You’re Welcome to the New Qazaqstan!

22 Mar

It’s been three days since Qasym-Jomart Toqayev took over as president in Qazaqstan. Astana may have had its name changed to Nur-Sultan, meanwhile not much else has changed in the country…

Here are some images from the Nauryz (spring equinox) celebrations in Almaty:

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Qazaqstan: Adios, Astana!

21 Mar

Well, well, well, it’s been quite the week of changes in our Qazaqstan. On Tuesday, 19 March, long time president Nursultan Nazarbayev dropped his resignation bombshell and on the next day, following his inauguration as Qazaqstan’s second-ever president, Qassym-Jomart Tokayev announced that Astana, which means ‘capital’ in Qazaq, would henceforth be known as Nur-Sultan!

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Just another gloomy day in Nur-Sultan

With this bold move, Qazaqstan became the second country in the world to name its capital after its first president, with the USA’s Washington being the other. It’s interesting that the first name rather than the surname was chosen here. Trying to come up with some other examples of this, We could only think of Gary, Indiana, Mary, Turkmenistan and Sydney, Australia where a first name has been chosen.

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The First President enjoying some well-earned rest

As Leader of the Nation, Nazarbayev still has a tight grip on the reins of power in Qazaqstan, leaving Tokayev as the Leader of Sorts. Perhaps the choice of Nur-Sultan for the capital’s new moniker was  a warning shot from President Tokayev – surely the plan was for Nazarbayev, or at a pinch, Nur-Astana as the new name for the capital.

Could we be about to see challenges to the Leader of the Nation’s rule for the first time in a generation (or two)? According to Lord Venal, probably not: “When you consider that President Tokayev is a regime insider and a savvy diplomat, than he probably just got confused in all the excitement of being anointed president,” Lord Venal told kazaxia.

 

 

 

 

Qazaqstan: Au Revoir Nureke!

19 Mar

It’s the end of an era as Qazaqstan’s long-ruling leader Nursultan Nazarbayev finally relinquishes the reins of power.

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The end of an era – Nazarbayev resigns, Niyazov and Karimov dead…

After nearly 30 years of President Nazarbayev at the helm, Lord Venal is said to be excited by the prospect of observing a presidential election without the presence of the soon to be ex-president.

“It won’t be the same without Nureke,” Venal told kazaxia, with a tear in his eye. “I sort of remember 2005, oh what a party that was,” he added wistfully.

kazaxia’s political guru, Gerry Kefali, had this to say: “Nazarbayev, who  remains the Leader of the Nation, is likely to continue to pull the strings in Qazaqstan for some time to come yet. While he may step aside from the top job, the system he has constructed will trundle on, it just remains to be seen who the new figurehead will be.”

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We direct you to Joanna Lillis’s excellent book Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan to get the lowdown on how that system was created.

 

 

Top o’ the Morning to Ya, Ashgabat!

14 Mar

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             Shamrock in Ashgabat: President’s new Irish pub to open on St Patrick’s Day!

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Ashgabat’s Irish community are excited over the imminent opening of the city’s Irish pub, due on 17 March – St Patrick’s day. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is showing a personal interest, visiting the future venue to give the staff the benefit of his experience in styling party venues for the masses.

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The venue admittedly looks rather bare at present, especially the area projected for the beer garden. But President Berdymukhammedov’s inspiration, combined with detailed instructions to the workers, will ensure the complete fitting out of the exciting new venue by the celebrated date.

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“This will be right up there in Ashgabat’s social calendar,” Lord Venal, our regular friend barside, enthuses. “My charming young assistant has already put it in my diary.” He is intending to fly in for the event and expects, as is customary on his visits, to also be received at the presidential palace.

GooGoosha Lives!

6 Mar

6 March 2019

Sensational reports have reached kazaxia’s ears claiming that Gulnara Karimova, the errant first daughter of late Uzbek president Islam ‘Butch’ Karimov, is alive and, hmm, probably not so much well, and still in Uzbekistan.

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GooGoosha in happier times with her mate Gerard 

Karimova, known to her legion of fans by her stage name GooGoosha, disappeared form public view in 2014 and was long rumoured to be under house arrest in Tashkent. Now Uzbekistan’s General Prosecutors Office has confirmed that she was indeed being held in her apartment in Tashkent, accompanied by her daughter Iman.

While she may have been expecting to celebrate 8 March, International Women’s Day, with what remains of her family at home with some flowers, chocolates and a new iron, those plans have now been scuppered – the former pop diva and leading fashionista has been sent back to prison to complete her five-year term for ‘violating’ the terms of her domestic detention.

It seems she just couldn’t resist getting back on social media….

Lord Venal’s Stocking Fillers

21 Dec

As the end of another year approaches, Lord Venal is back with some great gift ideas for Christmas, New Year or whatever tickles your fancy.

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Rose-tinted Specs

Whilst in the attic of Venal Hall looking for the tree decorations, the good lord came across a box of rose-tinted spectacles from an election observation trip to Kazakhstan some years ago.
With reform fatigue beginning to affect seasoned Uzbekistan watchers, these glasses are the ideal medium to regain your enthusiasm for the ‘unprecedented’ changes taking place in Tashkent and beyond.
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Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan

Top of the Lord’s books of the year, this masterful tome by journalist Joanna Lillis, who takes a look at Kazakhstan in a wide-ranging trip across this fascinating country.
Some of Lord Venal’s old cronies are featured in the book, although he was reported to be a bit upset that his own sterling election observing in Kazakhstan over the years did not feature.
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Black Sea

Food book of the year goes to Caroline Eden’s blend of travelog and recipes from around the Black Sea. This book solved many of Lord Venal’s gift dilemmas this festive season. It’s a great companion to 2016’s Samarkand.
Lord Venal wishes you happy holidays, wherever you are!

Kazakhstan: Yellow Vests – Nothing to Fear

18 Dec

Kazakhstan has poured scorn on the Egyptian model of banning the sale of yellow hi-vis vests for fear of the people. In a characteristic twist, Kazakhstan’s political leadership – far from quaking in their boots at the sight of people on the streets sporting the hi-vis jackets – insists that they are a symbol of the population’s helpfulness.

“The Leader of the Nation never go out without his hi-vis vest, he’s always on the look-out for someone in need,” an Akorda spokesperson told a French journalist recently (albeit in the warmth of the Akorda royal palace). “When you see Emmanuel, tell him how different Kazakhs are, out on the street ever ready to help someone in need.”

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Topping everyone’s list of helpful people in hi-vis vests are the sturdy members of the police force. In all weathers they are out and about, always ready to lend anyone in need a helping hand.

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“I have often been helped on my way home by a smiling copper or two,” Lord Venal – long familiar with the streets of Kazakhstan’s cities – told Kazaxia. “Sometimes as dawn is breaking after one or two cocktails in a charming nightclub, I have become separated from my young companion and struggle to find my way home. But the charming young coppers never fail to step forward.”

Some Kazakhs point out the rare exception to this rule. “A few young folk like to walk around the streets with hi-vis jackets with the word ‘PRESS’ plastered on the back,” Masimov Karimov told Kazaxia. “That’s not really a very good idea.”