Library of Congress – Federal Research Division
Country Profile: Kazakhstan, December 2006
COUNTRY PROFILE: KAZAKHSTAN
Formal Name: Republic of Kazakhstan (Qazaqstan Respublikasy).
Short Form: Kazakhstan.
Term for Citizen(s): Kazakhstani(s).
Capital: Astana (formerly Aqmola) became the official capital of Kazakhstan in 1997, succeeding Almaty (formerly Alma-Ata) and moving the national government from the far southeast to the industrial north.
Other Major Cities: Almaty, Karaganda, Öskemen, Pavlodar, Shymkent, and Taraz.
Independence: The recognized date of independence is December 16, 1991, when the Republic of Kazakhstan split from the Soviet Union.
Public Holidays: The national holiday is October 25, Republic Day. Other holidays are International Women’s Day (March 8), Novruz (spring equinox, March 21–22), Unification Day (May 1), Victory Day (May 9), Constitution Day (August 30), and Independence Day (December 16). Russian Orthodox citizens celebrate Christmas on January 7.
Flag: The flag has a sky-blue field with a golden sun and eagle in the center and a vertical golden ornamental strip on the left side.
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Until the arrival of the Russians in the eighteenth century, the history of Kazakhstan was determined by the movements, conflicts, and alliances of Turkic and Mongol tribes. The Kazakhs’ nomadic tribal society suffered increasingly frequent incursions by the Russian Empire, ultimately being included in that empire and the Soviet Union that followed it. The earliest states in the region were the Turkic Kaganate, established in the sixth century, and a state established by the Qarluq confederation in the eighth century. Islam was introduced by Arabs who entered Kazakh territory in the eighth and ninth centuries. Between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, the dominant states of the region were those of the Qarakhanids and the Karakitai. In the early thirteenth century, the latter group was conquered by the Mongols under Genghis Khan.
During centuries of Mongol rule, the territory of Kazakhstan broke up into several major groups known as khanates. The first leader of the Kazakhs was Khan Kasym, who ruled in the early sixteenth century. After having expanded significantly, the Kazakhs split into three groups,