Kazakhstan: Here Comes Kazakhbashi?
Kazakhstan's 20th independence anniversary is set to trigger celebrations across the country next month. Of course, organizers have not forgotten to stroke President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s burgeoning personality cult, for where would the country be today without Nazarbayev’s decades of leadership? Last week Almaty officials unveiled another new monument to “The Leader of the Nation,” this time in the appropriately named First President's Park. The shrine features a statue of Nazarbayev sitting on a slab of granite. Behind him stretch two eagle wings decorated with famous landmarks in Almaty and Astana. The wings symbolize the country's two biggest cities as the driving force behind the independent state.At the unveiling on November 11, Almaty Mayor Akhmetzhan Yesimov praised his boss: “Heads of state have recognized the President of Kazakhstan as the prominent politician on a global scale, who has made an enormous contribution to nuclear disarmament, establishment of the Asian security system, [and] development of integration,” Gazeta.kz dutifully quoted him as saying. This latest tribute follows one erected in Astana in 2009, the Kazakh Eli complex, which also prominently features the president. The rush to erect monuments to the Leader has also spread beyond Kazakhstan's borders—Turkish officials placed a statue of Nazarbayev in central Ankara in 2010 for his services to the Turkic-speaking world. Moldova is also keen to get in on the action, planning to place a Nazarbayev bust alongside other great Turkic leaders, such as Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev and Turkey's Suleyman Demirel, in the city of Gagauzia.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.