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Kazakhstan: deserts, steppes and plateaus

Kazakhstan (Kazak Respublikasy) is a presidential republic located in Central Asia, bordered to the east by China, on the south by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, to the west washed by the Caspian Sea, to the west and north borders on Russia. The capital is Astana, the major cities are Almaty (Alma-Ata), the old capital of the country, Karaganda, Simkent, Žambyl, Öskemen, Semey and Pavlodar. Kazakhstan territory is formed, to the west and north, by a wide plains, to the south and east, from a plateau, closed to the east and south-east from the mountain ranges forming part of the Tian Shan massif.

The western plains are part of Turan Depression, while those to the north belonging to the West Siberian Depression, these two lowlands are united among themselves by a depression known as Turgajskaja łożbina. The central-eastern region of the country is made up of the vast plateau of Kazakhstan hills.

In the eastern and south-eastern side of the country rise up the mountain ranges of the Tien Shan, while in the north-eastern lies the Altaj mountains. In the Tien Shan massif along the border between Kazakhstan, China and Kyrgyzstan is the highest mountain of Kazakhstan, the Khan Tengri (7,010 metres).

The south-west area of the country is characterized by arid land sometimes real desert areas, including between the Aral Sea and the Caspian Sea extends the Ustyurt plateau, a rocky desert, while to the south-east of Aral Sea is the Kyzylkum desert, including between the Aral Sea and Lake Balkash are the Betbakdala and Muyunkum deserts. Towards the west, Kazakhstan has a long coastline on the Caspian Sea (the largest lake of the world, 371,000 sq km) in this area is the lowest point of the country, the depression of Vpadina Kaundy (-132 meters).

Among the lakes, belong to Kazakhstan the northern section of the Aral Sea (salt water lake, 41,000 square kilometers, but now reduced to only 17,000 sq km), Lake Balkhash (16,996 sq km), which has the particularity of having freshwater on his west side, while the eastern part is salty, Lake Alakol (salt water lake, 2,650 sq km), and Lake Zaysan (freshwater lake, 1,810 sq km). The country’s major rivers are the Syr-Darya, the Ural, the Ili, the Irtyš, the Ishim and the Tobol.

In Kazakhstan, notable is the development of agriculture, there are grown wheat, rice, barley, corn, rye, oats, sugar beets, cotton, vegetables, fruit, tobacco, it is also well developed breeding (sheep, pigs, cattle, horses, poultry), but the true wealth of the country are its mineral deposits (uranium, silver, nickel, bauxite, manganese, cromite, copper, coal, oil, natural gas, iron, zinc, cobalt, lead) which are linked to the ongoing industrial activities especially in the steel, metallurgical, mechanical, chemical, petrochemical sectors with addition to the processing of agricultural products. In Bajkonur has been established an important space center.

  • Area: 2,717,300 sqkm. (Arable 13%, Pastures 69%, Forests and Woodlands 3,5%, Uncultivated and Unproductive 14,5%)
  • Population: 15,200,000 (2006 data) (Kazakhs 59%, Russians 25%, Ukrainians 3%, Uzbeks3%, Tatars 1,5%, Uighurs 1,5%, Germans 1,4%).
  • State Capital: Astana.
  • Languages: Official languages are Kazakh and Russian.
  • Religion: Muslim 47% (Sunni), Christian 46% (Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%).
  • Currency: Tenge (KZT)
  • Time: UTC +5/+6 hours.

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