December 16, 2011 - Kazakhstan's Independence Day

This Central Asian nation broke away from the Soviet Union on this day in 1991. It was the last former Soviet republic to declare independence!

Kazakh girls in
traditional costumes
Kazakhstan is the sixth largest nation in the world, but it's #1 among all the landlocked nations. One of its borders is the Caspian Sea, but Kazakhstan is still considered landlocked since the Caspian Sea itself is landlocked! (In other words, the Caspian Sea is a totally enclosed body of water, rather than a sea that is connected to an ocean. It is often described as the world's largest lake.) However, the Caspian Sea is connected to the Black Sea via a manmade canal, and the Black Sea is connected to the Aegean Sea, which connects to the Mediterranean Sea, which connects to the Atlantic Ocean.

The ancient city of Taraz, in present-day Kazakhstan, was a major halt along the so-called Silk Road, upon which people traveled between China and other eastern Asian kingdoms and the Mediterranean civilizations and Europe. Besides for silk, goods traded included luxuries such as satin and hemp, musk and other perfumes, tea, spices, medicines, jewels, glassware, rhubarb, and even slaves. Along with goods, ideas, technologies, religions, and philosophies spread because of the trade—as did, unfortunately, diseases such as the bubonic plague.

Various peoples wished to control the trading routes, so both Persian and Babylonian ambassadors tried to win favor among the Turks of Taraz. Later Central Asia was conquered and ruled by Persians, Muslims, and Russians (among others).

Learn more about the Silk Road...

...on Kids' Past or Mr. Donn's link-filled website.  

...and on the Penn Museum website, where you can find directions for making fried dough twists, felt, silk hand fans, and even mummies!

Also on this date...

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