Kazakhstan - Lonely Planet
If you're not a fan of endless semi-arid steppe and decaying industrial cities, Kazakhstan may seem bleak, but those who enjoy remoteness, wide open spaces, lunar landscapes, long hypnotic train rides and horse sausage will definitely be in their element.
The chief exceptions to this relentless desolation are the cosmopolitan city of Almaty, and the spectacular spurs of the Tian Shan and Altai mountains on the country's southern and eastern borders. And any country which uses a headless goat's carcass as a polo puck obviously has chutzpah.
If it sometimes looks like the landscape has suffered from hundreds of nuclear explosions, well, parts of it have - ever since Russian rocket scientists started using Kazakhstan as a sandpit in the late 1940s.
Full country name: Republic of Kazakhstan
Area: 2.71 million sq km
Population: 16.8 million
People: 46% Kazakh, 34.7% Russian, 4.9% Ukrainian, 3.1% German, 2.3% Uzbek, 1.9% Tatar
Language: Kazakh, Russian
Religion: 47% Muslim, 44% Russian Orthodox, 2% Protestant
Head of State: President Nursultan Nazarbayev
Head of Government: Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov
GDP: US$52.9 billion
GDP per capita: US$3,100
Major Industries: Much of industrial capacity is shut down and/or in need of repair) Oil, coal, iron ore, manganese, chromite, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, bauxite, gold, silver, phosphates, sulfur, iron and steel, nonferrous metal, tractors and other agricultural machinery, electric motors, construction materials, grain (mostly spring wheat), cotton, wool, livestock
Major Trading Partners: Russia, UK, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the Netherlands, China, Italy, Germany, Turkey, South Korea