Spring is in full swing, but the signs of regeneration are slow in coming to Zhanaozen, the city in Kazakhstan that was the scene of deadly violence last December.
In February the government pledged $29 million for Zhanaozen’s redevelopment over the next three years. But coming up on four months after the violence, the town center remains blighted by the gutted remains of the OzenMunayGaz (OMG) oil company building. Nearby stands the charred skeleton of the Sholpan supermarket, with its forlorn “welcome” sign. Further along are some trashed sales kiosks in no state to re-open for business.
A billboard in the center of town features President Nursultan Nazarbayev and a slogan promising “socioeconomic rejuvenation.” As a backdrop, it has a cityscape of Astana, Kazakhstan’s glitzy capital, which was built as a monument to the country’s energy wealth. Both the slogan and the scene are jarring to the eye. Astana’s bedazzling skyscrapers and landscaped lawns are a far cry from the drab tenement houses lining Zhanaozen’s dusty, monochrome streets.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer specializing in Central Asia.