Independent since 1991, Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world, roughly the size of Western Europe or four times the size of Texas. Located in the heart of Central Asia, Kazakhstan is bordered by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and the Caspian Sea.
The United States was the first country to recognize independent Kazakhstan, on December 25, 1991. The U.S. Embassy was opened in the then-capital city Almaty in January 1992. The Government of Kazakhstan transferred its capital from Almaty to Astana on June 10, 1998. The U.S. Embassy completed its move to Astana in the fall of 2006, while remaining elements of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Almaty constituted an Embassy Branch Office.
The U.S. Consulate General in Almaty – the only U.S. consulate in Central Asia – was inaugurated in December 2009. U.S. Consulate General Almaty currently consists of several State Department sections, including Consular, Political/Economic, Public Affairs, Regional Security, and the Regional Medical Office; the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Central Asia Regional Mission, the Centers for Disease Control, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Foreign Commercial Service.
Despite the capital’s move to Astana, Almaty remains Kazakhstan’s unofficial “Southern Capital,” the main cultural and business center, as well as the country’s largest city. Founded in 1854 as Fort Verney, a military outpost of the Russian Empire, Almaty was built on the site of a former Silk Road town that had been destroyed by Mongol invaders. Almaty was twice destroyed by earthquakes, in 1887 and 1911.