09ASTANA366, KAZAKHSTAN: LIFE ON THE STEPPE, FEBRUARY 21 – 27

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA366 2009-02-27 09:43 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

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RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1267

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000366 
 
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 21 - 27 
 
ASTANA 00000366  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1.  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. 
 
RESTAURANT LANDS NEAR KARAGANDA 
 
2. Residents of Ushtobe, a small village near Karaganda in central 
Kazakhstan, woke up to a surprise this week when they discovered a 
jetliner parked in a field right under their windows.  Fearing a 
landing gone horribly wrong, the residents called emergency services 
and reported a "crash."  Yet, upon the arrival of emergency 
personnel, it soon became clear that the airliner did not crash, but 
was towed into the field by a tractor trailer which stood nearby 
trapped in snow.  Relieved that they were not facing an aviation 
disaster, people began inquiring about how the plane got into their 
field.  Soon, the mystery was cleared up.  An enterprising and 
well-connected businessman from Karaganda bought the long-retired 
jet and decided to convert it into a restaurant.  He chose a place 
in Karaganda, received all the necessary permits, and only needed to 
deliver the plane to its new location.  Having a penchant for drama, 
the businessman decided to keep his plans secret and surprise 
Karaganda with the new landmark restaurant.  However, the snowy 
conditions thwarted his plans, since both the plane and the tractor 
trailer pulling it to its new location became stuck in Ushtobe and 
frightened its residents.  In a happy ending, the plane was salvaged 
the next day and delivered to its new location.  Now, Karaganda 
residents impatiently await the grand opening. 
 
ECONOMIC CRISIS JUST SENSATIONAL PRESS REPORTING? 
 
3.  The economic crisis has been the number one topic in Kazakhstan 
for quite a while.  But is there a crisis at all?  Some people think 
not, and believe that all talk about an economic crisis in the 
country is just the result of sensationalist reporting from the 
"yellow" press.  Toktarbai Kadambayev, a Majilis deputy, said last 
week:  "They write that everything is bad but when I was in the 
Taranov region (of northern Kazakhstan), I saw that everything was 
quite fine.  Not one small or medium business has folded.  The 
prices have stayed as they were, and the people have kept their 
jobs."  Local businessmen, however, hold a different opinion of the 
situation.  "Everyday, I see with my own eyes that businesses today 
are facing a mass of difficulties.  Dear deputies, please inform the 
highest levels about our difficulties.  And there is no need to calm 
us down," said Antonin Cherepanov, the leader of a local business 
association. 
 
AKTOBE COURT UPHOLDS MUSLIM MAN'S RIGHT TO WEAR BEARD 
 
4.  An Aktobe court ruled that a former employee of a local oil 
company be reinstated after he was fired from his job for refusing 
to shave his beard.  Talgat Kyrkymbai has worked as a foreman in the 
production facility of CNPC-Aktobemunaigas since 1998.  In 2006, he 
became a professing Muslim and, in accordance with Muslim tradition, 
grew a beard.  Kyrkymbai's new beard, however, soon became a source 
of controversy.   The company's safety regulations required all men 
working in the production facility to be clean shaven, so that they 
can wear gas masks, which are used in the case of dangerous gas 
leaks.  Kyrkymbai, refusing to shave his beard for religious 
reasons, bought his own gas mask, produced specifically for bearded 
men.  However, CNPC-Aktobemunaigas ultimately fired Kyrkymbai last 
November after repeatedly urging him to shave.  This led Kyrkymbai 
to bring a claim in court to uphold his religious rights.  After 
reviewing the case for nearly a month, the judge ruled in his favor. 
 "A precedent has been set.  This means that Kazakhstan respects the 
religious freedom of the population.  And the main thing is that 
people who will come after me will not have to face the same 
problems," said Kyrkymbai. 
 
SMALL TOWN FACES A COLD SPELL 
 
5.  Karabulak, a small town near Almaty, faces the prospect of 
finding itself without heat.  The local sugar refinery which has 
 
ASTANA 00000366  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
supplied the tow
n with heat for the last 62 years informed 
Karabulak's residents that it will cut off their heat because of the 
difficult financial situation of the company.  "The decision of the 
sugar refinery has shocked us," local resident Raikhan Doskuzhanova 
said.  "In addition to residential dwellings, the refinery provides 
heat to a regional hospital, kindergarten, school, and other social 
institutions."  At this moment, Karabulak residents are forming an 
initiative group called "We'll save our homes" to prevent the heat 
that is scheduled for April 1 -- a time when it is still cold in 
that region. 
 
HOAGLAND

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