Kazakh Steppe, Kazakhstan

The Kazakh Steppe, Kazakhstan

Stretching across vast swathes of Central Asia, the Kazakh Steppe covers much of the northern region of Kazakhstan, an area roughly of 800,000 square kilometers. The great steppe is comprised of areas of grasslands savannas and desert, characterized by its wild horses, Saiga antelope, deer, as well as foxes and wolves. Part of the greater Eurasian Steppe, the area features a similar climate to the surrounding Siberian region, with cold winters and mild to moderate summers.

The view from the mountain to the steppe is a traditional Kazakh cemetery, on the horizon you can see mountains, evening, clouds in the sky.

History

The Kazakh Steppe, also known as the Great Dala, has a long history of habitation by nomadic Central Asian cultures and is rumored to be where man first tamed wild horses. In the ancient era it was part of the Eurasian Steppe trade route, an ancient precursor of the silk road, linking north-eastern China to eastern Europe. Over the course of its history, the Kazakh Steppe has been part of numerous empires, most notably the Mongol empire, Kazakh Khanate, and later Russia following their conquest of Siberia.

Land Conservation and the Soviet Legacy

In the 1950’s under the Soviet Union, much of the dry steppe region was converted to agricultural use, with roughly 40 percent being used for intensive agriculture and the remainder for grazing. Although much of the region is still used for agricultural purposes, much of the Kazakh Steppe today remains in its natural condition, an estimated 36 percent, compared to 3-5 in eastern Europe.

A vast area in the southern region (roughly 7,400 square km) remains under Russian lease today and houses the Baikonur Cosmodrome the world’s oldest space launch facility, dating back to the Soviet era. This facility has played host to iconic missions such as Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, and Vostok, the world’s first manned spaceflight with astronaut Yuri Gagarin.

USSR – CIRCA 1981: A stamp depicts launching of a spaceship under the aegis of Intercosmos. There are flags of USSR and Mongolia in the upper left corner, circa 1981

Modern Day

Today the Kazakh Steppe remains a sparsely populated region, with roughly 2-3 people per square kilometer in the west, and 4-7 as you head further east. The legacy of Russian influence, from Siberian conquest to Soviet times is still palpable, with the cultural differences creating a contrast and blend unique to Kazakhstan. Russian language is ubiquitous, and the occasional soviet statues are featured seamlessly alongside Kazakhstan’s own national monuments. The nation’s capital city Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), lies just south of the eastern steppe region, here it’s a simple matter of catching a train and to go off exploring.

Golden autumn in the capital of Kazakhstan. Modern buildings and blue sky.

Articles about Kazakhstan Published by Odyssey Travel

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External Articles to assist you on your visit to Kazakhstan

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