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).
Russians still make up 34.7 percent of the population, and other non-Kazakhs such as Ukrainians, Koreans, Turks, Chechnians, and Tatars, make up another 17 percent.
Many of the non-Kazakh people of Kazakhstan have met attempts by the Kazakh government to make Kazakh the central, dominant culture of Kazakhstan with great disdain and quiet, nonviolent resistance.
The Kazakh steppeland, north of the Tien Shan Mountains, south of Russian Siberia, west of the Caspian Sea, and east of China, has been inhabited since the Stone Age.
It is a land rich in natural resources, with recent oil discoveries putting it among the world leaders in potential oil reserves.
Since Almaty is near the borders with China and Kyrgyzstan (which is a friend but too close to the Islamic insurgent movements of Tajikistan and Afghanistan), this theory maintains that the new, central location provides the government with a capital city well separated from its neighbors.
While many countries have used a common language to unite disparate ethnic communities, Kazakhstan has not been able to do so.
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.
There are beautiful parts of Kazakhstan, with lakes and mountains that would rival many tourist destinations in the world.
There are also parts of Kazakhstan that are flat and barren, making it seem at times like a forsaken place.