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Geographically Kazakhstan is a part of Central Asia. Kazakhstan is more than twice as big as the four other Central Asian republics put together and is roughly half the size of mainland USA. The landscape of Kazakhstan is diverse. The northern forest-steppe turns into steppe, half-deserts and deserts in the South.
Kazakhstan is mineral rich. Enterprises involved in extraction and processing of coal, oil, gas, non-ferrous and ferrous metals play a leading role in the national economy.
The Republic is a multinational state inhabited with representatives of more than 120 nationalities. The main religions are Islam and Orthodox Christianity, but religious tolerant is the norm.
In recent years lots of mosques and churches are under construction and the number of religious people is growing. But Kazakhstan is not as religious as other republics of Central Asia, and as a heritage of the Soviet Union a great number of people are not religious at all.
Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan and the former capital of the Republic. Sudden exposure to the outside world has turned Almaty into Central Asia's most cosmopolitan city with shops, restaurants, hotels and casinos that would make the place unrecognizable to anyone who had been away since 1990. Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan till December 1997. The city has long straight avenues and low-rise architecture. The Zailijski Alatau Mountains rise like a wall along Almaty's southern fringe and form a superb backdrop. There are lots of parks, space and greenery.