Vast flat steppe extending from the Vilga in the west to the Altai Mountains in the east and from the plains of western Siberia in the north to oases and deserts of Central Asia in the south
Continental, cold winters and hot summers, arid and semiarid
Population: 17,736,896 (July 2013 est.)
Languages: Kazakh (Qazaq, state language) 64.4%, Russian (official, used in everyday business) 95%
Muslim 70.2%, Christian 26.2% (Russian Orthodox 23.9%, other Christian 2.3%) Buddhist 0.1%, other 0.2%, atheist 2.8%, unspecified 0.5% (2009 census)
Kazakhstan, geographically the largest of the former Soviet republics, excluding Russia, possesses enormous fossil fuel reserves and plentiful supplies of other minerals and metals, such as uranium, copper, and zinc. It also has a large agricultural sector featuring livestock and grain. In 2002 Kazakhstan became the first country in the former Soviet Union to receive an investment-grade credit rating. Extractive industries have been and will continue to be the engine of Kazakhstan's growth.
At one time, the nomadic Kazaks lived in yurts, cone-shaped tents of white felt stretched over a framework of wooden poles. Yurts are light and easy to assemble, dismantle and transport. Today, yurts are only used as temporary shelters by shepherds in remote, seasonal pastures. The modern Kazak home is typically an apartment in the city or a permanent single dwelling in rural areas. To keep their homes clean, Kazaks always remove their shoes upon entering.
Republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch
US Military Presence/Support