Throughout its history, economic development in Kazakhstan has been linked inextricably to the development of an impressively diverse resource base. At the turn of the twentieth century, enterprises exploiting oil, coal, copper, gold, lead, and zinc deposits were the core of an emerging industrial economy. The enterprises themselves, as well as the more general reliance on resource extraction rather than manufacturing, were to remain at the heart of the Kazakhstan’s economy for over 100 years. After the substantial disruption of World War I followed by the October Revolution, economic recovery and expansion under the new Bolshevik government was little more than rebuilding the existing enterprises and finishing projects started earlier. Expansion followed along with investments in infrastructure both to transport commodities and to support the many workers needed to operate the mines, oil fields, and processing plants. After World War II, investments continued to concentrate on developing the resource sectors even though the costs of development in remote areas were increasingly burdensome, and Kazakhstan’s economy remained dependent on the extraction and preliminary processing of its many resources. The economy of no other Soviet republic was so concentrated in these sectors, and it is hard to name an economy anywhere in the world with such a substantial proportion of its industrial structure in resource-based enterprises.
Kazakhstan provided iron ore, coal, steel, chrome, alumina, copper, lead, zinc, several rare earth minerals, and phosphate, to name a few, to fuel Soviet industries. It also was a source of energy for industry, including coal (and electricity), natural gas, uranium, and oil. Many of the individual enterprises grew to become very large, as was typical in the Soviet Union. One Kazakh enterprise, the Karaganda Metallurgical Plant, was one of the 25 largest plants in the entire Soviet Union in 1990, and its revenues accounted for 5 percent or more of the total national income of Kazakhstan. Many others were also very large, and while perhaps not so dominant nationally as the Karaganda plant, they were equally important in regional economies. They were the largest employers. They supported much of the local social infrastructure including schools, hospitals, and