Its spare Soviet-era grounds lack the gothic spires of Britain’s Eton College or the Romanesque facades of the great Paris lycées. But the graduates of Fizmat, a math and physics academy in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s former capital, probably wield more influence in their native land than do graduates from any single elite school in the West in their respective countries.
Karim Masimov, Kazakhstan’s prime minister, is an alumnus, as are Timur Kulibayev, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s businessman son-in-law, and Kairat Kelimbetov, the chairman of the Samruk-Kazyna sovereign wealth fund.
“Maybe there’s no other school in the world like this, if you look at the number of graduates who have become really prominent in their country,” says Headmaster Kairosh Makishev, himself a ‘Fizmatovets,’ as the school’s graduates are known.
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Richard Orange is an Almaty-based journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.