Kazakhstan is located in the heart of the Eurasian continent. It is the CIS’ second and world’s ninth largest country. The Kazakhstan territory is larger than the twelve countries of the European Union! Kazakhstan borders with China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia. The total length of the borderline is 12,187km. Kazakhstan stretches for more than 3,000 km (covering two time zones) from the lower reaches of the Volga in the west to the foothills of the Altai Mountains in the east, and almost 2,000 km from the West Siberian Lowland in the north to the Kyzyl Kum desert in the south. The remoteness of the country from the oceans and the vastness of its territory affect the climatic conditions of Kazakhstan.
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The Republic of Kazakhstan is a multinational state, inhabited by more than 120 nationalities. The main religion is Islam, but the Kazakhs manifest tolerance towards other religions of the peoples living in their territory, such as Christianity, Judaism, etc. The country has built many mosques and churches in recent years.
The Kazakh territory is fed by 8,500 rivers. The length of seven of them (the longest ones) exceeds 1000 km, including the Ural and Emba flowing into the Caspian Sea, the Syr Darya, flowing into the Aral Sea and the Irtysh, Ishim and Tobol, carrying their water to the Arctic Ocean. Kazakhstan has 48,000 lakes. The largest of them are Balkhash, Zaisan, Alakol, Tengiz and Seletengiz. Kazakhstan occupies the northern part and half of the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. The Kazakh part of the Caspian Sea coastline is 2340 km. The major part of Kazakhstan is occupied by deserts and steppes. The rest of the area is covered by semi-deserts and forests. The flora and fauna consist of 155 species of mammals, 480 species of birds, 150 species of fishes and about 250 species of medicinal plants, with very rare ones among them.
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The huge territory of Kazakhstan is rich in minerals. The mining and processing plants for coal, oil, gas, ferrous and non-ferrous metals play an important role in the national economy. The main minerals are ores of nonferrous and ferrous metals, uranium. Kazakhstan has explored the world’s largest reserves of chromium, vanadium, bismuth, fluorine, iron, zinc, tungsten, molybdenum, phosphorite, copper, potassium, cobalt, kaolin and cadmium. The iron ore resources in Kazakhstan are among the world’s cleanest, free of impurities. Thanks to Zhanatas and Karatau deposits, Kazakhstan is the world’s second largest in reserves of phosphorite (after Russia). Kazakhstan is the world’s leading aluminum producer . The huge reserves of copper ore found in Dzhezkazgan are the second largest oilfield in the world. Kazakhstan has significant resources of salt and construction timber.
Following independence from the Soviet Union, a major economic depression cut “public financing” for education in Kazakhstan, “which dropped from 6% of gross domestic product in 1991 to about 3% in 1994, before rising to 4% in 1999.” Elementary- and secondary-school teachers remain badly underpaid; in 1993 more than 30,000 teachers (or about one-seventh of the 1990 teaching staff) left education, many of them to seek more lucrative employment. In 2002 Asian Development Bank provided technical assistance to Kazakhstan to identify key issues and priorities in the education sector and to contribute to strengthening the government’s education sector development strategy. The United States provided 137 Peace Corps members to “work in education and NGO development” in 2004. Kazakhstan has a 99.1% literacy rate for males and 97.7% for females as of 1999. When United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Kazakhstan from 12–13 October 2006, she said “The future of any state depends on its level of education. This is my fourth visit to Kazakhstan, I have already been to Atyrau and Almaty and I have been able to see for myself the high level of education of your nation, which is a key to success of any country.