As food shortages crippled the Soviet population in the mid-twentieth century, leaders in Moscow turned to the vast Kazakh Steppe, ploughing and farming the extensive virgin land. In December of 1991, Kazakhstan declared its independence, becoming the last republic to leave the Soviet Union. Farms fell into disrepair and livestock were slaughtered as residents migrated to nearby cities.
It's widely believed that human domestication of animals began in this part of Central Asia. Petroglyphs from the Bronze Age show humans riding horses, indicating that our modern notion of the cowboy originated in this valley. Today, pastoral people are returning to their roots and raising cattle, horse and sheep in an effort to feed their population.
There's a financial incentive as well. As sanctions cripple the Russian economy and beef imports are restricted, Kazakhstan is poised both agriculturally and geographically to provide a lifeline to its northern neighbor. Furthermore, a new road connecting China and Europe cuts directly through the southern Kazakh Steppe, opening markets in Europe and Asia. Now, twenty five years later, residents are returning to the land, and the agricultural communities are beginning to thrive once more as Kazakhstans's future draws on the roots of its past.