The ‘Land of Wanderers’

Wherever he goes, Dimash will say to everyone ‘Welcome to Kazakhstan!’

[Source: Ruth] The Republic of Kazakhstan (the ‘land of the wanderers’) is the nineth largest country in the world spanning two continents, Asia (mainly) and Europe. It has a population of 17-18 million but a land area of 1,052,085 sq miles.

The official languages are Kazakh and Russian. Kazakhstan has borders with China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and although Mongolia doesn’t share a border, they are within a few miles of each other. It also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea.

Its’ terrain is diverse (steppe, flatlands, deltas, mountains, canyons) as are the temperatures (summers +28ºC; winters -18ºC).

Historically, the region’s climate and terrain has been suited to a nomadic lifestyle and was for many centuries part of the ‘Silk Road’ trade route between the east and the west. This network of ‘Silk Routes’, along with the trading of many goods and merchandise, also exchanged cultural ideas like art, religion, philosophy, technology, language, science and architecture.

However, if we look at the past 100 hundred years of Kazakhstan’s history, it’s people have endured huge loss, pain and brutality. Under Stalin’s Soviet regime in the 1930’s and it’s ‘forced collectivisation’ ideology, it is estimated that over 1.75 million Kazakh people died of starvation and during the second World War many were conscripted to fight for Russia without weapons. It is estimated that Kazakhstan lost 30-40% of its population during the 1930s and 1940s.

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One observer of this period in Kazakh history, Tolegen Battugenov, reflects in 2016: ‘Now we have been an independent country for 25 years, we are seeing we haven’t produced any great artists, poets or singers, Russian yes, but not Kazakh – why?’

In addition, for four decades from the 1950’s, the Polygon area of Kazakhstan became the Russian nuclear testing site where 456 nuclear weapons were detonated both above and below ground (roughly equivalent of 2500 Hiroshima atomic bombs). The impact of this is horrific and is long lasting and on going.

Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union in December 1991 and its’ current President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been in power during this time. The country is economically wealthy with vast mineral resources and therefore, is a dominant country in central Asia particularly due to its oil and gas industry.

The capital city is Astana, having moved from Almaty in 1997. Astana now looks like a brand new city, with stunning new buildings that have been designed by some of the leading architects from around the world. The Government by moving it’s offices, the central location, healthcare, sports and education system has ensured that the population has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, reaching 1 million in 2017. It is a magnet for young professionals seeking to build a career.

Kazakhstan is a new country of only 26 years and is working hard to slowly establish itself in the world. It is increasingly achieving this economically and is encouraging free trade and good relations with other countries. It is also focussing on education and encouraging young people to excel.

‘We have the opportunity to visit all parts of the world and participate in various international events. This is to the merit of our President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the creator of our young state.’ said Dimash.

It is into the ‘new’ Kazakhstan that Dimash was born and has grown up.

2017 was an important year for Kazakhstan as it was hosting the ‘Winter Universiade’ in Almaty and ‘Expo 2017’ in Astana. The ‘Winter Universiade’ is a winter sports event for student athletes from all over the world (aged 17 to 28). It was held between 29th January – 8th February 2017 with a total of 56 countries and 1604 athletes taking part in 85 events and 12 sports.

Kazakhstan built an Ice Palace, two ice rinks, an Athlete Village and international airport terminal, (to add to those buildings built for the 7th Asian Winter Games in 2011 that had also taken place in Almaty), spending some 950 million dollars just for this event. Dimash and Zarina Altynbayeva sang ‘Question of Honour’ in an extravagant, stunning opening ceremony.

Expo 2017 with the theme ‘Future Energy’ had 4 million visitors, 115 countries and 22 international organisations participating and it was attended by 17 Heads of State and government. The subtitle for this event being ‘Solutions for Tackling Humankind’s Greatest Challenge’ so the Astana Expo showcased future energy solutions tackling social, economic and environmental challenges. Ruth,uk