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Kazakhstan: Project Verny Unmasked

10 Mar

Project Verny, the sinister operation that may see Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states being annexed by the Russian Federation, is gaining momentum after secret meetings in Moscow last week.

Russian nationalist troublemaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky started the Project Verny ball rolling on February 23 when he called for called for the establishment of Russia’s “Central Asian Federal Region,” with “Verny” – the Russian Tsarist-colonial era name of Almaty, as its capital.

Following Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, a part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine, the initiative has picked up speed with incumbent Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev summoned to the Kremlin on March 5 to discuss the project with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

It is believed that President Nazarbayev will be allowed to stay on as a figurehead president, with Zhirinovsky, who was born and raised in Alma-ata, the Soviet-colonial era name of Almaty, pulling the strings. This role is a reward for Zhirinovsky’s decades-long service as a faithful lackey to the Kremlin.

Karaganda in central Kazakhstan could be used as the transit point for Russia’s bully boys. Local self defence units and whip-toting Cossack thugs can be flown into the city via a recently-initiated Aeroflot flight from Moscow. Karaganda has a sizeable Russian-speaking population and is just three-hours journey for Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

The catalyst for flying in local self-defence forces could come from a bizarre incident involving a pensioner and a lift in Astana. Olga Matvienko, a 74 year-old from Astana, told kazaxia that she was left befuddled after riding in a Kazakh-speaking lift recently.

The lift’s automated voice read out numbers such as “bir,” “tort” and “besh”, leaving the life-long resident of Kazakhstan, who has no knowledge of the Kazakh language, stranded as she tried to find the third floor.

“This voice kept on saying “tort” [cake in Russian] and I was very confused,” Matvienko told kazaxia. “I implore Vladimir Ilyich to protect my rights as a Russian-speaker in Tselinograd.”

[Editor’s note: the pensioner seems to have muddled up her Vladimirs; she probably means Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] here rather than Vladimir Ilyich [Lenin]. Also, no-one appears to have informed her that Tselinograd – the Soviet-colonial era name – is now known as Astana].

Could this strange case be the casus belli that Vladimir Vladimirovich and Vladimir Wolfovich [Zhirinovsky] have been waiting for to grab  land in what they see as their Central Asian backyard?

Dariga Nazarbayeva – Queen of the Freaks

13 Dec

Whoops – President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter, Dariga, put her foot in it in a spectacular fashion on 11 December when she described disabled children as “freaks”.

Nazarbayeva suggested that teenage pregnancies could be discouraged by arranging school visits to orphanages for children with disabilities – in her strange world these “freaks”, as she refers to the unfortunate inhabitants of the orphanages, are linked to ” an unreasoned, premature sex life”.

Dariga – Queen of the Freaks?

Maybe compulsory viewing in schools of Kazakhstan’s Queen of the Freaks in action would be enough to put people off ever having kids. Dariga would be well-advised to watch Tod Browning’s 1932 classic “Freaks” to see what fate could await her if she continues to make disparaging comments about others.

Kazakhstan: Reality vs. Image

18 Jul

Quick now, when’s the last time you read or heard anything about Kazakhstan in the Huffington Post?

I thought so. It was the July 1 story about a Russian rocket crashing in Kazakhstan after its launch (“Russian Rocket Crashes in Kazakhstan After Launch”).

No? Then surely it was the June 30 feature on British PM David Cameron’s trip to Atyrau and Astana to drum up some business for the UK and not discuss human rights too much less it offend his hosts (“David Cameron in Kazakhstan for Trade and Human Rights Talks”).

Not that either? Then it must have been the story about Borat (remember him?) from April 23, 2012 (“Borat Still Boosting Kazakhstan Tourism”).

No matter. The point is that Kazakhstan, a country the size of Western Europe with vast reserves of oil that rose from the ashes of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 and has been ruled forever by Nursultan Nazarbayev, is rarely featured in the Huffington Post unless it’s a negative story or some free positive PR for the authorities in Astana (“Kazakhstan:Image vs. Reality”).

(with thanks to Al Eisele, Editor-at-Large, The Hill)

Kazakhstan: Aliya Nazarbayeva Goes Green

21 May

Aliya Nazarbayeva, youngest daughter of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, is positioning herself as  Kazakhstan’s eco-warrior-in-chief  with a screening of her documentary Awakeningwhich opened the New York Eurasian Fim Festival on May 20.

The 34-minute film deals with the greening of Kazakhstan and draws heavily on her father’s “Green Bridge” initiative, a Kazakh-government led project that aims to boost green development by sharing research and ideas between developed and developing countries.

This move sees Ms Nazarbayeva branching out from the world of jewellery design, with her Alsara brand, into film production and environmental protection, but could this also be the start of a more active involvement in politics?

The Eurasian Film Festival runs until May 24 and has free screenings of films from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Bulgaria and Poland.

Kazakhstan: It’s a Clan Thing

20 May

Kazakhstan is positioning itself as wannabe modern democratic state, but in reality life in the country is still underpinned by the zhuz or clan system. This system dates back to the 16th or 17th century and ethnic Kazakhs belong to one of of three clan groupings – the Uly (Senior) Zhuz, the Orta (Middle) Zhuz and the Kishi (Junior) Zhuz.

The clans are further sub-divided into a number of tribes and this provides a network for members of the same tribe to help each other get ahead in life The clans also play an important role in politics, with a number of cabinet ministers hailing from the same clan grouping as President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Uly Zhuz.

The Uly Zhuz traditionally inhabited the areas around Almaty in the south-east of Kazakhstan, while the Orta Zhuz is located in the north and centre of the country. The Kishi Zhuz inhabits the oil-rich west of Kazakhstan.

Check out this informative graphic for an overview of the clan and tribal system in Kazakhstan. For more on the influence of clans in the political arena, Kazaxia recommends these academic works by Edward Schatz – Modern Clan Politics: The Power of “Blood” in Kazakhstan and Beyond and Sally Cummings  Kazakhstan: Power and the Elite.

 

Kazakhstan: The Nightingale to Fly the Nest?

4 Apr

Kazakhstan has been rocked by the news that top pop duo Nan and his Nightingale are to split after a glittering  15-year association. The Nightingale, aka Yermukhamet Kabidinovich Yertysbayev,  is said to be leaving on a midnight train to Georgia, where he will take up a position as a solo Beatles impersonator.

Meanwhile, Nan will continue alone – just one man and his dombra.

Kazakhstan: In Praise of the First President

1 Dec

Lord Venal has seen fit to put pen to paper as Kazakhstan prepares to celebrate the Day of the First President on 1 December, the country’s newest public holiday.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev bestrides Kazakhstan like a colossus – his image beams down from billboards on nearly every street corner. The Park of the First President is a fixture of all major towns and cities. Every evening he tops the TV news agenda meeting with dignitaries, opening factories and winning EXPO 2017 bids.

The First President awaits visitors

The First President awaits visitors

Wildly loved by his adoring public – he won 96.5 % of the vote in the last election, The Leader of the Nation, as he is also known, has worked ceaselessly over the last twenty-two years as he has steered the good ship Kazakhstan through turbulent waters to leave the country becalmed in a sea of economic prosperity and political stagnation.

He is one of the world’s longest serving presidents – only a few presidents have kept the throne warmer for longer than the glorious leader – Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson and arch-rival Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan spring to mind.

Toys_4_NAN

The Nazarbayev University in his fairytale capital city, Astana, proudly carries his name as do a network of Nazarbayev Intellectual schools, which have mushroomed across Kazakhstan in recent years. The day cannot be far off when Nazarbayev kindergartens, fertility clinics and dating agencies will grace the provincial capitals.

I, along with my former cell mate, Jonathan Aitken, the famed hagiographer, who is in Astana to sing the praises of the First President yet again, would like to wish the Leader many happy returns on this the anniversary of the distant day back in 1991 when he won his first election along with the hearts of the Kazakh nation. Long may he reign – Kazakhstan’s very own Superkhan!

Kazakhstan: The Leader’s Fame Knows No Bounds

10 Oct

The cult of personality that has been developing around Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev shows no sign of abating as a Kazakh artist unveils a huge canvas with the president at its centre and a town in Turkey names a street after the long-serving leader.

Kazakh artist Amanat Nazarkul’s masterwork “Astana — The City of Youth and Knowledge” depicts President Nazarbayev surrounded by adoring crowds with white doves flying overhead as he opens a new university facility in the his purpose-built capital city.

Nazurkul took nine months to complete the canvas which contains imagery that harks back to the glory days of socialist realism. He believes his labour of love, which measures 32 square meters, could well be the largest painting in the country — even the former Soviet Union — and is looking for experts to verify this.

AFP reported that the monumental work was commissioned by Maksut Narikbayev, a former politician and now president of the Kazakh Humanities and Law University.

The Turkish town of Kırşehir has jumped on the Nazarbayev bandwagon by naming a street after the man who has been running Kazakhstan since Soviet times. Kırşehir is more commonly associated with the Mevlevi school of Sufism and the mystical side of Islam but it’s now seen fit to call one of its streets after Kazakhstan’s former communist party head.

The governor of Kırşehir province, Ozdemir Kachadzhyk, called it a great honour to name a street after Nazarbayev and praised him with the following:

During his leadership the country has made great achievements, and has become a symbol of prosperity, peace and stability for many nations and states, including Turkey

In recent years President Nazarbayev has been featured in a film, a play, had a statue erected to him in an Almaty park, had a university and a network of schools opened using his name and appeared as the hero of a children’s fairy tale, leading many observers to believe a personality cult may be forming.

Kazakhstan: President Set to Annoint Successor

1 Apr

According to the Astana rumour-mill, Kazakhstan’s long-serving president Nursultan Nazarbayev is set to announce his plans for a ‘khandover’ of power – he is set to pass the baton to a young boy named Sultan, rumoured to be the leader’s son.

But there’s a catch – the change will not happen until at least 2046 when Sultan turns 40. President Nazarbayev, who is exempt from term limits, will be turning 115 when he steps down.

A spokesman close to the president confirmed this wait “According to the constitution, which can, of course, be amended on a whim at short notice, Sultanchick will have to wait until he reaches the age of 40 to take over from the incumbent. But he is happy to wait, as are the people of Kazakhstan, who are willing to wait indefinitely for the right man to take over”.

The President's spokesperson

“This move to appoint a new leader shows that Kazakhstan is firmly on the path to democracy. Sultan is our Khan!” the spokesman added.

Sultan was seen in public for the first time on 4 March at a hockey match in Astana with President Nazarbayev leaning across to chat with the young lad.  The appearance sparked heated debate in the local press about the kid’s identity.

Exiled opposition leader Mukhtar Aliyev, speaking from his secret hideout in the south of France, welcomed the news. “This shows that change is coming at last to Kazakhstan. Hopefully there’ll be a free and fair election in 2046,” he told kazaxia. His Algazat party is already preparing for the election.

Fugitive opposition leader Mukhtar Aliyev pictured at his secret hideaway

Experts on Kazakhstan agreed the scenario was workable. “This move will help to ensure a smooth succession in the corridors of power in Astana. It’s worked in North Korea, Azerbaijan and Syria so I don’t see why it can’t work in Kazakhstan”,  British politician and Akorda aficionado Lord Venal told kazaxia.

Kazakhstan’s Toy Protest

29 Mar

In another sign that Kazakhstan’s nascent protest movement is withering on the vine, kazaxia has received this photo of a toy protest, allegedly from Almaty.

While  toy protests in Russia and Belarus have targeted the authorities, Kazakhstan’s toys seem to be coming out in support of the status quo.

The toys can be seen holding placards proclaiming ” The leader is our leader” and  “We love NAN” [possibly a reference to the president’s initials or a flat bread cooked in a tandoor oven].