Jeddah � Kazakhstan will celebrate its 17th National Day on December 16. The Central Asian nation has become a dominant economic power under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The celebrations will demonstrate the country's ethnic and cultural diversity, providing a great example of the coexistence, tolerance and unity of a mosaic of 146 ethnic groups in an area of 2.7 million square kilometers, being the biggest among the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Kazakhstan is a transcontinental country largely located in Asia; the most western parts are located in Europe, making the country a cornerstone of the OIC. It is the dominant nation of Central Asia economically, generating 60 percent of the region's GDP, primarily through its oil/gas industry. The country also has vast mineral resources.
Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire. Then it became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic before declaring its independence during the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The name "Kazakh" comes from the ancient Turkic word qaz, "to wander", reflecting the Kazakhs' nomadic culture. Though traditionally referring only to ethnic Kazakhs, including those living in China, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and other neighboring countries, the term "Kazakh" is increasingly being used to refer to any inhabitant of Kazakhstan, including non-Kazakhs.
The first inhabitants in Kazakhstan date back to the Paleolithic Age. Pastoralism developed during the Neolithic as the region's climate and terrain are best suited for a nomadic lifestyle. The Kazakh territory was a key constituent of the Eurasian Steppe route, the ancestor of the terrestrial Silk Roads. Archaeologists believe that humans first domesticated the horse in the region's vast steppes.
The Cuman entered the steppes of modern-day Kazakhstan around the early 11th century, where they later joined with the Kipchak and established the vast Cuman-Kipchak confederation. While ancient cities Taraz and Hazrat-e Turkestan had long served as important way-stations along the Silk Road connecting Asia and Europe, true political consolidation began only with the Mongol rule of the early 13th century. Under the Mongol Empire, the largest in world history, administrative districts were established. These eventually came under the rule of the emergent Kazakh Khanate (Kazakhstan).
In the 15th century, a distinct Kazakh identity began to emerge among the Turkic tribes, a process which was consolidated by the mid-16th century with the appearance of the Kazakh language, culture, and economy.
In the 18th century, the Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe and by the mid-19th century, they nominally ruled all of Kazakhstan as part of the Russian Empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganized several times. In 1936, it was made the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, being part of the Soviet Union.
Kazakhstan has an estimated 18.3 million people as of 2018. Given its large land area, its population density is among the lowest, at less than 6 people per square kilometer. The capital is Astana, where it was moved in 1997 from Almaty, the country's largest city. With an area of 2.7 million square kilometers, Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country and largest landlocked country in the world.
Kazakhstan has the largest and strongest performing economy in Central Asia. Supported by rising oil output and prices. It was the first former Soviet Republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 7 years ahead of schedule. Since 2002, the country has sought to manage strong inflows of foreign currency without sparking inflation.
In September 2002, Kazakhstan became the first country in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to receive an investment grade credit rating from a major international credit rating agency.
According to the 2010�11 World Economic Forum in Global Competitiveness Report, Kazakhstan was ranked 72nd in the world in economic competitiveness. One year later, the Global Competitiveness Report ranked Kazakhstan 50th in most competitive markets. In 2012, Kazakhstan attracted $14 billion of foreign direct investment inflows into the country at a 7 percent growth rate making it the most attractive place to invest out of CIS nations. During the first half of 2013, Kazakhstan's fixed investment increased 7.1 percent compared to the same period in 2012, totaling $18 billion.
Islam is the largest religion in Kazakhstan, where Muslims make about 70 percent of the population. Religious freedoms are guaranteed by the country's Constitution. The free practice of religious beliefs and the establishment of full freedom of religion led to an increased religious activity. Hundreds of mosques, churches, and other religious structures were built in the span of a few years, with the number of religious associations rising from 670 in 1990 to 4,170 today.
Kazakhstan has become the first state among the CIS and Central Asian countries to be chosen by the global community to host the international exhibition � EXPO 2017. The government has completed the construction of the new capital, Astana, which has become a financial, business, innovative and cultural center of the Eurasian region.
On 6 July 1994, President Nursultan Nazarbayev launched an initiative in Parliament to move the capital from Almaty to Akmola. On 10 December 1997, the capital was formally transferred to Akmola. On 6 May 1998, the capital city was renamed into "Astana".
In 1999, Astana was awarded the title of the City of Peace by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Since 2000, Astana has become a member of the International Assembly of Capitals and Cities (IAC), and in 2003, Moody's Investors Service listed the Kazakh capital as among the 30 best cities in the world.
Accordingly, it is no coincidence that Astana has become a venue for large forums and conferences, where the city has been hosting recurring events to discuss issues of inter-state relations and interreligious reconciliation. The 2011 Asian Winter Games was held in Astana. In 2017, it hosted the 17th annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the international exhibition � Expo 2017. The Kazakh capital also hosted the rounds of Syrian peace talks, aimed at a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Syria and ending the suffering of its people.
Source: International Islamic News Agency