09ASTANA262, KAZAKHSTAN: LIFE ON THE STEPPE, FEBRUARY 7 – 13

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA262 2009-02-13 07:00 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO1147
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RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0262/01 0440700
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 130700Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4604
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1180
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0577
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1283
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0289
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0754
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0670
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1201

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000262 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, SCA/PPD, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON SOCI KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  LIFE ON THE STEPPE, FEBRUARY 7 - 13 
 
ASTANA 00000262  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. 
 
PICKETERS BRAVE COLD TO PROTEST HOUSING SITUATION 
 
3.  (U) On February 6, a handful of people picketed outside the 
office of Prime Minister Karim Masimov in Astana to demand 
government action against construction companies that have failed to 
deliver on commitments to complete purchased housing units.  Calling 
themselves the Movement for Acceptable Housing, the protestors stood 
outside for hours despite sub-zero temperatures and howling winds, 
holding signs saying, "If the government can bail out the banks, why 
not us?"  The group eventually received a letter from the Prime 
Minister's office, informing them that the government could not 
interfere in what it considered a private commercial matter.  A 
leader of the group, Saule Tasbulat-Kizi, was clearly unimpressed by 
the government's response:  "If the government of Kazakhstan can 
replace the president of a private bank, or invest taxpayer money in 
a private bank, then a statement like this one is a cynical lie," 
she said. 
 
MAYOR'S PATIENCE FINALLY RUNS OUT 
 
4.  (U) After listening to citizens' complaints for nearly 
twenty-four hours, the acting mayor of Shakhan, a small town in 
Karaganda oblast, called the police, who hauled off seven local 
women to the police station in a squad car.  Acting mayor Karipol 
Mukatov told reporters that he listened patiently for hours as the 
women complained about rising electricity prices and poor public 
service, "but every time I took care of one problem, they would 
raise something else."  (NOTE:  Electricity prices in Karaganda 
recently doubled, from 5.52 tenge -- about 3.7 cents -- per kilowatt 
hour to 10.03 tenge/kilowatt hour, or 6.8 cents/kwh.  END NOTE). 
The leader of the group, Svetlana Yerzhimanova, was fined 2500 tenge 
(approximately $17), and the other women were let off with a 
warning.  Immediately after the incident, Nurlan Nigmatulin, the 
governor of Karaganda oblast, fired Mukhatov for allowing the women 
to spend the night in the mayor's office.  Nigmatulin told Mukatov 
he should have convinced the women to return home and file a 
complaint in writing, rather than holding an illegal, all-night 
protest in a government building.  Nigmatulin then convened an 
extraordinary plenary session of the oblast government, during which 
he convinced the power company "Energomunai" to  reduce electricity 
tariffs to the previous rate of 5.52 tenge per kilowatt hour. 
 
EXTREME ANTI-CRISIS MEASURE 
 
5.  (U) A man from the village of Baidibek in the region of South 
Kazakhstan named his son Dagdarys, which means "crisis" in Kazakh. 
He said that it is now the most popular word, not only in 
Kazakhstan, but in the entire world.  According to an old Kazakh 
custom, giving children names with a negative meaning will protect 
them from that very evil. 
 
NEW BLACK AND WHITE CROSSWALKS IN ALMATY 
 
6.  (U) On March 1, traffic police in Almaty will station three live 
zebras at pedestrian crosswalks throughout the city to underscore 
the importance of traffic safety.  Police will allow children to 
cross the street while riding on a zebra, with the expectation that 
riders and motorists alike will go slow and look both ways.  The 
zebras were a gift from the government of Namibia and will travel 
the country following their debut in Almaty. 
 
WOMAN REJECTS NEW APARTMENT, LIVES IN STAIRWELL 
 
7.  (U) Balkiya Turarova from the village of Semey in East 
Kazakhstan oblast received a subsidized apartment from the state, 
but it was in such poor condition that she moved instead to the 
 
ASTANA 00000262  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
stairwell of the building and sent her kids to live with relatives. 
Turarova has been living in the stairwell for more than a month and 
said that as many as 50 people planned to join her.  She pays 
appr
oximately $200 a month for the mortgage on the apartment, the 
walls and windows of which are apparently covered with mold.  The 
health inspector's office in Semey reported that the apartment meets 
acceptable living standards and conforms to the city's building 
code. 
 
"SLAVE MARKET" FOR DAY LABORERS 
 
8.  (U) Dozens of men from all over Kyzylorda oblast gather each 
morning in the regional capital to offer their services for hire at 
so-called "slave markets."  Although the men do not hold regular 
jobs, they are also not officially registered as unemployed.  One 
man said he went to the local employment office and was offered work 
as a janitor at such a low wage that he refused to take the job. 
The informal markets for day laborers are unregulated and men are 
sometimes mistreated.  For example, 25-year old Saulet, nicknamed 
"tomato man," was taken to southern Kazakhstan to work for several 
months on a tomato plantation, but reportedly was paid nothing after 
he finished the job. 
 
HOAGLAND

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