09ASTANA444, KAZAKHSTAN: LIFE ON THE STEPPE, MARCH 7 – 13, 2009

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA444 2009-03-13 09:38 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO9947
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK
RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0444/01 0720938
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 130938Z MAR 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4892
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1355
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0734
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1437
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0421
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0916
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0829
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1308

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000444 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, SCA/PPD, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON SOCI SENV KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  LIFE ON THE STEPPE, MARCH 7 - 13, 2009 
 
ASTANA 00000444  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1.  (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. 
 
KAZAKHSTANI REQUESTING BACK NATIONAL HERO'S HEAD 
 
2. (U) In an open letter to President Nazarbayev, several dozen 
members of Kazakh intelligentsia reportedly requested the 
President's help in facilitating the return of the head of Kenesary 
Khan from Russia.  For more than 160 years, the head of the last 
great Kazakh khan has been on display in various museums in Russia, 
and local patriots find it's time to bring it "home."   So far, all 
requests have been refused -- first by Tsarist Russian Emprie, then 
by the Communist Soviet Union, and now by the Russian Federation as 
well. 
 
3. (U) Kenesary Khan has a prominent place in the history of 
Kazakhstan.  He was the last khan to be acknowledged by all three 
Kazakh hordes, and he led the last revolt against Russian armies in 
today's Kazakhstan.  In 1847, Kenesary Khan led his troops -- badly 
depleted as more and more of his compatriots decided to distance 
themselves from the warring khan to escape the wrath of Russia's 
army -- into what became his final battle.   Fighting the rival 
Kokand khanate, most of Kenesary's men were killed, and the khan 
himself taken prisoner.  Subsequently, in a classic Central Asian 
fashion of the time, he was beheaded and his head was sent as a 
souvenir to the Russian tsar in St. Petersburg. 
 
4. (U) As a Kazakh freedom fighter, Kenesary Khan was off limits for 
almost 150 years, as both Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union tried 
to keep any sign of nationalistic tendencies in check.  A paragraph 
in a Soviet "History of the Kazakh SSR" described Kenesary Khan as 
follows:  "During 1837-47, he lead the reactionary feudal-monarchist 
movement, aimed at Kazakhstan's secession from Russia.  He 
established a cruel, despotic rule (in Kazakhstan)."  Since 
independence, however, Kenesary Khan's status as a hero in Kazakh 
literature and press has quickly risen.  Today, a monument to 
Kenesary Khan can be seen on the embankment of the Ishim river in 
Astana, and one of the capital's main downtown streets carries his 
name as well. 
 
KAZAKHSTANI "BABUSHKA" THE OLDEST PERSON IN THE WORLD? 
 
5. (U) Sakhan Dosova, a Kazakh "babushka" living on the outskirts of 
Karaganda, will turn 130 years old this March -- or so she claims. 
Dosova, who lives with her 42-year old niece, was "discovered" by 
accident during this year's population census.  Dosova herself was 
ready to share the secrets of her long life:  "Simply, I have never 
taken any medicine or any pills.  When I was sick, I drank herbs, 
something you would find outdoors.  I don't eat sweets, but do like 
cheese and yogurt.  We need to be happy in our lives, only then we 
won't notice the years going by."  Claiming to be born on March 27, 
1879, she gave birth to ten children, the last of who was born when 
she turned 64.  Three of her children are still alive; her eldest 
living son is 74 while the younger daughter just turned 65.  The 
national census reportedly revealed 35 other people older than 100 
years in the Karaganda region.  While census officials claim that 
all available social and demographic data have confirmed Dosova's 
age, the official longevity record still belongs to French 
Zhanna-Louisa Kalman who passed away in 1997 at the age of 122. 
(NOTE:  It is highly likely that Dosova has "stolen" the identity of 
a parent or grandparent.  Similar longevity claims in Abkhazia have 
involved such identity theft.  The age of Dosava's children indicate 
that she is most likely a nonagenarian, not about to turn 130.  END 
NOTE.) 
 
TRASH MOUNTAINS "EMBELISH" KAZAKHSTAN'S BUSINESS CAPITAL 
 
6. (U) Mountains of trash "embelish" the urban landscape of 
Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty.  Whose fault is it?  Why have 
ad-hoc landfills become an integral part of the city scenery? 
"Karavan," a weekly newspaper, posed these questions to Yegor 
 
ASTANA 00000444  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
Tarkinskiy, a h
ealth department official, as he accompanied the 
reporters on a tour of Almaty's urban "landfills."  Tarkinskiy, 
acknowledging the problem, blamed the disrespectful attitude of 
residents towards the environment and the lack of an enforcement 
mechanism that would permit punishing scofflaws.  Tarkinskiy's 
chilling examples often contained both of these elements:  "As I 
walk along the street, I see a young boy carrying a bag of trash and 
throwing it into a drainage ditch on the side of the street, even 
though there are trash bins right around the corner.  I grab him by 
his hand: 'What are you doing?  Aren't you ashamed?'  But then his 
parents, who are walking behind him, are already all over me:  'Our 
son will throw the trash wherever he wants to.'  And as a health 
department official, I cannot do anything besides lecturing to 
them."  And what can the city do to change this?  Not much, says 
Tarkinskiy.  "If the people pollute their own environment and are 
ready to live surrounded by trash, no one will help them." 
 
NUMBER OF KAZAKHSTANI BILLIONNAIRES DROPS BY HALF 
 
7. (U) The number of Kazakhstani billionaires in the Forbes 
magazine's annual ranking of the world's richest people has fallen 
from eight to four.  Those who dropped from the list were:  Vladimir 
Kim, a major shareholder in London stock exchange-listed Kazakhmys 
Plc, a copper mining group; Timur and Dinara Kulibayev, majority 
shareholders in Halyk Bank, Kazakhstan's third largest bank (Dinara 
is also the daughter of President Nazarbayev); Nurzhan 
Subkhanberdin, the controlling shareholder of Kazkommertsbank, the 
second largest bank in the country; and Bulat Utemuratov, former 
owner of ATF Bank and a close confidante of President Nazarbayev who 
was previously head of the management side of the Presidential 
Administration.  The three controlling shareholders of the Eurasian 
Group, an industrial conglomerate whose crown jewel is Eurasian 
Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) -- Aleksander Mashkevich, 
Patokh Chodiev, and Alijan Ibragimov -- are the only three 
Kazakhstanis who retained their billionaire status from last year, 
with each having $1.2 billion in assets at present.  Bakhytbek 
Bayseitov, the main shareholder and chairman of Bank CenterCredit, 
is the sole Kazakhstani newcomer to the list with a net worth of $1 
billion. 
 
JOURNALISTS PAID WITH COUNTERFEIT CURRENCY 
 
8. (U) Several journalists working for Kazakhstani dailies "Liter" 
and "Aikyn" reported that they received their salaries in 
counterfeit currency.  The journalists found this out the hard way 
during their weekend shopping when local merchants refused to accept 
their money.  "Several journalists only learned at the local markets 
that their money was counterfeit.  The vendors discovered (the 
counterfeit bills) with the help of Chinese-made devices," one of 
the affected journalists told the weekly "Respublika."  Armanzhan 
Baitasov, the general director of Nur-Media holding which took over 
the two newspapers this year, confirmed the incident but refused to 
speculate on the guilty party.  "Here only an investigation will 
help.  We can only put our hope on our law enforcement 
authorities." 
 
HOAGLAND

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