1. Kazakhstan has a space launch facility called Cosmodrome. And it is not just any other space launch facility, but the world’s first and the largest. Did you know that the first artificial satellite of the Earth took off from this very site? The site, built in the 1950s for the Soviet Union, is where Sputnik 1 took off. The facility is currently leased by the Russians and remains at the centre of its space programme.
2. Horse Riding is a large part of Kazakh culture, including the traditional sport kyz kuu, which literally translates to “girl chasing”. It is essentially a race between a man and woman, both on horseback that either ends up with the man kissing the woman which is a victory for the man or the woman beating the man with a whip which is a victory for the woman.
3. Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world. However, despite having no access to an ocean, being surrounded by land on all the sides, it maintains a Navy. Surprising, isn’t it?
4. Kazakhstan is one of the only four countries to ever de-nuclearize. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan inherited over 1400 nuclear weapons from the USSR. However, they voluntarily denuclearized and handed over all of their nukes back to Russia by 1995. Only three other countries have gone through a complete denuclearization: Ukraine, Belarus, and South Africa.
5. Ancient Kazakhs were the first people in the world to domesticate and ride horses. Horsemeat is so essential to Kazakh cuisine that even the Kazakh athletes requested the International Olympic Committee to be able to bring it to the 2012 Games in London.
6. In traditional Kazakh society, until 1926, a 60-year cycle-based calendar was used, called “mushel” in Kazakh. It is comprised of 12-year cycles, where each year is named after an animal such as Year of the Sheep, Year of the Horse, the Dog, Snake, Pig, etc. The calendar begins with the Year of the Mouse because a Kazakh folk tale says that the mouse was able to climb on the other animals’ backs and was the first to see the sun.
7. The Balkhash Lake in Kazakhstan is the 12th largest lake of the world. This lake has a confused personality because half of the lake consists of fresh water and another half having salt water.
8. Kazakhstan’s traditional drink Kumis has also been referred to as “milk champagne.” It is made from fermented horse milk and is believed to be a cure-all for everything from the common cold to tuberculosis.
9. It is believed that apples originated in Kazakhstan. The city of Almaty, which means ‘father of apples’ in Kazakh, has long-claimed the honour of being the birthplace of the apple which was recently confirmed by DNA tests.
10. In Kazakhstan, the ancient nomadic game known as kokpar which roughly translates as “goat-grabbing” is played by two teams of horseback riders compete over a headless, freshly slaughtered goat. The sport is believed to have originated with Genghis Khan in the 13th-century.