Trivia about Kazakhstan
Facts and Trivia about Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is an amazing country with a unique history and place on the world stage. Unfortunately, most Westerners have only been exposed to Kazakhstan through the comedy Borat, which parodied the nation and presented it in an unfair light.
Not only is this nation full of intriguing history and interesting facts, Kazakhstan is trying to open itself up as an interesting and fun tourist destination. A look at the facts behind this little-understood nation reveals a place filled with interesting stories, a country rich in cultural heritage and rightfully proud of its spot on the world stage.
Ask your average Westerner where Kazakhstan is in the world and you're as likely to get a blank stare as an accurate answer. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that this country is actually located in both Asia and Europe, one of a handful of places on the map that can boast that. The main geographical feature in the nation is the Ural River, which forms the boundary between Asia and Europe, and slices the Kazakh people into Western and Eastern tribes.
Here's a fun fact -- this country also happens to be the largest landlocked nation in the world. Even though it has no access to oceans, the nation does have an official navy to patrol rivers and lakes.
In terms of size, it is also the ninth largest nation in the world by area, slightly smaller than India and Argentina. Geographically-speaking, it is equivalent in size to the seven biggest European countries put together: combine the size of France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Italy, and Great Britain, and you"�ve got a nation about the same size as where the Kazakh people live.
The Kazakh people entertain themselves according to centuries-old traditions, including the celebration of three New Years: the country"�s two official new-year celebrations are the traditional Gregorian January 1st party and a celebration on the 22nd of March, known as "Nauryz", or "spring equinox."� Many Kazakhs still celebrate the 14th of January as the start of the New Year, following the old Julian calendar, a tradition that hands on from their Soviet roots. Among the Kazakh people, this is called "the Old New Year".
Besides the well-known fact that the Hollywood film Borat was filmed here, the nation has not contributed much to the world in terms of entertainment. You may find it an interesting tidbit that the national drink, Koumiss, is the traditional way that Kazakhs lubricate themselves socially. Koumiss is referred to as "milk champagne"� by Westerners, and is a remedy for everything from nerve disorders to digestive troubles. This sparkling alcoholic milk-based beverage no doubt plays a large part in the entertainment of the native peoples.
Founded by nomadic Turkish tribes, the culture of this country hinges heavily on traditional Central Asian epics, rituals, and legends. These tribes were conquered by Mongols in the 13th century and controlled by a series of rulers until the Great Russian Conquest that lasted from 1730 to 1840. It wasn't until the end of the Russian conquest that original Kazakhi literature and politics appeared, a culture heavily influenced by existing Russian lore.
In 1916 the people rebelled against Russia and very nearly established a government patterned after the USA, but the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution allowed Russia to re-gain control in 1920. It took over 70 years for the Nation of Kazakhstan to declare independence from the Soviet Union, which happened on December 16, 1991. Nursultan Nazarbayev was the nation's first president and started a slow but steady movement toward economic privatization and democracy. Kazakhstan is adopting democracy like never before, a fact many Westerners may not know.
Arts & Literature
Probably the best-known piece of art in the nation"�s borders is the monument to the Kazakh victims of Holodomor, a long period of mass starvation that killed more than 500,000 Kazakhs. The statue is in the city of Astana and is composed of a figure of a praying woman that stands many meters tall. The Holodomor is the largest humanitarian disaster of the Soviet period of rule in the country, and 600,000 or so Kazakhs who did not die from hunger fled from their historical homeland to other neighboring countries.
As for literature, oral tradition was the most important storytelling act in the nation well into the 19th century. Bards and storytellers passed on long tales memorized from generations, handed down from father to son. The single outstanding writer in the nation"�s history is no doubt Mukhtar Auez-ulï, who graduated from universities in Russia and Uzbekistan. He was the first to write down many epic texts that had been but oral narratives before he put them down in words. His novel Abaĭ is the great epic of the nation, describing Kazakh life during the period of Russian rule and briefly after that rule ended, when the country"�s people had to make new cultural and governmental decisions they were ill-prepared to make.
Science & Nature
Of interest to science fans is the fact that out of all of the recognized 110 elements from Mendeleev's periodic table of chemicals, 99 can be found within the country's borders.
Another interesting trivia tidbit: the weather on one street of the capital city of Almaty can be extremely different from the weather just two streets over, thanks to extreme changes in altitude from between 1,970 feet above sea level at its lowest point to 4,920 feet above sea level at its highest.
If you're a space fanatic, you'll be interested to know that the very first (and still the largest) space launching site is located in the town of Baikonur. Built by Russians, it was used to test and launch the first vehicles to leave Earth orbit.
As for nature "� it is believed that all apples originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and bordering countries. So common are apples in Kazakhstan, the name of the capital city Almaty literally means "place full of apples."� This fruit isn"�t the only produce to originate among the Kazakh people "� the tulip first grew in the mountains of Kazakhstan, and was only introduced to Europe at the end of the 16th century by traders from the time when the nation was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
Sports & Leisure
Among sports fans, the best-known Kazakhs are boxers, particularly Olympic athletes. Kazakhstan regularly participates in the Olympics, and the nation"�s athletes have been most successful in boxing.
In the last three Olympics Kazakh boxers have been recognized as the best in the games, winning more medals in that sport than any country besides Cuba and Russia. In the 1996 and 2004 games, two Kazakh boxers (Vasiliy Jirov and Bakhtiyar Artayev, considered the most famous athletes in the nation) were given the Val Baker trophy, given to the best boxers in the Games.
Now that this somewhat obscure Asian and European nation is reaching out to tourists and opening itself up as a democracy, more and more Westerners are learning about the fascinating history of this little-known part of the planet. The trivia and information above is not well-known outside of the Kazakh people themselves, but hopefully the country's reputation will improve as it opens its borders to outsiders.