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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 29,749 24,205 22,400 60
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,780 1,510 1,350 119
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Kazakstan


Update No: 357 - (26/09/10)

Acronyms matter; OSCE and SCO combine
Kazakhstan, curiously enough, is the current co-chair of the
OSCE, the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe. It is rather bizarre that it be so. It is not a secure place, it is rather uncooperative with the West and it is anything but European.

But it is of course a vast place with colossal resources.

It is also, logically enough, head of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

A unit of a Chinese army corps set off on August 24 to join anti-terrorism drills in Kazakhstan under the framework of the SCO. A train carrying the unit and weapons departed around 7 p.m. from the railway station of the town of Zhurihe, Inner Mongolia, where a military training base is located. The unit is scheduled to arrive at the drilling area in Kazakhstan on September 7th.

The unit is among about 1,000 personnel from the land and air forces of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) that will take part in "Peace Mission 2010" -- the name of the drills.

Some 4,000 troops from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan will also join the drills, which run from Sept. 9th to 25th

Betwixt East and West
The Kazakhs inhabit a very strange, indeed extraordinary, country. It is huge beyond belief. It is easily as large as Western Europe. It extends right into the heart of Siberia.

It has 60% of the FSU's mineral resources. Which way do they go, East or West?

The UK - Kazakh axis
Curiously enough, the Kazakhs have a special regard for the British, who commanded vast territories in their time and disposed of them in a reasonable way, i.e. by negotiation and debate, not by violence. They regard them not unreasonably as the repositories of the virtues, but not yet the vices, of the West.

They also have a great regard for Gorbachev, who is immensely unpopular in Russia, but immensely popular in Kazakhstan, as elsewhere in the FSU.

David Moran, the British Ambassador, took to the stage in Almaty on August 30 for a solo performance of "In My Life" on piano, as both new rock groups and veterans from the 1970s made their way though the Beatles catalogue.

The festival, which took place on the country's Constitution Day bank holiday on a stage backed by symbols of Kazakh nationhood, reflects a genuine affection for the music in the sixties. "You have to go back to the significance of the Beatles in Soviet times," said Mr Moran. "They were huge here. I was studying up in Leningrad at the time and they had a universal appeal: they weren't considered too risqué by the Soviet officials."

Timur Tezekbayev, the bassist for Ulitsa Gogolya, a Kazakh rock band from the early 1970s which reunited for the event, said: "They didn't understand what the Beatles were; they thought it was just music, but it turned out to be more than music because it awakened the young people. It changed their minds."

Rinat Shayakhmetov, who claims to be Kazakhstan's biggest Beatles fan, three years ago won his seven-year campaign to have a Beatles monument built on Kok Tobe, the city's hilltop amusement park, an idea he had after visiting Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial in New York's Central Park.

In November, the festival's organiser, environmental campaigner Mels Yeleusizov, hopes to succeed in his campaign to name a new tree-lined street in the city after John Lennon.

Central Asian troubles abound; the UK the last refuge
Tensions have risen after Mukhtar Ablyazov, the founder of the Democratic Choice party that campaigns for economic and political reform in Kazakhstan, fled to Britain claiming that he was the victim of persecution by the country’s ruler, President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Mr Ablyazov, a banker and free market advocate, claims he was tortured after being jailed for six years and has applied to the Home Office for political asylum. The Kazakh authorities have rejected Mr Ablyazov’s allegations and accused him of defrauding the state-owned BTA bank of an estimated £185 million.

Complications galore
The Kazakhs are lobbying Foreign Office ministers not to grant him asylum, which they say could jeopardise Britain’s ties with Kazakhstan.

The Foreign Office regards Kazakhstan’s support for the Afghan military campaign as important. Its role has assumed greater significance following the unrest in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, the location of a key NATO airbase which is used to supply troops in Afghanistan.

But it is Britain’s trade ties with Kazakhstan that most concerns ministers. Its vast, untapped energy and mineral reserves means that Britain is among the country’s top five investors. Its burgeoning wealth was recently illustrated when the president’s son-in-law bought Prince Andrew’s Sunninghill Park estate near Ascot, Berkshire, for £15 million, £3 million above the asking price.

The Kazakh government has warned it will punish British firms by awarding lucrative contracts to China if Mr Ablyazov is granted asylum.

Mr Ablyazov is unrepentant. He said: “I am the biggest obstacle to the government’s attempts to maintain absolute power over the country, and the regime wants to remove that obstacle.”  

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