Almaty, tidigare A -A, är den största staden i Kazakstan, belägen i landets sydöstra del. Staden utgör en egen administrativ enhet på provinsiell nivå, helt omgärdad av provinsen med samma namn. Staden har 1 350 000 invånare. (2008). A A var det sovjetiska namnet på staden; när Sovjetimperiet föll sönder återtog man sitt gamla namn Almaty som lär betyda ungefär “äpplets fader”.
Native Kazakhs, a mix of Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes who migrated into the region in the 13th century, were united as a single nation in the middle of 15th century. The area was conquered by Russia in the second half of 19th century, and Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936.
During the launching of the 1950s and 1960s agricultural “Virgin Lands” program, Soviet citizens were encouraged to help cultivate Kazakhstan’s northern pastures. This influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities, including the Volga Germans) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Independence has caused many of these newcomers to emigrate.
Modern Kazakhstan is a neo-patrimonial state characterized by considerable nepotism and dominance over political and economic affairs by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. However, it is not as severely authoritarian in government as compared to bordering Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China and the opposition is not usually sacked or imprisoned or tortured too badly.
Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kazakh government has allowed foreign investment to flow into the country. The development of significant oil and gas reserves, particularly in the north and west, have subsequently brought a large amount of wealth to the country, though the money falls into the hands of just a few people. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan is now labelled a middle-income country, and is already classified with a high human development index. Corruption in Kazakhstan is even more ubiquitous than China, but it is not as widespread compared to other countries in the region.
Current issues include: developing a cohesive national identity; expanding the development of the country’s vast energy resources and exporting them to world markets (an oil pipeline to China has been built; the gas pipeline is under construction); achieving a sustainable economic growth outside the oil, gas, and mining sectors, and strengthening relations with surrounding states and other foreign powers.