Kazakh government: Still annoyed by Borat, but now raking it in
Photo (c) by Future Atlas
As covered in this blog and countless others, the government of Kazakhstan’s position on Borat, aka, Sasha Baron Cohen, has been one of theatrical proportions. The embassy even went so far as to state, “[Borat] claims that the Kazakhs are very anti-Semitic people and that running of the Jews is the famous pastime. That is, of course, ridiculous. Kazakhstan has a very vibrant Jewish community,” which, I guess is true if you count the forcible relocation by Stalin of Jews to the Kazakh SSR. But that’s neither here nor there.
The real story is that the government is now thawing and reversing its position on Borat, particularly as tourism rises. A recent article written by Russian journalist Grigory Pasko (RUS, ENG translation here) reflects the growing interest in Kazakhstan even from a Russian perspective. He writes in a half-amazed, half condescending tone about the third part of his trip,
From Russia to Almaty I flew on a half-empty airplane: Russians, apparently, know even without Borat what and how it’s really like there. In Almaty itself I was amazed by two things: the almost complete absence of automobiles produced by VAZ and GAZ [i.e. Russian cars--Trans.], and also the fact that drivers give the right of way to pedestrians (in Moscow this is encountered extremely rarely).
It would be interesting to compare Kazakh tourism numbers in 2007-2009 to those in 2006, the year before the movie came out. As it was, tourism increased by 13% in the second half of 2008 (Russia Today, ENG.) Unfortunately, hard tourism numbers for Kazakhstan are often hard to come by and if at all, are behind gated industry surveys. Of note is the estimate, “Online transactions for air travel are forecast to record double-digit annual growth to 2013.”