09ASTANA822, KAZAKHSTAN: LIFE ON THE STEPPE, May 1-8

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA822 2009-05-08 11:45 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO9687
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 #0822/01 1281145
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 081145Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5394
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1573
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0950
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1653
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0633
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1135
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1051
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1506

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000822 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, SCA/PPD, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON SOCI SENV KCRM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  LIFE ON THE STEPPE, May 1-8 
 
ASTANA 00000822  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. 
 
UNKNOWN ARSONIST BURNS POPULAR SHYMKENT MARKET 
 
2.  On April 27, a fire broke out in Shymkent's most popular market 
and before local firefighters managed brought it under control, a 
large part of the market was consumed by the blaze.  As a result, 
hundreds local traders renting stalls and storing goods in the 
market found themselves impoverished overnight.  Fortunately, 
despite significant property damage, the fire did not claim any 
lives, since the market was being sanitized on the day of the fire 
and the normally busy market was almost empty.  That, however, was 
of little consolation to vendors who tried to sneak back to the 
burning building through a cordon of police officers.  "I have lost 
everything," the daily newspaper Vremya quoted one of the traders. 
"I put all my money into those goods, and in addition I took on 
credit.  And now everything is gone.  Who will cover my losses?" 
 
3.  In theory, the market owners who lease out individual stalls and 
stores to the vendors should compensate the vendors for their 
losses, since they charge not only rent but also a monthly security 
fee.  So far, however, the owners have only mentioned the 
possibility of discounting leases and similar bonuses as 
compensation, and the vendors are fuming.  "How am I going to sell 
goods when everything I have has turned to ash?," said one anonymous 
vendor.  "If the market has burned down, it means that the owners 
and their employees were unable to keep watch and failed to prevent 
a disaster.  Now they need to compensate us."  Moreover, many 
vendors do not have formal contracts with the market owners, and 
operate based on handshake agreements.  This, understandably, does 
not give the vendors much hope of receiving fair compensation for 
their losses. 
 
4.  The market owners, meanwhile, said they suspected foul play not 
long after the fire was extinguished.  According to some, the 
market's increasing popularity has created bad blood among the 
competition.  Several days later, local police confirmed this 
suspicion, as they began criminal proceedings against unnamed 
defendants accused of arson. 
 
POWER STRUGGLE IN ASTANA CIRCUS 
 
5.  The performers of Astana's "Capital Circus" organized a general 
meeting to protest a court decision to return the former director of 
the circus to his former position.  Omirbek Isabekov, a former 
circus performer himself and most recently the director of Astana's 
circus, was dismissed in March.  Nominally, the reason for his 
dismissal was his unexcused absence from work, but there were rumors 
he was involved in financial fraud and racketeering.  The circus 
performers who were unenthusiastic about Isabekov's tenure at the 
circus were devastated by the news of his return.  At a press 
conference, called immediately after the court's decision, the 
circus troop announced that they would go on strike, should Isabekov 
return to the circus as its director. 
 
6.  According to press reports, Isabekov himself has so far refused 
to comment on the controversy.  Nevertheless, the scandal, which had 
been contained within the circus bigtop, has now become public, as 
local media have picked up the story and local politicians have 
become involved.  Mukhtar Yerketaev, deputy chairman of the Astana 
branch of the ruling Nur Otan party, reportedly promised to provide 
legal help to the artists to fight the court ruling and take up the 
"Isabekov case" at an upcoming party meeting.  "We have to respect 
the ruling of the court," he said, "but we have not yet been ordered 
to return Isabekov to his former position." 
 
7.  The artists themselves have only one desire: "We only wish for 
one thing:  that management allows us to do what we love most, to 
perform for the people." 
 
 
ASTANA 00000822  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
ALMATY ORGANIZES
 FIRST HIGH HEEL RUNNING RACE 
 
8.  On May 1, Almaty hosted its first high heels race, with more 
than 30 participants wearing three- to five-inch pumps running 80 
meters down a central street in Almaty.  However funny the idea 
sounds, the race was no joke, as those who suffered painful spills 
can attest.  Some contestants gunning for the top prize of 50,000 
tenge (around $330) even used tape to tie their pumps firmly to 
their feet.  According to one participant, long-time Almaty resident 
Yuliya Filippova, running in heels is just another part of living in 
a big city.  "Of course, [I have to run in heels often], especially 
when catching a bus.  I have been walking in four-inch high heels 
since I was 14 years old, so this is nothing new for me.  When I 
found out about this race, I immediately decided to participate. 
And I would have won, if I not fallen."  At the end of the day, 
everyone was happy when each competitor received at least a symbolic 
prize for their participation. 
 
MILAS

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