Kazakhstan is welcoming the New Year with some new music. The old Soviet-era national anthem is being scrapped for “My Kazakhstan,” a classic from 1956 updated by Nazarbayev himself with new lyrics.
There was some controversy over the nature of the previous versions of “My Kazakhstan” posted here. This one is the actual new version.
Apparently the song I linked to earlier was a “My Kazakhstan” but not the “My Kazakhstan.” Click here to listen to the old version of “My Kazakhstan,” which is the correct melody, but does not contain the new lyrics.
Apologies, and thanks to Disha and Dr. Linden for pointing me to the correct version of “My Kazakhstan.”
Quickly after the Central Asian States gained independence in the beginning of the 1990s, they started to shape their identities as nation states.
Kazakhstan was not an exception to this and the desire to revive the religious traditions of the past appeared to be obvious.
According to the estimates of Nationmaster stats, 47 percent of all Kazakhstanis are Muslims, while Russian Orthodox count for 44 percent, and 2 percent are protestants and 7 percent are believers of other faiths or non-believers. It is clear that Muslims over here in Kazakhstan don’t outnumber Christians too substantially.
The coutry itself claims to be a secular one and does not like theidea of Islamic revival due to the fear of religious extremism.
What in reality the country was left with after the fall of Soviet Union is the overwhelming and largely atheist working class layer, which can be found in any former country of the Soviet Union.
As a result, since independence Central Asians associate Islamic religion with traditional ties and statehood.
It seems like Central Asian Soviet Muslims have been shaped as a second layer between two worlds that is East and West. These Muslims interestingly comprise the characteristics of shamanism that forms part of the Mongolian historical experience.
It is known that the country leaders of Central Asia tend to refer their ties to Ganghis Khan claiming that the nomads once upon a time served the great Mongol emperor, who was not a follower of Islam.
As for being Muslims, Kazakhstani and other Central Asians are predominantly Sunnis, but I’m sure the majority of population doesn’t have an idea about what the difference between Sunnis an Shi’is actually is.
One more significant issue is that Central Asian people recognize their Turkic origin (also in a religious sense) but exhibit little knowledge on ancient Turks.
So, it seems that the revival of Islam in Kazakhstan and in Central Asia is limited to cultural development. However, as seen in Uzbekistan, religion can be a very important valve through which discontent can be voiced. If repression continues, Islam will surely gain weight and significance.
You’ve got to hand it to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the “democratically” elected president of Kazakhstan. The revolution he feared would come to his country, as in so many other former Soviet republics recently, has come and gone. Nazarbayev didn’t need guns for the battle. He won it by letting a Gucci clothing store open in what was once the land of Genghis Khan.
Read the rest of this very good IHT editorial here.
Continuing to think about the real situation on what are the chances for better development in Kyrgyzstan one wants t bring about the numbers proving on where we are. Kyrgyzstan is known as agricultural economy where the mountains occupy 95 percent and only 7 has arable land and 44 percent of land is estimated as permanent to use for pastures. So, as one can imagine the huge amount of agricultural product for export is not managable to implement.
According to the sources, more than 90 percent of crops are yield from the irrigated land and the shortage of water at the time of irrigation together with the ineffectiveness of water distribution are the main problem faced by the croppers. The records say that 75 pecent of water flow goes outside of the country andonly 25 percent of water flow is used by the country.
As for the natural resources CIA World Factbook reminds abundance of gold and rare earth metals, which together with hydropower, gas and oil do not indicate big amount of production. While it is worth to mention that production of natural gas by the country is estimated with 16 million cubic feet whereas the consumtion of it by country’s population goes to 2 billion cubic feet.
Oil production, according to CIA Worldfactbook, makes up to 2 thousand barrels a day, while the consumption of it is 20 thousand barrels a day.
Then think about the demographics, where 40 percent of 5 million is inder poverty line, which is uncapable to move anyware.
The kyrgyz ethnicity is recognized by it’s ancesters to be nomads that migrated the huge territory of Central Asia up to late 19th century. Then what modern Kyrgyz people have to get migrated to look for job.
Having 33 urban population, where best Kyryz people can go to find a job. For sure in former soviet republics, where they can easily communicate in Russian. But look at the Russia’s migration policy that restricts the migrants with severe registration policy. And most of the Central Asin job seekers are illigal workers.I is estimated about 4 million illigal migrants in Russia.
So, that means if you don’t whan to behave illigally than you have an opportunity to stay in one place and decay.
The Christian Science Monitor published an editorial today, and based on its content, was almost certainly written by the same Francine Kiefer who asked about a new cold war brewing in the region at yesterday’s Heritage seminar.
Kiefer addresses the leniency with which the United States has met Kazakhstan’s flawed election, and essentially applauds that approach.
US diplomats acknowledge the vote’s shortcomings, but point to this multiethnic giant bordering Russia and China as a democratic work in progress. That long-view emphasis is a wise one. Sixteen years ago, when Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev inherited a dirt-poor dumping ground for Soviet populations, gulag camps, and harmful nuclear tests. Now, it’s producing 1.3 million barrels of oil a day (the Kashagan field is bigger than Alaska’s North Slope), and is expected to become a top-10 oil exporter within a decade. It’s reduced its poverty rate to 12 percent (the regional rate is 44 percent). By sending young people to study in the West, Russia, and China, it’s cultivated a talented civil service. And it’s one of the best performers in nuclear nonproliferation.
The BBC also has an editorial more generally on Kazakhstan, and notes that the local media entirely failed to note the OSCE’s findings.
The OSCE monitors judged the election a failure by democratic standards. Kazakh television did not report that fact. Instead Kazakh viewers were told the election had been praised as an unprecedented success. Kazakh television even replayed one of my own reports aired by the BBC. Their commentary said the BBC had marvelled at the pace at which Kazakhstan is developing. It did not include the bit where I had pointed to the parliament building and said there was not a single opposition MP there.
At yesterday’s Heritage lecture, a Kazakh diplomat addressed this issue, saying that while the Kazakh press is biased heavily in favor of the president, most of the press is free, so this bias reflects the opinions of the populace at large. Then he proceeded to note shortcomings and biases of the press in the United States.
The editorial also draws attention to the fact that Nazarbayev does have a mild cult of personality being build around him, albeit not to the extent of certain other whack-jobs in the region.
President Nazarbayev’s new palace is like a giant version of the White House with the dome of St Peter’s painted blue and stuck on top. From his palace window he can survey the progress of his most audacious commission, a giant pyramid, like those of ancient Egypt. In a few months it will soar higher than London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. Designed by British architect Lord Foster, it will contain an opera theatre, museum, library, university, and be topped with hanging gardens like ancient Babylon.
On Wednesday the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington, DC, think tank, a panel discussion was held on the recent elections in Kazakhstan titled “After the Kazakhstan Elections: U.S. Policy in the Caspian and Central Asia.” The panel consisted of Heritage scholar Dr. Ariel Coen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza, National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia Angela Stent, and Brookings scholar Dr. Fiona Hill.
Read the full story »
These last couple days have been very important for Kazakhstan as well as the region as a whole. Obviously there is a huge amount of information about the election already. Here are links, summaries, and excerpts to some of what’s out there:
- The answer to the big question (was it fair?) has been mixed. As Ben posts, the Caspian Information Centre’s team of British parliamentarians has judged the elections to be, “the freest, fairest and certainly the most transparent election to have occurred in Kazakhstan’s brief history as an independent state.”
- No sooner had the Centre’s team announced their verdict than they were attacked for “whitewashing a rigged election” because of petroleum interests in the region (and implicitly because of alleged oil-money flowing into the organization).
- CIS observers concurred with the Caspian Information Centre, declaring that the elections were held without serious violations.
- The OSCE took a dimmer view of the affair, and declared it flawed, calling on Kazakhstan to “make further steps towards developing open, democratic political structures in Kazakhstan, which could become a beacon for democracy in the region.”
- Russia certainly sees no problem with the election. The OSCE immediately took criticism from Moscow, and President Putin wasted no time in calling Nazarbayev to personally congratulate him.
- While there is great controversy over how flawed the election was, all seem to agree that it is better than anything Kazakhstan has seen in the past. One editorial argues that Kazakhstan “is now the one bright shining example of free market economics in Central Asia and offers the only real prospect in the region form gradual but real democratic development as well.”
- Immediately following the election, Nazarbayev pledged to pursue broad political and economic reforms, perhaps in an attempt to fend off the mostly negative press.
- Finally, there have been no reports of demonstrations or people taking to the streets as the authorities had feared.
The Caspian Information Center has sent out their take on the elections. As I couldn’t find it on their website yet, I enlose it in the extended entry.
It is aleady over 15 years since Soviet Union started to disintegrate, leaving behind eight new independent states in Central Asia and in the Caucasus.
The republics gaining independence in 1991 believed they got it for real. But the reality shows that no country can live on its own, there is always the need for some integration with other countries and most choose to be an ally with someone anyway.
The ties of the Central Asian countries to Russia are obvious. Not only did the Russian culture leave a deep mark on all Central Asian societies due to centuries of a ‘mutual’ history, the migration flow back and forth is also a reminder that there is still a lot of interaction between the two entities.
In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan you wouldn’t get lost if you spoke only Russian and the schools on every level function mostly in Russian. However, there is usually some alternative to study the subjects in our native languages.
But the question is: How much is it worth to study in our language in order to become a good specialist in one profession. What kind of schools are there for the citizens of the region?
There are of course private schools that may offer a varied number of subjects, but I really wonder what kind of problems are solved by the ministries of education in the countries of Central Asia, when it is quite unclear what kind of educational system the countries follow. So, what is it with the Russian influence?
In public we still speak Russian. English is not available for the majority of the population since it needs, besides a strong commitment, money to learn it.
So, is going to Russia for education the way forward for citizens of Central Asia in order to catch up with advanced subjects. Can they become best specialized in the field like that?
What can the Russian educational system offer to Central Asian citizens studying in Russia?
I believe they still offer the Soviet way of passing the exams, putting grades on “zachotka,” and learning most of the assignments by heart. Is this a really effective way of accumulating knowledge? This what we had at schools in the Soviet Union and for most still have at higher education institutions.
For sure, it is quite costly to study in an English-speaking institution, most of which are obviously abroad.
Could Central Asian citizens face an alternative to that in the East, in rapidly developing China? I believe it is not available over there since the “Chinese Wall” is still in place, by which the Chinese want to protect themselves from outsiders. It is clear so far that China is not going to be open to share the knowledge they possess.
Then, can we develop our own standards of education and not further rely on any other systems? What can the citizens of Central Asia do in order to understand that educational system is by and large ignored due to issues like oil and gas?
But isn’t it dangerous if only some people can afford to get the best education on how to sell oil and gas while the rest remains with a mediocre understanding of the issues at stake, mostly due to an unreformed education system?
KZ Blog has posted some impressions from throughout election day. This bit is especially interesting:
Kahar, the youth movement, was out on Arbat, the pedestrian street in front of TSUM with alarm clocks, stopping passerbyers saying, “It’s time to wake up.” They were pushing people to vote. Nothing like this could ever happen in Astana.