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Land Informatie

Country in central Asia, bounded north by Russia, west by the Caspian Sea, east by China, and south by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The 1995 constitution provides for a limited presidential executive system. There is a 67-member lower chamber, the Majlis, and an elected upper house or senate. Members of the Majlis are elected for a four-year term by the second-ballot majoritarian system and are prohibited from declaring any party affiliation. Supreme executive power is held by the president, who is popularly elected to serve a five-year term and must have a knowledge of Kazakh. The president works with a cabinet (council of ministers) whose head is effectively prime minister.

Ruled by the Mongols from the 13th century, the region came under Russian control in the 18th century. Inhabited by the traditionally nomadic but now largely sedentary Kazakh people, it joined the USSR as an autonomous republic in 1920 and became a full union republic in 1936. During the early 1930s more than one million people died in Kazakhstan from starvation and repression associated with the Soviet agricultural collectivization programme. In the early 1940s, under the orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, large numbers of Germans were deported from the Volga region to the republic. Northern Kazakhstan was the site of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's ambitious 'virgin lands' agricultural extension programme during the 1950s, which not only led to harvest failures during the early 1960s and the desiccation of the Aral Sea, but also to a large influx of Russian settlers, turning the Kazakhs into a minority in their own republic. Nuclear-testing sites established in the east of the republic, new industries, and the Baikonur space centre also drew in Slav settlers.

Reform under Nazarbayev
There were violent nationalist riots in the then capital, Almaty, in December 1986 when the long-serving Kazakh Communist Party (KCP) leader Dinmukahmed Kunayev was effectively sacked by the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and replaced by an ethnic Russian. In June 1989 Nursultan Nazarbayev, a 'reform communist' in favour of nationalism, assumed leadership of the KCP and in February 1990 became the republic's president. He embarked on a pragmatic programme of cultural and market-centred economic reform, involving the privatization of the services and housing sectors. During the spring of 1991 President Nazarbayev pressed for the signing of a new USSR Union Treaty and opposed the August 1991 coup attempt against Gorbachev in Moscow, describing it as 'illegal and unconstitutional'. Soon after the coup was thwarted, the KCP was abolished. However, Nazarbayev played a key role in ensuring that the 'uncontrolled disintegration' of the USSR was averted and that non-Slav republics joined the new Commonwealth of Independent States, formed in December 1991 at Almaty.

Independence recognized
Kazakhstan's independence was recognized by the USA in December 1991; in March 1992 it joined the United Nations (UN). Kazakhstan inherited substantial nuclear weapons from the USSR and the Nazarbayev administration pledged to gradually remove these, commencing in 1992 with tactical weapons. A new constitution was adopted in January 1993, increasing the authority of the president and making Kazakh the state language. Mass privatizations began in November 1993 and joint-venture agreements were signed with foreign companies to develop the nation's immense gas, oil, and uranium reserves. The republic ratified START-1 and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in December 1993. In 1994 it entered into an economic, social, and military union with neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, providing for free movement of goods, services, capital, and labour between the states. The republic achieved nuclear-free status in 1995.

Increasing authoritarianism
President Nazarbayev, who secured a popular mandate in December 1991, initially sought to rule in a consensual manner and to promote market-centred economic reforms, while limiting the pace of political change. However, there were signs of creeping authoritarianism by the mid-1990s, with the president ruling by decree and seeking to avoid a direct election in 1996. The decline in GDP and spiralling inflation that accompanied the economic-restructuring programme led to popular unrest, and hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians and Germans emigrated. An economic and military pact was signed with Russia in January 1995 in an attempt to improve relations, but two months later parliament rejected moves to give the Russian language equal status with Kazakh and to privatize land. This prompted President Nazarbayev taking advantage of a constitutional court ruling that had declared parliamentary elections in March 1994 to have been technically illegal to dissolve parliament; a month later, he held a national referendum to re-ratify his popular mandate, extending his tenure to the year 2000. A new constitution, approved by referendum in August 1995, was criticized for reducing democratic freedoms, by banning the formation of trade unions in state institutions and replacing the republic's constitutional court with a constitutional council, whose decisions would be subject to presidential veto. Elections to a new bicameral legislature in December 1995 were won by Nazarbayev's supporters.

An agreement to form a Central Asian single economic market by 1998 was signed with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in August 1996.

Exploitation of oil reserves
In September 1997, in a sign of decreasing Russian influence in the ex-Soviet state, oil agreements worth $9.5 billion were signed with China. The deal included the construction of a 3,000-km/1,860-mi pipeline to the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Western oil companies were also competing for exploration rights, and experts believed that southwest Kazakhstan, around the Caspian Sea, might contain as much as 200 billion barrels of oil twice the proven reserves of Kuwait.

Oil chief made prime minister
In October 1997 President Nazarbayev effectively dismissed Akezhan Kazhageldin, who had been prime minister since 1994, and who had recently been tarred by corruption allegations and claims that he had been recruited by the Soviet KGB in the late 1980s. The new prime minister was Nurlan Balgymbayev, head of the Kazakh Oil state petroleum company.

New capital
In November 1997 Akmola, in the north, was officially declared the country's new capital city; its name was subsequently changed to Astana.

New opposition coalition
In January 1998 the country's opposition groups, which include the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Workers' Movement, and Azamat, united to form a People's Front, to fight for democratic principles and human rights.

(c)2002 Zofona Productions


Pagina met veel Kazakhstan links

Almaty-City.com , recommended

Freenet, Kazakhstan resources

Kazakhstan news van worldnews.com

De president zijn eigen site

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