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Kazakhstan: The News Weekly That Won’t Be Silenced

Female newspaper assemblers work through the night putting together and stapling the 19,000 copies. (Photo: Dean C.K. Cox)

On Thursday evenings the Respublika editorial office in Almaty is a hive of activity as the Kazakhstani weekly newspaper goes to press. But it is not your average printing operation: it has echoes of the underground publishing methods used by the Soviet-era intelligentsia to evade the censors’ red pencil.

Censorship does not officially exist in Kazakhstan today. However, because it is denied access to regular printing houses, Respublika (which is well-known for hard-hitting content often stridently critical of Kazakhstan’s ruling elite) has been forced to resort to a latter-day version of samizdat, a term loosely translated as “self-publishing.”

“This is unusual for the 21st century,” said deputy editor Oksana Makushina, raising her voice against the racket of two printers churning out pages of the newspaper and gesturing at five women deftly compiling it by hand. “Today the printing basically takes us three days – what would take 40 minutes in a printing house.”

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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer specializing in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan: The News Weekly That Won’t Be Silenced

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