#Kazakhstan: A “Young Country” No More?

13 Nov

Kazaxia’s political commentator Gary Kefali has been In Kazakhstan to check out the celebrations marking 550 years of Kazakh statehood.

As Kazakhstan celebrates the 550th anniversary of statehood, is it finally time for the nation to shrug off the ‘young country’ label it has held for many years?

Who would have thought back in 1465 when Kerey and Zhanibek Khan set up the forerunner of modern-day Kazakhstan that 550 years later the state would still be referring to itself as a ‘young country’.

The state uses this label to conceal a multitude of problems related to human rights, press freedom, democracy and freedom of belief and assembly. Whenever criticised, the familiar refrain of “Kazakhstan is a very young country” is invoked by the authorities.

Now it seems that it is not so fresh-faced after all with its long history being celebrated in Taraz. As kazaxia suggested in 2011, it’s time Kazakhstan grew up and accepted responsibility for its actions.

Kazakhstan Hands Wooden Spoon to Latvia

13 Oct

Kazakhstan pulled off a sensational victory in Riga last night to condemn Latvia to last place in their UEFA 2016  European Championship qualifying group.

Islambek Kuat’s 65th-minute goal was enough to see off the Latvians and ensure that Kazakhstan edged their former Soviet Union rivals on goal difference in Group A. The win was Kazakhstan’s first in this round of qualification matches and means it avoided the wooden spoon which is now in Latvia’s hands.

The Czech Republic headed the group followed by Iceland. Turkey also qualified for the finals in France next summer as the best third-placed  team. The Netherlands could only finish fourth in the group and will not be going to the finals.

The win comes at a time when Kazakhstan’s all-powerful Nazarbayev clan are sniffing around the national football federation. President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson, Aisultan Nazarbayev, made his case for the top job in football in Kazakhstan in an interview with to Sports.kz last week citing his extensive soccer experience.

Aisultan Nazarbayev, the son of the president’s eldest daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva and Rakhat Aliyev, who committed suicide  in an Austrian prison cell earlier this year while on remand facing murder and kidnapping charges.  Aliyev was a former head of Kazakhstan’s football federation so Aisultan Nazarbayev would be following in his father’s footsteps if he gets the nod for the job.

Kyrgyzstan’s Shailoo Show

4 Oct

It’s election time once again in Kyrgyzstan and Lord Venal popped down to Osh to observe proceedings. Here’s his preliminary report.

One thing I can say for Kyrgyzstan – it sure knows how to put on a great election. With 14 parties to choose from, the voters were spoilt for choice – a rare occurence these days in Central Asia.

In hospitality as well Kyrgyzstan is second to none. I will never forget the ‘guinea pig in a spiky shuba on a bed of dill’ which was served as part of the pre-observation luncheon feast.

Hedgehog in a spiky shuba, Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Hedgehog in a spiky shuba, Osh, Kyrgyzstan

When observing I rely on a constant drip of espresso to keep my senses sharp. Unfortunately, my hotel’s supplies of black gold were all consumed by my fellow observers and I had to move to other stimulants. I was amply provided with my own teapot filled with either green or white chai for the duration of my trip.

Lord Venal's teapot

Lord Venal’s teapot

While taking a break from the hectic schedule of observation I bumped into kazaxia’s all-purpose political commentator Gary Kefali. He expressed concerns that the voters were baffled by the huge choice of parties on offer and were unable to decide who to vote for.

This is in stark contrast to elections in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the USA where the electorate are offered a limited choice, enabling them to make their minds up quickly.

Turkmenistan: The President who just keeps on winning

25 Sep

Kazaxia has received a dispatch from the future looking at the continuing sporting prowess of Turkmenistan’s very long-term potentate Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan – August 9, 2030 – With the first week of the 2030 Olympic Games in Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat already over, the country’s all-powerful President has stunned the sporting world by single-handedly heading the medal table. Still more remarkable, the 73-year-old Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov wasn’t even a declared athlete and is half a century older than most of his competitors.
With gold medals already in a slew of equestrian and motor racing events, Berdimuhamedov appears also set to win gold in archery, shooting and swimming events. He only took part in these events on the spur of the moment at the insistence of the ecstatic crowds.
Yet the ever-modest president is dismissing the adulation his success has won him, particularly with the home crowds. ‘My competitors have put up a good fight and I have to applaud their wisdom in the way they competed,’ he told television audiences during a four-hour speech from the medal podium. The speech was followed by a four-hour ovation.
Track record
Berdimuhamedov’s sporting success appears to have begun soon after he became president of his gas-rich state back in 2007.
In April 2012, in one of his early notable successes, he came first in a time-trial challenge racing a Turkish-build Volkicar he was not even scheduled to be competing in. ‘While an event presenter introduced the president,’ The Associated Press reported, ‘he received a request nobody in Turkmenistan would be likely turn down. “Can I take part?” Berdimuhamedov asked.’
The president even took in his stride being thrown from his horse just after crossing the winning line in a famous horse-racing victory in April 2013. It turned out the 150 men in black suits who immediately ran to his assistance from all over the racing track were not needed as the president returned to claim his prize.
And as he won the 2015 Alfa Romeo cup, the state news agency reported breathlessly: ‘The cars fly, engines roar, the distance between them gets shorter and lengthens again on the bend, but then the Alfa Romeo No. 7 breaks away from its nearest pursuers and rushes forward, to victory!’
The 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games saw the President sweep the medals board, again to tumultuous applause from an audience that could barely contain its excitement as long as the cameras rolled.
The Turkmen state media were similarly ecstatic over Berdimuhamedov’s victory at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Andorra, and the 2021 Darts World Cup. A victory in the Scrabble Champions Tournament the same year was assured after a tense final, with the winning word ‘Arkadag’.


Uzbekistan: Missing Pensioner Spotted in Beijing

3 Sep

Uzbekistan’s most famous awol pensioner is up to his old tricks again. Earlier this week he disappeared from the secure unit he resides in in Tashkent, Uzbekistan after making a speech on Uzbekistan’s Independence Day, 1 September.

Nothing was heard of Mr Karimov until 3 September when he was spotted at an event in Beijing, China glorifying the Soviet Union’s great victory over Japan in 1945.

Missing pensioner found by old buddies in Beijing

The plucky Soviets declared war on Japan on 8 August 1945,  two days after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and a day before the second was dropped on Nagasaki. The valiant Soviets managed to clear Imperial Japanese forces from mainland China in just over three weeks.

Almaty Wheels out Big Guns for Winter Olympics Bid

29 Jul

In the final push for the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, Almaty has unveiled its secret weapons to wow the International Olympic Committee – figure skater Denis Ten and …. volleyball player Sabina Altynbekova.

As the delegates gather in Kuala Lumpur ahead of the vote on 31 July, Almaty is pulling out all the stops in its fight to the death with Beijing to host the games. Denis Ten won bronze at Sochi in 2014 in the figure skating and has been a fixture of the city’s bid.

Volleyball starlet Sabina Altynbekova.is not such an obvious choice to promote the bid to host the world’s premier winter sports spectacle. However, she is famous in Kazakhstan and beyond for her looks as well as her abilities on the volleyball court.

She rose to prominence last year at the Asian Under-19 Championships in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. Her looks prompted hysteria with a Taiwan newspaper giving over 10 pages to photos of the 18-year-old and depictions of her as an anime character.

Some observers have suggested that a new event –  ice volley – could be included on the list if Almaty’s bid is successful. Apparently,this ancient sport can be traced back to the times when the Scythians roamed the Eurasian steppe.


Kazakhstan: Almaty Sundowner Hotspots

26 Jun

Lord Venal has finally come round from the deep slumber he fell into after observing the elections in Kalachi, Kazakhstan. He was extremely thirsty when he awoke and immediately found some great new bars in Almaty for a sundowner or two that he wants to share with kazaxia’s readers.

Negroni bar Almaty

After my long slumber following my visit to monitor voting in Kalachi on April 26, caused by the soporiphic nature of the poll, I was overcome with an incredible thirst. I awoke in Almaty and headed out in search of refreshment.

My travels took me first to Negroni Bar on Kurmangazy, just down from Cafeteria. This new bar has hit on a novel idea for Almaty –  you design your own cocktail. From a list one can choose the cocktail base, strength, and taste with options such as bitter, sour, sweet and spicy. Additional ingredients to add flavour to your tipple include apple, strawberry, celery, cucumber and basil.

After a couple of glasses I headed down Abai Street where I chanced upon Cafe Nedelka, which serves refreshing jugs of sangria, a light pick-me-up on a summer’s eve. The terrace is set back from the traffic-choked main thoroughfare and is a pleasant spot to while away a few hours.

Now feeling peckish, I took a taxi down Dostyk and found myself in Vino da Puri, a new venture from the Dedas Puri crew. Serving the same classy Georgian fare as in Dedas, this place is an oenophile’s delight with hundreds of bottles of wine to choose from. It also has a great terrace to make the most of the long summer evenings.





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