History of Kazakhstan

Information about Kazakhstan is a large and diverse one. This short introduction briefs you on the history of Kazakhstan, its culture and politics. 


Kazakhstan is the largest country of central Asia, stretching from Siberia to the deserts of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and from China to the Caspian Sea. The country covers two time zones and five climatic zones. Its size defines the character of the nation: everything is large in scale, from the wealth of its resources, to the scale of the travel across the country which presents a formidable problem of bringing the Kazakh goods to the main exports markets.

Kazakhstan has a rich and long history. The early nomad civilization was registered as early as in the first millennium BC. The rich vast steppe land had been a valuable prize for many invaders, including Atilla the Hun, Genghis Khan and Timur the Lame (Tamerlane) who conquered and ruled the region. It was the Turkic-speaking tribes that developed trade routes including the Silk Road flowing east to west and the Sable Road connecting central Kazakhstan to the Altai and south-west Siberia. Islam was gradually introduced starting from the 11th century.

It was only in the late 15th century that the first Kazakh states were formed and a Kazakh people emerged divided into hordes ruled by khans. Russian expansion reached Kazakh lands in the beginning of the 18th century. By the 1850s the entire region was incorporated into the Tsarist Empire and Russian settlers began arriving in large numbers.

The Soviet era brought forced collectivization and terrible famine in the 1930s. By the time Kazakhstan became a republic of the Soviet Union in 1936, ethnic Kazakhs had become a minority in their own republic. Some 1.5 million had died and tends of thousands emigrated in Turkey, China, Mongolia and elsewhere.

Under the Soviet rule, Kazakhstan was developed as agricultural and industrial base of the Soviet Union resulting in massive industrialization and collectivization across the country. Industrial towns, railways and roads were built across the steppes as Kazakhstan became a major producer of coal, oil, natural gas, ferrous and non-ferrous metals for the Soviet Union. Large-scale agricultural production started in the late 1950s under “Virgin Lands” plan, which aimed to make the Soviet Union self-sufficient in food grains and meat.

After dissolution of the Soviet Union in the late 1991, Kazakhstan entered a new era led by Nursultan Nazarbayev. He took over the leadership of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan in March 1989 and after winning the first popular elections in December 1991 became Kazakhstan’s first President.

Kazakhstan’s new constitution has been adopted in August 1995.

According to the Constitution, Kazakhstan is a unitary state with a presidential form of government. The President of the Republic is the head of the state, determining the main directions of domestic and foreign policy. President is elected by direct, privy, universal suffrage. The first and current President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The Parliament is the supreme representative legislative body. Bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (39 seats) and Majilis (77 seats). Seven senators are appointed by the president; other members are popularly elected, two from each of the 14 oblasts, the capital of Astana, and the city of Almaty. Ten members of the Majilis are elected from the winning party’s lists.

Elections to the lower House are conducted by direct, privy and universal suffrage. Elections to the Senate are conducted by indirect, privy voting. The term of office of the Parliament is 4 years.

The head of the executive power in Kazakhstan is the Government, and the head of the Government is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Government is responsible to the President in its activity and is accountable to the Parliament in connection with approval or alteration of the government programmes.

The judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court (44 members) and the Constitutional Council (7 members). Astana became the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan on December 10, 1997. International presentation of Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, was held on June 10, 1998. The transfer of the capital from Almaty to Astana was prompted by economic, ecological and geographic needs.

The first ever capital of Kazakhstan since 1920 was the city of Orenburg (now on the territory of the Russian Federation). In 1925, the capital of Kazakhstan was transferred to Kzyl-Orda.

In April 1927 Alma-Ata (now Almaty) has become the capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. After the transfer of capital to Astana, Almaty remains cultural, business and financial center of Kazakhstan. It is also one of the most beautiful cities in central Asia.