(Reuters) – Kazakhstan declared states of emergency in the capital, the main city and provinces on Wednesday after protesters stormed and torched public buildings in the worst unrest for more than a decade.
Here are some basic facts about the country.
* Kazakhstan is home to large oil, gas and metal deposits and is the largest economy in former Soviet Central Asia. It is the largest of the five ex-Soviet Central Asian republics by territory, or about five times the size of France, and has a population of nearly 19 million.
* Helped by a reputation for political stability under its former long-serving leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan has attracted hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment, but much of the economy is believed to be controlled by the Nazarbayev family.
* Now 81, Nazarbayev steered his country to independence from Moscow in 1991 and became the longest-serving ruler of any ex-Soviet state, only stepping down in 2019 to make way for his hand-picked successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
* Nazarbayev retained authority as head of a powerful security council. With some protesters on Wednesday chanting slogans against Nazarbayev, President Tokayev replaced him as chief of that body.
* Kazakhstan’s purpose-built new capital, Nur-Sultan, is named after the former president.
* Kazakhstan, a majority Muslim nation, is central to a geopolitical tug-of-war between Russia, China and the West. It has historically close ties with Russia and ethnic Russians make up nearly a fifth of the population.
* Human rights groups have long criticised Kazakhstan over its authoritarian political system and its lack of free speech and open and fair elections. Nazarbayev was re-elected in 2015 for a fifth presidential term with nearly 98% of the vote.
(Compiled by Gareth Jones; Editing by Nick Macfie)