Actor and producer Anuar Nurpeisov addressing his critics in a Facebook video.
A famous actor and entertainment producer in Kazakhstan has waded into a recurrent controversy about language after appearing to endorse the view that it is not always necessary to know Kazakh.
The outcry began when Anuar Nurpeisov posted a video on his Facebook account in which he discussed his recent visit to Singapore and how he was struck there by how many people he heard speaking English. Why, he wondered, could people not be as relaxed in Kazakhstan toward those, including ethnic Kazakhs, that prefer to speak in some other language?
The remarks drew heated criticism online, where champions of the Kazakh language condemned Nurpeisov for frequently speaking in Russian — instead of his native Kazakh — in his television appearances and elsewhere.
Society in Kazakhstan was split over decades of imperial Russian and then Soviet rule into two linguistic camps.
Typically, urban Kazakhs were forced to rely on Russian as their main language of communication and many continue to do so to this day. By the estimates of a researcher with the Institute of Ethnography at the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, Olga Naumova, around 40 percent of Kazakhs no longer spoke their own language by the late 1980s. Naumova found that nearly three-quarters of Kazakhs living in cities did not use their native languages.
Kazakh critics of such people refer to them disparagingly as “Shala Kazakh,” which means “half Kazakh.” At the more militant end of this contingent are those commonly termed “national-patriots,” sometimes mockingly abbreviated to “Natspaty.” Ardently patriotic outlets regularly argue for the need to preserve native Kazakh culture and uphold the supremacy inside Kazakhstan of the “titular language.”
The editor Qazaq Uni newspaper, Kazybek Isa, said Nurpeisov had missed the point in his Facebook complaints.
The "Georgian Legion" fighting in Ukraine, from the facebook page of its commander, Mamuka Mamulashvili.
Ukraine has released a Georgian soldier whose arrest -- under a Russian warrant -- sparked controversy and accusations that the pro-Western governments were colluding with Moscow.
The Kyiv city prosecutor's office announced January 27 that it released Giorgi Tsertsvadze, a retired Georgian lieutenant colonel. Tsertsvadze was arrested 12 days earlier at Kyiv's airport on an Interpol warrant.
That warrant was issued in Russia late last year based on a murder that Tsertsvadze was accused of committing in Russia in 2003. It was no doubt germane that, in the interim, Tsertsvadze also had fought in Georgia's war over South Ossetia and on the side of Ukraine's government against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The arrest quickly became a political issue: Georgia's United National Movement Party accused the ruling Georgian Dream government of secretly giving Russia information on Tsertsvadze. “The Georgian government is using tricks, as they can’t directly pass the soldiers on to Russia. They didn’t warn soldiers that there are criminal charges against them in Russia," said UNM spokeswoman Khatia Dekanoidze. "Tsertsvadze left the territory of Georgia and he was arrested in Ukraine. This is a very evil trick, which is being implemented against our soldiers." Former president and erstwhile UNM leader Mikheil Saakashvili echoed that sentiment, as did Tsertsvadze's Ukrainian lawyer.
Authorities in Kazakhstan have unveiled some heartening news on the economic front with the announcement that 20,000 jobs are be created at the Tengizchevroil energy venture.
But that burst of optimism comes just as dozens of workers have reportedly gone on strike for higher pay at the very same project.
Deputy Labour and Social Protection Minister Birzhan Nurymbetov said on January 30 that the oil field joint venture, which is 50 percent controlled by US energy corporation Chevron, is an example of the government’s long-term investment agenda.
Foreign investments generated by this project have a multiplier effect and enable the development of business and the improvement of social wellbeing, Nurymbetov’s ministry stated in a press release.
“According to Tengizchevroil, [future expansion at the project has created] provides employment for 10,500 people — of those, 9,400 people are local staff, which accounts for 90 percent of all workers on the project in Kazakhstan,” Nurymbetov said.
Narymbetov said the government expect 20,000 more jobs to be created by expansion of the Tengizchevroil project, and that 18,000 of those jobs would go to Kazakhstani citizens.
“Tengizchevroil will assume the responsibility of teaching and training Kazakhstani personnel,” he said.
Workers would come from all over Kazakhstan, Narymbetov said.
But even as government officials are boasting of future job-creation, those already employed by Tengizchevroil are complaining that they are not paid enough.
Uzbekistan has embarked on a campaign to popularize the rearing of chickens as a way to combat poverty in rural areas.
The state broadcaster reported in its evening bulletin on January 29 that President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has given orders for a large and high-tech bird farm to be built in the Khorezm region, some 800 kilometers west of the capital, Tashkent. The farm will churn out 51 million eggs and breed 1.5 chicks every year, the news program predicted.
This is the first firm result of an initiative announced by Mirziyoyev earlier in the month as he was touring the city of Nukus, in the capital of the economically depressed Karakalpakstan autonomous region. Chickens, Mirziyoyev predicted, will be the key to solving poverty in Uzbekistan.
“Every family in rural areas should keep at least 100 egg-laying hens. From that amount, you could get at least 50 eggs daily. Suppose a family keeps 10 eggs for itself and sells the other 40, then we would have no more poor people any more,” Mirziyoyev said in a speech broadcast on state television.
Not that officials in Uzbekistan like to talk about the poor. Instead they prefer a euphemistic term meaning “disadvantaged.” Minimum salaries are at present around 150,000 sum per month (around $45 at the official rate).
Mirziyoyev has urged civil servants and bankers to assist the chicken program in any way that they can by enabling credits to families that take up the challenge.
According to state-produced statistics published on January 1, Uzbekistan’s stock of fowl stood at almost 66 million heads and the country produced around 6 billion eggs last year.
Only days after being fired as mayor Tajikistan’s capital city, long-serving and ultimate elite loyalist Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev has found himself potentially becoming a target of corruption investigations.
The deputy head of the state anticorruption agency, Abdukarim Zarifzoda, announced on January 27 that investigators have initiated an audit into the City Hall. Ubaidulloev ran the office until January 12.
“Even though the activities of the mayor’s office are checked every two years, and so the next inspection was to have been in 2018, the mayor of Dushanbe has filed a request with the anticorruption agency for a review. A request was addressed to the mayor’s office itself on two occasions by citizens concerning the implementation of the Affordable Housing project,” Zarifzoda said.
Ubaidulloev’s replacement as mayor is none other than the president’s son, Rustam Emomali, although Zarifzoda never mentioned his name during his press conference.
The Affordable Housing project was launched in Dushanbe in 2013 and was intended to begin settling needy people into new homes by September 2015. Construction work was serially delayed, however, creating much discontent among the homebuyers that had already put down deposits. Some, concerned they would end up without homes or their money, demanded to be reimbursed.
Although complaints over the project have been rumbling for more than a year, anticorruption officials waited for unknown reasons until now — after Ubaidulloev’s dismissal — to begin their probe.
Ubaidulloev rose to power alongside President Emomali Rahmon and had reached the position of deputy prime minister by 1992. He was actively involved in negotiations with the armed opposition throughout the civil war, which came to a close in 1997.
A telecommunications gateway built to snoop on people’s phone calls and internet habits is, according to one estimate, making the government at least $2 million monthly.
Around early 2016, President Emomali Rahmon signed off a decree to create an entity called the Unified Electronic Communications Switching Center, abbreviated as EKTs in Russian. The system was — purportedly in the interests of security — to require all digital data to be filtered through a network gateway run by state-owned telecommunications company Tojiktelecom. The state telecommunications is in turn controlled by the state telecommunications agency, headed by Beg Zukhurov, who is related to President Rahmon by marriage.
Protests that this mechanism would lead to Tojiktelecom’s de facto monopoly control over the industry, in complete violation of obligations before the World Trade Organization, which Tajikistan joined in 2013, were ignored.
EKTs operations proper began in November. As news website Asia-Plus has reported, from January 1, all mobile service operators in Tajikistan have had to pay 15 dirhams ($0.02) into the system for every minute of incoming and and outgoing international calls. That was an increase of the 11 dirham fee previously levied — a hike that the anti-monopoly agency explained as being necessitated by the shrinking number of international calls.
“Until now, the duration of incoming and outgoing international calls in Tajikistan was around 158 million minutes monthly. In December, the duration of calls fell to 112 million minutes,” a source in the anti-monopoly agency told Asia-Plus. That drop prompted Tojiktelecom to plead with the anti-monopoly agency to act, according to the website’s source.
Under a newly approved law, authorities in Kazakhstan will from this summer have the power to remotely disable mobile telephones that are not registered in a state database, Tengri News has reported.
Officials say the measure has been adopted as part of the fight against terrorism.
Major mobile phone service operators Kcell and Beeline say that since the start of the year, the Information and Communications Ministry has been actively working on creating a register of International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers, which are unique to every mobile device.
Under the new law, mobile operators will be required to block all mobile phones that have not been registered. The rule on registration will come into force on July 1, 2017.
Nur.kz news website has reported that the Information Ministry formed a working group together with law enforcement and mobile phone service provider representatives to draw up the specific rules on registration within the coming months. Although the details have not been worked out to date, the law is already on the books.
Service providers have said that similar requirements — albeit intended to reduce phone theft — are in place in several countries, including Turkey, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.
IMEI numbers are distinct from SIM cards and can be used in some cases to trace the whereabouts of stolen phones and, if necessary, block them.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev delivering a televised address to the nation on January 25, 2017. (Photo: TV screenshot)
The president of Kazakhstan has delivered a nationwide televised address to outline a formally dramatic dilution of his own powers and a shift to a more parliamentary form of government.
Nursultan Nazarbayev described the strongly presidential model in force since independence as necessary to “overcome the enormous difficulties of forming the state,” but said that the time had arrived for a new model.
“The basic essence is that the president will give some of his powers to parliament and the government,” he said in an adress televised on all national channels on January 25. “The proposed reform is a serious redistribution of power and a democratization of the political system as a whole.”
The vision, which has been described in still fairly vague terms, is one for a mixed form of government that would still leave the president with an ultimate say over the most sensitive matters of state.
Nazarbayev said around 40 areas of responsibility would be delegated from the president’s office to the executive or parliament. Those would include what Nazarbayev termed the “regulation of social and economic processes.” Priority areas should be changed by adoption of legislative amendments by the end of the current session of parliament, he said.
Parliament will assume a greater role in forming the government — a fact that Nazarbayev said would enhance the accountability of the Cabinet.
“The winning party in parliamentary elections will have a decisive influence over the formation of the government,” Nazarbayev said.
With things as they are, the ascendancy of parliament hints at a variation on the status quo considering the fact that Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party has all but complete control control over the legislature. The only other parties represented in parliament are token opposition forces who are notable only for their support of the government.
The editor a prominent newspaper has received a suspended five-year jail term after confessing to charges of fraud.
The specialized inter-district criminal court in Astana on January 24 ruled to allow Bigeldi Gabdullin, the 61-year old chief editor of the Central Asia Monitor newspaper and the executive director of Radiotochka.kz news website, to be released from custody and for a freeze of his assets to be lifted.
Gabdullin was detained in mid-November on what investigators said was the suspicion that he was using media under his control to intimidate officials into paying him money to avoid negative coverage.
While the journalist has escaped prison time, his criminal record means he will be denied the right to hold office in local government departments for a period of up to 10 years. He will also be denied the right to relocate from his current place of abode without prior permission from the authorities.
Several high-ranking officials gave testimony as injured parties during the trial. The Kazakhstan edition of Forbes magazine reported prosecutor claims that Gabdullin threaten to publish defamatory material about the head of Zhambyl region, Karim Korkebayev, the deputy mayor of Astana, Yermek Amanshayev and Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev among others unless they provided his publications with contracts under a system known at the state order. That system is used by the government to finance state media or place articles about state policies in nominally independent media.
Press freedom advocates had initially cast Gabdullin’s case as another instance of state pressure on the media.