Which Continent – Is Kazakhstan Part of Asia or Europe?

(Last Updated On: January 4, 2019)
Is Kazakhstan Part of Asia or Europe?

What continent is Kazakhstan in? Is Kazakhstan part of Asia or Europe? On Sporcle, we consider Kazakhstan to be part of Asia, but there is no denying the fact that Kazakhstan also has ties to Europe.

Is Kazakhstan Part of Asia or Europe?

Is Kazakhstan part of Asia? Part of Europe? Both?

Most people would probably agree that Kazakhstan is best classified as part of Asia. But given that the world’s largest landlocked country has long been viewed as a crossroad between Europe and Asia, there are arguments to be made for why it is also part of Europe.

For a long time, conventional wisdom held that Turkey was the “end” of Europe because it was the bridge between the West and the Middle East. But with the fall of the Soviet Union, the geographical landscape was altered. If people could argue that Turkey was in Europe, then couldn’t similar arguments be made for Russia and its former satellite nations? What is the border between Europe and Asia in the first place?

The Border Between Europe and Asia

The division of the Old World into Europe, Asia, and Africa has been in use since the 6th century BCE. The divide between Europe and Asia has always been a bit disputed, and the border itself (whichever you use) is odd in the sense that the continental boundary is made up largely of a collection of rivers and mountains. In fact, using modern definitions of the word “continent”, it would seem Eurasia (which is made up of Europe and Asia) would be a more accurate way to describe the landmass.  

It’s important to note here that the modern border between Europe and Asia remains a historical and cultural construct. Typical convention holds that the border follows the Aegean Sea up through the Turkish Straits and Black Sea. It then travels through the Greater Caucasus watershed, along the northwestern portion of the Caspian Sea, along the Ural River and the Ural Mountains, and out to the Kara Sea in the Arctic. This is the border you will find on most atlases, including that of the National Geographic Society and CIA World Factbook.

So where does Kazakhstan fit into all of this? Well, using this border, Kazakhstan does fall partly into Europe. About 10% of the country is on the European side of the Ural Mountains. Of course, you can’t ignore the fact that the other 90% is in Asia. That is why most consider Kazakhstan to be in Asia.

But geography is not all to consider when determining continental status. Remember, these sort of continental divides are human constructs. Oftentimes, historical, political, and cultural factors also have to be considered.

History and Culture of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has historically been inhabited by Turkic nomads. The territory helped make up the Eurasian Steppe route, a precursor to the famed Silk Roads. Around the 13th century, Genghis Khan and the Mongolian Empire took control of the region.

By the 16th century, a distinct Kazakh ethnic group began to emerge. They had a highly developed culture based on their nomadic lifestyles. Russia entered the picture in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century, essentially all of Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire.

Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the territory was reorganized a number of times. In 1936, the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, which was part of the Soviet Union, was formed. Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet Republics to declare independence following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.

Today, Ethnic Kazakhs make up about 63% of the population. Ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan make up about 24%. Kazakh and Russian are the languages most spoken, and the country is 70% Muslim and 26% Christian.

When looking at the history and demographics of the region, it is really hard to say that the country is definitely more closely tied to one continent or the other. It seems Kazakhstan’s unofficial title as a “crossroads” between Europe and Asia is very accurate.

Business and Politics in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has the largest and strongest performing economy in Central Asia, in part because the country likes to cooperate with both Europe and Asia. Since the country was part of various east-west trade routes, it has a long history of accommodating all types of people, businesses, and politics. However, with the same president in power since the early 1990s, it’s worth noting that this welcoming attitude towards outsiders might not apply to all that live within the country. Human rights in Kazakhstan are commonly considered poor. But there is no question Kazakhstan has worked to get along with the rest of the world.

Kazakhstan is a member of various world organizations, some which are more European dominated, and some that are primarily composed of Asian countries.

On the Asian side, Kazakhstan is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Conversely, it is also a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, both European leaning organizations.

Which Continent is Kazakhstan In?

Answering the question of what continent Kazakhstan belongs to isn’t easy. Its identity has been shaped by both Europe and Asia, and it continues to be influenced by both regions. It is an interesting area that mixes a variety of different cultures and beliefs into one, and it attempts to keep its political and business dealings balanced to make a lot of different people happy.

At the end of the day, convention holds that Kazakhstan is in Asia. But it could certainly be considered a transcontinental country, much like Turkey, Egypt, and Russia.


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