Five nations border current-day Kazakhstan: China to the east; Russia to the north; the Caspian Sea to the west; and Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan to the south.A pair of beautiful mountain ranges, the Altay and the Tien Shan, with peaks nearly as high as 22,966 feet (7,000 meters), runs along Kazakhstan's southeastern border.In recent years the sea has severely decreased in size and even split into two smaller seas due to environmental mismanagement. The very south experiences hot summers, with temperatures routinely over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).The very north, which is technically southern Siberia, has extreme winters, with lows of well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius), with strong winds, making the temperature feel like -50 to -60 degrees Fahrenheit (-46 to -51 degrees Celsius).
Moving the capital to the north would move jobs (mostly held by Kazakhs) and people there, changing the demographics and lessening the likelihood of the area revolting or of Russia trying to reclaim it. The population of Kazakhstan was estimated to be 16,824,825 in July 1999.Given the emigration, Kazakhstan's ethnic make up is ever-changing.For 1999 the best estimates were Kazakhs 46 percent, Russians 34.7 percent, Ukrainians 4.9 percent, Germans 3.1 percent, Uzbeks 2.3 percent, Tartar 1.9 percent, and others 7.1 percent.The picture is further complicated by the fact that many Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs are struggling (out of work and living below the poverty level).Democracy and independence have been hard sells to a people who grew accustomed to the comforts and security of Soviet life. Kazakhstan, approximately 1 million square miles (2,717,300 square kilometers) in size, is in Central Asia, along the historic Silk Road that connected Europe with China more than two thousand years ago.