On a hillside in northeastern Kazakhstan, south of the Russian border, a simple and stark slogan looms over the city of Oskemen: “Kazakhstan,” reads the message in giant white letters arrayed across the green slope.
The Crimea crisis is putting pressure on Kazakhstan’s long-standing, multi-vectored foreign policy, which has sought to balance the competing interests of Russia, China and the United States in Central Asia.
When banker Darkhan Botabayev tried to book a flight on Kazakhstan’s national airline last September, what started as a routine transaction turned into an assault that shocked the nation: Botabayev lost his temper and punched the young female ticket clerk in the face.
A group of flashmobbers took to the slopes in southeastern Kazakhstan on a crisp March morning this year to spell out a heartfelt SOS with their bodies.
A group of villagers is held in thrall by omnipotent rulers, who warn that misfortune will befall the inhabitants if they defy authorities. And then, one day, the emperor is revealed to have no clothes.
In the official narrative of Kazakhstan’s post-Soviet history, President Nursultan Nazarbayev is lauded for fostering widespread prosperity while maintaining inter-ethnic harmony.
Kazakhstan, an oil-rich ex-Soviet nation in Central Asia best known for voluntarily forsaking the world’s fourth-largest nuclear arsenal, is carrying out an unprecedented media crackdown that will leave it virtually without any opposition newspapers for the first time in its 21-year history as an independent nation.
This December will see the first anniversary of unrest which left at least 15 dead in the oil town of Zhanaozen in western Kazakhstan. As Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy visits the Kazakhstan capital Astana on Nov. 30, concerns are being raised that the last year has seen a serious erosion of rights in this Central Asian country, with political, civil and media liberties being curbed, as the authorities in Astana construct their narrative about what went wrong in Zhanaozen.
Religious life in Kazakhstan features a glaring dichotomy these days. Officials in Astana tout the country as a bastion of toleration, yet they are making it harder for those practicing what are deemed non-traditional faiths to worship openly.
Lukpan Akhmedyarov, a 36-year-old reporter for an independent weekly in western Kazakhstan who was recently ambushed and nearly killed, was awarded the Peter Mackler Award for Ethical and Courageous Journalism this month – the first journalist from that country to receive international recognition in 10 years.
The United States and Kazakhstan are exploring the idea of expanding the amount of military cargo passing through Kazakhstan into and out of Afghanistan. The focal point of the discussions is the Caspian port city of Aktau.
Quiz: Over the next three months, three former Soviet republics will hold elections – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia. Whose official outcome will most closely resemble the truth?