|Prime minister||Imangali Tasmaghambetov[?]|
|Population - Total (?) Density||Ranked 57th16,741,519 6/km²|
|Independence - Declared -||From the Soviet Union, December 16, 1991|
|Time zone||UTC +4 to +6|
|National anthem||Anthem of the Republic of Kazakhstan[?]|
In part because of the country's enormous deserts, the Soviet government used Kazakhstan as its nuclear testing site, and this, along with near-absent pollution controls[?], has contributed to an alarmingly high rate of disease in many rural areas. Kazakhstan has identified two major ecological disasters within its borders-- the shrinking of the Aral Sea and radioactive contamination at the Semipalatinsk[?] nuclear testing facility. The Central Asian Regional Environmental Center[?] is located in Kazakhstan, which fosters regional cooperation on environmental issues.
Kazakhstan possesses the Soviet equivalent to the United States' Cape Canaveral, where they have launched their version of the space shuttle and the well-known space station Mir. Russia currently leases approximately 6,000 sq km of territory enclosing the Baikonur Cosmodrome space launch site in south central Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan, once colonised by Czarist Russia, was absorbed into the Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution of 1917, led at that time by V.I. Lenin. For the next half-century, Kazakhstan suffered under the mismanagement of the Soviets, especially in agrarian policy and cattle-raising.
Kazakhstan proclaimed its independence in the early 1990s, immediately following the breakdown of the U.S.S.R. The current President of Kazakhstan is Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Although Kazakhstan is considered to have made greater progress in the field of democratic reforms, compared to the other Central Asian countries, the situation is far from perfect and international and non-governmental human rights organizations often point to frequent violations of human rights by state officials. The most famous recent case is the trial of opposition journalist Sergei Duvanov.
Kazakhstan is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species[?].
See also Communism
Much of this material is originally from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the U.S. Department of State's 2002 website. Incompletely Wikified.