In a noteworthy backtrack, education authorities in Kazakhstan have ordered a revision of school textbooks to ensure that they do not show Crimea as a part of Russia.
Mektep, the publishing house that creates history and geography textbooks used in schools in Kazakhstan, sparked a diplomatic row in September when it appeared to endorse the annexation of the peninsula by Russia.
But the Education Ministry said in a painfully worded press release on September 30 that Mektep had erred in how it assembled its facts.
“It was noted that the authors did not apply the entire range of factuality in objectively composing the given material,” the statement said, according to an Interfax report. “The publisher and authors did not fully reflect the position of Kazakhstan or that of the international community in its treatment of the Crimea issue.”
It remains to be seen how the Mektep textbooks will now endeavor to characterize the status of Crimea.
When it issued its protest over the books on September 25, Ukraine’s embassy to Kazakhstan was clear.
The suggestion that Crimea should be part of Russia “contradicts the position of the international community and the leadership of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which has more than once stated its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” the embassy said in its statement.
Only a handful of countries, including North Korea, Cuba, Syria and Venezuela, have recognized Crimea as part of Russia. Other members of the international community — even usually staunch Moscow allies, like Belarus — insist the territory should be handed back to Ukraine.
This is an issue that will likely continue to sorely test Astana’s delicate balancing act of being seen to be loyal to its closest ally, Russia, while not alienating the bulk of the international community.
Kazakhstan has other reasons for wanting to avoid fully endorsing Russian land-grabs.
Like Ukraine, Kazakhstan shares a long border with Russia and is home to a large ethnic Russian minority, which accounts for around 21 percent of the population.
Kazakhstan is currently in the midst of celebrations marking the 550th anniversary of Kazakh statehood, which were announced shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin had appeared to cast doubt on the country’s future viability as a nation state.