Tag Archives: Mongolia

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.

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Save Our Saigas!

11 May

The world’s saiga population has taken a hit in recent years with numbers declining drastically due to poaching but now a new eco-tour to Russia’s southern steppe aims to reverse the trend by bringing people to the region and provide much needed funds to support saiga conservation projects.

                                                       A close-up of a saiga’s snout                                                                                                                (taken from Wikipedia)

The saiga is one of the original steppe-dwellers. This strange-looking antelope with its long, flat snout has been around since wooly mammoths and saber toothed tigers roamed the earth.

Today there are still saiga populations roaming the plains in Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia. However, their numbers have fallen by around 95% since the early 1990s to below 50,000, leaving the species critically endangered.

Poaching, with saigas targeted for their amber horns, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, has  led to this huge fall in their numbers. Matters were made worse in 2010 as a mysterious virus wiped out some 12,000 saigas in Kazakhstan.

Now the Saiga Conservation Alliance, UK-based charity which runs  saiga conservation projects in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, has teamed up with Saga Voyages in Russia to run a 10-day tour starting in late August to see saigas close up in their natural habitat.

Proceeds from the tour will help support the SCA ‘s projects in the region and bring income to rural families.  The cost of the tour – which ranges from $1,275 – $1,600 depending on group size – may be too much for many, but you can still support the work of the SCA by making a donation here.