Voices from Kazakhstan

Kazakh President in Aralsk by lambro

“Kazakhstan invented a national chess game. Introduced a new chess piece “President”. It can go as it wishes and take whatever it wishes to take”, jokes LJ user kubekov (RUS).

President's New Initiatives

It is usually a case in Kazakhstan that the President starts new initiatives, announcing them sometimes expectedly, sometimes not quite. This gives a lot of room for public deliberations – and online discussions. Let us see how the following new statements were discussed in Kazakhstan blogosphere.

Language issue

First, there was an offer to consider switching to Latin alphabet, which the President voiced at the meeting of the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan that adopted the Latin script in 2001, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – both switched to Latin in the mid-1990s. Language issues guarantee to spark debates in multiethnic Kazakhstan, where majority speaks Russian.

Dmitry of neweurasia is positive about the change, he notes that this initiative got a good feedback from Azerbaijan: the head of the state commission on Azeri language has already promised his assistance (RUS). Dmitry says that Latin alphabet will increase the presence of Kazakh in the Internet and improve the position of Kazakh language in public life. In addition, Dmitry suggests not to look up on Russia, which traditionally takes languge reforms from former Soviet countries as a non-friendly gesture and a wish to break away from its zone of influence.

LJ user dkzh (Dauren Zhambaibekov) offers his version of a new Kazakh Latin alphabet (RUS). He is also one of the supporters of the reform, and he says that first, the new alphabet will have 30 letters instead of 42, second, it is easier to type in Latin and to enter the world information space, and finally, this alphabet is close to the spirit of the language – linguistically and phonetically.

On Registan, English-language bloggers discuss the peculiarities of learning Central Asian languages with Latin or Cyrrilic script. On Internet newspaper Zona.kz Maxim, who opposes the change, argues that typing with Cyrillic is not a problem, as all letters are well fit into the keyboard (RUS). The problem of encoding, he says, is in the past, with new Unicode standard, supported by Windows 2000, Windows XP.

Standard Kazakh keyboard

No more right-hand-drive cars

Then came the cars’ turn. Speaking at the Security Council meeting, President announced that the right-hand-drive models will be banned in Kazakhstan from January 1, 2007, due to high number of accidents involving such cars (currently there are 74.000).

It turns out that the issue is close to many bloggers: Marat wrote a letter to the President, and appealed to Livejournal community to do the same; several of them already did (RUS). “The cars with left hand side steering wheels are more expensive… How will we be competitive without vehicles!”.

LJ user raseyannaya: Do such letters reach the President?
LJ user megakhuimyak: It reaches the administrative office – they do consider them, and if there is a critical mass, the signal goes higher.

We will see how it goes with this campaign, and a protest, scheduled for Saturday, meanwhile, LJ user nemtchin informs that his colleague has signed up for a change of the steering wheel: his turn comes in December 2007 (RUS).

We do not need Western advice

Finally, the President dismissed Western advice, in a surprising statement on November 10. Registan has a post on it, where he attributed the statement to West's view on Kazakhstan's chairmanship of OSCE. John MacLeod, specialist in Central Asian affairs in Institute of War and Peace Reporting, thinks that this statement was not significant.

“Well, I think he was speaking to a particular audience, and it wasn't a Western audience and it wasn't even a national-level government audience in Kazakhstan,” MacLeod said. “He was speaking to members of his own party and to members of the Civic Party, which is going to merge with his party– the big Otan Party. I guess that he was just veering off the script and trying to tell [them] if you like local politicians [think] that everything is fundamentally ok with the country, that he's in charge, that he's not driven by external interests, and that they can rest comfortably with the merger of the two parties and with being part of his kind of big national project.”

Tengiz aftermath

The shocking scenes and witnesses’ accounts from Tengiz brawl between Turkish and Kazakh workers provoked further discussions on the state of local employees at foreign oil and coal companies. neweurasia‘s Ksenia posts an article about Ekibastuz miners of “Bogatyr Access Komir“, a coal production company owned by American “Access Industries” (RUS). A publication in a local newspaper shed light to poor conditions of employees. Formed into a Committee, the workers planned a strike, but the company filed a suit just two days before. The court decided that the workers do not have a right to strike and their salaries stay the same.

Marat has posts on Tengiz, where he tries to analyze the history of the oil deposit and of Tengizshevroil company (RUS).

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