Kazakstan is the only former Soviet republic where the indigenous
ethnic group is not a majority of the population. In 1994 eight
of the country's eleven provinces had Slavic (Russian and Ukrainian)
population majorities. Only the three southernmost provinces were
populated principally by Kazaks and other Turkic groups; the capital
city, Almaty, had a European (German and Russian) majority. Overall,
in 1994 the population was about 44 percent Kazak, 36 percent
Russian, 5 percent Ukrainian, and 4 percent German. Tatars and
Uzbeks each represented about 2 percent of the population; Azerbaijanis,
Uygurs, and Belarusians each represented 1 percent; and the remaining
4 percent included approximately ninety other nationalities (see
table 4, Appendix).
Kazakstan's ethnic composition is the driving force behind much
of the country's political and cultural life. In most ways, the
republic's two major ethnic groups, the Kazaks and the "Russian-speakers"
(Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Belarusians), may as well
live in different countries. To the Russians, most of whom live
in northern Kazakstan within a day's drive of Russia proper, Kazakstan
is an extension of the Siberian frontier and a product of Russian
and Soviet development. To most Kazaks, these Russians are usurpers.
Of Kazakstan's current Russian residents, 38 percent were born
outside the republic, while most of the rest are second-generation
The Nazarbayev government has announced plans to move the capital
from Almaty in the far southeast to Aqmola in the north-central
region by 1998. That change would cause a shift of the Kazak population
northward and accelerate the absorption of the Russian-dominated
northern provinces into the Kazakstani state. Over the longer
term, the role of Russians in the society of Kazakstan also is
determined by a demographic factor--the average age of the Russian
population is higher, and its birth rate much lower.
Data as of March 1996