Books on Kazakstan
Update No: 357 -
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
The Kazakhs are lobbying Foreign Office
ministers not to grant him asylum, which
they say could jeopardise Britain’s ties
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
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.”