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Central Asia > Kazakhstan > Kazakhs

Ethnic Kazakhs, a mix of Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes who migrated into the region in the 13th century, were rarely united as a single nation. The area was conquered by Russia in the 18th century, and Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936. During the 1950s and 1960s agricultural "Virgin Lands" program, Soviet citizens were encouraged to help cultivate Kazakhstan's northern pastures. This influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-ethnic Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Independence in 1991 drove many of these newcomers to emigrate. Kazakhstan's economy is larger than those of all the other Central Asian states largely due to the country's vast natural resources. Current issues include: developing a cohesive national identity; expanding the development of the country's vast energy resources and advancing political and social reform; and strengthening relations with neighboring states and other foreign powers.

by Said Atabekov - Kazakhstan << Previous Next >>

March 25, 2011, Kazgurt region of Southern Kazakhstan. A rider-kokparshi prays before the beginning of the kokpar competition. Kokpar is a traditional game that is considered sacred. Before the games begin they summon the oldest and most respected men, who come from all over Kazakhstan as well as from other Central Asian republics and Russia. They read prayers and bless the riders so the games will proceed without serious injury or conflict between the players. Sometimes there are traumatic injuries or even the death of a player; knowing that risk the players go into the games, honoring the traditions of their ancestors.

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