Whenever I’m asked to describe Kazakhstan, the first thought that springs to my mind is,”Where do I start?” If you looked at me, a fairly pale white girl writing about geek culture in L.A., you’d probably think I’d lived here my whole life. But I haven’t. Kazakhstan was my home for most of my childhood, and like anyone who’s asked to describe their childhood home, there’s just too many scattered, precious memories for me to give a concise answer on my first try. Luckily for you, this article is written, not spoken.
One of the first things I like to tell people about Kazakhstan is that it is the 9th largest country in the world. They’re often surprised, wondering how they’d never heard of such a large country (unless they watched that god-awful Borat movie). Truth is, Kazakhstan wasn’t doing too much to put itself on the world’s radar until the last few decades. The Kazakhs were a nomadic people. Traveling in groups consisting of a few families they travelled the plains, moving back and forth to summer and winter pastures for their livestock: sheep, goats, camels, and horses. It wasn’t an easy way of life, but thinking back to it brings a sort of nostalgic charm similar to the warm, patriotic feeling I get when I read about American pioneers.
Everything changed when the Soviet Union attacked. The Kazakhs were forced to live on communal farms and abandon their way of life. Many Kazakhs killed their herds rather than let them fall into Soviet hands. Thousands of Kazakhs died of starvation since they weren’t trained to survive in this new lifestyle.
Kazakhstan declared its independence in December 16, 1991. Even though that wasn’t that long ago, Kazakhstan has accomplished much in that time. The country is rich in oil and other natural resources which has helped it gain a strong presence on the global market. Kazakhs are forward-thinking and want their country to be admired for being just as technologically advanced as many Western nations. At the same time, Kazakhs are proud of their heritage and traditions, holding their families and blood ties above all else. Community means a great deal to Kazakhs, since with the decline of the Soviet Union and the previous government, many know firsthand that they cannot necessarily rely on the powers that be.
Kazakhstan is a beautiful country. The Tien Shan mountain range is one of the most stunning things I have ever laid eyes on. There’s a great variety in terrain as well, from plains and the steppe to deserts to canyons to beautiful valleys like the one Almaty (my hometown) is nestled in. It’s a great tourist destination year-round, with great skiing in the winter and beautiful mountain trails to walk along in the summer. Kazakh culture is bright and vibrant and the people are friendly, especially if you come to visit their homes. Hospitality is very important to Kazakhs, and they know how to do it right.
Whether you’re searching for somewhere exciting and enjoyable to visit or just want a bunch of fun trivia to wow people with, Kazakhstan is a great place to learn about. This is an amazing country with a rich history, and for me it holds a special place in my heart, forming part of the foundation of who I am.
Алға, Қазақстан! *