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Kazakhstan is a country in Central Asia, located on the Northeastern shore of the Caspian Sea. It is bordered by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan used to be part of the Soviet Union, before it declared independence on December 16, 1991. Although the country is the world's ninth largest in area, it only has 15 million people.

Since independence, the country has been led by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was also its leader under the Soviet Union. He has supressed dissent, and arranged for constitutional changes that allowed him to stay in power long after his original term expired.

Kazakhstan has large reserves of Oil and Natural Gas, which are only now being exploited. Kazakhstan sought foreign help in developing these expensive and technologically challenging fields. Both western and Chinese companies have sought access to Kazak reserves, though western companies eventually gained control of the lucrative Tenghiz field in the Caspian Sea.

Soon after independence, the American James H. Giffen emerged as a middleman in many oil deals, although he was eventually arrested for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977.

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