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Kazakhstan ( or ; Qazaqstan, pronounced ; ), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a contiguous transcontinental country in Central Asia, with its smaller part west of the Ural River in Europe. It has borders with (clockwise from the north) Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea. The terrain of Kazakhstan includes flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts. With an estimated 17 million people as of 2013 Kazakhstan is the 61st most populous country in the world, though its population density is among the lowest, at less than 6 people per square kilometre (15 people per sq. mi.). The capital is Astana, where it was moved from Almaty in 1997.
The territory of Kazakhstan has historically been inhabited by nomadic tribes. This changed in the 13th century, when Genghis Khan occupied the country. Following internal struggles among the conquerors, power eventually reverted to the nomads. By the 16th century, the Kazakhs emerged as a distinct group, divided into three jüz (ancestor branches occupying specific territories). The Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century all of Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganized several times before becoming the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936, an integral part of the Soviet Union.
Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991; the current President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been leader of the country since then. Kazakhstan pursues a balanced foreign policy and works to develop its economy, especially its dominant hydrocarbon industry.
Kazakhstan is populated by 131 ethnicities, including Kazakh (who make up 63 percent of the population), Russian, Uzbek, Ukrainian, German, Tatar, and Uyghur. Islam is the religion of about 70% of the population, with Christianity practiced by 26%; Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion. The Kazakh language is the state language, while Russian has equal official status for all levels of administrative and institutional purposes.