Kazakhstan: Echo of the OSCE Summit

Logo for OSCE Kazakhstan 2010Since mid-2000s Kazakhstan was craving to head the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, OSCE, the largest international pro-democracy organization on the continent. The bid was criticized by some member countries because of the Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record. Eventually the chairmanship was granted in result of a set of reasons that included a geopolitical bargaining, a pressure from the post-Soviet states, and a series of the West’s energy and security considerations.

The Kazakh authorities were viewing the chairmanship mostly as a high-profile instrument to improve its image on the international arena. And the OSCE Summit, a conference of the leaders of the OSCE participating states, was meant to become the wreath of the Kazakh chairmanship and a chance to boast the country’s new capital city of Astana. It finally took place in early December. The preparations were stunning:

“It is not recommended for the Astana residents to stop being sick for the period of the summit. Hospitals will be cleared to serve the OSCE Summit participants […] Most of the city dwellers are shocked by the official initiative of introducing a sickness limit”, zhuldyz writes [ru].

The Astanians residing close to the venue and major roads were even prohibited from smoking on their balconies – a ban that stirred a massive satire campaign titled “Be a man, get a smoke” [ru].

Slavasay was keeping a close eye on the summit from within the event’s corridors [ru]:

The summit will definitely justify the Kazakh government’s expectations […] with the picture-taking ceremony at the center of the whole event.

He later commented on the welcoming speech by the Kazakh Secretary of State, who started his presentation with congratulations to the incumbent president of Kazakhstan on 19th anniversary of his election as the president. “I found such an opening remark to the meeting of the leaders of countries – that are meant to be democratic – pretty original”, he said [ru].

Slavasay was also among those who criticized the summit’s excessively obtrusive and overly exalted coverage of the summit in Kazakh media. All news programs were overwhelmed with summit reports. On the first day of the event, all state-owned and private TV channels held a many-hour live broadcast of the summit sessions. Megakhuimyak reacts [ru]:

“I watch it and I cannot understand why they [media] are discussing some invented reality, while the country is going in a totally different direction? I guess the same was in Russia back in 1915”

“Judging by the current scope of coverage, the OSCE Summit will remain in the local broadcast and print news for at least half a year”, alramin adds. Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev has already stated that the summit became “a triumph of the Kazakhstani people”.

Slavasay’s conclusion is as follows [ru]:

The summit will definitely go down in history, but only as the most useless for all 35 years of the OSCE’s history. The Astana Declaration doesn’t differ from any other documents adopted at any annual Ministerial Councils.

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