«American Corners» in Kazakhstan: seeds on worthwhile soil / News / News agency Inforos
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«American Corners» in Kazakhstan: seeds on worthwhile soil

Washington's "soft power" will traditionally aim to box geopolitical rivals out of the country

«American Corners» in Kazakhstan: seeds on worthwhile soil

As you know, at the time of Kazakhstan's independence in 1991, the titular ethnic group was only about 40% of the country, compared to almost 45% of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians, 6% of Germans and 2% of Tatars. If we add here the entirely Russified urban Kazakhs, one may talk of then distinct advantage of the Russian and Russian-cultural population over the titular one. Russian literature, art, and the press of the republic were the most important part of the its life and a crucial phenomenon on a nationwide scale. Suffice to mention the "Prostor" magazine, which published poems by Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva and Mandelstam, who were frowned upon by the censorship, as well as unknown works by Platonov and Pasternak (now its circulation is a thousand copies).

For almost thirty years, the tables have turned. The Kazakhs became 68.5%, the number of Uzbeks and Uyghurs increased, though the Russian and the German populations decreased twofold and sixfold, respectively. While the outflow of Germans is mainly down to their voluntary repatriation to the prosperous Germany, the Russians, who make no bones about anything, are being boxed out of the country, and those remaining are certainly being squeezed out of business, economy and administrative structures. Under proactive Nazarbayev, this process was relatively gentle, though becoming increasingly intense with every passing year, and now it has blatantly intensified – it is still going on with a little less impudence and transparency than in Ukraine, but perhaps with greater ambition. However, the key beneficiaries of the new ethnocentric statehood scenario are the clans' governing elite, and ordinary Kazakhs follow with a huge margin; whether they are comforted by the fact that non-ethnic Kazakhs have found themselves in the hierarchy foothills, is anybody’s guess.

Socio-economic displacement certainly goes hand in hand with the cultural one. Russian writing is officially replaced with the Latin alphabet throughout the country. The school history course and academic history have long since acquired features typical of other post-Soviet and Eastern European states. This implies the declaration of the titular population as everlasting martyrs under the sway of an evil and greedy colonizer and exploiter, naturally Russia. However, violent mythmaking, which is typical, again, of young nations, flourishes in Kazakhstan even irrespective of our country, and at a rather Ukrainian level. There are also masterpieces like "ancient Ukrainians who dug out the Black sea" and Buddha's Ukrainian roots.

So, on the brink between a blatant folk-historical joke and a hypothesis at least acceptable for discussion is the Kazakh origin of the word "equator". "The legend says that there was a time when the whole world was equally owned by two mighty batyrs [heroes]. And each of them wanted to be the ultimate owner of this land. So they met in a fierce battle at the junction of their possessions. And they fought for exactly 100 years and 100 days and nights, until they died of old age. From that moment on, this place is called Екiбатыр (two batyrs)". And late historian Amantay Aizakhmetov explicated in his books that the present-day Kazakhs' ancestors' civilization was older and more perfect than ancient Egypt, Rome or Greece.

It would be strange if Kazakhstan, with its favorable geopolitical and geo-economic position, failed to acquire solicitous guardians, who would be joyfully ready to steer the passion for rewriting history and rebuilding national consciousness on the right course. This is the way to consider the news about the US State Department's intention to develop "American corners" in Kazakhstan.

It is planned to allocate about three dozen grants ranging from 2.5 thousand to 50 thousand dollars each to develop such places. "American corners" will be cultural and educational centers in the republic, with "educational programs on business activity, economy, media literacy, cultural heritage, innovation, climate and other issues" to be implemented. Afterwards, these programs may be introduced in other American centers, like those located in Nur-Sultan, Kostanay, Shymkent and Karaganda.

Well-known Kazakh journalist Ibrash Nussupbayev openly says that one of the "corners'" priority goals will be the cultivation and strengthening of anti-Russian sentiments. According to Nussupbayev, issues like "Russians-staged-a-Holodomor-and-killed-3.5-million-Kazakhs", "Russia-took-out-all-the-natural-resources-of-Kazakhstan", "Russia-seized-Kazakhstan's-TV-broadcast", "Russia-destroys-the-ecology-of-Kazakhstan-with-its-missiles" will probably be hyped there.

It should be noted that the "American corners" initiative is a direct consequence and extension of America's strengthened activity in Kazakhstan. In particular, the country recently got a new American Ambassador, William Moser, an experienced diplomat considered a decent specialist in the field of "soft power" and reformatting public sentiments. He may be facing the objective of finally eliminating the remnants of Russian influence in Kazakhstan. However, an even more important goal of his will probably be the neutralized influence of China, Washington's present-day number one rival.

Well, it won't be surprising if separate not all that much smart people in Kazakhstan will soon become the mirror of their legend, with the Kazakh-American batyr fighting at the equator against the Russian bear and the Chinese dragon since the beginning of time.

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