Davey Meelker and Sanne van Oosten
Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world and with less than 17 million inhabitants. It exists mostly out of empty steppe, but this doesn’t mean the country has no history or culture. On the contrary, with its culture of extreme hospitality and the woeful Soviet history there is no other country than Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is country with history and tradition. The country was home to many nomads living these yurts, although the tent on the left would house only the richest of the nomads.
Because of this nomad history culture the horse has a special place in Kazakh culture. Horses are admired for their great ability to transport people and goods…
… but horses are also praised for their milk and meat, a delicacy in Kazakhstan.
The Soviet Union treated Kazakhstan as a secondary region and conducted 456 nuclear tests. There are stories known of unannounced tests where villagers in the area were caught by surprise. Till the day of today the people in this region are coping with extremely high rates of cancer and infant mortality. Also many mutilated children are born.
Another result of the Soviet Union’s degrading view of Kazakhstan is that many prisoners were brought to Kazakhstan’s gulag: the Karlag. The prisoners of those labor camps came from all over the world (most of them from the Soviet Union, Germany, Korea), and as a result today’s Kazakh population is extremely divers.
The Soviet Union would treat Kazakhstan differently if it was still part of the country, because of the vast amounts of natural resources that are found in Kazakhstan. Especially the huge amounts of oil and gas makes the people in Kazakhstan potentially very rich.
Nevertheless, there is still a lot of poverty. In the rural areas there are still people with no running water and sewer systems are non-existent. Read more about the Kazakh inequality here. Not only the wealth is unequally divided, but press freedom is also limited. For example, this website, like many others, is blocked.
And despite the country’s riches, many people are still involved in jobs as these: making mud bricks.
Overground gas pipes and Lada’s are a common sight in rural Kazakhstan.
Just like the huge scrunchies on children’s heads together with their school uniforms.
The capital, Astana, is a unique place in the world (see also top photo). This building, the Khan Shatyr, is made by Norman Foster and is made of a material that absorbs heat in a city where temperature can drop below minus 40 degree. As a result this building even hosts a beach resort, while it is freezing outside!