Kazakhstan <<kah zahk STAHN>> is a country that lies mostly in west-central Asia. It borders the Caspian Sea in the southwest. Russia lies to the west and north. China is to the east. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan lie to the south.
Kazakhstan’s land varies greatly from west to east. Dry lowlands cover much of the western and southwestern regions. High, grassy plains called steppes <<STEHPS>> blanket large areas of the north, and sandy deserts cover much of the south. Northeastern Kazakhstan has high, flat lands that are good for farming. Mountain ranges form the nation’s eastern and southeastern borders. Astana is the capital, but Almaty is the largest city.
In the cities, most Kazakhs live in modern apartments or houses. In the villages, most people live in houses. But some Kazakh shepherds still live in tentlike houses called yurts, which can be moved from place to place.
Agriculture is a major money-making activity in Kazakhstan. Important industries in Kazakhstan include those that make food and mine minerals. Bauxite, iron, and coal are mined in Kazakhstan. Petroleum and gas are found near the Caspian Sea. People use coal, petroleum, and gas for heating homes, running machines, and other purposes.
For hundreds of years, the Kazakh people worked as herders. They were nomads who wandered across the plains with their sheep, camels, cattle, and horses. They relied on their animals for food, clothing, and transportation. This lifestyle began to change in the 1800′s, when Russia conquered the Kazakh region. Kazakhstan became part of the Soviet Union in 1920. While Kazakhstan was under Soviet rule, industry grew steadily. Most of the Kazakh people stopped working as herders and settled in villages or cities. In 1991, Kazakhstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union.