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This was the ancient land of Scythian Saka people, pastoral nomads and horse breeders, who were followed by Turkic Kazakhs. It was the last of the Soviet Republics to become independent, in 1991, and the Kazakh language now officially uses the Latin rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. Oil and mineral rich, Kazakhstan is the largest economy in Central Asia, and the Hazret Sultan mosque in Astana, completed in 2012, is the largest in Cenral Asia.

The symbol adopted by the newly independent country is the Golden Warrior, (Zolotoi Chelovek in Russian, Altan Adam in Kazakh).The kurgan (burial mound) of this Scythian noble, who lived in the 4th or 5th century BC, was found  in 1969, at Issyk, 70 kilometers from Almaty, an area that has yielded further finds. Believed to be an 18-year-old  prince, he was interred wearing some 4,000 gold ornaments, but a number of the objects buried on the same place suggest that he may in fact have been a woman. Scythian female warriors may be the source of the stories about tribes of Amazons, but a final analysis has been denied after the remains were put into a time capsule in early 2019, in the hope that one day science may be able to tell more from the bones. The finds are on display at the Central State Museum at Almaty, the country’s largest city and the capital until 1997 when Astana took its place. (In March 2019 Astana was renamed Nazarbayev after the outgoing president.) The museum has an ethnographic collection, including wonderful textiles and carpets, as well as the tall hats recorded by Herodotus. Some of these hats can be seen in the Islamic galleries of the British Museum.

Connoisseur’s Kazakhstan

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