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Central Asian Leader Gardening Craze Goes Viral

6 Jul

Inspired by yesterday’s gardening blog from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan’s spritely leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who turns 77 today, has also channelled  his inner gardener. 

Gurbanguli’s Top Gardening Tips

5 Jul

Amid the heat of summer, Lord Venal enjoys nothing more than a cocktail in a shady garden on a cool evening before heading out for a nightclub. He admires those who toil away thanklessly to create a beautiful garden paradise. He was, therefore, inspired by the latest, lavishly-illustrated volume from his good friend Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov.

Turkmenistan’s inspirational president is known not just for his wise governance and literary and musical endeavours, but for his skills outdoors, including sporting prowess (notably horse riding) and gardening.

Here are his top tips from his latest book, Golden Fingers for a Golden Age, together with some of the charming illustrations:

Tip No. 1: Make sure you are appropriately dressed


When digging the land and planting a tree, it is important to ensure you and any friends are wearing suitable clothing. You cannot go wrong with a dark lounge suit, appropriate for all weathers, though sometimes a white shirt and natty tie will suffice.

Tip No. 2: Decorate your gardening spot to make a pleasant setting


Gardening has to be an all-encompassing experience, so laying down a carpet or two surrounding the plot you are to dig always brings a little elegance.

Tip No. 3: Make sure the ground is well prepared


Nothing speeds a spot of gardening more than having a team of people working ahead of time, so that planting a tree, for example, takes almost no time at all.

Tip No. 4: Always ensure you have a good team of admirers and photographers


Nothing helps create a pleasant atmosphere for a spot of gardening than bringing along a posse of cheerful admirers, complete with TV and still cameras. Some of the best shots can form the basis of a home movie or a souvenir album to remind you of the relaxing moments in the fresh air.

Tip No. 5: Don’t forget to water your plants


Before you leave, finish off the fun by watering your plants well. Especially when it is raining.


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



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.



Kazakhstan’s Recycled Art

17 Mar

Kazakh artist, Saule Suleimenova, has found a novel way of dealing with some of the masses of plastic bags that litter Kazakhstan – by recycling them into artworks.


Saule Suleimenova’s ‘Civil Registration Office’ – note the shadowy police figures lurking in the background

Saule Suleimenova’s latest exhibition – called “… Somewhere in the Great Steppe”- features a series of paintings made entirely from discarded plastic items such as carrier bags and tablecloths – the style is known as cellophane painting. To see  how the bags are recycled into paintings, check out this video.


The exhibition opens with images from the steppe across the four seasons and then travels into the city, taking in village life along the way. The collection is part of her ongoing projects I’m Kazakh and Aruakhs (Spirits of Ancestors), which combines  archive images of Kazakhs against a backdrop of present-day scenes.

The themes in this exhibition are bang up to date with a triptych called ‘Civil Registration Office’ which depicts the chaos in registration centres at the start of this year when Kazakhstan introduced new laws to track the movements of its populace and assert its control over this formerly nomadic people.

The exhibition is open daily from 10.00-19.00 in Almaty’s Aurora Space, which is located by the Abay Opera and Ballet Theatre,  on the corner of Baiseitov and Zhambyl Street, but you’ll have to hurry if you want to catch it as it closes on 23 March.


Lord Venal’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” Tour

15 Mar

Kazakhstan’s flag carrier appears to be in the initial stages of a new tour for the ambitious international tourist, scheduled to debut in 2018: The 10 Great Capitals of Great Men tour. The plans were found in a clutch of papers Lord Venal inexplicably found in his briefcase after a rather jolly evening in an Astana nightclub where – as well as some rather charming ladies – a party for senior airline staff was underway.

The proposed tour would start with a champagne and mare’s milk breakfast in the Kazakh capital Nazarbayev before boarding for the Azerbaijani capital Aliyev. (One document said the first stop could be either the Uzbek capital Mirziyoyev or the Tajik capital Rahmon, but both were scratched out on the copy Lord Venal found.) After visits to the Heydar Aliyev Centre, a tour of the nightclubs and overnight in the Presidential Hotel, it’s on to the Russian capital Putin. After an exclusive visit to the president’s country villa at Novo-Ogaryovo and a tour of the Kremlin, the luxury flight then whisks you to Erdogan, the Turkish capital. After a fruitjuice reception at the new hilltop presidential complex, tourists will lay a wreath at the Ataturk memorial before sightseeing.

The documents found by Lord Venal reveal planning has not yet been completed for the next leg of the worldwide tour. Assad, the Syrian capital, has been resolutely crossed out, while possible stops in the Jordanian capital Abdullah and the Egyptian capital El-Sisi have questions marks by them. Several possible African capitals similarly have question marks by them (two in the cases of Obiang in Equatorial Guinea and Mugabe in Zimbabwe).

The final destination though has already been fixed: the US capital Trump. A visit to the White House is already in the programme, with guests staying in the nearby Trump International Hotel. The trip of a lifetime climaxes with a reception in Trump Tower in New York. [Editor’s note: While we’re in the USA, wasn’t it George Washington that kicked off all this capital-naming frenzy?]

Lord Venal has already volunteered for the first such trip, offering to live Tweet the unforgettable journey to his many fans around the world, and giving the trip the cachet it will need to attract the highest calibre of participants. The airline already appears to have lined up an array of guest speakers for each capital to provide a unique insight into how the personalities of the great leaders have shaped the physical, social and intellectual environment of these key world capitals. Renowned British statesman Jonathan Aitken has apparently signed up to present the genius of Kazakhstan’s great leader. Retired US statesman Michael Flynn is under consideration for the Russian part of the tour. Other names seem yet to be determined.

The airline is to be congratulated on this innovative new plan. Lord Venal cannot wait for the initial tour and will, over the coming months, be actively seeking potential tourists for this life-changing experience on every visit he makes to any nightclub anywhere in the world.

Kazakhstan’s Newest Brown-Noser

8 Mar

To mark International Women’s Day, Kazakhstan Majlis member Baktygul Khamenova has been inducted into the Loyal and Ancient Order of the Brown Nose for once again raising the topic that refuses to die – the renaming of Kazakhstan’s capital.

Khamenova took the renaming frenzy up to another level on 3 March when she proposed renaming Astana airport to Nazarbayev, after Kazakhstan’s first president.

The board of the Loyal and Ancient Order of the Brown Nose declared Khamenova the first female inductee from Kazakhstan on 8 March. There already many male toadies from Kazakhstan who are members of the Order.

Back in November 2016, the Nur Otan MP suggested that Kazakhstan’s capital take the name Yelbasi, Leader of the Nation, in recognition of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s long service to the state – he has been the country’s only leader since it gained independence from the Soviet yoke in 1991.

For her persistence in keeping this issue on the agenda, in this time of economic concern and dire financial crisis, Ms Khamenova is to be commended. We can think of no-one more suitable to be elevated to the honourable Order of the Brown Nose.

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.


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.