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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.

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


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


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


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


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)


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)



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:


Kazakhstan: Charity Appeal: Help Mukhtar

16 Dec

As Kazakhstan celebrates its 25th anniversary of escaping from under the Soviet yoke, spare a thought for a Kazakh who is on his uppers in France.


A worthy plea to help a poor man in need

At risk of trying the goodwill of readers – even at this festive season – Lord Venal brings before you a desperate appeal for another of Kazakhstan’s finest men who has fallen on hard times:

Sad news has just reached me from Paris of the tragic plight of someone I was close to many years ago. His name is Mukhtar, and we would enjoy a quiet glass or two (occasionally a few more) in some of Almaty’s finest nightclubs, accompanied by invariably charming young women. Mukhtar even put a small investment into one of the first funds I established in an attempt to boost the economy of the British Virgin Islands, to which I have always felt an obligation.

Alas, those halcyon days are far off, and the news from Paris that Mukhtar has not a penny to rub together after release from jail brought a tear or two to my eye. A modest man, he is not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve. He did not complain when imprisoned solely through a misunderstanding back in 2013. Nor has he charged Kazakhstan for looking after money from BTA bank for all these years.

Indeed, Mukhtar’s modesty is legendary: when leaving London in February 2012 he forsook the luxury of a private jet, choosing instead to travel as a simple man, anonymously, on a regular coach from London’s Victoria Coach Station. No one would have cast a second glance at him as he travelled. An example to us all.

Mukhtar is intelligent, witty and – apart from a misguided wish to remove from office Kazakhstan’s Great Helmsmen – a model of selfless service to his country. Do dig deep for a man brought up in poverty who once touched riches but is now once again cast into poverty.

Yacht appeal update: Lord Venal would like to thank ever so generous readers who contributed towards a fund to buy a replacement yacht for another promising young man fallen on hard times. Sadly the funds were insufficient for a new yacht, but they were enough to buy him an Uz-Daewoo Tico. Nurali Aliyev told Lord Venal joyfully that if he falls on hard times again, he can always turn his new vehicle into a tuk-tuk to earn a few pennies to keep body and soul together.