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Kazakhstan, Land and Resources

Kazakhstan covers an area of 2,717,300 sq km (1,049,155 sq mi), making it by far the largest country in Central Asia. It was the second largest republic of the former Soviet Union, after Russia.

Although high mountain ranges fringe the republic’s eastern and southeastern borders, the terrain of Kazakhstan consists mostly of deserts, steppes (vast, semiarid grassy plains), and hilly upland areas. Deserts and semideserts (such as stone, salt, and sand wastelands) cover more than two-thirds of Kazakhstan’s surface area. The most expansive deserts in the republic are the sandy, barren Qyzylqum, which also occupies part of Uzbekistan, and the clay-crusted Betpak-Dala; both are located in the southern portion of the republic.

Kazakhstan contains extreme variations in elevation. The Tian Shan mountains contain the country’s highest point, Hantengri (6,398 m/20,991 ft), which lies in the extreme southeast where the borders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and China meet. The Altay Mountains along the country’s eastern border also contain high peaks. Kazakhstan’s lowest elevation is found in the extreme southwest, just east of the Caspian Sea, where the Karagiye Depression lies 132 m (433 ft) below sea level. The area north of the Caspian, in northwestern Kazakhstan, is occupied by the Caspian Depression, which also extends into Russia.

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