Tag Archives: Almaty

Qazaqstan: The Cult Lives on!

1 Dec

1 December 2017

The cult of Nursultan Nazarbayev is alive and well in Qazaqstan as a main thoroughfare in Almaty is renamed after the septuagenarian leader in honour of his 26 years on the throne.

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One of the main shrines of the Nazarbayev cult in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Long rumoured to be the target of a name change, the decision to rename Almaty’s Furmanov Street as Nazarbayev Street was taken on 30 November, on the eve of the public holiday First President’s Day.

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President Nazarbayev gazes down on Nazarbayev Street, Almaty

It makes for a marvellous present to the people of the former capital and puts to rest rumours that the cult was beginning to lose momentum – it has been a few months since Astana airport was renamed Nursultan Nazarbayev International.

The capital, which may itself one day be renamed after the Leader of the Nation,  also has Nazarbayev University with many of the university’s students having attended the nationwide chain of Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools – how long before we see Nazarbayev kindergartens, dating agencies, wedding palaces and fertility clinics, kazaxia wonders!

 

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.

Free Skating in Almaty, Rok

18 Nov

OK, so we take it all back – there is some good value to be had In Kazakhstan after all. Halyk Arena opened its doors this week, offering free ice skating to Almatinians until the end of the year.

Back in 2011 this very blog berated Kazakhstan for being a rip-off, but now we’ve been forced to reassess that opinion as free skating arrives in its commercial capital, Almaty.

Skating fans should head for the 3,000 capacity Halyk Arena, one of the main venues for next January’s Winter Student Games, or Universiade (The Olympics for university students) in Almaty, to take advantage of a freebie spin on the ice.

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Sunkar, the games’ mascot, gets ready to take to the ice at the Halyk Arena 

 

The newly-built facility was launched this week and is Kazakhstan’s first sports facility to have struck a naming rights deal. The nation’s biggest bank, Halyk Bank, has paid an undisclosed fee for the right to have its name attached to the stadium for three years.

One of the aims of holding the games is to promote winter sports among the population, so it was good to see loads of kids joining Sunkar, the mascot of the Almaty games, on the ice at the arena opened its doors earlier this week.

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Sunkar and his young friends on the ice

The free skating offer is on Friday evenings (20.00-22.00), and all day on Saturday and Sunday and runs until 31 December. Skates can be hired, for a fee, at the rink.

The Universiade starts on 28 January and runs until 8 February. Halyk Arena will host the Men’s Ice Hockey tournament.

Kazakhstan Society up in Arms over Holding Handsgate

4 May

kazaxia has been granted permission to reprint the following article from upstart news agency Appropriated Press.

Almaty (Appropriated Press) – Rights organizations and LGBT activists have condemned a case that opened in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital Almaty against several local websites that republished a photograph which opponents claim violates “moral values” by displaying “nontraditional sexual relations, which are unacceptable to society”.

The image – widely shared on social media – shows two elderly men holding hands, while onlookers smile. Although both men are dressed in formal suits and are apparently in some kind of palace, it does not appear to be a wedding ceremony.

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The controversial image (taken from http://news.am/eng/news/322083.html)

The case is being heard in the same Almaty court as a notorious case in October 2014, when an advertising agency was fined for a poster showing the poet Alexander Pushkin and composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly enjoying a passionate kiss.

Kazakhstan retains conservative social values and a controversial law that would have banned “gay propaganda” was halted by the Constitutional Council in May 2015 only after it had passed through both chambers of the rubber-stamp parliament.

However, those shown on the image of the elderly men holding hands are unlikely to face prosecution any time soon. One has been identified as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey. When Appropriated Press sought comment from a Turkish diplomat in the capital Astana, the response took the form of expletives and threats to take the news agency to court.

The other individual turns out to be Kazakhstan’s own president Nursultan Nazarbayev. His position affords him immunity from prosecution.

But some LGBT activists are underwhelmed by the photo. “As an expression of the two men’s mutual affection, it’s pretty lukewarm,” one commented to Appropriated Press. “It’s nothing like the famous 1979 kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker. That was a real step forward for LGBT recognition in the then Soviet Union.”

 

Kazakhstan: Tractor Spat Splits Commies

18 Mar

Kazakhstan’s communists have been rocked by a tractor controversy ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election.

When the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan kicked off the election season with an anti-Western stunt little did they expect that it would cause a deep rift in the ranks of the cadres.

An election-themed hoarding in downtown Almaty

An election-themed hoarding in downtown Almaty

Mels Melsovich Melsov, a communist from a long line of communists, was appalled when his comrades used a tractor to crush some old vhs tapes.

“Why should we stoop to using this Western agricultural import – are our hoes and feet not good enough to smash this menace?” Melsov fumed to kazaxia.

Melsov was so incensed that he decided to form his own breakaway party ahead of the election on 20 March.

“My party, the People’s Communist Party of Kazakhstan, represents the true path for the people of our beloved country, not these Western-leaning upstart counter-revolutionaries,” he added, beginning to foam at the mouth.

The stunt was supposed to represent the rejection of decadent western culture and its pernicious influence on people’s minds. Melsov donated a vhs tape from his private collection from the mid-90s – ‘Roxette – Live in Tirana’.

Almaty Wheels out Big Guns for Winter Olympics Bid

29 Jul

In the final push for the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, Almaty has unveiled its secret weapons to wow the International Olympic Committee – figure skater Denis Ten and …. volleyball player Sabina Altynbekova.

As the delegates gather in Kuala Lumpur ahead of the vote on 31 July, Almaty is pulling out all the stops in its fight to the death with Beijing to host the games. Denis Ten won bronze at Sochi in 2014 in the figure skating and has been a fixture of the city’s bid.

Volleyball starlet Sabina Altynbekova.is not such an obvious choice to promote the bid to host the world’s premier winter sports spectacle. However, she is famous in Kazakhstan and beyond for her looks as well as her abilities on the volleyball court.

She rose to prominence last year at the Asian Under-19 Championships in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. Her looks prompted hysteria with a Taiwan newspaper giving over 10 pages to photos of the 18-year-old and depictions of her as an anime character.

Some observers have suggested that a new event –  ice volley – could be included on the list if Almaty’s bid is successful. Apparently,this ancient sport can be traced back to the times when the Scythians roamed the Eurasian steppe.

 

Kazakhstan: Almaty Sundowner Hotspots

26 Jun

Lord Venal has finally come round from the deep slumber he fell into after observing the elections in Kalachi, Kazakhstan. He was extremely thirsty when he awoke and immediately found some great new bars in Almaty for a sundowner or two that he wants to share with kazaxia’s readers.

Negroni bar Almaty

After my long slumber following my visit to monitor voting in Kalachi on April 26, caused by the soporiphic nature of the poll, I was overcome with an incredible thirst. I awoke in Almaty and headed out in search of refreshment.

My travels took me first to Negroni Bar on Kurmangazy, just down from Cafeteria. This new bar has hit on a novel idea for Almaty –  you design your own cocktail. From a list one can choose the cocktail base, strength, and taste with options such as bitter, sour, sweet and spicy. Additional ingredients to add flavour to your tipple include apple, strawberry, celery, cucumber and basil.

After a couple of glasses I headed down Abai Street where I chanced upon Cafe Nedelka, which serves refreshing jugs of sangria, a light pick-me-up on a summer’s eve. The terrace is set back from the traffic-choked main thoroughfare and is a pleasant spot to while away a few hours.

Now feeling peckish, I took a taxi down Dostyk and found myself in Vino da Puri, a new venture from the Dedas Puri crew. Serving the same classy Georgian fare as in Dedas, this place is an oenophile’s delight with hundreds of bottles of wine to choose from. It also has a great terrace to make the most of the long summer evenings.

 

 

 

Kazakhstan: On Your Bike

14 Nov

Almaty’s first bike share scheme has just got off the ground, but with winter just around the corner will Almaty’s answer to London’s Boris Bikes be a hit with commuters?

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Almaty’s answer to London’s Boris Bikes – Akhmetzhan Bikes – by the city’s only cycle path

Almaty’s mayor, Akhmetzhan Yesimov, is keen to get his fellow citizens onto two wheels. The latest move in the uphill struggle to break the dependence on the jeep sees two bike stations opening in Almaty where bikes can be rented for short trips across town.

At the moment there are 30 bikes available under the scheme but the city mayor’s office hopes to eventually open up to 200 bike stations across the city. Rentals are 150 tenge ($0.85) a day (for trips up to 30 minutes at a time) or 600 tenge ($3.35) for the week.

A cycle lane opened in the city in 2010, but since then little has been done to make cycling more attractive to the masses. Almaty’s traffic-clogged streets see few cyclists braving the perilous conditions.

With fuel shortages gripping the country this year, bikes could be a way to ease the pressure on oil-rich Kazakhstan’s scarce petrol resources.

With more junk food set to arrive in the guise of McDonalds, set to open in Kazakhstan in 2015, a more determined push on getting people onto bikes may be needed to combat the looming obesity crisis when the burger joint opens its doors.

 

 

Kazakhstan: Boozing Pigs Cause a Stir in Almaty

14 Nov

In a new bid to combat rampant alcoholism in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, the authorities have caused pig breeders and medical professionals to react angrily after billboards appeared likening alcohol-imbibers to pigs.

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Almaty authorities launched a public awareness campaign that sees an upright citizen metamorphose into a pig after hitting the bottle. The descent follows four stages with the final stage showing a pig lounging on an empty bottle of strong liquor.

A spokesperson for the Pavlodar International Gourmet Zavod (PIGZ), which was recently set-up to step into the breach left by Russia’s food sanctions on the EU junta, told kazaxia that it was wrong to compare pigs with alcoholism.

“Pigs are very intelligent – unlike humans they do not seek solace at the bottom of a bottle. It is wrong to slur our porcine friends with the curse of dipsomania,” commented the spokesperson.

Kazaxia’s resident medical expert, Dr Gött, also slammed the move to equate pigs and boozing.

There is a good reason why many people choose to not eat pork – pigs are very clever. We don’t eat dolphins, do we? There is no way a pig would turn to the bottle.”

Dr Gött called for the posters to depict a different animal.

I personally think that dogs are a better analogy for what happens to people who drink too much. People who drink too much get over-excited and aggressive and start shouting irrationally; behaviour patterns that are more like dogs than pigs.”

Kazakhstan: Village People Target Marriage

21 May

On a rising tide of intolerance in Kazakhstan, an anti-gay splinter group calling itself Aulbaylar (Village People), representing traditional Kazakhstani rural values, has threatened to target marriage.

“The vast majority of gays and lesbians were brought up in the traditional nuclear family environment so we plan to build walls around zags [registry office] buildings and put a stop to this pernicious institution of marriage,” a spokesperson for Aulbaylar told kazxaia.

The spokesperson pointed out that conventional marriages are by far the main contributor to rising numbers of gay and lesbian people on planet earth.

This latest threatened wall-erection comes a week after a group built a wall in front of a gay club in the commercial capital to protest same-sex marriage – a strange thing to do as same-sex weddings do not exist in Kazakhstan.

Kazaxia asked Doctor Gött of The Gött Institute of Sexology to verify these claims about the link between homosexuality and marriage.

Statistics prove that you are far more likely to be gay or lesbian if brought up by a heterosexual married couple rather than a same-sex one. The arguments about gay adoption and same-sex marriage simply don’t wash,” Gött told kazaxia by email.