The country of nearly 18 million has set an example by boosting economic development and strengthening social structure. Kazakhstan is the ninth biggest country in the world and its progress since declaring independence in 1991 has been remarkable. The country joined the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1995 and has become one of its dynamic members since then. Today, Kazakhstan leads the Central Asian countries with its strong infrastructure, political stability and abundant reserves of natural resources. Under the leadership of the president, Mr Nursultan Nazarbayev, the government has established great relationships with almost all countries in the world. The following is a brief overview of Kazakhstan as the country celebrates 25 years of independence.
During the first 10 years after independence (1991–2000), Kazakhstan experienced some progress. However, upon the discovery of its oil reserves the country witnessed exponential growth in its economy. Exports account for 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with oil representing 75 per cent of these exports. Unfortunately, intra-OIC exports are below 10 per cent of Kazakhstan’s total exports. The reason of this low percentage may be attributed to the county’s location away from most other OIC member countries. This location, however, is strategic as Kazakhstan links the large and fast-growing markets of China and South Asia and those of Russia and Western Europe by road, rail, and a port on the Caspian Sea.
Kazakhstan moved to the upper-middle-income group in 2006. Since 2002, GDP per capita has risen six-fold and the incidence of poverty has fallen sharply.
|Area||2,724,730 sq. km|
|Major Language (s)||Kazakh, Russian|
|Major Religion (s)||Islam|
|Life Expectancy||Male: 67.12 years ; Female:75.94 years|
|Literacy rate||Youth 99.84%, Adults 99.79%|
|GDP Per Capita||12,495 USD (2014)|
In recent years, like many oil-producing states, Kazakhstan is looking into transforming the economic outlook to be less dependent on oil production and exports. More emphasis is being put on manufacturing and services industries such as the production of bauxite, cement, copper and fertilizers. Additionally, the government has been actively creating outstanding infrastructure and promoting Kazakhstan’s natural sceneries and historical places in order to attract more tourist arrivals. Hosting Expo 2017 in Astana with the theme “Future Energy” works well in favour of the country’s transformational strategy in the sense that it directly addresses the issue of oil depletion, allows for business people to explore investment opportunities and brings over 5 million visitors between June and September 2017.
One of the very important strategies followed by the government to reach the current position has been the development of a strong education system. This strategy is further emphasised for the future development based on the “2050 Strategy” announced by the president in 2012. Education is compulsory for children aged between 6 and 15 to get basic knowledge and then students have the choice to join either a vocational or an academic programme. A large number of schools, colleges and universities have been established over the past 20 years and partnership agreements have been signed with many international educational institutions to improve the teaching curriculum and facilitate the study of Kazakh students abroad.
Since independence, many reforms have taken place to improve the status, quality and structure of the education system in Kazakhstan. This is clear in the high student enrollment rates and also the low student-teacher ratio.
Literacy and enrollment rates of youth in Kazakhstan are satisfactory and in line with the country’s developmental strategies. More importantly, the Ministry of Education and Science has given special attention to the quality of the learning process from all aspects. Quality measures have been set and the performance of all educational institutions is tested against them continuously. The accreditation of foreign universities at the ministry follows a systematic approach that guarantees quality of the programmes they offer. The results of implementing those strategies within the education system can clearly be seen in the increasing employability rates of Kazakh graduates locally and in other countries.
Culture and Traditions
The population of Kazakhstan is comprised of Kazakh (Qazaq), Russian, Ukrainian, Uzbek, German, Tatar, Uygur and other ethnic groups. This provides diversity in the culture and traditions practiced in the country. Even though (Kazakhs) own the land, they are not the majority of the population as the original Ukrainians and Russians reside in many areas of Kazakhstan, especially the northern parts. For centuries Kazakhstan was a country of nomads and herders. Tribes were the basis of society; the tribe was constituted of family members and the family elders. Inter-tribal marriages were important in establishing security and peace. In fact the meaning of the word “Kazakh” in ancient Turkish means “a free and independent nomad.”
Almost half of the population in Kazakhstan is Muslim and the second largest religious group is Russian Orthodox. Islam was introduced in Kazakhstan in the seventh century and its teachings are saliently reflected in many of the traditions and cultural practices by the people in Kazakhstan from various ethnic groups. Everyone has a distinct place in the hierarchy based upon family relationships. People are respected because of their age and position and older people are viewed as wise and therefore they are granted respect. Having been part of the Soviet Union for almost 70 years has also impacted the culture of Kazakhstan. Not many people in Kazakhstan speak fluent English, the official language is Kazakh, while Russian is widely spoken by most people.
Approximately 70% of Kazakhstan’s population is Muslim. Kazakhs, who constitute about 60% of the population, are Sunni of the Hanafi school, while Russian Orthodox is practiced by Russian citizens.
Traditionally the outerwear of women was similar to that of men: similar jackets, waistcoats, gowns, wide leather belts, it differed from men’s only in colours and some decoration details. Headwear of Kazakh women, similar to many other nationalities, was also a kind of indicator of their marital status. Headwear of married women differed in different tribal groups, but girls’ headwear was comparatively similar throughout the territory of Kazakhstan. Girls used to wear hats of two types: skull cap (Takiya) and a warm hat (Borik), decorated with otter, fox or beaver fur. A tuft of owl feather was often sewed to the top of takiya for decoration purposes, which also played a role of a talisman. Gimp, tassels, gold embroidery and even silver coins were also used for decoration.
Astana Expo 2017, themed “Future Energy”, sets the task to gather the best developments in these fields in order to demonstrate not only the future of energy, but also the problematic issues of developing countries, connected with the global need of it, in the local territory within 93 days. The leading world experts, who will meet in Astana, will discuss the ways to make “green energy”, its availability, sustainability and economy the main development trend for further decades. Green energy is a set of promising methods for obtaining, transfer and use of energy, which are not as widespread as traditional methods. The range and scale of renewable sources of energy is very broad— from local wind power stations to global projects for obtaining energy from space.
Specialised Expo 2017 will be held in Astana with the theme “Future Energy”. The Expo, which is taking place on a site covering 25 hectares, will be open between 10 June and 10 September 2017.
In preparation for World’s Expo 2017, part of Astana is transforming into a glimmering, futuristic city. The 18.7 million-square-foot master plan will feature a citywide smart grid as well as buildings powered by solar panels, wind turbines all of which incorporates the 2017 Expo’s theme. The master design of the project calls for establishing schools, parks, a hotel, offices, an arts center, a 1,000-seat theater, and 700 residential units. Although the cost of Astana’s transformational of project is quite high, the government expects to reap great benefits of organising the global event. These benefits include tourism revenue, investment opportunities and business partnerships and this contributes to both social and economic growth of the county.
In addition to discussing issues related to future energy and presenting the latest technologies to address them, the participants in Expo 2017 will witness cultural activities from almost every corner of the world. They will also be introduced to many wonderful places located in Kazakhstan and different cities such as Taraz, Almaty and Aktobe. OIC TODAY is following the updates of the preparations for Expo 2017 and several pieces were published along the year.