Kazakhstan has been the rubbish dump of USSR for decades. Highly pol luting nuclear, chemical and bacter iologic experiments have taken place in that area and unwelcome people have been banished there. This film is a journey into the heart of the human and ecological catastrophe of Kazakhstan, a wonderful countr y with such a concentration of poisons, especially in its north regions, that the rate of death, genetic mutations and malformations has reached record levels. The nuclear weapons testing range, some dozen miles from the city of Semipalatinsk, has been the scene of 450 explosions in the last few years. At present, there are still many children with cancer or genetic mutations in hospitals, irrefutable evidence of the f act that not only the disaster is going on but it will also affect the next generations. Kazakhstan, now an independent country, is trying to get rid of this heavy her itage, but this is is not the only problem it has to face. Its obsolete industr ies and the difficult passage to market economy make both the new r ich and the new poor regret the sad "Soviet" past. L'empire des steppes is part of a series of four documentaries entitled Les empires de l'Asie centrale (The Empires of Central Asia).