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KAZAKHSTAN - The Political Leadership.

The political leadership in Astana, with President Nazarbayev as the source of all authority, retains many characteristics of the Soviet era. Among the ethnic Kazakhs in the leadership, most were apparatchiks in the former Communist Party and now retain close ties with Moscow. There are also a number of ethnic Russians in top government and military posts.

Ties between Russians and ethnic Kazakhs is a barometer for stability, with Russians forming almost 40% of the population. Northern Kazakhstan has a majority Russian/Slavic population, up to 80%, and Russian nationalists still claim the territory. To dilute these claims and soothe Russian fears of Kazakh domination, Nazarbayev has moved the capital from Almaty to Astana further north, which was founded in 1824. Astana has a Russian majority, with just 27-28% ethnic Kazakhs.

A key characteristic in this country dating back to the Soviet era is the presence of a relatively big number of ethnic Kazakh women in high posts. Women took advantage of a Communist system, in which education was compulsory, and moved up the career ladder. Moscow encouraged this at the time, as one way of loosening the bonds of Islam.

The largest country to emerge from the Soviet Union, after Russia, Kazakhstan became independent in December 1991. It is strategically, if uncomfortably, wedged among Russia, China and Iran. Its ambassador to Beijing was shocked to learn that "Xi Yu" meant the north-west province of imperial China and this included most of Kazakhstan.

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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Date:Aug 4, 2008
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