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Voices from Kazakhstan

Welcome to our latest roundup of blog posts and online discussions from Kazakhstan Russian-language blogosphere.

The Oil Business

Kazakhstan boasts having unique oil and gas deposit, Karachaganak, 150 km east from the city of Uralsk in the northeast of Kazakhstan. Having an area of over 280 square kilometres, it holds more than 1,200 million tonnes of oil and condensate and over 1.35 trillion cubic metres of gas, and is the biggest investment project in Kazakhstan. Starting from 1991, Kazakhstan government starting making deals with foreign companies, including AGIP (now ENI), British Gas (now BG group), Texaco (now Chevron Corporation) and Lokoil.

On neweurasia Kazakhstan, Marat reveals the history of Karachaganak, discovered in the 1980s (RUS). Marat shares some curious details: in 1991, for example, at the peak of oil extraction and due to poor safety measures regulation, one of the wellsites started spitting gas in the air as a huge fountain. As in 1991 the country was busy with “putch” and the following collapse of the Soviet Union, no one really cared. Safety rules require burning the gas and hydrogen fountains, so locals could enjoy the vivid scenery of liquid fire shooting up to 300-500 meters. Tungush, a small village 3 kilometers from the field has dissapeared, then the inhabitants were moved to Aksai, a nearby town, by the Soviet Union. After its collapse, the flats were successfully boozed away, and when foreigners arrived to the field, the inhabitants of the village started complaining, and subsequently, each family got one flat in Aksai, one in Uralsk and a car in addition. Other villages started looking at it as an example… In his Livejournal, Marat posts photos from Karachaganak.

The Atyrau Informant updates from another oil-rich corner of Kazakhstan – city of Atyrau on the Caspian sea. On 20 October, a big brawl started between Kazakh and Turkish workers of Tengizchevroil company, where, according to Tengizchevroil General Director Todd Levy one Indian, 193 Turkish, and two Kazakh workers suffered injuries. The Atyrau Informant kept his readers updated on the conflict, posting photos from local websites on the day when the conflict started, commenting on possible reasons behind the conflict, and giving his personal views on the issue. The incident sparked anti-Turkish sentiment in Kazakhstan blogosphere, which then grew into general resentment about discrimination against locals at foreign oil companies. In many comments, the Government was blamed for letting in companies that discriminate, do not allow labour unions and hire illegal workers.

From Marat‘s post on neweurasia Kazakhstan, we find out that not only oil company employees, but also miners face hardships in Kazakhstan (RUS). Recently, 43 miners died in an accident in Karaganda, and Marat thinks that we got used to hearing about miners dying in explosions. He attributes it to poor safety regulations and again, restrictions imposed by foreign companies.

Several Days Before Borat Hits the Screens

The commentors on KUB blog are listing Anti-Borat characters of Kazakhstan public life. One of them is a local singer Takezhan with his low-budget video, another is Minister of Information and Culture Yertysbaev (on the picture), and the third is Kazakhstan's deputy foreign minister Rakhat Aliyev, who invited Sasha Baron Cohen to visit the country.

“No one used to laugh at us and they still don't!”

The first four minutes of the film posted in Almaty Livejournal community got a variety of responses. LJ user constantiner says:

My personal opinion is that “Nomad” made more damage to Kazakhstan's image than Borat

Erik Sultanov, a press secretary of the Muslims Union of Kazakhstan, went over to the UK, interviewed Sasha Cohen and posted it to Zonakz (RUS). The following two comments represent the spectrum of reactions to Borat:

Borat is definitely smarter than stupid Kazakh officials, so Kazakistan deserves him. If Borat comes to Kazakhstan, he would find it even funnier.

Their humour is different from ours… Foreigners just don't understand our hospitality. I know one Englishman who was trying to pay to the old lady for arranging a “dastarhan“, a table with food, and when an interpreter explained him that it is not necessary, he thought that it was a provocation…

Journalism and Freedom of Speech

Askar Shomshekov
blogs about freedom of speech and freedom of press, particularly, in Pavlodar region, where he works at the Media Support Center (RUS). Ann Olson, an American media trainer, told him that the West does not know what to do to make Kazakhstani media free, and our journalists – professional. Many years of financed programs on media support, sponsored by American taxpayers, have not made Kazakhstan media free and professional. Whom, how and what do we need to teach?.. As Adam Kesher‘s post on Russian-language neweurasia Kazakhstan shows, Kazakhstan fell from 119 to 128 place in the annual rating on press freedom compiled by Reporters without Borders.

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