Area: 2 725 000 sq km
Date of independence: December 16, 1991
Ethnic groups: Kazakh (63 %), Russian (23 %), Uzbek (3 %)
Religion: Islam (70% of population)
The area of present day Kazakhstan was conquered by Russia in the 18th century. Later, Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936. Due to the vast territory of Kazakhstan, Soviet citizens were encouraged to cultivate northern parts of the country. Immigrants from Russia eventually outnumbered ethnic Kazakhs. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, large non-Muslim ethnic minorities departed Kazakhstan, while the national program has repatriated about a million ethnic Kazakhs back to Kazakhstan. This dramatic demographic shift has also undermined the previous religious diversity and made the country more than 70 percent Muslim. Kazakhstan's economy is considerably larger than those of all five Central Asian countries due to the country's vast natural resources.
Kazakhstan took few meaningful steps to tackle a worsening human rights record in 2015, maintaining a focus on economic development over political reform. Presidential elections in April 2015 extended President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s rule for another five years. Opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov still remains imprisoned after an unfair trial. Despite some efforts by the government to tackle torture, including by prosecuting some officers, torture remains a pressing issue and impunity is the norm.
Having a constitution that guarantees equality before the law and courts, and prohibits discrimination based on gender and havening ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and having a nationally coordinated gender equality Action Plan, women in Kazakhstan still face gender-based discrimination that is widespread in the country. Kazakhstan’s anti-discrimination laws have failed to produce any prosecutions, and Kazakhstani NGOs have long called them insufficient to address gender inequality. The rise of non-consensual bride kidnapping is an increasing problem in Kazakhstan. Although, consensual kidnapping is regarded as tradition, very few Kazakhs support the practice of kidnapping a woman against her will. The majority of young women who are kidnapped against their stay in these marriages to avoid the shame and stigma of returning home.
Kazakhstan highly restricts media freedoms. Independent journalists and media outlets face harassment and interference in their work, and outlets have been shut down in recent years. Authorities brought criminal libel charges against Amangeldy Batyrbekov, a civil society activist, who was jailed in October 2015 for 18 months. In November, after four years, authorities unblocked access to LiveJournal, a blogging platform. A new access to information law was adopted in November. Moreover there is a strict control over peaceful assembly.
LGBT+ people in Kazakhstan live in a climate of fear fuelled by harassment, discrimination, and violence. On the rare occasions when LGBT+ people report abuse, they often face indifference and hostility. Parliament passed bills that sought to introduce a broad ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation,” but final drafts were not made public and the end-stage of the legislative process was non-transparent.
Kazakhstan was the first to put forward the idea of creating the Eurasian Union back in 1994. From the very beginning, Kazakhstan wanted the Eurasian Union to be purely economic, without any political dimension. Together with Belarus and Russia, Kazakhstan signed a treaty establishing Eurasian Economic Union in May, 2014.