Posted on September 25th, 2012 No comments
The Kazakh Embassy played host to a terrific, fun gathering on Thursday, Sept. 20. The Things to Do in DC organization spotlighted the Embassy in one of its many cultural gatherings and, I’m glad to say, the place was packed. About fifty people, many of them completely new to the Embassy, dropped by for food, drink, Kazakh dancing and a good deal of information sharing about our country.
The evening started with a tour of the Embassy, which was enjoyed by all. Many were impressed by the permanent collection of native artifacts — swords, jewelry and native costumes — that we keep on our first floor. It was both enjoyable and educational for the well-dressed people who came by that night.
Next, I welcomed everyone briefly to our Embassy and introduced a short documentary by our friend Dennis Wholey. Dennis, many of you may remember, visited Kazakhstan recently and did wonderful reporting about our people, our country and its future. This was a short version of that.
I then explained our country and its many accomplishments. I highlighted the gold-medal victories our athletes had in such abundance during the Olympics. I also talked about how far our Government has come since the days, more than 20 years ago, that we struggled as a newly born nation.
Then we saw a performance of Kazakh traditional dance by Silk Road Dance company. Its songs and dances were accompanied by traditional Kazakh instruments. Wearing full native costume, the audience was taken on a musical journey of Kazakhstan’s cities, countryside and history. The performance brought a smile to everyone’s face.
Last, but not least, everyone enjoyed a delicious Kazakh dinner. It included Kazakh-style salad, Baursaks, home-style beef pie, mushroom pie, small tefteli and Napoleon cake. What a treat!
A good time was had by all.
I am very glad that our Embassy is getting a reputation — like our Government — of being warm and open. The Things to Do in DC evening was a perfect example of why that’s happening.
Please find below a blog by Greg Bland, CEO of the Things to Do DC about his impressions of the event.
Great Evening at the Kazakh Embassy
Once again, the young professionals of ThingstodoDC.com were very fortunate enough to visit Ambassador Erlan Idrissov at the Embassy for a special cultural evening. Every time we visit this embassy, we feel as if we are visiting a home away from home. Ambassador Idrissov and his staff are among the friendliest diplomats in Washington D.C. and always go the extra mile to give us a special welcome to the embassy.
After a brief greeting by the Ambassador, we saw an exciting dance presentation, dined on Kazak food, enjoyed Kazak vodka, and toured the incredible artifacts throughout the embassy.
We are hoping to go the extra mile next year and plan a special first time trip to Kazakhstan and some neighboring countries. People interested should email me personally at Greg@thingstodoDC.com.
We are looking forward to our many more returns to the embassy. We always get such wonderful feedback and list these events among the top of our favorites list in Washington DC.
We posted pictures of the event at http://www.facebook.com/thingstododc . Please LIKE this page for special updates.
Again, our special thanks to Ambassador Idrissov and his fantastic staff.
Posted on October 20th, 2012 No comments
As you may have already heard, I have left Washington to assume my new assignment as the new foreign minister of Kazakhstan.
My five-year tour of service in Washington, D.C. has been most exciting, enjoyable, rewarding as well as challenging both professionally and personally. I have many fond and unforgettable memories, and I have had the great pleasure of getting to know and working with so many friends during my stay in Washington DC and my many travels all over the United States. I tried to do my best to further advance what I view as a key strategic partnership. I am proud to say that Kazakh- US ties on many important avenues , including non-proliferation, global and regional security, investments, energy, agriculture, tourism, cultural exchanges, people-to-people contacts etc., are stronger than ever before.
As I have told you before, it has been an exciting experience to correspond with you all through my blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and see the advantages of blog writing. Today, I am writing to thank you all for reading my entries, and to let you know that I have already set up my new blog “The Blog of the Minister” posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website http://www.mfa.kz/en . However, I must confess that it will take some time before I can devote myself to the new blog as my new plate is pretty full. But I will try to sort things out in due course and look forward to re-engaging with you and other “netizens” worldwide to inform about Kazakhstan’s foreign policy priorities from my personal perspective. So I hope to continue staying in touch with you.
I extend my best wishes for your success, prosperity and personal happiness.
Posted on September 11th, 2012 No comments
July and August are holiday months for many of you and I truly hope you enjoyed the time surrounded by family, friends and loved ones. But even though it has been a “down time” for many, we at the Kazakh Embassy to the United States have been very busy. I’d like to update you on some of this season’s goings on and hope that you took the opportunity to enjoy some of these highlights – either in person – or in spirit.
Inter-City Friendly Golf Match
At the beginning, I would like to briefly write about the golf match, which took place in June and was somehow overlooked in my blog for June.
To add some sports flavor to our busy diplomatic life, I was happy to initiate and host the first “Inter-City Friendly Golf Match” for diplomats from New York city, Washington and our American friends, a friendly (but competitive) round of golf on June 8 at Army Navy Country Club, Fairfax. Logically, we had three teams: Team UN, Team DC and Team USA , which together included Ambassadors and representatives from the U.K., the E.U., Pakistan, Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Papua New Guinea, Palau, our Lady Ambassador to the UN and myself. Team USA was headed up by former Congressman Marty Russo and included members of the media, prominent business folk and other friends.
Everyone enjoyed a very nice company of colleagues and friends in a wonderful environment and relaxed setting of Army Navy’s Fairfax golf course, playing an exciting game of golf. To know more about our great game, please click here.
I want to say special thank you to the US Chief of Protocol Ambassador Capricia Marshall, Editor-in-Chief of The Washington Diplomat newspaper Victor Shiblie for supporting my initiative. I also would like to thank all who attended and made the first inter-city diplomatic golf match such a great time. British Ambassador to the UN Sir Mark Lyall Grant promised to work on a reciprocal match in New York next year and we all look forward to it.
Kazakhstan’s Truly Olympic Achievements
To say that Kazakhstan came to the London Olympics well prepared would be a gross understatement. The Chairman of Kazakhstan’s Sports Agency, Talgat Yermegiyaev, said on the eve of the London Olympics that Kazakhstan’s national team aimed to win at least 13 medals, including at least three gold medals. The goal was to be among the 30 best national teams in the world.
In the event, Kazakhstan exceeded the expectation and won 7 gold medals, 1 silver medal and 5 bronze medals, placing itself as the 12th best nation in the world when counting gold medal victories!!! This a great leap forward and rapid improvement from the 24th place, we took four years ago in Beijing.
The next day, after the official opening ceremony of the Games, Alexander Vinokourov won the first gold medal for Kazakhstan in the cycling road race. He had previously won two bronze medals at the World Championships, four stage wins in the Tour de France, four wins in the Vuelta a Espana, plus the overall title in 2006 and two Liege Bastogne Liege monuments, one Amstel Gold Race. Vinokourov is a past national champion of Kazakhstan and a dual-medalist at the Summer Olympics.
The second, third and fourth gold medals were won by Kazakh lady weightlifters Zulfiya Chinshanlo, Maiya Maneza and Svetlana Podobedova. Zulfiya Chinshanlo set a world record 131 kg (289 lbs) in the women’s 53kg (117 lbs) clean & jerk and claimed the gold medal seemingly with ease. Maiya Maneza won Kazakhstan’s second weightlifting gold medal in London and set an Olympic record in the women’s 63-kilogram category. Svetlana Podobedova won her Olympic weightlifting gold in the women’s 75-kg division.
In addition, Ilya Ilyin, who is an Asian champion and a three-time world champion, won Kazakhstan’s fifth gold medal in men’s 94-kilogram division.
For Ilyin winning the gold medal seemed very easy as well. According to the Associated Press , “Most lifters in the 94-kilogram class paused for a few seconds as they gripped the bar, collecting themselves for the excruciating effort of lifting one-fourth of a ton over one’s head. Ilyin marched up to the bar with quick steps and hoisted it in the air so fast that by the time a ‘good lift’ was announced he was already celebrating.”
Ilya lifted 185 kilograms in the snatch and a world-record 233 kilograms in the clean and jerk for a total of 418 kilograms. That was a world record, six kilograms better than the pre-competition mark set in 1999. After the medal ceremony, Ilyin told the Associated Press that he prepared for the Olympics with a special diet, including horse meat, which we all know is a Kazakh delicacy. I doubt the reporter had ever had it.
Olga Rypakova won the 6th Olympic gold medal for the country with a leap of 14.98m in women’s triple jump final. She beat her closest competitor by 18 cms. Kazakhstan had never before won a gold medal in track and field. This was a glorious victory for Olga, and for all of us!
The final, seventh gold medal was brought home in boxing by Serik Sapiyev. He was also named the tournament’s best pound-for-pound boxer. According to Yahoo Sports, Sapiyev said, “I have been waiting for this moment so long. In Beijing, I lost in the quarter-finals and I was upset. But I was dreaming about the next Olympics.”
Kazakhstan’s only silver medal was won by boxer Adilbek Niyazymbetov, who fought fiercely, but lost to a Russian in a very close match.
Kazakhstan’s bronze medals were won by our boxers and wrestlers: Ivan Dychko (Boxing, Men’s super heavyweight), Marina Volnova (Boxing, Women’s middleweight), Daniyal Gadzhiyev (Wrestling, Men’s 84kg, Greco-Roman), Guzel Manyurova (Wrestling, Women’s 72kg freestyle) and Akzhurek Tanatarov (Wrestling, Men’s freestyle 66 kg).
Kazakhstan has been traditionally strong in boxing, weightlifting, Greco-Roman and free-style wrestling as well as judo. Despite a population of only 16 million, Kazakhstan has done well compared to countries with larger populations.
But by the number of new records set during the London Olympiad, Kazakhstan took the 4th place after only the US, China and Russia!
The London Olympics’ showed that Kazakhstan is an emerging power in Olympic sports.
Upon their return from London, the entire Kazakh Olympic team was cheered by adoring and patriotic fans and welcomed home by their President as national heroes.
Overall, the victories of London 2012 have led to an outburst of nationalist and patriotic feelings of pride and joy. I hope you enjoyed watching the Games as much as I did and that you join us in celebrating the achievements of our great Olympic athletes.
Nomads and Networks Exhibition
On August 15th, the Embassy co-hosted an art and ancient culture exhibition called “Nomads and their relationships: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan” at the Smithsonian’s Freer Sackler Galleries in Washington D.C.
The opening ceremony was attended by senior officials, in particular, Alice Wells, special assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs for the National Security Council and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs James Moore, as well as Members of Congress and representatives from the business and cultural communities.
In his welcome to the guests, director of the Freer Sackler Galleries and prominent scholar Julian Raby said the exhibition marked the first time the Nation’s Capital had hosted an exhibition of ancient items that represent the highest level of culture and art of ancient Kazakhs. According to Raby, the culturally rich discoveries from the mounds in Chilikty and Berel are national treasures of Kazakhstan and tell a story about the nomadic culture and the unique pieces of art it produced. He expressed gratitude to the Government of Kazakhstan for its support in organizing the event and highlighted the work of the Ministry of Culture and Information, Ministry of Education and Science, as well as cultural and historical institutions in Kazakhstan, including the Nazarbayev Center, for their assistance in making the exhibition possible.
“The rich treasures discovered in Kazakhstan’s royal burial mounds tell a story of a nomadic culture that created works of art through their network of exchange with settled communities,” Raby said Wednesday at the exhibition’s opening ceremony which was also attended by a delegation from Kazakhstan, wrote the Silk Road Newsline.
In my remarks, I said, “This multi-faceted exhibition carries many important messages not only about the sophistication of the great culture of ancient nomads but the importance of cultural communication in the twenty first century as well. Networking, partnering and being together is a road to survival and growth.”
I also underlined that “this exhibition, which brings BC times to DC streets, will dispel many misperceptions about the nomadic cultures and nomadic societies. It is also very timely that right after the Olympics, this exhibition is about GOLD! Another bridge between ancient gold of nomads and modern gold of the London Olympics, where my Kazakhstan took 12th place by winning historic 7 gold medals!” This timely plug prompted sincere laughter and applause from the audience!
I also shared my joy over the success of the project and thanked everyone involved in bringing the treasures from Kazakhstan to the US. I especially wanted to thank Shelby White, co-founder of the Leon Levy Foundation for the generous contributions from its membership, and expressed my personal appreciation to Jennifer Chi, Exhibitions Director and Chief Curator of the Gallery, who “traveled between New York city and Kazakhstan as a true nomad” to bring the exhibition together.
It was because of successful cooperation with our partners, that we were able to offer our American friends the beauty, elegance and sophistication of the work done by my Kazakh ancestors who made such a great, yet unsung contribution to the development of civilization.
Paul Taylor, Director of the Asian Cultural History Program for the Smithsonian, highlighted the importance of the exhibition as critical to understanding the evolvement of world civilization in an interview with Silk Road Newsline. As an expert who worked on a number of Kazakhstan related projects, including a virtual exhibition “Discover Kazakhstan: the Expeditions of Chokan Valikhanov,” he expressed his confidence that this kind of project would usher in a new level of cultural cooperation between our two countries.
According to Alexander Nagel, assistant curator of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries and in-house curator of the exhibition, it was conceptualized, developed, and organized by New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in collaboration with the Ministries of Culture and Information and of Science and Education, Republic of Kazakhstan, and four major national museums in Kazakhstan and the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington, DC.
He continued, “A country four times bigger than Texas and almost the size of India, Kazakhstan is rich with history and home to wild tulips, oil, nomads who still hunt with golden eagles, and more than one hundred nationalities. Bordering Russia to the north and China to the east, Kazakhstan is today the world’s ninth largest country and has emerged as one of the most fascinating places in Central Asia.”
“The exhibition dispels the notion that nomadic societies were less developed than sedentary ones. Rather, they are revealed to have been highly sophisticated, with strategic migratory routes and active networks of communication and cultural exchange with their neighbors,” according to a press release by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) that hosted the exhibition from March 7 to June 3 in New York.
The exhibition was accompanied by a 200-page catalogue entitled “Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan” with 220 color illustrations published by the Princeton University Press. With essays by nine international scholars, the catalogue provides an unparalleled introduction to the ancient nomadic culture of Kazakhstan, exploring its distinctive but little-known patterns of life. The book is available at Amazon.com for $38.48, ISBN-10: 0691154805. I highly recommend it!
The exhibition will remain on display in the Sackler Gallery in Washington through November of 2012, is free and open to the general public. A video of the exhibition opening ceremony can be viewed at YouTube.
Kazakh Film Festival in LA
Later in the Summer, the Embassy co hosted the 2nd film festival “Kazakhstan: Montage of Cinemas” in Los Angeles.
The inaugural festival held last year in this beautiful city, was such a huge success that I asked the Honorary Consulate of Kazakhstan in Los Angeles to begin organizing the second one almost immediately. As a result, we once again celebrated the achievements of Kazakhstan’s cinematic art and culture.
The event was co-organized by Kazakhstan’s Honorary Consulate in Los Angeles. Honorary Consul Steven Jaffe is better known as the producer and second unit director of such movies as Ghost, Star Trek VI, The Day After, K19: Widowmaker and many more. His partner at the Honorary Consulate and Helix Films Gaukhar Noortas is a successful business lady in her own right and was a driving force behind the Festival.
Earlier this year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s Foreign Service (July 2) as well as 20th anniversary of President Nazarbayev’s first official visit to the United States in 1992 (May 18-20). I see the film festival and cultural and art performances as part of our ongoing celebration of these landmark anniversaries.
The continuous economic growth in Kazakhstan has benefited many aspects of life there, including cinema. Here are a few quick examples: To date, we have submitted a total of seven films to be considered for Academy awards. Since 2006, we have been submitting a film every year.
2012 has been a big year so far for cinema in Kazakhstan. At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, two Kazakh films received international praise: Myn Bala (1000 Brave Boys) and Student. While touching on the subjects of Kazakhstan and cinema, I can’t forget to mention one of Kazakhstan’s favorite sons. World famous director Timur Bekmambetov has once again produced an international hit movie entitled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which is currently playing in movie theatres around the globe and is quite popular.
Over 7 days of the film festival in LA, American friends watched feature films and documentaries such as Kelin, Letters to an Angel, The Little Hunter, We Will See Tomorrow, The Tale of the Pink Bunny, Deal, Dash and many more. These are the films that were selected to be screened this year. All of them were powerful, entertaining and provided a glimpse of Kazakhstan’s growing cinematic art and industry.
The festival also freatured cultural performances by the Inju Marjan ensemble and award-winning dombra soloist Yerzhan Isin as well as the exhibits of rich jewelry from Kazakhstan that were on display throughout seven days.
I believe the Festival presented new opportunities for Kazakh film makers aspiring to be recognized internationally. It also created bridges of partnership and collaboration between Kazakh cinema industry and Hollywood. So, as a diplomat, I was tremendously pleased that the festival had complemented our work, fostering friendship between our countries and opening a new avenue for win-win partnership.
Fellowship Travel to Kazakhstan
To encourage travel by U.S. tourists, particularly youngsters and students, to Kazakhstan, we launched a new fellowship in cooperation with Kazakhstan’s National Airline “Air Astana,” the Kazakh travel agency Sayat (www.sayat-travel.kz/) and the US-based Russian American Travel Agencies Association (RATA, www.russiantravelusa.com/).
Under this fellowship, two students – Emin Hasanov from New York University and Charles Santos from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill traveled to Kazakhstan for a week, from August 6-12. Their free trip allowed them to explore the Astana and Almaty, major cities of Kazakhstan. Apart from siteseeing they met with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies and other Government agencies to work under their projects on promoting Kazakhstan-US partnership in two important areas — mobile health services and alternative energy. All their expenses were paid for with the exception of food costs and other incidentals.
They were the winners of the competition on writing 500-word essay on “Discovering new Kazakhstan: bringing US innovations to Kazakhstan to develop Kazakhstan-US Science and Technology Partnership.”
I hope in addition to visiting Kazakhstan, their research works will help promote science and technology cooperation between our countries. I hope that their pleasant memories about Kazakhstan will have a long lasting influence on their view toward our part of the world.
Delegations Witness the Zhanaozen Trials
It is in the spirit of openness and transparency I am eager to continue to keep the public updated about last year’s violent events in Zhanaozen and the open trial of rioters and police that resulted.
All the courts procedures were conducted openly with relatives of the defendants, international observers, NGOs and the international media welcome to attend. The court room was also equipped with video monitors, which allowed the media to witness the procedure in its entirety.
This transparency has been confirmed by US diplomat Jessica Jarciv who visited the court and said that she was satisfied how the hearing was conducted: “We are very pleased that Court session is conducted in an open manner. We did not have any issue with an access to this place and even before that had not observed any issue or wrongdoing.”
The temporary detention facilities in Zhanaozen and Aktau have been visited by the Penal Reform International and NGOs, which confirmed that conditions there met all requirements and that there was no evidence whatsoever to justify irresponsible allegations of torture and inhumane treatment.
Court procedures in the trial of Kozlov and other key instigators were conducted transparently and in strict accordance with Kazakh and international laws. On Sept 3, 4 and 5, 2012 court hearings were held on the case of V.Kozlov, A.Aminov and S.Sapargali, during which 6 witnesses were questioned. It was followed by international NGOs, including from Poland and UK, and diplomats from the German Embassy in Astana.
Witness Natalya Azhigaliyeva, who was a participant of the Zhanaozen labor dispute, testified that some politicians, including V.Kozlov, tried to exploit the dispute, politicize and further destabilize the public order. These people, according to her, instigated and provoked the workers, thereby hardening the position of the laid off laborers. She said that she understood and in hindsight, regretted her own participation in the instability which led to the tragic death of several people and the destruction of millions of dollars in public and private property.
The Court will issue its verdict on all of the remaining cases once all the procedures are fully completed, and all admissible evidence has been heard. Again, open for all to see and in full accordance with the laws.
To help better understand Kazakhstan here in the USA, we supported a delegation of Congress staffers, better known as StaffDel, to Kazakhstan, from August 26 – Sept 1. The group of about 9 chiefs of staff of important congressmen visited Kazakhstan from August 26 for about a week and visited Astana and Almaty. They have meet officials from the Foreign Ministry and other Government Agencies, interacted with members of our Parliament, attended international conferences and roundtables taking place in Kazakhstan. They came back happy and with better knowledge of Kazakhstan. I am full of hope that their positive experience in Kazakhstan and firsthand knowledge about Kazakhstan will help them to be better positioned to promote friendship between our nations. We look forward to organizing the second Staff Dell later this year.
Kazakhstan’s Competitiveness Ranking Soars
I am extremely glad to share with you very positive news about Kazakhstan’s economy. The World Economic Forum or Davos Forum’s 2012-2013 Global Competiveness Report has shown that Kazakhstan has made the most significant leap forward in terms of its global competitiveness among all countries covered by the report. The country jumped up 21 levels to settle at the 51st position (it ranked 72nd in 2011) outperforming its closest peer, Turkey, which moved up 16 notches this year.
Kazakhstan has shown substantial improvements in a number of areas, but most importantly in macroeconomic stability, where the country ranks 16th, and labor market efficiency, where it holds the 19th position. The country has also improved its positions in technological readiness (55th), market size (55th) and higher education and training (58th). Despite the progress achieved, important challenges related to health and primary education (92nd) and business sophistication (99th) remain.
According to the WEF’s report, Kazakhstan today is in transition mode, moving from an efficiency driven economy to innovation driven one. Other countries making a similar transition include Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Turkey etc. For these countries, the WEF places increasingly more weight on those areas that are becoming more important for the countries competitiveness as they develop, ensuring “penalization” for those countries that are not preparing for the next stage.
In the first half of 2012, Kazakhstan’s economy grew by 5.6 percent (year-on-year), according to the latest official statistics. Since 2002 the country’s economy expanded 7 times or 1.2-1.3 times each year. According to the International Monetary Fund, Kazakhstan was ranked 53rd among 182 countries in terms of GDP production in 2011. With its current 11 thousand dollars GDP per capita, the country’s economy is expected to grow in 2012 by 6%, while the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific forecasts the country’s economic growth to be at 6.2 percent.
During his speech at the Atlantic Council Conference on Twenty Years of Kazakhstan’s Independence and U.S.-Diplomatic Relations, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake highlighted the significant economic progress Kazakhstan has achieved since the country became independent in 1991. “For 20 years, Kazakhstan has attracted considerable international investment that has created jobs and prosperity. Kazakhstan stands out in the region for substantially reducing poverty and laying a solid foundation for the creation of a real middle class,” he said.
It is expected that with its forthcoming accession to the World Trade Organization and participation in the OECD, Kazakhstan will make the further structural changes necessary for it to take advantage of regional and global integration efforts, and to spur its economic diversification, domestic output and exports.
The WEF’s Global Competiveness Report is the most high-profile publication the organization
publishes. It ranked 144 economies, the largest group of countries the WEF has ranked to date. The rankings are based on an index created by the WEF’s experts that incorporates a series of metrics, including 12 “pillars of competitiveness”.
I believe that the high ranking will send a powerful signal to international businessmen that Kazakhstan is a very safe place to invest and an excellent destination for technology and capital. It would provide confidence for entrepreneurs that their skills will be valued in my country and their efforts will lead to high profits, which can be taken out of the country easily or re-invested in even more lucrative ventures.
* * *
As you can see, we have truly been very busy here at the Embassy and I wanted to be sure you didn’t miss any of our important summer developments – our sports and culture initiatives, the achievements of our fantastic athletes, the pride we display in our heritage and the openness with which we deal with lawbreakers, be they citizen rioters or law enforcement officials.
We at the Embassy were excited to have a busy but enjoyable Summer, however we are not done yet. We are already planning several new events before the end of the year. Stay tuned to our website and newsletters for announcements, and as always, check in with my Blog. For example, in my next blog, I will write about my friendly dinner with the Congressmen dedicated to the Constitution Day of Kazakhstan, my trip to North Dakota to introduce our Honorary Consul for Upper MidWest, an online lecture by Kazakhstan’s President with the participation of Kazakh students in the USA and other developments.
Posted on August 21st, 2012 No comments
We had a wonderful celebration at the embassy on Thursday in honor of the Kazakh Olympians who won medals. Over a hundred people showed up for the lunch celebration. Everyone was in a great mood. And why not? Kazakhstan ranked 12th among all the nations in the world in the number of gold medal winners! We had seven, a new record for us, and we are very proud and happy. For details of the Kazakhstan’s Olympic achievements, please click here.
In brief remarks before we all dined on a delicious buffet lunch, I told everyone how joyous I was – and as Kazakhs all over the world are – at the success of our Olympic athletes. Usually, we do well in Greco-Roman wrestling and weightlifting. We medaled in those, of course. But this time we also won major honors in cycling and track and field. That was a special set of victories for us.
I joked that in London people were saying our athletes had a special secret for high performance: they ate horse meat. I assured everyone at the Embassy that we weren’t serving horse meet at lunch, but that everyone in London became believers in whatever our athletes did to do so well.
I was lucky enough to have been in London for the Olympics and I told everyone how exciting it was to be in the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies. I had served as Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Great Britain and that made my visit especially enriching and exciting.
I thanked everyone for coming – from the children to the high government officials present. We had the treat of a short documentary – with music! – about our victorious Olympians. Then we all had a tasty meal and wine to toast our medalists.
It was a terrific celebration for a great Olympics for Kazakhstan! You can watch the video about the event uploaded to YouTube here.
Posted on July 17th, 2012 No comments
As I have mentioned in my previous blog entry, at the dinner event featuring Kazakh cuisine for the member of the National Press Club on June 26, our American friends have been happy to experience Kazakh hospitality and talk to our diplomats.
We have received many “thank you” letters appreciating our Embassy’s role in promoting friendship between our countries. Some of the guests have written articles, blogs about the event. Therefore I am pleased to offer to your attention two pieces: a blog contribution Six “Wows” for the Kazakhstan Embassy by Myron Belkind, Chair, International Correspondents Committee, and another an article “Discovering the Kazakhstan Way” by C Naseer Ahmad.
I hope you would enjoy reading them.
Six “Wows” for the Kazakhstan Embassy
“Wow!” That’s what journalists like to say when something special happens, and we couldn’t stop saying “wow” on the occasion of the Kazakhstan Embassy Night hosted by HE Ambassador Erlan Idrissov on June 26 for the National Press Club’s International Correspondents Committee.
First “wow”: A record turnout of 70 NPC members, double the normal amount who attend the presentations and informational briefings as part of the NPC’s Embassy Nights Series begun in 2005. The NPC quickly filled up its normal quota of 35 members who had RSVP’d, and then word came from the Kazakhstan Embassy that the ambassador wanted to double the number. Could we get 70 NPC members to attend, enquired Nurgali Arystanov, the embassy’s very helpful first secretary? My first thought was, “I am not so certain,” because, after all, we had just had a Kazakhstan Embassy Night exactly a year ago, in the last week of June 2011. With some concerns as to what the response would be, I sent out an invitational notice to all NPC members through the Club’s online newsletter, and within hours, we had reached our new quota of 70! Clearly, there was strong interest in learning about the distant, landlocked Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan and how it has progressed economically and politically since it became independent from the Soviet Union in December 1991.
Second “wow”: After an opening reception and the viewing of excerpts from the popular PBS series, “This is America with Dennis Wholey” featuring Kazakhstan, I had the honor of introducing the ambassador and noted that on this July 4, 2012, the fireworks over the Capitol and the National Mall could well have a double theme – first, to celebrate the 236th anniversary of American Independence, and the second (in a “lighter” sense), the fifth anniversary of the ambassador’s becoming envoy to the United States following seven years as ambassador to the United Kingdom! And then the ambassador proceeded to give an extremely informative presentation about the “real Kazakhstan” – “not the one you might have heard about through the movie ‘Borat’” – and so the ambassador’s remarks qualify for the second “wow” of the evening.
Now for an embarrassing moment. As everyone knows, journalists never like to be corrected. Well, in the presence of 70 National Press Club members, the Ambassador felt he had to correct me. In my introductory remarks, I had said that Kazakhstan had achieved a literacy rate of 99.5 percent. Actually, the ambassador said the correct number for literacy is 99.7 percent! I happily stand corrected, and the fact that the literacy rate is so high – nearly 100 percent – qualifies for a third “wow.”
Then there is a “wow” for the ambassador’s detailed responses to every question the journalists asked on a wide range of topics during a Q&A session that was originally scheduled for 20 minutes but went on for double the time – to 40 minutes.
And what can we say regarding the truly delicious buffet featuring Kazakh cuisine at the concluding “mix and mingle” reception, and the fact that the ambassador stayed on and spoke with NPC members individually and in small groups until 9pm – am hour longer than the event was scheduled to end?
You got it. We award two more “wows” and a very grateful thank-you to Ambassador Erlan Idrissov for a very special Embassy Night sponsored by the National Press Club’s International Correspondents Committee.
Six “Wows!” That is a record.
Chair, International Correspondents Committee, and
Treasurer, The National Press Club
Discovering the Kazakhstan Way
By C. Naseer Ahmad
“Mein thori si Urdu bolta hoon; Pakistan mein chaar saal raha hoon” said the affable Ambassador Erlan A. Idrissov upon learning that the questioner was born on the currently troubled end of the Silk Road. With humor and wit he charmed the guests at the Kazakhstan Embassy during event organized by the International Correspondents Committee. “We survived the Stalinist era, so we can also survive the ‘Borat’ phenomenon” he said jokingly. The notable thing was not just the command of the issues and the statistics but also that the atmosphere was remarkably relaxed in which journalist felt at ease touching a wide range of subjects.
The evening started with a video presentation of Dennis Wholey’s television program about Kazakhstan. Through the condensed program that participants were made to feel at home in the ornate reception room with magnificent art displays.
“The Future is Wide Open” – a claim from a nation reborn with open hearts and minds – was an unmistakable message the visitors took. For a country that went from 1,400 to zero nuclear weapons, the Embassy staff radiated both openness and confidence to entertain visitors. A handout, dated May 29, 2012, on the table outside the reception room communicated the success story that is happening in this vibrant country. For instance, in connection with the New Silk Road Project President Nursultan Nazabayev was quoted on the introduction of the newest members in the Foreign Investors Council (FIC) – which included President of Russian Sberbank, CEO of Conoco Phillips and Chairman of Deloitte Touche – to name a few.
With over $146 billion foreign direct investments – not foreign aid – and 99.5% literacy in a country that is home to 140 different ethnic groups and 40 religious denominations something must be going right. It has been said that facts are stubborn what can perhaps be said about Kazakhstan is that its facts are amazing. For instance, Ambassador Idrissov pointed out that with investments in infrastructure shipments from the eastern ports of China can travel to Frankfurt in about nine days whereas by sea it would take over a month – not to mention the financial cost.
Of course, in any country there is room for improvement and that might also be true of Kazakhstan. However, one must take into account where the country was soon after the independence from Soviet domination and the period of Russian occupation. A glimpse of the challenges the Kazakh people faced can be viewed by reading the “The Kazakhstan Way” – President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s autobiography in which he narrates pacifying striking miners with a pack of cigarette during the communist era. He noted that while he was not a smoker, he found the habit of carrying packs of cigarettes useful in breaking ice. The more one reads about Kazakhstan the more one is convinced that while Borat enjoy some success in making fun of a beautiful country, the Kazakhs are probably laughing all the way to the bank.
In addition to Dennis Wholey’s television program, the awe inspiring natural beauty can be enjoyed in a wonderful book “Kazakhstan”, by Dagmar Schreiber and Jeremy Tredinnick, with pictures, historical context – such as information about poets and thinkers like Al Farabi – and not to mention the hotspots that could tempt the world travelers to hop on the next flight to Almaty, Astana or Zhetisu – the Land of Seven Rivers. And in their travels they too might sing like the Kazakh people:
“True riches and jewels
Are kept on the bottom of the deepest seas
True generosity and wisdom
Are kept deep down in one’s soul”