A huge country the size of Western Europe, Kazakhstan has vast mineral resources and enormous economic potential.
The varied landscape stretches from the mountainous, heavily populated regions of the east to the sparsely populated, energy-rich lowlands in the west, and from the industrialised north, with its Siberian climate and terrain, through the arid, empty steppes of the centre, to the fertile south.
Ethnically the former Soviet republic is as diverse, with the Kazakhs making up nearly two thirds of the population, ethnic Russians just under a quarter, and smaller minorities the rest. Suppressed under Soviet rule, the main religion, Islam, is undergoing a revival.
Since independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, major investment in the oil sector has brought rapid economic growth, and eased some of the start disparities in wealth of the 1990s.
- Republic of Kazakhstan
- Capital: Astana
- Population 16.4 million (UN, 2012)
- Area 2.7 million sq km (1 million sq miles)
- Major languages Kazakh, Russian
- Major religions Islam, Christianity
- Life expectancy 62 years (men), 73 years (women) (UN)
- Currency Tenge