09ASTANA232, KAZAKHSTAN: LIFE ON THE STEPPE, JANUARY 31 – FEBRUARY 6

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA232 2009-02-09 01:44 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO5929
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW
RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV
RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0232/01 0400144
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 090144Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4560
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1147
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0544
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1250
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0270
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0721
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0637
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1185

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000232 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, SCA/PPD, R, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV ECON EAIR SOCI KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  LIFE ON THE STEPPE, JANUARY 31 - FEBRUARY 6 
 
ASTANA 00000232  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2. (U) This is another in a series of weekly cables drawn mostly 
from public media as well as think-tank, NGO, and opposition 
web-sites, selected to show the diversity of life in Kazakhstan, and 
information about it available to citizens of Kazakhstan.  Our goal 
is to choose what might interest and be of use to various end-users 
in Washington, and -- especially -- to provide a more complex view 
from the other side of the world, illustrating the vitality (and 
sometimes the quirkiness) of discourse available to citizens of 
Kazakhstan. 
 
NAZARBAYEV "WORSHIP" TOO MUCH FOR SOME 
 
3.  (SBU) A group of students held a protest in Almaty this week to 
draw attention to what they claimed is President Nursultan 
Nazarbayev's growing personality cult, RFE/RL reported.  According 
to one protester, the demonstration sought to challenge the practice 
of pouring indiscriminate praise on the Kazakhstani leader.  It is 
true that government officials at all levels sometimes compete with 
each other in flattering Nazarbayev.  The praise given to the 
president ranges from fully defensible assertions about his 
successful tenure that has brought Kazakhstan political stability 
and economic growth (in this instance, a comparison to Uzbekistan's 
failings is quite popular) to less credible accolades honoring 
Nazarbayev's athletic achievements (the 68-year-old president is 
routinely declared winner of golf and tennis tournament amid the 
applause of ministers and other senior officials).  The protest, 
held in Almaty in front of the local headquarters of Nazarbayev's 
ruling Nur Otan party, was peaceful, and the police did not 
interfere. 
 
4.  (SBU) COMMENT:  We see this report as an example of RFE/RL's 
tendency to report from the far end of the opposition spectrum.  We 
would judge that the "personality cult" reported here is 
qualitatively lower (and, in fact, generally innocuous) than what is 
portrayed about other leaders in Central Asia in their countries' 
mass media.  We would also note that this demonstration was peaceful 
and did not elicit law-enforcement intervention.  END COMMENT. 
 
BLOGGING PLATFORM ACCESSIBLE -- BUT ONLY BRIEFLY 
 
5. (SBU) LiveJournal, a popular blogging platform and social 
networking website which had been inaccessible to Kazakhstani 
Internet users since October 2008, became accessible again on 
January 28, to the great excitement of local bloggers.  The joy did 
not last long -- the platform was inaccessible once again just a day 
later.  Reporters Without Borders claimed that the platform has been 
blocked because of the blogging activities of Rakhat Aliyev, who 
maintains his own blog on LiveJournal.  Aliyev's associates 
reportedly created the blog last June, and since then he has been 
using it to post entries, including transcripts of recordings of 
embarrassing telephone conversations among senior Kazakhstani 
government officials. 
 
6. (SBU) The Kazakhstani government has not acknowledged that it is 
responsible for blocking access to LiveJournal.  In fact, Prime 
Minister Karim Masimov said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy in 
December that he himself uses the platform for his own blogging. 
(NOTE:  This was prior to the launch of his own official government 
blog.  END NOTE.)  Nonetheless, LiveJournal remains inaccessible to 
Kazakhstanis who get their Internet service through the country's 
two main Internet service providers, KazakhTelecom and Nursat. 
 
7.  (SBU) COMMENT:  While we cannot ever condone governments 
blocking Internet sites for partisan political reasons, it should be 
noted that President Nazarbayev sees the on-going Rakhat Aliyev 
conflict as an existential drama, a carefully calculated "fight to 
the death."  For that reason, the government is willing to make 
harmful decisions like blocking web sites.  END COMMENT. 
 
AIR ASTANA WOES 
 
8.  (SBU) Last week, an Air Astana flight from Moscow to Almaty was 
rerouted to Astana, allegedly due to bad weather in Almaty. 
However, the passengers, who were stranded in Astana for five hours 
before the flight continued on to Almaty, did not buy the airline's 
 
ASTANA 00000232  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
explanation, the newspaper "Vremya" reported.  "Those who were 
meeting us in Almaty said that there was no fog there,"
 one 
passenger told the paper.  While never confirmed, there have been 
rumors that Air Astana flights occasionally make unscheduled stops 
in Astana to accommodate Kazakhstani VIPs trying to get home 
directly to the capital, rather than waste the extra hours flying 
past Astana to Almaty and then doubling back to Astana.  Meanwhile, 
in Almaty, a consumers' group has been established to unite those 
who have been "wronged" by the quasi-national carrier.  Air Astana 
has a monopoly position that allows it exclusively to service the 
profitable Astana-Almaty route, as well as certain popular overseas 
destinations.  Air Astana, an international-class airline operated 
by an agreement with BAE Systems (British Air), has drawn criticism 
from the public for its allegedly monopolistic pricing. 
 
9.  (SBU) COMMENT:  The real story here is the continuing 
proliferation of citizen and consumer groups who are taking 
responsibility for protesting perceived injustices and improving 
their lives -- which is grass-roots democracy in action.  END 
COMMENT. 
 
HOAGLAND

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