Sunday, March 29, 2015


In the west we know very little about Moslem Kazakhstan (Tony Blair could tell us a thing or two; he's earning a fortune doing PR work for them), and yet this is a country as large as the whole of western Europe, with every known geography and climate at some point, and extensive mineral resources that have barely been tapped yet.

Ethnically it includes Russians and Chechens as well as Koreans in significant numbers (why Koreans? the answer lies in Resolution No. 1428-326CC of the USSR Sovnarkom and VKP(b) Central Committee of August 21, 1937, which "legalised" the mass deportation of Koreans in the Soviet Union, migrants from the 1850s mostly, but now numbering around two hundred thousand, to unpopulated areas of the Kazakh region, offically because of hostilities between the USSR and Japan, to the latter of whom the Koreans were thought by the paranoid Stalin to hold loyalty) leaving only about a third of the population indigenous Kazakhs, and while the Chechens and Koreans seem happy enough, the post-Soviet Union Russians are not; they are required to speak the Kazakh language and even pass language-tests if they wish to work for government agencies.

The country exports oil, and provides three key oil pipelines, one that runs from Tengiz in the west to Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, the second from Baku through Tblisi to Ceyphan, and a third which takes oil to China. When Communism collapsed, those who managed state agencies simply took over their ownership in a private capacity (this is true across the entire Soviet bloc), thereby creating an aristocracy of oligarchs who used the wealth to establish power, and simultaneously keep the rest of the people very poor.

The former Communist Party is still in charge, and still runs the show in the same old way, though there are theoretical opposition parties and the media is entirely free to say nice things about the leadership without fear of censorship or retribution. The current debate in the press is about President Nazarbayev’s suggestion that Kazakhstan might change its name to Kazakh Eli; the current suffix is a Persian word meaning “country”; the latter a Kazakh word meaning the same, but the point is a further affirmation of Kazakh identity. Nazarbayev, incidentally, was also President in the Communist era, so the fact that Kazakhstan was the last Soviet satellite to become independent is not surprising. The President also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the military, and has the power to veto any legislation passed by Parliament – so a perfect replica of the system in the United States of America. The country was a major base for nuclear weapons under the Soviets, but returned all of them within four years of independence, had destroyed all related facilities by 2000, and is a world-leader in the campaign against nuclear weapons; yet one more reason why the Kremlin hates Kazakhstan so much (though, as the picture to the right suggests, there does seem to be an incongruity here: is this mosque actually constructed out of nuclear warheads?)

Marks For: Many

Marks Against: Fewer

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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The Argaman Press

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