Kazakhstan, republic in Central Asia, bounded on the north by Russia; on the east by China; on the south by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan; and on the west by the Caspian Sea and Russia. Almost all of Kazakhstan is located in the west central portion of the Asian continent; however, a small part of the republic lies west of the Ural River on the European continent. Astana (formerly Aqmola), located in northern Kazakhstan, replaced Almaty as the republic's capital in 1997.
In Kazakh, the official state language, Kazakhstan is called Qazaqstan Respublikasy. Kazakhs are the largest ethnic group in the republic, but they do not constitute a majority of the population. Kazakhstan was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1922 until December 1991, when it became independent. The republic has maintained a presidential system of government since independence. In 1995 Kazakhstan adopted a new constitution that granted extensive powers to the president.
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