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Independence declared: 19 December 1991

Population: 15 million

Capital: Astana (moved from Almaty in December 1998)

President: Nursultan A. Nazarbayev (chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 22 February 1990, elected president 1 December 1991)

 Country profile


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a lot of bad things have happened to me. The main thing is that I lost my job. The excuse given was that all official documents would now be written in Kazakh. I was ready to learn the language, but as far as the boss was concerned that was irrelevant. Later I found out that one of the head doctor's female relatives had been hired to replace me. Now I sit at home trying to make ends meet. For a long time my husband was out of work. Now he has to do two part-time insecure jobs to try somehow to feed the family.

Svetlana Feifer, 45, former nurse

Nothing much has changed - I've just got older. Five years ago I was unemployed. Then everything got sorted out, and I'm doing the job I was trained for. Were it not for help from my children, things would be harder. A builder's salary now is insufficient to cover expenses and costs. But the thing that is extremely annoying is the lawlessness on the streets and the chaos in state structures. The bureaucrats don't have time for anyone but themselves and lining their own pockets.

Alexander He, 55, builder

The time has arrived for resourceful and active people - like myself, for example. I work mainly on advertising projects, and there is no shortage of orders. I try to satisfy the clients, though these days a lot of people lack taste and manners. I have to make all sorts of moral compromises, but I can't afford to stick to high moral principles. I'm glad that I can feed myself and my son well, send him to a good school, have computers and not stint on leisure activities and trips. Before we had none of that. But we try not to be out on the streets after 10pm - there's crime everywhere.

Yelena Sakenova, 32, television producer

Introduction 4. Lithuania 8. Georgia 12. Uzbekistan
1. Russia 5. Belarus 9. Armenia 13. Tajikistan
2. Estonia 6. Ukraine 10. Azerbaijan 14. Kyrgyzstan
3. Latvia 7. Moldova 11. Turkmenistan 15. Kazakhstan

A food market in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan suffers from high unemployment

Kazakhstan is a huge, ethnically-diverse country the size of Western Europe and has vast mineral resources.

But with a crumbling infrastructure, high unemployment, and mounting social problems such as drug addiction and Aids, transition has been painful.

The large number of Russians who settled in the Central Asian republic during Soviet times have also found it difficult to adjust to life in an independent Asian country. Nationalist stirrings began in Kazakhstan in the late 1980s, and the Supreme Soviet declared state sovereignty in October 1990.

President Nazarbayev has led the country since February 1990, winning two elections (one uncontested), and considerably broadening his powers.

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