The area now known as Kazakhstan was originally settled by nomadic tribes in the 1st century BC, forming various nations according to family structures. The country became part of the Mongol Empire during the 13th century and became an important stop along the Great Silk Road. Kazakhstan developed a common language and culture in the 15th century and cultivated an agriculture-based economy. In the 18th century, Russia came to control Kazakhstan, partially through protection treaties and partially through military action. Eventually, though, the Kazakh people grew tired of colonial rule and briefly earned their independence as the Russian Empire fell. This independence was short lived, and Kazakhstan became part of the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Forced collectivization brought about starvation and hardship, forcing many Kazakhs to leave the country for Western China and other areas. As change occurred in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, Kazakhstan declared it independence in December 1991. Today, Kazakhstan is poised to become a powerful international trader on the basis of its rich oil reserves, along with other natural resources.
Lay of the Land: Kazakhstan extends from the Caspian Sea to the Altay Mountains and from the plains of Western Siberia to the oasis and desert of Central Asia. The country has cold winters, hot summers, and an arid climate. Kazakhstan shares borders with Uzbekistan, Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.
Kazakhstan was originally settled by nomadic tribes in the 1st century BC, though the land itself has been occupied since the Stone Age. From the 4th century through the 13th century, these nomadic tribes formed various nations that ruled Kazakhstan in succession.
The United States opened its Embassy in Almaty in January 1992. Relations between the two countries are cooperative and bilateral. The US Embassy moved to Astana in 2006.
Total US exports to Kazakhstan in 2009 equaled $599.5 million. The largest U.S. export category to Kazakhstan in 2009 was agricultural equipment, which totaled $118.2 million.
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According to the State Department, Kazakhstan demonstrated the following human rights problems: “severe limits on citizens’ rights to change their government; military hazing that led to deaths; detainee and prisoner abuse; unhealthy prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of an independent judiciary; restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association; pervasive corruption, especially in law enforcement and the judicial system; prohibitive political party registration requirements; restrictions on the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination and violence against women; trafficking in persons; and societal discrimination”.
Note: The United States recognized Kazakhstan, Dec 26, 1991. Embassy Alma-Ata (now Almaty) was established Feb 3, 1992, with Courtney as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
Erlan A. Idrissov has served as Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to the United States since July 4, 2007. He also serves as ambassador to Brazil with residence in Washington DC.
Experienced in both nuclear and economic issues, Kenneth J. Fairfax was finally approved by the United States Senate to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan. The former Soviet republic has been a focus of ongoing efforts to safeguard nuclear materials once owned by the Soviet military, which had key bases in Kazakhstan. Nominated by President Barack Obama on March 29, 2011, Fairfax was sworn in on September 15.
A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Richard E. Hoagland was sworn in as US Ambassador to Kazakhstan on September 10, 2008.