South Kazakhstan Province

South Kazakhstan (Оңтүстік Қазақстан облысы) is the southernmost province of Kazakhstan, with a population of 2,282,500 people. Its capital is Shymkent, with 539,600 people. Other cities in South Kazakhstan include Turkestan, Sayram, Kentau, Arys, Shardara, Jetisay, Saryag'ash and Lenger. This province and Atyrau Province are Kazakhstan's two smallest provinces; both are about 117,300 square kilometers in area. South Kazakhstan borders the neighboring country of Uzbekistan, (and is very near the Uzbekistan capital Tashkent) as well as three other Kazakhstan provinces: Karagandy Province, Kyzylorda Province, and Zhambyl Province. The Syr Darya passes through the province, on its way to the Aral Sea. Also, an oil pipeline runs from Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan to Omsk, Russia (where it connects with a larger, Siberian pipeline) through South Kazakhstan. Oil, lead, and zinc are refined in Shymkent.


The South Kazakhstan Province is the most densely populated of Kazakhstan's many regions, even though it is one of the smallest. This derives from the oblast's gentler climate, better irrigation infrastructure, and proximity to historical population centers [such as Uzbekistan's Tashkent and the Silk Road cities of Samarkand and Bukhara]. SKO is also the fastest growing of Kazakhstan's Province, due to two main factors. One is the birthrate among traditional Kazakh and Uzbek families, where families of five to eight children are commonplace. The other is the exodus of cheap migrant labor from northern Uzbekistan. These migrant workers sometimes become full-fledged immigrants, and if they are ethnic Kazakhs this process is easily green-lighted through local governments for an (unacknowledged and under-the-table) fee.

As such, South Kazakhstan Province is the only province with a demographic breakdown where ethnic Russians are not in the first or second most populous categories. Census results are old and made using Soviet methods that served propaganda over accuracy, but they still point to Kazakhs being the most populous, closely followed by Uzbeks, with Russians bringing in a distant third.


Historically speaking, South Kazakhstan Province is home to Kazakhstan's oldest and greatest marvels. Two thousand years ago it was part of the northern border of the Persian Empire. It owes its long history of habitation to a mixing of Persian culture and science with the native Turkic/Mongol tribal clans. South Kazakhstan Province was part of the Satrap of Sogdiana.

Some places of historical interest include the cities of Turkestan, Otrar, and Sayram. Sayram was the birthplace of Ahmed Yasavi, (1103 - 66) a great Sufic scholar and author that lived and worked throughout Central Asia. He is entombed in a mausoleum complex that stands in present-day Turkestan, and which has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was commissioned by Amir Temur (Tamerlane) to increase his standing among the area. The mausoleum was built by Persian masters, though it was left unfinished with the death of Tamerlane. The original scaffolding that would have been used to apply the colored-tile still protrudes from the front entrance.


  • National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition.

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