Kazakhstan’s pro-government communist party has kicked off its parliamentary election campaign with a stunt designed to galvanize anti-Western sentiments.
The youth wing of the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan (KNPK) drove a tractor over a pile of foreign movies in an antic directed against “western lack of culture,” the party said on its Facebook page.
Photographs published on the page showed a crowd of several dozen people gathered in Almaty on February 21 to watch a red tractor drive over films that the party insisted “symbolized the destructive culture of the western movie industry.” One spectator was mustachioed KNPK central committee secretary Zhambyl Akhmetbekov, who could be seen in pictures clasping his hands and beaming with undisguised glee.
“The western culture of violence, which exerts a negative effect on the consciousness of the younger generation, destroys our traditional principles such as respect for elders, tolerance, patriotism and aspiration for improvement, which have been shaped over centuries,” the KNPK said in its statement.
“Traditionally communists have always spoken out, and will continue to speak out, against the politics of degrading true values that is implanted by western ideologists.”
Of course, Akhmetbekov hasn’t always been opposed to western culture or violence. When he was running for parliament in 2012, his party produced a video of Akhmetbekov rehearsing a variety of martial arts moves to the musical accompaniment of a Russian cover version of the Carl Douglas classic “Kung Fu Fighting.”
The movie-crushing gimmick suggests that the Communist People’s Party intends to inject an anti-Western flavor into its campaign for elections to Kazakhstan’s parliament, which take place on March 20. (The stunt appears, however, to have been done on the cheap. Images clearly show that many of them items being destroyed are actually VHS tapes, evidence that somebody was looking for a politically expedient fashion to dispose of a now-redundant collection).
Kazakhstan has to date largely steered clear of the anti-Westernism now ubiquitous in its ally and neighbor Russia, where firebrands like to rail against what they claim are cultural impositions from the West, such as homosexuality and liberalism.
The Communist People’s Party is evidently desperate to ratchet up some public attention and win votes after an anodyne term in parliament, where it has largely distinguished itself for its servile approval of government policies.
The communists have failed to offer any substantive criticism of President Nursultan Nazarbayev or the ruling Nur Otan party that he leads. Last year, they even voted in favor of a new labor code criticized by trade union activists as detrimental to the interests of workers that the party purports to represent.
Meanwhile, the more explicitly oppositionist Communist Party of Kazakhstan, from which the KNPK splintered away, was closed down last year.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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