It was also to Kazakhstan that he repatriated millions of people of all different ethnicities, in an effort to "collectivize" the Soviet Union.

Kazakhstan was also the site of the Soviet nuclear test programs and Nikita Khrushchev's ill-conceived "Virgin Lands" program.

Many observers predict that continued emigration by non-Kazakhs and encouraged higher birthrates of Kazakhs by the government will lead to Kazakhs increasing their numbers relative to other ethnicities in Kazakhstan. Language is one of the most contentious issues in Kazakhstan.

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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 capital of Kazakhstan was moved in 1996 to Astana, in the north-central part of the country far from any of Kazakhstan's borders.

The former capital, Almaty, is still the largest city and most important financial and cultural center.

The final theory holds that the Kazakh government wanted to repatriate the north with Kazakhs.

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.

A census taken just after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 indicated a population of more than 17 million.

The decreasing nature of Kazakhstan's population (-.09 percent in 1999) is due, in part, to low birth-rates and mass emigration by non-Kazakhs, mainly Russians and Germans (Kazakhstan's net migration rate was -7.73 migrants per 1,000 people in 1999).

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.