Kazakhstan’s principal ethnic groups include Kazakh (58.9%), Russian (25.9%), Ukrainian (2.9%), Uzbek (2.8%), Uighur, Tatar and German (1.5% each) and other groups (4%). There are more than 100 other ethnic groups living peacefully in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s two main religions are Islam and Christianity (57% and 40% of all believers respectively). Most Muslims in Kazakhstan belong to the Sunni denomination, while most Christians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. There are more than 40 confessions in Kazakhstan, organized into over 3000 religious organizations. Kazakh is spoken by over 52% of the population and is the state language. Russian is spoken by almost everyone and enjoys equal status under the Constitution.
The traditional dwelling of the Kazakh nomad is the yurt, a tent made from a framework of willow wood and covered in felt, with a hole in the top to allow smoke to escape. When correctly constructed, a yurt enables its inhabitants to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. Some Kazakhs maintain a semi nomadic existence, moving their herds and flocks to summer pastures each year.
Traditional Kazakh food is similar to that of the Mediterranean in its use of rice, savoury seasonings, vegetables, yoghurts and grilled meats. Nomadic diet is heavy in mutton, dairy products and bread, while in the northern cities the food is heavily influenced by Russian cuisine. A popular dish is qazy, a horsemeat sausage served up with cold noodles, or the sweet plov, made with dried apricots, raisins and prunes. Food available in large towns and cities resembles that of any Western urban area; you can choose to eat Italian, Chinese, Japanese or French at several different price and quality levels - or opt for American-influenced fast food.
Kazakhstan I is the state television channel. Other country-wide TV stations are Khabar and Yel Arna. According to government statistics there are 116 private channels, including Kanal 31 and KTK. The state-owned Kazakh Radio broadcasts in both official languages. A wide number of private radio stations are also available including Europa Plus, Russkoye Radio, Hit FM, Radio Azattyq and Radio Karavan. According to government figures, there were 990 privately owned newspapers and 418 privately owned magazines.
Most of Kazakhstan’s museums are found in Almaty. The Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan was established in the 1930s and today hosts four large exhibition halls covering hundreds of unique Kazakh exhibits including spiritual and cultural material describing the history of the country. The A. Kasteyev State Museum of Arts boasts over 20 thousand exhibits in its collection (painting, sculpture, decorative art). The Museum's acquisitions programme began when the Russian Museum and the A.S. Pushkin Museum of the Fine Arts delivered 200 works by Russian and Western masters in the 1930s. The collection traces art history from ancient to present times. In Almaty also, find The Archaeological Museum of the Kazakhstan National Academy of Sciences and The State Book Museum.
As in other aspects of Kazakhstan’s traditional culture, the horse plays a dominant role in sport – kökpar is a wilder version of polo using a goat’s carcass instead of a ball; and qyz quu, a chase between girl and boy on horseback.
In contemporary terms, Kazakhstan is obsessed with football. The Kazakhstan First Division is controlled by the Football Union and feeds into the Kazakhstan Super League, founded in 1994. Kazakhstan competed at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. The largest contingent was their ice hockey squad of 23. The cross country skiing team was also sizeable, with a total of 19 Kazakh athletes entered. The cyclist Alexander Vinokourov is perhaps the best-known Kazakh athlete. Tennis, boxing, gymnastics, swimming and golf are also hugely popular.
At the XXIX Olympic Games in Beijing, Kazakhstan’s athletes won a total of 13 medals – 2 gold, 4 silver and 7 bronze. Kazakhstan has consequently been ranked 29th among the 205 competing countries.The Kazakh delegation for the Olympics in Beijing consisted of 70 female and 62 male athletes winning 132 qualifying licenses in 22 (out of 41) sports. The delegation comprised athletes from all 16 administrative territories of the Republic - and from 11 separate ethnic groups. 200 officials from Kazakhstan headed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev accompanied the athletes to Beijing.