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Russia 2018: The Return of Psychic Saiga!

14 Jun

14 June 2018

It’s been four long years, but with the World Cup about to kick off in Russia, kazaxia has finally managed to track down Psychic Saiga, that elusive soccer tipster, and he’s pointing to France as the competition winners.

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Psychic Saiga, a long-nosed antelope with paranormal powers, who is located in a secret location somewhere on the steppe in Kazakhstan, is predicting a victory for France over Brazil in the 2018 World Cup Final in Russia.

Psychic Saiga makes his choices by pointing his right horn at lamb bones bearing an etching of the national flags of the competing teams. This time round, he’s predicting that France will triumph over Brazil in the final, while Peru and Portugal will be the losing semi-finalists, with the Portuguese grabbing third place on penalties for Christian Ronaldo’s swan song.

When asked to make two choices for Group A, the long-nosed antelope with special powers controversially pointed at Egypt and Uruguay to progress, with host-nation Russia unceremoniously dumped out in the group stage, discounting the notion of home advantage – Russia are the weakest team in the tournament, according to FIFA’s latest rankings.

He also made his predictions for Group B, with Portugal and Morocco expected to advance, suggesting that Morocco will take advantage of strong favourites Spain’s disarray – they sacked their manager just before the start of the tournament. This will make up for Morocco’s disappointment in failing in their bid to host the 2026 World Cup Finals.

For more predictions of who will get through the group stages, follow us here on kazaxia or follow @psychicsaiga on twitter.

Saigas, which are members of the antelope family, once roamed the Eurasian steppe from the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and the Caucasus into Mongolia and Dzungaria. Their numbers are now critically endangered, with 60% of the world population wiped out in a mysterious epidemic in 2015.  Nowadays, saiga herds are restricted to remote areas of Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

Venal Recalls Uchkuduk 1992 Summit

15 Mar

15 March 2018

On the momentous occasion of most of Central Asia’s leaders getting together in Astana for a chinwag, Lord Venal remembers the last time all Central Asia’s leaders gathered together on the Ides of March.

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“I’ll never forget the look on Islam’s face when Saparmurat (aka Turkmenbashi) gave him that Turkmen hat,” he recalled with a tear in his eye for the only two Central Asian leaders to have died in office. “And of course, that was before Turkmenbashi started dyeing his hair.”

“It was back in 1992 in Uchkuduk, Uzbekistan” he recalled over a glass of merlot or two in an Astana wine cellar. “I remember that the meeting was held in a constructive manner, with many issues discussed and a joint statement was signed after the meeting.”

 

Kazakhstan: EXPO 2017 Hits and Misses

11 Sep

11 September 2017

With Astana’s EXPO 2017 done and dusted, kazaxia is having a look at some of the hits and misses at Kazakhstan’s window to the world, which was on the theme of Future Energy.

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Crowds heading to Nur-Alem aka the Death Star

Top prize, of course, goes to Kazakhstan’s pavilion Nur-Alem, unflatteringly dubbed the Death Star by Foreign Policy. This was the biggest draw of the event with crowds queuing for hours to check out the eight floors of interactive displays on the green energy theme.

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Queueing to enter Nur-Alem at EXPO 2017

kazaxia’s particular favourite was the pedal-powered  race which saw two teams face off to pedal as fast as they could and generate energy.

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Pedal power face off in Nur-Alem

Special mention goes to Uzbekistan, which fully embraced the Future Energy concept with its Chevrolet (formerly Uz-Daewoo) Matiz adapted to run on a hydrogen-powered fuel cell.

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Uzbekistan’s fuel-cell powered Matiz

Turkmenistan seemed more intent on pushing President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s books and the upcoming Asian indoor martial arts fest in Ashgabat.

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A warm welcome to Turkmenistan’s pavilion

Georgia’s pavilion predictably focused on wine production, ignoring the Future Energy message, but the kazaxia special prize was reserved for Russia  with its novel take on the theme – it proposed using nuclear-powered ice breakers to crash through the ice cap to get at the fossil fuel deposits lurking in the depths of the Arctic Ocean.

The EXPO circus now moves on to the UAE leaving Astana with the task of transforming the site into a regional financial centre. Nur-Alem will remain as a museum for the general public to keep riffing on the green energy vibe.

Ashgabat Blues Over Dictatorland

7 Apr

We have received the following missive from an acquaintance of Lord Venal, who recently had cause to be in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat.

Somewhat disappointed by the closing of all nightclubs at an unearthly early hour, he was gratified to receive a personal invitation from President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to drop by at one of his elegant palaces. “After a few drinks, His Excellency pulled out his guitar and treated me and the young ladies present to some of his favourite songs, all written by himself! Knowing I’m from distant Albion, we then settled down to watch the latest BBC production, Dictatorland, which His Excellency enjoyed, but only up to a point. Knowing that a friend from my (rather minor) public school works in the upper echelons of the BBC, he immediately dashed off a letter for me to pass on, which I reproduce below.”

To Director of BBC

London

England

Dear esteemed Sir!

I watched your fine show Dictatorland (thanks to excellent Hola!!) which show success in fellow region leaders in important task keeping order and maintaining popular support and stability in country Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Belarus. You know these leaders follow me in my example how to keep good order on streets, even if in some way they act very primitive, like dictator of tinpot. We here in Turkmenistan famous not needing to shoot people on street like you showed in Kazakhstan, or beating people. We keep order by kindness and goodness of all police officers and lofty wisdom of president (myself).

So why then BBC not ask to come to Turkmenistan? We do not understand this incomprehensible decision. You only need to address yourself to me I arrange everything for you. See nice things, meet nice people. I let you interview me (but note you don’t ask questions, just stand up and write down everything I say in little notebook). You make good programme very popular around world and give glory to my country.

I look forward I hear from you with offer of coming to Turkmenistan.

Gurbanguly

(President)

Central Asia: Breaking the 100% Barrier

17 Feb

Presidents in Central Asia have been striving over the past 25 years to break through the mythical 100% of the popular vote threshold in elections. Once believed to be mathematically impossible, experts now think that with advances in technology the day may soon come when politicians can exceed 100% of the vote.

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Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov romped to victory once again with 97.69% of the vote

“As we have seen in recent elections in Central Asia, the incumbents are getting ever closer to the magical figure of 100%. Most recently, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov picked up 97.69% of the vote in Turkmenistan’s elections, held on 12 February,” Lord Venal, a seasoned Central Asian election observer told kazaxia.

“And this was bettered in Kazakhstan in 2015 when President Nursultan Nazarbayev got 97.75%. So, yes, we could soon see the barrier being broken.”

Advances in fixing the vote has meant that scoring more than 100% should not be a problem in the future.

“Ballot stuffing, vote stealing, carousel voting – we’ve all seen these methods used over the years and these methods are becoming more sophisticated. Why not stuff in more votes than there are registered voters, it’s entirely possible,” Gary Kefali, a politics guru told kazaxia.

However, time may be against Nazarbayev – at 76 he may not have too many more chances at growing his vote beyond 98%. Berdimuhamedov, by contrast, is a relative youngster at only 59 and so he could have many more goes at reaching the Holy Grail of electoral success.

Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan’s incumbents offer the best hopes of breaching 100%. Relative newcomer, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan picked up 88.61% in 2016.  Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon grabbed only 83.92% of the vote in 2013. In Kyrgyzstan, President Almazbek Atambaev is a long way off as he got a measly 63.2% in 2011, and he won’t be running again anyway.

“President Nazarbayev should be up for election [in 2020?] before President Berdimuhamedov, and I foresee officials doing their utmost to make him the first leader ever to exceed 100% of the popular vote,” Venal concluded.

Gifts for the Discerning Central Asianista

21 Dec

It’s that time of year again and whether you celebrate the Winter Solstice, Christmas, the New Year or whatever, kazaxia is here to give you some last minute advice on what gifts to get the Central Asianista in your life.

             Want                    Need                   Wear                        Read

Want

Have you ever wanted to observe a Central Asian election up close?

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Kazakhstan prepares for the rush of voters

For only $5,999 Venal Tours offer an all-inclusive package to  witness one of these seminal events in person.

The package includes:

  • Unfettered access to polling stations
  • Your own ballot papers to stuff in the box
  • Free mini bus trip for ‘carousel voting’
  • Rose-tinted spectacles
  • All you can eat and drink Vodka and Plov Buffet

Need

Here’s  something you definitely need, an essential item that no Central Asianista kitchen should be without: The 10th Anniversary Turkmenbashi Kitchen Utensils Holder.

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Is it really ten years ago on this December day that the former head honcho of Turkmenistan, Saparmarat Niyazov, departed this mortal coil? Celebrate the memory of the late dictator with this useful kitchen utensil holder  – one carful previous owner – bids begin as $499.99. (Please note: utensils not included)

Wear

The eternal question of what the dedicated Central Asianista should wear around the home has finally been solved with this comfy chapan, a snip at only £2592.35 ($3,290 approx)

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Read

kazaxia is always on the lookout for new books on the region and this one, with a catchy title, caught our eye recently – it can be yours for only $25.00:

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Castro Provokes Central Asian Personality Cult Crisis

11 Dec

In its first move, the Association of Traditional Rulers has condemned the
late Cuban leader Fidel Castro for “failing to take seriously his
responsibilities as leader, in death as in life”.

The newly-formed Association unites Central Asia’s presidents – Gurbanguly
Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Emomali
Rahmon of Tajikistan and Almazbek Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan, together with
candidate member Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan.

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Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev immortalised in an Almaty park

The Association pointed with regret to remarks at Fidel Castro’s funeral by
his brother and current leader Raul Castro that no monuments, institutions
or streets would be named after the late leader. Nor would statues and busts
be erected in his honour.

“The leader of the revolution strongly opposed any manifestation of cult of
personality,” said Raul Castro.

“The Association upholds the clear duty of all responsible leaders to accept
the burdens of office that history has thrust upon them,” a brief statement
from the Association declared. “Fidel Castro – in his dying wish – has
betrayed that trust.”

The Association insisted that a presidential personality “was not the
property of one lone individual, but belongs to the entire nation,
encapsulating, defining and leading that nation’s very essence, for all
eternity”. It termed any rejection of that lofty responsibility as
“selfishness”.

Central Asia’s leaders have graciously taken on themselves the burden of
having streets, towns or universities named after them, the Association
pointed out, and allowing statues of themselves or their ancestors to
inspire their populations in visible locations. They have also acceded to
popular requests to have portraits of themselves in schools, offices and
other locations.

The Association does however credit the late Cuban leader with adhering to
at least one of the standards of traditional rulers. “Fidel Castro did not
absolve himself of the responsibility to ensure that his close relatives –
and his mistresses – also selflessly took on the burdens of senior
government positions.”

Sensational Statue Offer for 2016

26 Jan

Lord Venal’s email box is constantly deluged with spam messages, but after receiving this unsolicited advert he was curious to know if any reader has tried this company’s services. As his father passed away not long ago and he was seeking a suitable monument for his (sadly rather neglected) Rutland estate, this seemed a gift from above (well, at least from the British Virgin Islands). But you can never be too careful. All advice on their suitability gratefully received.

Never forget what your Dad looks like….

Ever embarrassed at forgetting what your Dad really looked like? Need a reminder for the grandchildren of what a great bloke your late lamented Dad was? Now we have the ideal solution for you, available at competitive rates to suit any ruler’s pocket:

http://www.statuesofmydad.com

Arrange for one of our representatives to make a sympathetic visit, where you can discuss how you would like your esteemed late lamented parent to be represented. We offer a range of sizes, materials and styles to suit all tastes, from highly tasteful to extravagantly tacky. Choose a matching plinth to complete the package.

Once you have made your selection, we present a video image of the model statue for approval. We then manufacture the artwork using our skilled craftsmen in our own workshops, before careful transportation and installation of the finished product.

…NEW THIS MONTH… Buy 3, get 1 free!

Testimonials:

“Despite their name this company actually did a very nice statue of my Mum” – Mr. Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan

“I’ve used this company more times than my staff care to remember – I can never have too many statues of my Dad. They are so uncannily alike, they’re spooky” – Mr. H. Aliyev, Azerbaijan

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“Hello Dad!” – Mr Aliyev kindly sent a picture from his family album of his visit to his favourite statue.

“The statues provided of our Eternal President were delivered on time and under budget” – Mr. Kim Jong-il, North Korea

“Well, we might just as well have gone back to the same company again” – Mr. Kim Jong-un, North Korea

Newly launched….

By popular request, we have now launched an additional line – please go to our new dedicated website for more details:

http://www.statuesofmygranddad.com

Solving your location problems also…

Having trouble finding locations for all these statues of your beloved relative? Running out of suitable locations in your own properties? Not a problem! Our sister company can help. They will find parks in any number of beautiful cities of the world who will fall over themselves to offer a place of honour specially for YOUR Dad.

http://www.parksformydadstatue.com

Our specialist consultant can run through the various packages available, ranging from a simple installation in a corner of an existing beautiful park, to the Golden Park Package. This premium package is not to be missed and includes:

– full renovation of a tired and run-down park into a beautiful shrine to your beloved relative

– bulldozing any unsightly nearby buildings which harm the aesthetic ambience

– renaming the entire new park in your ancestor’s honour

– a complete set of top-ranking political, artistic and religious leaders from the host city and nation to grace the opening ceremony

– recording of opening ceremony for prime television coverage on all local and international broadcast channels

– threatening and smearing any ungracious local who fails to see the benefits of honouring your ancestor in a beautiful, prime city location.

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’.

 

Kazakhstan: Not Like the Other “Stans”?

11 Feb

Following the worldwide media frenzy that resulted from President Nazarbayev’s impromptu remark about changing Kazakhstan’s name to Kazak Yeli/Qazaq Eli, kazaxia has decided to investigate claims that Kazakhstan is essentially different to the other “stans”  and should drop the “stan”  (Editor’s note: What’s wrong with Kazaxia as a new name for the country? ).

Just how different is Kazakhstan to its Central Asian neighbours? Let’s look at some key areas:

Politics – in the political sphere Kazakhstan shares some common ground with Uzbekistan in that it has only had one president since becoming independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. However, it is different to Turkmenistan, which is on its second incumbent, Tajikistan, which is also on number two and Kyrgyzstan, now on number four.

Leader popularity – there is a clear difference here as Kazakhstan is  only one of two “stans” where the president scored more than 95% of the popular vote in the last presidential election. President Nazarbayev was re-elected with a whopping 95.55% of the vote in 2011. Turkmenistan’s President Berdymukhamedov topped that with 97% in 2012 In contrast,  Uzbekistan’s President Karimov got 90.76% in 2007,,  Tajikistan’s President Rahmon received only 86.9% of the vote in 2013 and Kyrgyzstan’s President Atambayev trails in last place with a mere 63.2% in 2011.

Dealing with unsanctioned public protestkazaxia has spotted some differences in dealing with participants in unsanctioned public protests between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In the most recent cases, four bloggers have been arrested in Kazakhstan – at the time of writing three have been imprisoned, a fourth, Dina Baidildayeva, is on trial on February 12 and could face some time inside. So that makes 75%. In Uzbekistan eight protesters were arrested for holding an illegal rally outside the Ukranian embassy – three were given 15-day jail terms. So that makes 37.5%.

President Nazarbayev, speaking at a meeting with cultural figures, where he was asked about changing the country’s name, in Atyrau on February 6, cited  Mongolia (which, of course,  has no “stan” ) as an example of a country that “foreigners show interest” in. Mongolia is unusual in Central Asian countries in that is an island of freedom in a sea of not-free countries, according to this infographic from Freedom House. 

So, we can conclude that Kazakhstan sure is different form its neighbours, but whether matters will be helped by a name change is up for debate.