In terms of events and festivals, Kazakhstan is definitely the most culturally active country in Central Asia. ‘Buzzing’ is maybe too big a word, but something does happen on a daily basis somewhere in the country. The 3 most active cities are Almaty, Karaganda and Astana.
Constitution Day: 28 January. Nation-building in the blistering Astana cold.
Nauruz: 21-22 March. Celebrated across Central Asia, the whole region welcomes springtime with song, dance and good food. In Kazakhstan, kokpar games and aitys (medieval Kazakh battle rap) competitions are specific for Nauruz. In Almaty and Astana, there is free food and concerts on the main squares.
Russian Orthodox Easter: Date changes. An Orthodox celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Eggs are hamstered by babooshkas days in advance to bake the special ‘kulich’ dish, and the midnight mass has a special atmosphere.
National Unity Day: 1 May. Parades and street festivals showcasing the cultures of the different nations co-existing peacefully in Kazakhstan.
Victory Day: 9 May. Military parades in every major city.
The Spirit of Tengri (June, Almaty). 2 nights on the Abay square of local and international contemporary ethnic music.
Astana Day: 6 July. Big concert in Astana celebrating the birthday of president Nazerbayev.
Biker festival ‘Preserve Balkhash’: July, shores of Lake Balkhash. Aims to draw attention to the ecological problems surrounding Lake Balkhash. Looks like a lot of fun.
Action film festival: July, Astana. Action film festival starring some celebrities and lots of action movies.
Four E: August, Almaty. 3-day New Age festival with a lot of yoga, “quantum” workshops, and modern folk music. Worth visiting for the beautiful location (different each year) in the mountains, the evening concerts and the relaxed vibe. Paid entrance.
Almaty apple festival: September. Celebrating Almaty’s most famous produce in all manners on the Old Square.
Kurban Bayram: Date changes. Called Eid Al- Adha in the Arabic world, on this Muslim holiday it is traditional to go to mosque, sacrifice a sheep and give meat to the poor.
Republic Day: 25 October. More nation-building, presidential photo-ops and concerts.
Day of the First President: 1 December. A new addition to the growing personality-cult around Nazerbayev. Parades, concerts.
Independence Day: 16 December. Independence from the Soviet Union is celebrated with (you guessed it) concerts, parades, and fireworks.