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Voices from Kazakhstan

Welcome to our latest round-up of blog posts and online discussions that took place in the Kazakh blogosphere in the last two weeks.

The “Zhumbaktas” (“Enigma”) rock in Borovoe, a mountainous place with lakes between Astana and Kokshetau, is surrounded with legends. One of them is that a girl ended her life by jumping into the water from this high rock, and now it's the face of a girl from one side and an old woman from another. Blogger raxme remembers this legend when he tells about his trip in Northern Kazakhstan this summer (RU). He also notes that while Borovoe was a popular resort place in the Soviet times, now there are only Kazakh tourists and not many of them, though this place, if invested in, could have become a real gold min.

I wrote on Neweurasia that after the controversial media law was signed, the Kazakh Minister of Information promised to come up with the new policy of regulation of the Internet media, due to national security concerns. This promise comes after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting, where it was agreed to cooperate in international information security, and I discuss it in my entry on development of the Internet in Kazakhstan. Vadim of Central Asian Gateway launches a forum topic on whether Internet can promote regional integration (cooperation) in Central Asia with links to reading on Internet in Central Asian countries.

Returning to the SCO, James reports on the Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev's speech in a W.P. Carey Forum event for the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Tokaev denied the media claims of SCO being an anti-Western block, and defined it as a “unique organization with universal goals, and as especially useful for combating religious extremists because of its strong military component”, says James. Tokaev gave a usual “first economic, then political reforms” speech, which one diplomat called a “two words forward, one step back” development.

More on the internet: Kazakhstan launched its e-government project, in three languages, which provides information on different cases of interaction of people with the government – from going to school to starting your own business. However, you cannot yet fill in your tax declaration online, but only contact the relevant government bodies for information. Kazakh KUB blog (Club of Universal Security) finds in the news that the Government plans to open the Internet cafes (RU), where people can access the e-government for free. Currently there are 46 cafes, and they plan to open 460 more till the end of 2006, and 2.000 in total, to satisfy the needs of 50% of the Internet users in Kazakhstan (400.000 according to the CIA World Factbook).

It seems that Kazakhstan has to really think of its information policies, says Dumaem of the Russian analytical project Dumaem.ru with special section on Kazakhstan (RU). There is a lot of information on Russia in Kazakhstan, and most Russian TV channels work there, so Kazakhs tend to know a lot about Russia. Average Russian, though, does not get as much information about its neighbor, says Dumaem. The year of Kazakhstan in Russia, promoted so well in Kazakhstan, is not heard of in Russia. Dumaem thinks that Kazakhstan has to work on forming the positive image of itself in Russia. What Russians know about Kazakhstan is that:

“… в стране добывают нефть и отправляют ее во «вражеский» нефтепровод БТД, люди живут в бескрайних степях и передвигаются по ним на лошадях и верблюдах (видимо, кочуют до сих пор от скважины к скважине), выращивают коноплю, а в свободное от этих занятий время жестоко расправляются с неугодными оппозиционерами…”

“… Kazakhs get oil and send it to the “enemy's” BTC pipeline, people live in endless steppes and move around on horses and camels (probably, wander from well to well), grow cannabis and, in their free time, cruelly deal with the opposition…”

The Russian language Neweurasia Kazakhstan blog featured posts on children in Kazakhstan: Dumaem questions the future of Kazakh children taken away from their home country by adoptive international parents and our new contributor Irene is emotional about 6 little kids being infected with HIV in the South-Kazakhstani hospital. Irene is now scared to take her own cousins for regular blood test analysis since those infected children suffered just because of the doctors’ negligence.

В Казахстане в последние годы СПИД-центров и всевозможных НПО, борющихся против распространения ВИЧ и СПИДа, становится все больше и больше. Государство и международные организации выделяют все больше средств на борьбу с болезнью, которая по своим масштабам и темпам распространения давно стала эпидемией. Но сегодня мне показалось, что все их усилия – впустую. Что работа, которую они ведут, ведется не в том направлении. На мой взгляд, главную опасность представляют не группы риска. Главная опасность – в нас самих, в нашей вечной надежде на «авось пронесет» и «со мной и моими близкими такого не случится».

There are more and more AIDS-Centes and NGOs combating the spread of HIV and AIDS in Kazakhstan. The state and the international organizations provide more and more funding for fighting the disease, which, in its scale and the speed of spreading, became an epidemy long time ago. But today I thought that all their efforts are in vain. That their work goes in the wrong direction. In my view, the main danger comes not from the risk groups. It comes from ourselves, from our eternal hope that it will bypass us and not happen to us or our relatives.

While we question the children's future abroad or in Kazakhstan, foreign parents happily blog about adoption of Kazakh children from Karaganda. It's not so easy to adopt from Kazakhstan, says Harlow's Monkey blog, you have to be in the country for at least one month before adoption, you have to report to Kazakhstan every year, and you cannot adopt children younger than 6 months.

In the same review we found out from blogger Duane that he stayed in the same hotel with president Nazarbayev, who visited Croatia for holidays work. We also saw that Uzbek hip-hop videos are more conservative than Kazakh ones, well, surely, you can see more hips in the Kazakh music scene.

Rico of Neweurasia discusses the merger of two biggest pro-presidential parties, Otan and Asar. Even though not surprising for many, this step signifies “… a concrete move to create the overwhelming pro-presidential party that Nazarbaev has been hankering for since independence”, says Rico. He predicts consequences for Kazakh opposition saying that “they too are going to have to find common ground and a unified sense of purpose if they are too emerge as kind of constructive opposition”.

The Russian decree on voluntary resettlement of ethnic Russians from the countries of the former Soviet Union is being discussed in Kazakhstan. I state in my post on Neweurasia that, contrary to other Central Asian countries, Russians in Kazakhstan are not likely to leave soon. Thus, a decision to return to historical homeland is usually coupled with economic and security concerns. Eduard Poletaev, for instance, Kazakh political scientist and chief editor of “The World of Eurasia” says that Kazakh Russians see themselves as living in Kazakhstan, but if the current balance of nationalism and language changes, Russians may surely consider leaving.

Kazis Togubaev calls the bloody clashes between the police and the residents of the Shanyrak district of Almaty “Shanyrak Mine that Imangali Tasmaganbetov (Almaty city mayor) put under the the Chair of the OSCE Chairmanship”. As reported on Neweurasia before (RUS), the authorities have a long-standing conflict with the residents of the poorest districts of Almaty on their allegedly illegal settlement. It's hard to believe that these pictures of the clashes, where one policeman was burned to death and people were shot at with rubber bullets (which was officially denied), are made in the same city of New York Times’ article on the changing face of Almaty. Such is the Western reporting on Central Asia, says Nathan. The Kazakh reporting is that 15 policemen were hospitalized, but it is uknown how many residents of Shanyrak were, say people in Almaty Livejournal community. Bloggers of KUB write that when the people living in those districts bought the land, they were told that they have to bribe to do it, and the authorities at all levels were involved. 35 residents of Bakay did sue and win in the first instance court, but then the prosecutor's office interfered.

For some people, the event is meaningful:

Тем не менее определенный перелом в сознании людей: как шаныраковцев, так и ментов произошел… Менты же были уверены, что операция по сносу станет легкой прогулкой. а теперь они столкнулись с людьми, защищающими свои дома. Учитывая, что часть из них сама живет в похожих районах, нельзя объяснить их увольнения лишь страхом получить по башке…

There is a certain breakthrough in the minds of people from Shanyrak and policemen themselves. The policemen were sure that the operation on the demolition of the houses would be a piece of cake. Now they are encountered with people protecting their houses. Taking into account that some of them leave in the similar districts, you cannot explain their resignation (some of them resigned after the clashes) with just fear of being hit…

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