“Thank you, Borat!” Love, Kazakhstan
Authorities in Kazakhstan appear to have finally found a sense of humor. Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov says fictional Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev’s slapstick tour of America in the 2006 film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” had increased visa applications to the Central Asian nation ten-fold since its release.“It was a great triumph for us and I am grateful to Borat for helping to attract tourists to Kazakhstan,” Kazykhanov told lawmakers in Astana on April 23. For years, Astana had no patience for Sasha Baron Cohen’s spoof hack, but now they see he’s helped put Kazakhstan on the tourism map. The film was banned from screens in Kazakhstan when it was released. In the subsequent years, Borat has repeatedly hit the headlines – usually to the irritation of Kazakh authorities – most recently at a sports competition in Kuwait last month when the parody version of Kazakhstan’s national anthem, which featured in the film, was played in error.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.