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Kazakhstan: Statehood Celebrations Remind Citizens Who’s Boss

Dancers perform during the two-day festival in Taraz – touted by Astana as the cradle of Kazakh statehood. (Photo: Paul Bartlett)

Kazakhstan held poetry jamborees, horse races, musical performances, wrestling competitions and even a marathon push-ups session to mark the 550th anniversary of the creation of a Kazakh khanate, as authorities fired up patriotic pride.
 
The celebration of Kazakh heritage was widely seen as a response to the 2014 comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he seemed to question the nation’s legitimacy. The events wrapped up in early October with two days of partying in Taraz, the usually sleepy southern town now touted by Astana as the cradle of Kazakh statehood. Taraz pulled out all the stops in celebrating the foundation of the first Kazakh khanate in 1465 by the khans Kerey and Zhanibek, staging a slew of traditional sporting and cultural festivities that ranged from horse races to musical poetry competitions and wrestling.
 
The culmination came with the opening of a new monument to the two khans, whose celebrated founding exploit occurred in a valley near Taraz – an event that amply preceded the reversal of Mongol dominance in territories that would come to form modern-day Russia.
 

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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan: Statehood Celebrations Remind Citizens Who’s Boss

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