Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Europe. The ninth largest country in the world by land area, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of 2,727,300 square kilometres (1,053,000 sq mi) is larger than Western Europe. It is neighbored clockwise from the north by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and also borders on a significant part of the Caspian Sea. Although Kazakhstan does not share a border with Mongolia, its most easterly point is only 38 kilometres (24 mi) from Mongolia's western tip. The terrain of Kazakhstan ranges from flatlands, steppes, taigas, rock-canyons, hills, deltas, and snow-capped mountains to deserts. With 16.6 million people (2011 estimate Kazakhstan has the 62nd largest population in the world, though its population density is less than 6 people per square kilometre (15 per sq. mi.). The capital was moved in 1998 from Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, to Astana.
For most of its history, the territory of modern-day Kazakhstan has been inhabited by nomadic tribes. By the 16th century, the Kazakhs emerged as a distinct group, divided into three Jüz. The Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century all of Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganized several times before becoming the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936, a part of the USSR.
Kazakhstan declared itself an independent country on December 16, 1991, the last Soviet republic to do so. Its communist-era leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, became the country's first president, a position he retains today. President Nazarbayev maintains strict control over the country's politics. Since independence, Kazakhstan has pursued a balanced foreign policy and worked to develop its economy, especially its hydrocarbon industry. The post-Soviet era has also been characterized by increased involvement with many international organizations, including the United Nations, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Kazakhstan is also one of six post-Soviet states who have implemented an Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO.
Kazakhstan is ethnically and culturally diverse, in part due to mass deportations of many ethnic groups to the country during Stalin's rule. Kazakhstan has a population of 16.6 million, with 131 ethnicities, including Kazakh, Russian, Uyghur, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Tatar, and German. Around 63% percent of the population are Kazakhs. Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion, and many different beliefs are represented in the country. Islam is the religion of more than 70% of the population, with Christianity practiced by most of the remainder. The Kazakh language is the state language, while Russian is also officially used as an equal language to Kazakh in Kazakhstan's public institutions.
With an area of 2,700,000 square kilometres (1,000,000 sq mi), Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country and the largest landlocked country in the world. It is equivalent to the size of Western Europe. In the Soviet Union period, Kazakhstan lost some of its territory to China's Xinjiang and some to Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan. It shares borders of 6,846 kilometres (4,254 mi) with Russia, 2,203 kilometres (1,369 mi) with Uzbekistan, 1,533 kilometres (953 mi) with China, 1,051 kilometres (653 mi) with Kyrgyzstan, and 379 kilometres (235 mi) with Turkmenistan. Major cities include Astana, Almaty, Karagandy, Shymkent, Atyrau and Oskemen. It lies between latitudes 40° and 56° N, and longitudes 46° and 88° E. While located primarily in Asia, a small portion of Kazakhstan is also located west of the Urals in Eastern Europe.
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