Total population was estimated in 1994 at 17,268,000, making Kazakstan the fourth most populous former Soviet republic. As of 1990, 57 percent of the country's residents lived in cities. Because much of the land is too dry to be more than marginally habitable, overall population density is a very low 6.2 persons per square kilometer. Large portions of the republic, especially in the south and west, have a population density of less than one person per square kilometer. In 1989 some 1.4 million Kazaks lived outside Kazakstan, nearly all in the Russian and Uzbek republics. At that time, an estimated 1 million Kazaks lived in China, and a sizeable but uncounted Kazak population resided in Mongolia.

Demographic Factors

The birth rate, which is declining slowly, was estimated at 19.4 births per 1,000 population in 1994 (see table 2, Appendix). The death rate, which has been climbing slowly, was estimated at 7.9 per 1,000 population--leaving a rate of natural increase of 1.1 percent, by far the lowest among the five Central Asian republics. In 1995 the total fertility rate--2.4 births per woman, a drop from the 1990 figure of 2.8--also was far below the rates for the other Central Asian republics. In the first six months of 1994, some 1.8 percent fewer babies were born than in the same period the previous year. In the same months, the number of deaths rose by 2.5 percent compared with those in the same period in 1993. In some provinces, death rates are much higher than the average, however. Shygys Qazaqstan (East Kazakstan) Province has a death rate of 12.9 per thousand; Soltustik Qazaqstan (North Kazakstan) Province, eleven per 1,000; and Almaty Province, 11.3 deaths per 1,000. The cause of nearly half of these deaths is cardiovascular disease.

Because of declining life expectancy and decreases in the size of the Russian population, which is demographically older and has a low birth rate, the republic's residents are a relatively young group; in 1991 there were only 149 pensioners per 1,000 population, as opposed to 212 per 1,000 in the former Soviet Union as a whole (see table 3, Appendix). The republic is experiencing a pronounced outflow of citizens, primarily non-Kazaks moving to other former Soviet republics. Although figures conflict, it seems likely that as many as 750,000 non-Kazaks left the republic between independence and the end of 1995. Official figures indicate that in the first half of 1994 some 220,400 people left, compared with 149,800 in the same period of 1993. In 1992 and 1993, the number of Russian emigrants was estimated at 100,000 to 300,000. Such out-migration is not uniform. Some regions, such as Qaraghandy, have lost as much as 10 percent of their total population, resulting in shortages of technicians and skilled specialists in that heavily industrial area.

To some extent, the outflow has been offset by in-migration, which has been of two types. Kazakstan's government has actively encouraged the return of Kazaks from elsewhere in the former Soviet Union and from China and Mongolia. Unlike other ethnic groups, ethnic Kazaks are granted automatic citizenship. More than 60,000 Kazaks emigrated from Mongolia in 1991-94, their settlement--or resettlement--eased by government assistance. Most were moved to the northern provinces, where the majority of Kazakstan's Russian population lives. Because these "Mongol Kazaks" generally do not know Russian and continue to pursue traditional nomadic lifestyles, the impact of their resettlement has been disproportionate to their actual numbers.

The other major source of in-migration has been non-Kazaks arriving from other parts of Central Asia to avoid inhospitable conditions; most of these people also have settled in northern Kazakstan. Although officially forbidden and actively discouraged, this in-migration has continued. In a further attempt to control in-migration, President Nazarbayev decreed that no more than 5,000 families would be permitted to take up residence in the republic in 1996.

Ethnic Groups
The Role of Women


Country Studies main page | Kazakstan Country Studies main page