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.
Kazakhstan's upper house of parliament approved a bill Thursday that backers say will help combat religious extremism, but that critics call a blow to freedom of belief in the ex-Soviet nation.
The bill approved by the Senate will require existing religious organizations in the mainly Muslim nation to dissolve and register again through a procedure that is virtually guaranteed to exclude smaller groups, including minority Christian communities.
An unusual thing happened over the weekend in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan and the vast Central Asian country’s major commercial city: roughly 500 people gathered in a protest. They called for democratic change in a state that has been ruled by the same man ever since its independence in 1991, when it emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet Union. The activists decried recent parliamentary elections where the country’s political opposition was almost entirely frozen out.
Even in repressive Kazakhstan, oil workers have refused to give up their protests over wages and working conditions despite a brutal government response. Thanks to the Internet, citizens in every corner of the globe (with the exception of North Korea) are learning that even the most authoritarian government cannot afford to ignore its people’s will forever.
Kazakhstan extended a state of emergency in the oil town of Zhanaozen, the site of deadly clashes, to the end of this month, state media said Wednesday.
Initially, authorities had issued a 20-day state of emergency after the December 16 clashes that left 16 people dead.
At least 80 people were injured in the clashes between police and striking oil workers in the town, according to state media.
Kashagan is both symbolically and economically important for Kazakhstan.
Located in the north part of the Caspian Sea, which freezes over during winter, it is technically one of the most complex projects ever attempted. It's also large and has been touted as the biggest oil find in the world since the 1960s.
Kazakhstan wants to boost oil production by 60 percent by 2020 and Kashagan lies at the heart of this push.
Kazakhstan's growing oil shipments to world markets, and its potential to emerge as a stable, modernized, predominantly Muslim but religiously tolerant state with a secular government in the volatile region, have obvious appeal for the Bush Administration — so much so that it tends to downplay the country's gagged media; the arbitrary arrests, exiles and murders of opposition leaders; its rubber-stamp political institutions and bogus elections; and rampant corruption, including a $78 million kickbacks-for-oil-rights case that has been pending in the U.S. courts for more than three years.
Kazakhstan ranks 172nd out of 196 countries in terms of press freedoms, 120 out of 183 in terms of corruption, 137 of 167 in The Economist's 2011 democracy index. Kazakhstan's president won the election with over 95% of the vote.
Kazakhstan is the richest of the Central Asian states and it has already ploughed billions into boosting its aviation industry.
In 2001, the Kazakh government established Air Astana with BAE Systems, formerly British Aerospace. The company now owns 26 modern airplanes and operates on more than 50 domestic and international routes and earlier this year Air Astana announced it had ordered seven new Boeings for £835 million.
After the movie was released in 2006, the number of visas issued by Kazakhstan grew tenfold, reports Agence France-Presse. "I am grateful to 'Borat' for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan," Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov is quoted as saying.
In the film, the obviously sexist, homophobic and anti-semitic Borat leaves a stereotyped version of Kazakhstan for a documentary tour across the U.S., as the film's full title states, "for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan." But, it's bringing the tourists.
Kazakhstan is a country in central Asia, one of the former Soviet republics. It is the ninth largest country in the world, and its geography ranges from flatlands to mountains to deserts.
Kazakhs make up more than half the population, Russians just over a quarter, and Uzbeks, Chechens and others account for the rest.