Stan is an ancient Persian word meaning “land” or “nation,” and Kazakh means “wanderer,” “adventurer,” or “outlaw.” Therefore, the name Kazakhstan translates as “Land of the Wanderers”
Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country by area in the world, but it has one of the lowest population densities at 6 people per square mile
The people who live in Kazakhstan represent more than 120 nationalities
Kazakhstan has the main launch site for Soviet and Russian space exploration, the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It is the world’s oldest and largest operating space launch facility. The first manned spaceflight with Yuri Gagarin took off into space from there in 1961
Ancient Kazakhs were the first people in the world to domesticate and ride horses
The traditional nomad home of the Kazakhs is known as a yurta. It is comprised of a collapsible tent, with a wooden frame, covered in felt. Its name comes from the Kazakh word meaning “community,” “people,” or “family.”
The Soviet Union tested more than 500 nuclear devices between 1949 and 1989 at Semey—in northeastern Kazakhstan, which equaled approximately 20,000 Hiroshima bombs.
Kazakhs officially celebrate three New Year holidays. January 1st is celebrated by the Gregorian calendar, Nauryz is celebrated on March 22 as the spring equinox, and January 14th is celebrated from Soviet times and is called the “Old New Year.”
Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country but it still has a navy, which is based on the similarly landlocked Caspian Sea
There are 27,000 ancient monuments throughout Kazakhstan, including the Golden Man, a Scythian warrior clad in gold armor, which is also Kazakhstan’s most important archaeological find
Kazakhstan’s traditional drink kumis has also been referred to as “milk champagne.” It is made from fermented mare’s milk and is believed to be a cure-all for many diseases from the common cold to tuberculosis.
Archaeological excavations conducted in Kazakhstan suggest it is the homeland of the Amazons, the brave tribe of female warriors. Historians have found evidence that Scythian women of the 7th to 3rd centuries B.C. did fight as warriors
Out of the 110 elements from Mendeleev’s table of chemical elements, 99 have been detected in Kazakhstan.
Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan is one of the largest lakes in the world. One part of the lake contains fresh water, and the other is made up of salt water.
Kazakhstan is so large that the distance from one end to the other is about the same as from London to Istanbul.
Kazakhstan is located in both Europe and Asia. The Ural River, which forms the traditional boundary between these continents, cuts through Kazakhstan in the west.
The highest point in Kazakhstan is Khan Tengri of the Tian Shan mountain range. At 23,000 feet (7010 m), it is also the world’s most northern 7000-m peak.
The lowest point in Kazakhstan is the bottom of the Karagiye Depression at 433 feet (132 m) below sea level. Located east of the Caspian Sea, it is one of the lowest elevations on Earth.
Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oil field is one of the largest in the world at 19 km wide and 21 km long, covering 2,500 sq km.
Kazakhstan’s national dish is beshbarmak, which literally means “five fingers” because it is traditionally eaten using all five fingers.
Apple trees originated in the mountains of Central Asia. Scientists believe that the first apple trees grew around Almaty, as far back as 20 million years ago. The name Almaty means “a place of apples.”
The Caspian Sea is the largest inland body of water in the world at 371,000 sq km and it borders Kazakhstan on the west. It is rich in sturgeon, a fish prized for its world’s famous caviar.
Kazakh and American women both got the right to vote on August 26, 1920.
Berkutchi, or hunting with eagles, is an ancient sport still practiced in Kazakhstan. Hunters train golden eagles or falcons to sight and capture such prey as rabbits, foxes, and smaller birds.
The Medeo Sports Center, located near Almaty, Kazakhstan, boasts the highest skating rink in the world at 1,690 m above sea level. It also has a surface area as large as two football fields.
Kazakh mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev is one of the world’s most famous mountaineers. Boukreev was also one of the leaders of an expedition to Mt. Everest that turned tragic on May 10, 1996. He single-handedly saved three of the lost climbers.
Snow leopards live in the mountains in eastern Kazakhstan. Kazakhs have long revered the animal for its bravery, independence, and intelligence. The snow leopard is considered a national symbol in Kazakhstan.
Many different species of lizards are found in Kazakhstan’s deserts, including the gray monitor lizard, the world’s largest lizard, which is found only in the Kyzlkum Desert.
The Kazakh competition known as kyz kuu (Catch That Girl!) is a lively one, where a young man on horseback pursues a young woman riding ahead of him. She has to prevent him from getting ahead of her. If he draws near, she lashes him with a whip. However, if does he manage to overtake her, she has to kiss him as a reward.
The golden eagle is one of Kazakhstan’s national symbols. Kazakhs revere it as a symbol of power and strength as it is a master of the skies. The average bird has a wingspan of 2 m.
The King Arthur legend may have its roots in Kazakh history. In A.D. 175, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius sent a contingent of 5,500 Sarmatian cavalry to Britain from modern-day Hungary. Their commander was a Roman officer named Lucius Artorius Castus. The Sarmatians were direct descents of the Kazakh Scythians, and it was known they wore Kazakh-style trousers instead of Roman or Celtic tunics. The Welsh name Artyr could also come from Artorius.
When the Kazakh khanate split into three groups in the mid-1400s, each group was called zhus, which literally translates as “hundred.” Kazakhs still count themselves as members of zhuses today, with further divisions into ethnic groups, family clans, and family units.