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Grigory Pasko: A Week in Almaty, Part 1

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At the end of August, I telephoned the well-known Kazakh human rights advocate Yevgeny Zhovtis and asked how things were going on “the front” with the criminal case that had been opened in relation to him. Yevgeny replied that in connection with the celebration of the Day of the Constitution of Kazakhstan, the trial had been postponed until 2 September. I also asked him, as a lawyer, what the punishment could be with respect to the charge that had been brought against him of having committed a DTP [a “road transport event”, known as a “motor vehicle accident” in English–Trans.], as the result of which a person died? Inasmuch as the person who died was himself at fault in what had happened, said Zhovtis, the punishment could be only conditional [a suspended sentence–Trans.].

…On 2 September I telephoned anew. This time Yevgeny Alexandrovich was less optimistically disposed. I think, said he, they’ll give around three years of a real term…
…They gave Yevgeny Zhovtis four years of a colony-settlement.

And I thought: to whose benefit is this? Zhovtis, after all, to the extent that was known to me, is far from the most rank-and-file of the human rights advocates in Kazakhstan. Then I found in the Net a multitude of other facts, bearing witness that in Kazakhstan the rights of people are being violated, that in the country are many totalitarian features, very similar to Russian reality.

…I flew to Almaty – the former capital of Kazakhstan.

At the Domodedovo airport I joined the end of the queue — around 50people. To takeoff of the flight to Almaty – around 40 minutes. Workingat passport control were four border guards, although there were, asalways, a lot of people. Suddenly the border guard in “our” booth gotup and went away without a word. The crowd began to look around inperplexity, seeking about with the eyes a representative of theairport. A woman was found. “They are not subordinate to us,” she said, and recommended that we ask a senior customs agent. Oneyoung passenger did take on the task, and willing approached the maws of bureaucracy. The bordereños heard him out in silenceand did not react in any way. We had to scatter ourselves into theother queues, it goes without saying, into the ends of these queues.

In the airport of Almaty the first to meet me were the borderguardesses – nice, pleasant, attentive. They gently scolded me forhaving forgotten to fill out a declaration. They quickly put a stamp onthe blank. They suggested how to go further.

At the exit I took an official taxi – on the expensive side, but thenthey issued a receipt for payment. The young lad-driver spoke theRussian language splendidly. Everywhere along the road I saw signs inRussian and in Kazakh. But then I did not see practically any Russianautomobiles like the «Zhiguli» [Lada in English–Trans.] So where arethey? – I asked the driver. He laughed and said that Kazakhs prefer toride in good autos.

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Almaty-on-the-Seine?

In the hotel room on a table I discovered the magazine «Altyn korpu»(«Golden bridge»). In it an article under the name «The cause ofGenghis Khan lives and conquers, or what is pan-turkism…» The author ofthe article – a Serik Maleyev. Inasmuch as I did not know whatpan-turkism was, I read the article. From it I found out that tribesheaded by Attila that had enslaved Italy and Gaul in the year 451 werecalled Huns and were the founding ancestors of today’s Turkic peoples.That the Kazakhs were forced to become Russian subjects at the turn ofthe 17th-18th centuries. That in the year 1916 the Kazakhs weredeprived of their property, being forcibly driven off the lands.

Thatthe initiative of president of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev with respect tothe founding of a Turkic parliamentary assembly is «far fromaccidental». That Russia has only one path – « within the framework ofthe Eurasian idea hand in hand with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijanand Turkey to build up a new Turco-Slavic union». Otherwise – acatastrophe for Russia.

Inasmuch as Russia has no need to get accustomed to catastrophes [i.e.they are nothing new for Russia–Trans.], I put the magazine aside. Itook a newspaper. It’s called «Panorama». In it was told about politicsbusiness, sport… Here are but a few of the headlines: «The OSCE isgranting Kazakhstan an opportunity to broadcast its national interestsand priorities»; «In August inflation fell»; «Work with respect to themodernization of the normative-legal base in the sphere of constructionand housing-and-public-utilities will be continued»; «Results of golftournament totalled up»…

From the notices in just one issue of just one newspaper I found outthat two journalists have literally recently been convicted inKazakhstan: Ramazan Yesergepov – for the publication of an articleabout the activity of the Kazakhstani Committee for National Security(the former KGB) and journalist of the newspaper «Vremya» TokhniyazKuchukov – for participation in a DTP with a lethal outcome.

You could accuse me of subjectivism, but I consider: in a country wherethey lock up journalists for their publications or in obviouslyfalsified cases, there isn’t even a whiff of democracy. And yetKazakhstan is trying to get into European family: president Nazarbayevdeclared the presidency in the OSCE in the year 2010 a «nationalpriority» of the country.

By the way, in many mass information media there was a story about amilitary parade of troops that took place on 30 August in Astana – thecapital of Kazakhstan – and was dedicated to the Day of theConstitution. An opinion about this parade was expressed in that same«Panorama» by the poet, translator and philosopher Auezkhan Kodar. Inhis opinion, the parade is an indicator of the «fear of the rulingpinnacle before today’s political situation», before «a world thatwants to live without them».

I also found such a notice: «Yevgeny Zhovtis has been convicted to four years of deprivation of liberty».

(To be continued)

Photos: Almaty today (photo by G.Pasko)