Kazakhstan is the largest of the Central Asian states and the 9th largest in the world. It has borders with Russia to the north, China and Kyrgyzstan to the east, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the south. Between its most distant points, Kazakhstan measures about 2 930 km east to west and 1 545 km north to south. Kazakhstan wasn’t considered to be part of Central Asia by authorities of the former Soviet Union, but it does have physical and cultural geographic characteristics similar to those of the other Central Asian states. Its capital is Nur – Sultan (formerly Astana), in the north-central part of the country and considered as the second coldest capital in the world, after Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. In January, Nur – Sultan’s average maximum temperature is just minus 12.5C. Nur – Sultan is a planned capital city with a population of 1,136,008 within the city limits, making it the second-largest city in the country, after Almaty, the previous capital, between 1991 and 1997. Kazakhstan was a part of the U.S.S.R., declared independence on December 16, 1991.
Lowlands make up one-third of Kazakhstan’s huge expanse, hilly plateaus and plains account for nearly half, and low mountainous regions about one-fifth. Kazakhstan’s highest point is the mount Khan – Tengri at 6,995 metres, in the Tien Shan range on the border between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China, contrasts with the flat or rolling terrain of the most of the republic.
Kazakhstan’s east and southeast posses extensive watercourses: most of the country’s 7,000 streams form part of the inland drainage systems of the Aral and Caspian seas and lakes Balkhash and Tengiz. The major streams are Irtysh, Ishim, Ural, Tobol and Syr Darya.
Kazakhstan’s climate is sharply continental, and hot summers alternate with equally extreme winters, especially in the plains and valleys. Average January temperatures in northern and central regions range from – 19 to – 16 C in the south, temperatures are milder, ranging from – 5 to -1 C. Average July temperatures in the north reach 20 C.