08ASTANA1562, KAZAKHSTAN’S GERMAN MINORITY IS MORE THAN JUST A SHOWPIECE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA1562 2008-08-21 11:10 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO5608
RR RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHPW RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1562/01 2341110
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211110Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3080
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0608
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0484
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1938
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 0680

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 001562 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PGOV PREL ECON KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN'S GERMAN MINORITY IS MORE THAN JUST A SHOWPIECE 
 
ASTANA 00001562  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (SBU) Although their community shrank dramatically in the 1990s, 
ethnic Germans remain one of the largest and best organized minority 
groups in Kazakhstan.  The German government provides the German 
minority significant resources to strengthen its minority 
Association, improve its economic prospects, and solidify its place 
in Kazakhstani society.  Aleksandr Dederer, the long-time president 
of the German minority Association, is a source of strong leadership 
in both the Association, which has 23 chapters throughout the 
country, and its chamber of commerce, which has scored recent 
victories in promoting its members' commercial interests.  The 
German minority newspaper is currently beholden to tight Ministry of 
Information requirements, but its editor envisions a more 
independent paper with expanded minority-community readership. 
Finally, ethnic German scholars and scientists, supported by the 
German government, are a well-connected part of the Kazakhstani 
intellectual elite.  End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
Germans in Kazakhstan: Ich bin kein Berliner! 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) Kazakhstan's Germans are descendants of Volga Germans 
exiled to present-day Kazakhstan during World War II.   Almost one 
million ethnic Germans resided in Kazakhstan when the USSR 
collapsed.  But thanks to an open visa and naturalization regime and 
generous welfare provisions in Germany, Germans left Kazakhstan in 
droves after the country became independent.  However, in Germany 
many of the new arrivals struggled to integrate as they were labeled 
troublesome "Russians".  Minority representatives here now claim 
about 1000 German families per year are returning to Kazakhstan, 
where prior out-migration has created economic opportunities in 
traditionally German sectors.  Today the German minority numbers 
about 226,000 and lives predominantly in northern Kazakhstan, around 
Karaganda, Kostanay, Petropavlovsk, and Pavlodar. 
 
3. (SBU) Despite the fact that many Germans have intermarried and 
only a small percentage speak German, their identity remains strong 
and emotional, not least due to a history of persecution and 
hardship.  Cultural traditions, especially surrounding Protestant 
holidays, are actively maintained and provide a key mark of 
distinction.  The community also maintains a reputation for being 
hard working, non-corrupt, and highly talented in agriculture, 
craftsmanship, and science. 
 
--------------------------- 
German Tax Revenues at Work 
--------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) The Kazakhstani German community is heavily funded by the 
German government.  German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Germany's 
international development agency, channels millions of euros every 
year from Germany's Federal Ministry of the Interior to help 
Kazakhstani Germans organize and prosper.  GTZ Kazakhstan Director 
Rainer Goertz told us that his government sees a responsibility to 
support Germans, give them greater economic opportunities, and in 
turn stem the flow of immigration to Germany.  Annegret Westphal, 
GTZ Central Asia minority program director, said funding aims to 
anchor German minority interests so they make a recognizable 
contribution Kazakhstani society. 
 
5. (SBU) If anything, GTZ's German minority program in Kazakhstan is 
expanding.  Berlin is cutting social welfare spending for minority 
returnees in favor of aid programs in countries of origin.  GTZ has 
restructured its strategy to emphasize organization, language 
training, and youth and academic honors programs.  One GTZ flagship 
program in Kazakhstan is the German Social Fund, a 350,000-euro 
investment that finances health programs for the German minority 
through accrued interest. 
 
6. (SBU) Goertz said Germany's engagement on behalf of the minority 
is a sign that it will have to be taken seriously in Kazakhstan. 
The Kazakhstani government, however, is watching GTZ activities with 
a certain "curiosity".  Westphal reported instances when aid to 
ethnic Germans has created tensions within their communities.  One 
example was a winter relief program for rural Germans.  The sight of 
German families in remote villages receiving much-needed supplies 
during a harsh winter embittered their non-German neighbors, and 
Westphal said GTZ will not renew the program due to Kazakhstani 
government unwillingness to co-finance it. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
Organization: German Efficiency with a Soviet Mentality 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
 
ASTANA 00001562  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
7. (SBU) Overall, the GTZ has been successful, as is evident in the 
str
ength of the completely Berlin-funded Association of the Civil 
Society Organizations of the Germans of Kazakhstan.  The Association 
is an umbrella organization that unites 23 German community centers, 
called "Rebirths", which use earmarked GTZ funds to run language, 
youth, social, and humanitarian programs.  Kazakhstan is the only 
country in the CIS where a single German umbrella organization 
operates nationally. Kazakhstan's Assembly of Peoples consistently 
recognizes the Germans as among the country's best organized 
minority communities. 
 
8. (SBU) The Astana Rebirth has all the expected trimmings of an 
active community center: national crafts and excursion photos 
covering the walls, a German-language library, a dining room, a 
computer lab.  Its most important activities are a German Sunday 
school, in which around 35 children participate each week, and free 
bi-weekly German language lessons.  The Rebirth works closely with 
the Astana German School, one of six public schools in Kazakhstan 
which have mandatory German language instruction within a 
Russian-language curriculum.  The school's deputy director told us 
that about 25 percent of the students are ethnic Germans. 
 
9. (SBU) Aleksandr Dederer, founding president of the national 
Association, is the most important figure in the German community. 
He was the impetus for initiating a national German minority 
movement in the early 1990s and deserves credit for the 
Association's superb organization.  Interlocutors stressed Dederer's 
influence and personal relationship with President Nazarbayev. 
(Comment: Dederer's office is adorned with photographs of himself 
with the Kazakhstani leader.  End Comment.) Despite his successes, 
some voices in the German minority community criticized Dederer for 
his authoritarian style.  Westphal reported that since founding the 
Association in 1992, Dederer has developed a reputation for being an 
inflexible leader with a preference for a rigid top-down structure. 
Much to the dismay of German government sponsors, three Rebirths 
have even withdrawn from the Association due to disagreements with 
Dederer. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Chamber of Commerce: Delivering Results 
--------------------------------------- 
 
10. (SBU) The German-Kazakhstani Association of Entrepreneurs 
(DKAU), also chaired by Aleksandr Dederer, is the chamber of 
commerce of the German minority.  Its 54 member-companies encompass 
almost 13,000 employees and are most active in international trade, 
foodstuffs and agriculture, construction, and machine tools.  The 
DKAU's largest member enterprises are Ivolga-Holding, which 
purportedly controls 10-percent of Kazakhstan's agricultural 
production, Gold Product, with 21 percent of Kazakhstan's wine 
production, and Rakhat, one of the country's largest confection 
producers.  One of the DKAU's most important goals is to expand 
investment relationships and knowledge transfer between Germany and 
Kazakhstan.  The DKAU claims this exchange strengthens the economic 
potential of the German minority and contributes to its continued 
stability and organization. 
 
11. (SBU) Another chief DKAU goal is to represent member interests 
before state bodies.  Dederer's DKAU Deputy, Nadezhda Burluzkaya, 
related events surrounding the company Gold Product and its ethnic 
German owner Yury Vegelin.  She claimed that Vegelin turned 
thousands of hectares of failing vineyards into a successful and 
environmentally-friendly enterprise that filled 150,000 bottles of 
wine per day and produced a range of fruit and vegetable juices. 
His success attracted the attention of the financial police, who, 
accusing him of tax crimes, placed him under house arrest and 
threatened to seize his assets. 
According to Burluzkaya, DKAU, with the personal high-level 
involvement of Dederer, fought a meticulous, bribe-free legal battle 
to protect its member company.  Vegelin was eventually cleared of 
the charges and remains president of Gold Product.  Burluzkaya said 
the success of Dederer and DKAU attracted several companies, 
including the non-German Rakhat confection company, to DKAU for the 
protection it offered against state harassment. 
 
----------------------------------- 
Media: Wedded to the State, For Now 
----------------------------------- 
 
12. (SBU) The official newspaper of Kazakhstan's Germans is the 
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (DAZ).  This German-Russian publication, 
available in print and on the internet, is owned by Dederer's 
Association but gets 90 percent of its funding from the Kazakhstani 
Ministry of Information.  The money comes with the requirement that 
98 pages per year be dedicated to "intercultural understanding". 
Ulf Seegers, DAZ German edition editor, said the requirement 
resulted in excessive reporting on cultural festivals and he 
lamented the toll it took on the newspaper's quality.  DAZ is also 
 
ASTANA 00001562  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
required to regularly send to the Ministry of Information lists of 
headlines, authors, and word counts for all articles published.  The 
paper practices self-censorship and avoids sensitive political 
topics like President Nazarbayev and his family, Seegers reported. 
 
 
13. (SBU) Seegers, who wrote his graduate thesis on transforming the 
DAZ, envisions a newspaper less reliant on Ministry funds and more 
directly targeted at the German minority.  He alleged the DAZ is 
routinely asked for bribes from Ministry of Information officials, 
which it always declines to pay, resulting in delays in disbursement 
of its financial support from the Ministry.  He said the paper could 
better be financed through advertisements.  A prerequisite for this 
would be that the paper circulate more widely among the broad German 
minority community itself -- rather than among German expatriates 
and internet readers as it currently does -- which is a key 
long-term goal of the DAZ. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Science: Einsteins of the Steppe 
-------------------------------- 
 
14. (SBU) Some of Kazakhstan's most accomplished scientists are 
ethnic Germans.  Ernst Boos, an astrophysicist who chairs the German 
Scientific Society in Kazakhstan, claimed the Kazakhstani government 
spends an average of just three dollars per citizen for scientific 
research annually.  German government aid to the German Scientific 
Society promotes scholarship in Kazakhstan by giving under-funded 
scientists the opportunity to publish articles for free, present 
findings at academic conferences, and deepen scholarly ties with 
German-speaking countries.  Boos stated that being an ethnic German 
has boosted his reputation as a scientist, but familiar obstacles 
remain.  He claimed that one project he headed, an "Information Silk 
Road" to create satellite links from Ukraine across Kazakhstan to 
China, was "hijacked" by a government official in its concluding 
phases, depriving him of credit for years of work. 
 
------- 
Comment 
-
------ 
 
15. (SBU) Despite its rapid contraction, the German minority in 
Kazakhstan remains strong.  Heavy German government sponsorship, 
established leadership, and an efficient organization mean the 
minority is likely to strengthen its place in Kazakhstan's national 
pastiche.  Resistance to state encroachment, particularly in the 
business and media arms of Dederer's organization, as well as the 
prominence of German scholars, demonstrate that the German minority 
is more than a showpiece in President Nazarbayev's campaign to 
advertise cultural harmony in Kazakhstan. End Comment. 
 
ORDWAY

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