared with 1993, including drops of
28.5 percent in industry and 21.2 percent in agriculture. In January and
February 1995, additional GDP declines of 18.8 percent and 15.8 percent
occurred (against the same months in 1994); however, March 1995 showed
an increase of 4 percent (against 1994), fueled mainly by an increase in
industrial production. Agricultural production, however, continued to
drop in early 1995; 1994 first-quarter production was 79 percent of the
same period in 1993, and the first quarter of 1995 almost duplicated
Much of Kazakstan's economic future depends upon its ambitious
three-stage privatization program, which began in 1992 and reached the
end of its second stage in 1995. The Kazakstan State Property Committee
has responsibility for all three phases. In the first stage, housing and
small enterprises employing fewer than 200 people were privatized. Most
conversions of small enterprises were accomplished by auction to groups
of employees, often under the leadership of the incumbent manager.
Housing, which by 1995 was nearly all in private ownership, was
privatized either by giving the residence outright to its current
occupant or by payment of government-issued vouchers. The second stage
entailed the privatization of almost everything except the republic's
mineral wealth and industrial plants employing more than 5,000 people
(such plants accounted for most of Kazakstan's military-related
Privatization of the largest state enterprises is the principal goal
of stage three, which did not begin as scheduled in late 1995. Until
that time, these enterprises were run as self-managing joint-stock
companies in which the government of Kazakstan was the largest
stockholder. This interim stage, which was considered beneficial,
required preparation of profit-and-loss statements in anticipation of
full commercial operation sometime in the future. Meanwhile, 3,500
medium-sized firms, including 70 percent of state-owned industries, were
offered for sale in a mass privatization program beginning in April
1994. These firms could be purchased with government-licensed investment
Under Kazakstan's privatization system, vouchers are issued to
individual citizens. Vouchers then can be deposited in privatization
investment funds, which in turn can buy up to 20 percent of large
companies being privatized. The initial voucher issue reached an
estimated 95 percent of citizens. After four auctions, in mid-1994 about
85 percent of forty-five small-to-medium-sized enterprises, mainly in
light industry, machinery manufacturing, and fuel distribution, had been
By the end of 1994, about 60 percent of enterprises were owned by
individuals or cooperatives. (In 1990 the figure already had reached 40
percent, however.) The success of the privatization of small
enterprises, together with the formation of new private enterprises,
meant that in 1994 some 61 percent of retail trade occurred in the
private sector, an increase of 17 percent over the 1993 figure.
Large-enterprise privatization has been less successful, however.
Nominally privatized enterprises often maintain close contact with
government officials who permit firms to maintain outdated production
practices and supply relationships, and even to keep unpaid workers on
Distribution of vouchers among the 170 government-licensed investment
funds also has been problematic. In 1994 and early 1995, twenty
companies collected nearly 60 percent of the vouchers, while another
nineteen funds accumulated more than 20 percent; half the funds received
a total of only 4 percent of the vouchers. One fund, Butia-Kapital,
received nearly 10 percent of the vouchers, the largest single holding.
This fund was widely rumored to be controlled by a nephew of President
Nazarbayev. Although proceeds from privatization amounted to an income
of 242 million tenge for the state treasury in the first quarter of
1995, complaints persisted that objects of privatization were priced too
low and that favored funds received "sweetheart" deals.
Privatization of land has been handled differently than that of
industry because the concept of individual land ownership does not exist
in Kazakstan. Individuals and corporations can purchase only the right
to use the land, and that right can be resold. Initial sale prices of
state land are determined by the State Committee on Land Relations and
Tenure. Government efforts to legalize a private land market have been
stymied by both Russian and Kazak groups, each fearing that the other
might gain control of the country's agriculture. By June 1995, some form
of ownership or management change had occurred in 1,490 state farms,
about three-quarters of the total remaining in operation. Many state
farms, or portions of them, were converted into joint-stock companies
that retained the same group of occupants and state-dominated
arrangements for supply and marketing as under the previous
nomenclature. The creation of small, individually managed farms was
uncommon because capital, inputs, equipment, and credit were in very
short supply for individuals attempting to start agricultural
Kazakstan - Banking and Finance
Restructuring of the state-controlled banking and financial systems
that Kazakstan inherited in 1991 has been a long, slow process. As in
the Soviet era, the national bank continues to dominate the financial
system, including currency management. Other commercial institutions
have been established, but they play small roles in the country's
Kazakstan's banking industry was created on the basis of a
subsequently modified law enacted in April 1993. That law created a
central institution, the National Bank of Kazakstan (NBK), which has
regulatory authority over a system of state, private, joint-stock, and
joint banks. Licensed banks are authorized to perform all of the
traditional banking functions.
The introduction of a modern banking system has not progressed
smoothly. Scandals have involved swindles by bank employees,
questionable loans, and the maintenance of heavy portfolios of
nonproductive loans. Several bank failure scares also have occurred.
Major modifications of banking regulations have been introduced several
times. In June 1994, Kazakstan instituted a fifteen-month program of
financial and economic reform, tightening banking and credit laws,
liberalizing price policies, and ending the granting of credits to
state-owned institutions. Another short-term reform was introduced in
March 1995, in part to tighten regulation of capital requirements and to
increase the professionalism of the existing bank's operations. To that
end, a system of partnership with foreign banks was introduced, pairing
domestic banks with experienced foreign partners. Guidance for this bank
reform is being provided by the IMF, as well as by international
auditing firms such as Ernst and Young and Price Waterhouse.
In 1994 the national bank system included a State Export and Import
Bank and a State Bank for Development, both of which functioned under
full government control rather than as market institutions. Four large,
state-owned banks controlled 80 percent of financial assets. Of the 200
small commercial banks in operation in 1994, the majority were attached
to enterprises. About thirty private banks were licensed to deal in
The aim of the 1995 reform was to create a republic-wide banking
system, including ten to fifteen large banks with total capital of at
least US$10 million, headquartered in Almaty and with branches
throughout Kazakstan; foreign branch banks, most of which would have
single representative offices in Almaty; several dozen smaller banks,
both in Almaty and in the provinces, with capital in the range of
US$2-US$3 million; and savings banks, some with specialized purposes
such as the Agricultural and Industrial Bank (Agroprombank).
In 1995 the NBK planned to release 80 percent of the credit funds it
granted to an auction market, departing from the previous policy of
rationing credit by directing it to designated enterprises. No stock
exchange or capital markets existed as of 1995, although a law on
securities and stock exchange had been adopted in 1991.
State revenue is derived primarily from various taxes, the
introduction of which has been somewhat problematic. A fundamental
revision of the national tax code in 1995 reduced the number of taxes
from forty-five to eleven and the volume of prospective revenue by 17
percent. Five national corporate taxes remained after the reform, which
reduced the corporate tax rate to 30 percent. Prior to that revision,
the largest contributions to state income were business-profit taxes (15
percent); a uniform, 20 percent value-added tax (see Glossary), a
personal income tax (ranging from 12 to 40 percent and accounting for 16
percent of tax income); and special-purpose revenue funds (17 percent).
However, the system has suffered from chronic undercollection. The
primary long-term goal of the 1995 tax reform was to encourage fuller
compliance with tax laws. The 1996 budget called for reducing the
deficit to 3.3 percent of GDP.
Kazakstan - Government
In 1995 Kazakstan passed through a period of political turmoil that
fundamentally changed the shape of the republic's government and
political forces. The republic came under direct presidential rule in
March 1995, and a new constitution adopted shortly thereafter
strengthened the power of the executive. Presidential elections,
originally scheduled for sometime in 1996, were postponed until December
2000 after a 1995 referendum provided the basis for such an extension.
In May 1995, Nazarbayev convened a council of experts to draw up a
new constitution under his guidance. The resulting constitution was
adopted in August 1995 by a popular referendum. The official
participation figure, 90 percent, and the fairness of this vote were
contested by opposition groups. The constitution guarantees equal rights
to all nationalities and prescribes both Kazak and Russian as
"official" state languages, suitable for use in government
documents and education. The president and the legislature, the Supreme
Kenges (Supreme Soviet), are to be elected by universal adult suffrage
for five-year terms. The president is head of state. The second
component of the executive branch is the Council of Ministers, key
members of which are presidential appointees. The prime minister, as
head of the Council of Ministers, appoints the other ministers.
<>The Election of 1994
Kazakstan - Structure of Government
The postindependence government was structured by the 1993
constitution with a strong executive branch, a parliament, and a
judicial branch. In practice, the administration of Nursultan Nazarbayev
dominated governance sufficiently to impel the writing of a new
constitution providing justification for the one-man rule that developed
in the early 1990s.
The constitution formalizes the increased power that President
Nazarbayev assumed upon the invalidation of parliament in early 1995. It
continues the previous constitutional definition of Kazakstan as a
unitary state with a presidential form of government. The president is
the highest state officer, responsible for naming the
government--subject to parliamentary approval--and all other republic
officials. The 1995 constitution expands the president's power in
introducing and vetoing legislation. The government that the president
appoints consists of the Council of Ministers, headed by a prime
minister, and several state committees. In early 1996, after Nazarbayev
had reshuffled the government in October 1995, the Council of Ministers
included the heads of twenty-one ministries and nine state committees;
the prime minister was Akezhan Kazhegeldin. In the October 1995 shift,
Nazarbayev himself assumed the portfolio of the Ministry of National
The new constitution does not provide for the position of vice
president, although it permitted the incumbent vice president, Yerik
Asanbayev, to remain in office until 1996. The president has the power
to declare states of emergency during which the constitution can be
suspended. The president is the sponsor of legislation and the guarantor
of the constitution and of the proper functioning of government, with
the power to override the decisions and actions of local authorities and
councils. The only grounds on which a president can be removed are
infirmity and treason, either of which must be confirmed by a majority
of the joint upper and lower houses of the new parliament. In the event
of such a removal from power, the prime minister would become the
The 1993 constitution created a unicameral parliament, which was to
replace the 350-seat Supreme Soviet when the mandates of that body's
deputies expired in 1995. Composed overwhelmingly of career communists,
the 1990 parliament had been a balky and turgid partner for the task of
economic and political reform. Although he probably lacked the legal
authority to do so, Nazarbayev pressured this parliament into a
"voluntary" early dissolution in December 1993 in order to
allow the seating of a smaller and presumably more pliant
"professional parliament." Under the 1995 constitution, the
parliament consists of two houses, the Senate and the Majlis, both
operating in continuous session. Each of Kazakstan's nineteen provinces
and the city of Almaty, which has province status, have two senators.
These are chosen for four-year terms by joint sessions of the provinces'
legislative bodies. An additional seven senators are appointed directly
by the president. In addition, ex-presidents automatically receive the
status of senators-for-life. The Majlis has sixty-seven representatives,
including one from each of fifty-five districts drawn to have roughly
equal populations, and the Senate has forty seats. Direct elections for
half the seats are held every two years. In the first election under the
new parliamentary structure, all seats in both houses of parliament were
contested in December 1995; runoff elections filled twenty-three seats
in the Majlis for which the initial vote was inconclusive. International
observers reported procedural violations in the Majlis voting. The new
parliament, which was seated in January 1996, included sixty-eight Kazak
and thirty-one Russian deputies; only ten deputies were women.
The initiative for most legislative actions originates with the
president. If parliament passes a law that the president vetoes, a
two-thirds vote of both houses is required to override the veto. A
similar margin is needed to express no confidence in a prime minister,
an action that requires the president to name a new prime minister and
Council of Ministers.
The judicial system is the least developed of Kazakstan's three
branches of government. Although Minister of Justice Nagashibay
Shaykenov objected strenuously, the constitution retains the practice of
presidential appointment of all judges in the republic. The 1993
constitution specified terms of service for judges, but the 1995
document makes no mention of length of service, suggesting that judges
will serve at the president's pleasure.
Under the 1993 constitution, lines of judicial authority were poorly
defined, in part because the republic had three "highest
courts"--the Supreme Court, the State Arbitrage Court, and the
Constitutional Court--which among them employed a total of sixty-six
senior judges. Many of these senior judges, as well as numerous judges
in lower courts, had been retained from the Soviet era, when the
judicial branch was entirely under the control of the central
government. The 1995 constitution makes no provision for the State
Abritrage Court, which had heard economic disputes among enterprises and
between enterprises and government agencies. Provisions for the new
judiciary clearly subordinate all other courts to the Supreme Court,
which also has a consultative role in appointing senior judges.
Kazakstan is divided into nineteen provinces, and the city of Almaty
has administrative status equal to that of a province. In turn, the
provinces are divided into regions that consist of a number of
settlement points. Each province and region and most settlements have
their own elective councils, charged with drawing up a budget and
supervising local taxation. Cities have their own local councils as
well, and large cities are divided into regions, each of which has its
The local legislatures lack the authority to choose the local
executive, who is appointed directly by the president. The local
executive has the job of ensuring that decisions of the national
government are enforced and that the constitution is observed. Province
and regional "heads of administration," known by the Russian
term glav or the Kazak term hakim , are presidential
appointees. The hakim , in turn, appoints the members of his
staff, who are the department heads of the jurisdiction. The hakim
also can reverse budgetary decisions of the local councils.
There has been considerable pressure, especially in the predominantly
Russian north, to make the hakim posts elective rather than
appointive. In 1994 Nazarbayev indicated that he would consider doing
so, but the 1995 constitution provides only that the local councils can
express no confidence in their hakim by a two-thirds vote. The
president also has the power to override or revoke decisions taken by
local councils; a hakim has the power to control budgetary
decisions taken by the local council.
Kazakstan - The Election of 1994
After the early dissolution in 1993 of Kazakstan's first parliament,
an election for the 177 seats of the new, "professional"
parliament was held in March 1994. The election was so closely managed
and restricted by the government that observers from the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE; before 1995, the
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe--CSCE--see Glossary)
initially were reluctant to certify the election as fair.
Despite his careful electoral management, Nazarbayev netted a
reliable bloc of only about sixty of the 177 seats. The remaining
deputies quickly organized themselves into a "constructive"
opposition bloc, a center-left configuration calling itself Respublika.
It included a number of disparate political groups. A subgroup of
Respublika organized a shadow cabinet to provide alternative viewpoints
and programs to those of the government.
At the end of May 1994, the parliament passed a vote of no confidence
in the government of Prime Minister Sergey Tereshchenko, who had been in
office since 1991. Nazarbayev put off dismissing Tereshchenko, citing
the provision of the 1993 constitution giving the president the right to
name the prime minister, subject only to parliamentary confirmation. By
midyear, however, parliament was in rebellion against the president, and
a new faction of Respublika, including a broad range of communist,
nationalist, and special-issue parties, demanded the resignations of
Nazarbayev and Tereshchenko.
In mid-October, following a month-long scandal over the private
dealings of Tereshchenko's ministers of internal affairs and the economy
(the second of whom was indicted), Nazarbayev was finally forced to
dismiss the Tereshchenko government. Nazarbayev named industrialist
Akezhan Kazhegeldin to replace Tereshchenko. As chief of a northern
industrial conglomerate, Kazhegeldin, a Kazak, was closely associated
with the Russian-controlled sector of Kazakstan prior to 1991.
Thus, by late 1994 parliament was emerging as a particular focus for
anti-Nazarbayev sentiment. Although extremely unproductive itself,
passing only seven laws during its year of existence, parliament
severely impeded Nazarbayev's privatization programs, causing the
complete cessation of privatization voucher distribution. At the end of
1994, the parliament issued its own alternative New Economic Policy, in
competition with Nazarbayev's, and parliament also attempted to take
over actual disbursement of funds for the state budget. At the same
time, parliament was providing a forum for several skilled and
well-financed men to position themselves for a challenge to Nazarbayev
in the presidential election scheduled for 1996.
In March 1995, Kazakstan's Constitutional Court ruled the 1994
parliamentary election invalid because of procedural irregularities
that, among other things, waived certain requirements for pro-Nazarbayev
candidates. After filing a token objection, Nazarbayev announced the
dissolution of parliament and new elections to be held in two or three
months. The Council of Ministers that had been approved by that
parliament then resigned en masse. Using emergency powers granted him
upon the dissolution of the 1990-93 parliament, Nazarbayev reappointed
Prime Minister Kazhegeldin, who installed a new Council of Ministers.
Unlike its virtually all-Kazak predecessor, the new body put the key
Ministry of Finance under a Russian, Aleksandr Pavlov, and gave the
Ministry of the Economy portfolio to a Middle Horde Kazak from the
Russified north. One of Kazhegeldin's two new first deputy prime
ministers was Kazak; the other was Russian. The new head of the
Privatization Commission, Sarybay Kalmurzayev, also apparently was a
Middle Horder. He not only began to permit privatization auctioneers to
accept cash in addition to vouchers, but also began to give Russian
companies rights of first refusal in privatization of large industrial
plants, especially military ones. In April 1995, Nazarbayev staged a
referendum that ratified extension of his presidency until December 2000
by a 95 percent majority. In December 1995, Nazarbayev issued a decree
enabling him to annul any existing law, demand the government's
resignation, or order new parliamentary elections. This step furthered
the authoritarian direction of Kazakstan's government.
Kazakstan - Political Organizations
Economic and ethnic differentiation in Kazakstan has led to the
appearance of more than 2,000 social organizations, movements, political
parties, and social action funds across a broad political spectrum.
Although Nazarbayev prevented electoral participation by many opposition
parties, the formation and reformation of parties and coalitions have
occurred at a rapid pace in the postindependence years. In the
parliamentary election of December 1995, thirty parties and other
organizations registered candidates.
The President's Party
Significantly, the one type of party that has failed to thrive in
Kazakstan is a "presidential party" that would serve as a
training ground for future officials, as well as a conduit for their
advancement. Nazarbayev lost control of his first two attempts at
forming parties, the Socialists and the People's Congress Party (NKK).
The latter particularly, under the leadership of former Nazarbayev ally
Olzhas Suleymenov, became a center of parliamentary opposition.
Nazarbayev's third party, the People's Unity Party (SNEK), remained
loyal to the president, although it was unable, even with considerable
government help, to elect enough deputies to give Nazarbayev control of
the 1994-95 parliament. SNEK formally incorporated itself as a political
party in February 1995.
With the exception of SNEK and some smaller entities, such as the
Republican Party and an entrepreneurial association known as For
Kazakstan's Future, most of Kazakstan's parties and organizations have
little or no influence on presidential decision making. Because
privatization and the deteriorating economy have left most citizens much
worse off than they were in the early 1990s, most of the republic's
organizations and parties have an oppositional or antipresidential
The Communist Party of Kazakstan, declared illegal in 1991, was
allowed to re-register in 1993. Kazakstan also has a small Socialist
Democratic Party. Both parties made poor showings in the 1994 election,
but two former communist organizations, the State Labor Union
(Profsoyuz) and the Peasants' Union, managed to take eleven and four
At least four large Kazak nationalist movements were active in the
mid-1990s. Three of them--Azat (Freedom), the Republican Party, and
Zheltoksan (December)--attempted to form a single party under the name
Azat, with the aim of removing "colonialist" foreign
influences from Kazakstan. The fourth movement, Alash (named for the
legendary founder of the Kazak nation, as well as for the pre-Soviet
nationalist party of the same name), refused to join such a coalition
because it advocated a more actively nationalist and pro-Muslim line
than did the other three parties. In the March 1994 election, Azat and
the Republicans were the only nationalist parties to run candidates.
They elected just one deputy between them.
Four exclusively Russian political organizations in Kazakstan have
nationalist or federative agendas. These are Yedinstvo (Unity), Civic
Contract, Democratic Progress, and Lad (Harmony). Party registration
procedures for the 1994 election made places on the ballot very
difficult to obtain for the Russian nationalist groups. Although Lad was
forced to run its candidates without party identification, four deputies
were elected with ties to that party.
The Russian group most unsettling to the Nazarbayev government was
the Cossacks, who were denied official registration, as well as
recognition of their claimed status as a distinct ethnic group in the
northeast and northwest. Not permitted to drill, carry weapons, or
engage in their traditional military activities, Kazakstan's Cossacks
have, in increasing numbers, crossed the border into Russia, where
restrictions are not as tight.
In 1994 parliament's success at countering presidential power
encouraged the legislators, many of whom were connected with the former
Soviet ruling elite, to use their training in the political infighting
of Soviet bureaucracy to form effective antipresidential coalitions.
Ironically, these coalitions were the only political groupings in the
republic that transcended ethnic differences. The Respublika group was
elastic enough to contain both Kazak and Russian nationalists, and the
Otan-Otechestvo organization forged a coalition of Kazaks, Russians, and
even Cossacks who desired a return to Soviet-style political and social
Kazakstan - Nazarbayev
Public opinion in Kazakstan appears to have accepted the imposition
of presidential rule, at least partly because the parliament Nazarbayev
dissolved had focused on its own wages and benefits rather than on
solving the nation's problems. In the short run, the imposition of
direct presidential rule seemed likely to reduce ethnic tensions within
the republic. Indeed, one of Nazarbayev's primary justifications for
assuming greater power was the possibility that bolstered presidential
authority could stem the growing ethnic hostility in the republic,
including a general rise in anti-Semitism.
The ethnic constituency whose appeasement is most important is,
however, the Russians, both within the republic and in Russia proper.
Stability in Kazakstan is overwhelmingly shaped by developments in
Russia, especially as that country returns its attention to some measure
of reintegration of the former Soviet empire. Because of Kazakstan's
great vulnerability to Russian political, economic, and military
intervention, experts assume that Russian national and ethnic interests
play a considerable part in Nazarbayev's political calculations (see
Foreign Policy; National Security Prospects, this ch.).
It also seems likely that Nazarbayev would use presidential rule to
increase the linguistic and cultural rights of the republic's Russians.
Although Nazarbayev had taken a firm stand on the issue of formal dual
citizenship, a treaty he and Russia's president, Boris N. Yeltsin,
signed in January 1995 all but obviated the language question by
permitting citizens of the respective countries to own property in
either republic, to move freely between them, to sign contracts
(including contracts for military service) in either country, and to
exchange one country's citizenship for the other's. When the Kazak
parliament ratified that agreement, that body also voted to extend to
the end of 1995 the deadline by which residents must declare either
Kazakstani or Russian citizenship. After the dissolution of that
parliament, Kazakstan considered extending the deadline until 2000, as
Russia already had done.
In the mid-1990s, Nazarbayev seemed likely to face eventual
opposition from Kazak nationalists if he continued making concessions to
the republic's Russians. Such opposition would be conditioned, however,
by the deep divisions of ethnic Kazaks along clan and family lines,
which give some of them more interests in common with the Russians than
with their ethnic fellows. The Kazaks also have no institutions that
might serve as alternative focuses of political will. Despite a wave of
mosque building since independence, Islam is not well established in
much of the republic, and there is no national religious-political
network through which disaffected Kazaks might be mobilized.
The lack of an obvious venue for expression of popular
dissatisfaction does not mean, however, that none will materialize.
Nazarbayev gambled that imposition of presidential rule would permit him
to transform the republic's economy and thus placate the opposition
through an indisputable and widespread improvement of living standards.
Experts agree that the republic has the natural resources and industrial
potential to make this a credible wager. But a number of conditions
outside Nazarbayev's control, such as the political climate in Russia
and the other Central Asian states, would influence that outcome. By
dismissing parliament and taking upon himself the entire burden of
government, Nazarbayev made himself the obvious target for the public
discontent that radical transformations inevitably produce.
Kazakstan - The Media
Kazakstan has enjoyed the same flourishing of media as have most of
the other former Soviet republics. To some extent, the republic also
continues to be influenced by the Moscow media, although changes in
currency and the simple passage of time are steadily reducing that
influence. Also similar to the processes in other republics is a certain
erosion of the freedom that the media enjoyed in the earlier days of
independence. Although the government always has retained some control,
there was a certain tendency to view the proper relationship between the
media and government as adversarial. However, Nazarbayev steadily
chipped away at Kazakstan's central press, which as a result became more
noticeably pro-government in 1994 and 1995. The 1995 constitution
guarantees freedom of ideas and expression and explicitly bans
censorship. In practice, however, the government influences the press in
several ways. Government presses (the only ones available) have refused
to publish private newspapers for various "technical" reasons;
financial pressure has been brought through court cases or
investigations of a given newspaper's sponsors; and, in some cases,
outright censorship has been exercised for "security reasons."
Strictly enforced laws forbid personal criticism of the president or
members of the president's family.
The major official newspapers are the Russian-language Kazakstanskaya
pravda and Sovety Kazakstana , which are supported by the
government. Nominally, the former is the organ of the Council of
Ministers and the latter that of the parliament. The newspaper Ekspress
K has taken some independent positions, although in the mid-1990s
the editor in chief was a senior official in SNEK, the presidential
political party. The small-edition papers Respublika and NKK
are somewhat more oppositional. The first was the organ of the Socialist
Party until it was sold to commercial interests, and the second is the
organ of the People's Congress Party. Respublika is said to be
underfinanced, but NKK enjoys the resources of Olzhas
Suleymenov's large Nevada-Semipalatinsk commercial organization. Panorama
, perhaps the largest independent newspaper in the republic, is owned by
some of the largest business interests in the republic and is oriented
toward political and economic issues (on which it generally takes an
objective view). The Karavan commercial organization publishes two
newspapers, Karavan and ABV (short for Almaty Business
News). The former inclines toward tabloid-style muckraking, while the
latter is entirely commercial in character.
The electronic media remain under state control. Many private
production companies exist, but access to television and radio is still
controlled by the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Corporation
(see Transportation and Telecommunications, this ch.).
As it does most activities, ethnicity complicates media operations.
Inevitably the nationality of the owners of a newspaper or television
production company affects how its product is received. The most obvious
example is that of the newspaper Karavan . Although its
muckraking approach is similar to that taken by newspapers in Moscow and
Bishkek, the fact that the paper is Russian-owned makes it seem, in the
context of Kazakstan, to be more vividly partisan. In early 1995, a fire
in the Karavan warehouse prompted rumors of sabotage, which
never were substantiated.
Kazakstan - Human Rights
Considering the power available to the Nazarbayev regime, Kazakstan's
observation of international human-rights standards in the mid-1990s was
given a relatively high rating. In one celebrated case of attempted
censorship, historian Karishal Asanov was tried three times before being
acquitted on a charge of defaming the president for an article he
published in a Moscow newspaper.
Although antigovernment activities of the nationalist-religious group
Alash have been actively discouraged, there have been no recorded
instances of extrajudicial killings or disappearances, or of
unsubstantiated grounds for arrest. Prisons are generally overcrowded
because of the eruption of crime in the republic, but international
organizations record no instances of torture or of deliberately
The state security organs continue some of their Soviet-era ways;
there have been complaints that proper procedures for search warrants
are not always followed, and some credible accusations have been made
about tampering with or planting evidence in criminal proceedings. In
general, however, the republic's investigative and security organs seem
to be making an effort to follow the constitution's guidance on the
inviolability of person, property, and dwelling.
Free movement about the country is permitted, although residence is
still controlled by the Soviet-era registration system, which requires
citizens to have official permission to live in a particular city. In
practice, this system has made it almost impossible for outsiders to
move into Almaty.
The exercise of political rights in Kazakstan is closely controlled,
and the number of parties is limited by registration restrictions.
Imposition of presidential rule and the general strengthening of the
president's role have limited popular political participation. The
Russian population has attempted to depict the imposition of language
laws and the refusal to grant dual citizenship as violations of human
rights, but these claims generally have not been accepted by the
international community. Several Russian political groups and human
rights alleged that irregularities in the August 1995 constitutional
referendum invalidated the document's ratification on human rights
grounds. The nine official foreign observers reported no major
Kazakstan - Foreign Policy
From the onset of independence, President Nazarbayev sought
international support to secure a place for Kazakstan in the world
community, playing the role of bridge between East and West, between
Europe and Asia.
Almost immediately upon its declaration of independence, the republic
gained a seat in the United Nations, membership in the CSCE, and a seat
on the coordinating council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO--see Glossary). The United States and other nations also gave
Kazakstan quick recognition, opening embassies in Almaty and receiving
Kazakstani ambassadors in return. Its status as an apparent nuclear
power got Kazakstan off to a fast start in international diplomacy.
President Nazarbayev became a signatory to the Strategic Arms Reduction
Treaty (START) and its so-called Lisbon Protocol by which Belarus,
Kazakstan, and Ukraine pledged to eliminate nuclear weapons in the
1990s. In addition, Nazarbayev was able to negotiate US$1.2 billion in
prepayment by the United States against sale of the enriched uranium
contained in Kazakstan's warheads, as well as another US$311 million for
maintenance and conversion of existing missile silos. Equally important
was that the nuclear warheads prompted the United States to become a
party to negotiations concerning the warheads between Kazakstan and
Russia. The United States eventually became a guarantor of the agreement
reached by the two countries. In May 1995, the last nuclear warhead in
Kazakstan was destroyed at Semey, completing the program of removal and
destruction of the entire former Soviet arsenal and achieving the
republic's goal of being "nuclear free."
Under the leadership of Nazarbayev, who maintained personal control
of foreign policy, Kazakstan eagerly courted Western investment.
Although foreign aid, most of it from Western nations, began as a
trickle, significant amounts were received by 1994. In practice,
however, Nazarbayev was ambivalent about moving too fully into a Western
In the period shortly after independence, policy makers often
discussed following the "Turkish model," emulating Turkey in
incorporating a Muslim cultural heritage into a secular, Europeanized
state. Turkey's president Turgut Özal made a state visit to Kazakstan
in March 1991 and hosted a return visit by Nazarbayev later the same
year. Soon afterward Nazarbayev began to echo Turkish talk of turning
Kazakstan into a bridge between Muslim East and Christian West. In
practice, however, the Turks proved to be more culturally dissimilar
than the Kazakstanis had imagined; more important, Turkey's own economic
problems meant that most promises of aid and investment remained mostly
just statements of intentions.
As Turkey proved itself a disappointment, President Nazarbayev began
to speak with increasing enthusiasm about the Asian economic
"tigers" such as Singapore, the Republic of Korea (South
Korea), and Taiwan. Among the republic's first foreign economic advisers
were Chan Young Bang, a Korean American with close ties to South Korea's
major industrial families, and Singapore's former prime minister, Li
The most compelling model, however, was provided by China, which
quickly had become Kazakstan's largest non-CIS trading partner. The
Kazakstani leadership found the Chinese combination of rigid social
control and private-sector prosperity an attractive one. China also
represented a vast market and appeared quite able to supply the food,
medicine, and consumer goods most desired by the Kazakstani market.
However, the relationship with China has been a prickly one.
Kazakstan's fears of Chinese domination remain from the Soviet era and
from the Kazaks' earlier nomadic history. A large number of Kazaks and
other Muslims live in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China,
just over the border. Direct rail and road links have been opened to Ürümqi
in Xinjiang, and Chinese traders in Kazakstan are prominent in the
thriving barter between the two nations. However, China is plainly
nervous about any contact that would encourage separatist or nationalist
sentiments among its own "captive peoples." For its part,
Kazakstan has expressed unease about the large numbers of Chinese who
began buying property and settling in the republic after the end of
Soviet rule. Kazakstan also has reacted angrily but without effect to
Chinese nuclear tests at Lob Nor, China's main testing site, located
within 300 kilometers of the common border.
The Middle East
Nazarbayev was hesitant to court investment from the Middle East,
despite high levels of Turkish and Iranian commercial activity in
Central Asia. Unlike the other Central Asian republics, Kazakstan
initially accepted only observer status in the Muslim-dominated ECO,
largely out of concern not to appear too "Muslim" itself. Over
time, however, the president moved from being a professed atheist to
proudly proclaiming his Muslim heritage. He has encouraged assistance
from Iran in developing transportation links, from Oman in building oil
pipelines, from Egypt in building mosques, and from Saudi Arabia in
developing a national banking system.
Russia and the CIS
Most of Kazakstan's foreign policy has, not unnaturally, focused on
the other former Soviet republics and, particularly, on the potential
territorial ambitions of Russia. Since Gorbachev's proposal for a
modified continuation of the Soviet Union in late 1991, Kazakstan has
supported arrangements with Russia that guarantee the republic's
sovereignty and independence, including a stronger and institutionally
As the CIS failed to develop a strong institutional framework,
Nazarbayev attempted to achieve the same end in another way, proposing
the creation of a Euro-Asian Union that would subordinate the economic,
defense, and foreign policies of individual member states to decisions
made by a council of presidents, an elective joint parliament, and joint
councils of defense and other ministries. Citizens of member nations
would hold union citizenship, essentially reducing the independence of
the individual member republics to something like their Soviet-era
status. The proposal, however, met with little enthusiasm, especially
from Russia, whose support was crucial to the plan's success.
Nazarbayev pursued bilateral trade and security agreements with each
of the former republics and in September 1992 unsuccessfully attempted
to have Kazakstan broker a cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan
that also would set a precedent for settling interrepublic and
interregional strife in the former republics. Nazarbayev also
participated in the fitful efforts of the five Central Asian leaders to
create some sort of regional entity; the most promising of these was a
free-trade zone established in 1994 among Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and
Kazakstan (see Foreign Trade, ch. 2).
Kazakstan also has contributed to efforts by Russia and Uzbekistan to
end the civil war in Tajikistan. Kazakstani troops were part of a joint
CIS force dispatched to protect military objectives in and around the
Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe. Although Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan's
President Islam Karimov warned in 1995 that their countries soon would
consider withdrawal if peace talks made no progress, the multinational
CIS force remained in place in early 1996.
Kazakstan - Bibliography
Adshead, Samuel Adrian M. Central Asia in World History. New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.
Akiner, Shirin. Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union: An
Historical and Statistical Handbook. New York: Kegan Paul
Akiner, Shirin, ed. Economic and Political Trends in Central Asia.
New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1992.
Allworth, Edward, ed. Central Asia: 120 Years of Russian Rule.
Durham: Duke University Press, 1989.
Allworth, Edward, ed. Muslim Communities Reemerge: Historical
Perspectives. Durham: Duke University Press, 1994.
Bachmann, Berta. Memories of Kazakhstan: A Report on the Life
Experiences of a German Woman in Russia. Lincoln, Nebraska:
American History Society, 1983.
Bacon, Elizabeth E. Central Asians under Russian Rule: A Study in
Culture Change. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980.
Banuazizi, Ali, and Myron Weiner, eds. The New Geopolitics of
Central Asia and Its Borderlands. Bloomington: Indiana University
Bilan du Monde: l'Année économique et sociale 1995. Ed.,
Jacques-François Simon. Paris: Le Monde, 1996.
Blank, Stephen. "Energy, Economics, and Security in Central
Asia: Russia and Its Rivals," Central Asian Survey, 14,
No. 3, 1995, 373-406.
Bradley, Catherine. Kazakhstan. Brookfield, Connecticut:
Millbrook Press, 1992.
Brezhnev, Leonid. Virgin Lands: Two Years in Kazakhstan, 1954-55.
Tarrytown, New York: Elsevier Science, 1982.
Broxup, Marie. "Islam in Central Asia since Gorbachev," Asian
Affairs [London], 18, October 1987, 283-93.
Carrère D'Encausse, Hélène. Islam and the Russian Empire:
Reform and Revolution in Central Asia. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1989.
"Central Asia," Current History, 93, April 1994,
Dave, Bhavna. "Kazakhstan Staggers under Its Nuclear
Burden," Transition, November 17, 1995, 12-13.
Dave, Bhavna. "A New Parliament Consolidates Presidential
Authority," Transition, March 22, 1996, 33-37.
Davis, Christopher M. "Health Care Crisis: The Former Soviet
Union," RFE/RL Research Report [Munich], 2, No. 40,
October 8, 1993, 35-43.
Dawisha, Karen, and Bruce Parrott. Russia and the New States of
Eurasia: The Politics of Upheaval. Port Chester, New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Deweese, Devin. Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden
Horde. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
Diuk, Nadia, and Adrian Karatnycky. The Hidden Nations: The
People Challenge the Soviet Union. Fairfield, New Jersey: William
Dorian, James P. "The Kazakh Oil Industry: A Potential Critical
Role in Central Asia," Energy Policy, 22, August 1994,
Eickelman, Dale F., ed. Russia's Muslim Frontiers: New Directions
in Cross-Cultural Analysis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
The Europa World Year Book 1993, 2. London: Europa, 1993.
The Europa World Year Book 1994, 2. London: Europa, 1994.
The Europa World Year Book 1995, 2. London: Europa, 1995.
The Europa World Year Book 1996, 2. London: Europa, 1996.
Evans, John L. Russia and the Khanates of Central Asia to 1865.
New York: Associated Faculty Press, 1982.
Ferdinand, Peter. The New States of Central Asia and Their
Neighbours. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994.
Fierman, William, ed. Soviet Central Asia: The Failed
Transformation. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1991.
Forsythe, Rosemarie. "The Politics of Oil in the Caucasus and
Central Asia," Adelphi Papers, 300, May 1996, whole issue.
Fuller, Graham. Central Asia: The New Geopolitics. Santa
Monica, California: Rand, 1992.
Fuller, Graham. "Central Asia: The Quest for Identity," Current
History, 93, April 1994, 145-49.
Fuller, Graham. "The Emergence of Central Asia," Foreign
Policy, Spring 1990, 49-67.
Ghorban, Narsi. "The Role of the Multinational Oil Companies in
the Development of Oil and Gas Resources in Central Asia and the
Caucasus," Iranian Journal of International Affairs, 5,
Spring 1993, 1-15.
Gross, Jo-Ann, ed. Muslims in Central Asia: Expressions of
Identity and Change. Durham: Duke University Press, 1992.
Haghayeghi, Mehrdad. Islam and Politics in Central Asia. New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.
Janabel, Jiger. "When National Ambition Conflicts with Reality:
Studies on Kazakhstan's Ethnic Relations," Central Asian Survey,
15, No. 1, March 1996, 5-22.
Malik, Hafeez, ed. Central Asia: Its Strategic Importance and
Future Prospects. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.
Mandelbaum, Michael, ed. Central Asia and the World: Kazakhstan,
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. New York:
Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994.
Mesbahi, Mohiaddin, ed. Central Asia and the Caucasus after the
Soviet Union: Domestic and International Dynamics. Gainesville:
University Press of Florida, 1994.
The Military Balance 1992-1993. London: International
Institute for Strategic Studies, 1992.
The Military Balance 1993-1994. London: International
Institute for Strategic Studies, 1993.
The Military Balance 1994-1995. London: International
Institute for Strategic Studies, 1994.
The Military Balance 1995-1996. London: International
Institute for Strategic Studies, 1995.
1995 Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago: 1995.
Olcott, Martha Brill. "Central Asia's Islamic Awakening," Current
History, 93, April 1994, 150-54.
Olcott, Martha Brill. Central Asia's New States: Independence,
Foreign Policy, and Regional Security. Washington: United States
Institute of Peace Press, 1996.
Olcott, Martha Brill. The Kazakhs. 2d ed. Studies of
Nationalities in the USSR. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution
Paksoy, H.B., ed. Central Asia Reader: The Rediscovery of
History. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1994.
PlanEcon. Review and Outlook for the Former Soviet Republics.
Pomfret, Richard. The Economies of Central Asia. Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1995.
Potter, William C. "The 'Sapphire' File: Lessons for
International Nonproliferation Cooperation," Transition,
1, November 17, 1995, 14-19.
Ro'i, Yaacov, ed. Muslim Eurasia: Conflicting Legacies.
London: Frank Cass, 1995.
Rumer, Boris Z. Soviet Central Asia: "A Tragic
Experiment." Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989.
Rywkin, Michael. Moscow's Muslim Challenge: Soviet Central Asia.
Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1990.
The Statesman's Year-Book 1992-1993. Ed., Brian Hunter. New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.
The Statesman's Year-Book 1993-1994. Ed., Brian Hunter. New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.
The Statesman's Year-Book 1994-1995. Ed., Brian Hunter. New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.
The Statesman's Year-Book 1995-1996. Ed., Brian Hunter. New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.
Undeland, Charles, and Nicholas Platt. The Central Asian
Republics: Fragments of Empire, Magnets of Wealth. New York: Asia
United Nations. Department for Economic and Social Information and
Policy Analysis. Demographic Yearbook 1993. New York: 1995.
United States. Central Intelligence Agency. Handbook of
International Economic Statistics 1995. Washington: GPO, 1995.
United States. Central Intelligence Agency. Kazakhstan: An
Economic Profile. Springfield, Virginia: National Technical
Information Service, 1993.
United States. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook
1994. Washington: GPO, 1994.
United States. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook
1995. Washington: GPO, 1995.
United States. Department of State. Bureau of International Narcotics
Matters. International Narcotics Strategy Report March 1996.
Washington: GPO, 1996.
WEFA Group. Eurasia Economic Outlook, February 1996.
Eddystone, Pennsylvania: 1996.
Wixman, Ronald. Peoples of the USSR: An Ethnographic Handbook. Armonk,
New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1984.
World Bank. Kazakhstan: Agricultural Sector Review.
World Bank. Kazakhstan: The Transition to a Market Economy.
World Bank. Statistical Handbook 1995: States of the Former USSR.
World Radio TV Handbook 1996. Ed., Andrew G. Sennitt.
Amsterdam: Billboard, 1996.
Worldwide Directory of Defense Authorities 1996, 1. Ed.,
Kenneth Gause. Bethesda, Maryland: Worldwide Government Directories,