how the world sees america

Russian Anti-Americanism in Kazakhstan

Train-Astana.jpg
Train station in Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan

Guest post by John Wehner in Kazakhstan

I'm on a Soviet-era train lumbering across the steppe of Kazakhstan. Out my window the world’s 9th largest nation stretches endlessly: white, flat, dotted with the occasional village or looming grain elevator. And because there’s not much to see outside, my attention turns to those around me; this is a great place to see how some Kazakhs and Russians view America.

On this 31-hour journey northward, I am joined in my compartment by a young Kazakh woman, an ethnic Russian man with his mother-in-law, and an elderly Russian couple. Our sleeping area consists of three bunk beds, arranged in a “U”, with a table near the window and a hallway running through the “U’s” base. There is no door, and very little privacy. But that doesn’t bother these Kazakhs, all of whom look well-fed and relatively cheerful, lounging in informal jeans, T-shirts or sleepwear.

It’s a diverse group. All ask endless questions about my American life. I’m 23, and I’m here to teach English to Kazakhs in the capital. I’ve been here over a year, and am used to the regular questions about politics, fashion, skyscrapers. But on this train ride, things get spicy when Kosovo comes up.

The Russian man rips out a bottle of beer and passes it around, while his mother-in-law offers us garlic-infused chicken that seems to have come from nowhere.

A few drinks later and “Kosovo!” the young man shouts, referring to the soon-to-be-independent nation. As talk turns from poultry to politics, my Russian begins to fail me. But he’s obviously upset. “Condoleezza Rice!” he shouts next.

The next sentence I make out, because it’s a common saying here: “Condoleezza Rice said it [Kosovo] will be a new nation, so it will be.” He sounds both angry and reverential. He then pierces the silence by laughing bitterly.

The man turns to me: “What would America do if Texas decided to secede?” he demands. I gulp some more beer, and murmur lamely, “That is very different.”

What I wanted to say was: Ultra-nationalist Americans never attempted genocide on the Texans! But I stop myself. He and his mother-in-law have been kind to this American guest.

Anti-Americanism in Kazakhstan, I’ve found, is tied closely to the Russian media, which is now almost entirely under the control of the Kremlin. Putin is still well respected in Kazakhstan, and his “us” against “them” arguments make their way to Kazakhstan through Russian television and newspapers that penetrate here.

The two topics most often brought up in political conversations, and those flogged the heaviest on Russian news, are the American missile installations in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the impending independence of Kosovo. On the former, the argument goes that the U.S. is either targeting Iran, wasting a ton of money, or both. The latter is portrayed by the Russian media as a battle for sovereignty against American imperialism and Albanian extremism. Compared to the American point of view, they rarely consider it the fallout of Slobodan Milosevic's murderous campaign.

But, as anywhere, there’s variation. Putin’s polarizing rhetoric doesn’t seem to carry quite as much weight with ethnic Kazakhs, particularly in the south. People like the young Kazakh woman in my cabin are less interested in geopolitics. They tune out. To them Kazakhstan isn’t a “third Rome” and their country isn’t a counterbalance to American “hyperpower.”

Kazakh-language television, which permeates the south, is focused mostly on Kazakh culture -- sculpting a new Kazakh national identity. International politics isn’t a high priority, unless I suppose Borat returns. For example, my old Kazakh host-mother once asked me who lived in Israel because she honestly did not remember.

I have never met a Kazakhstani who approved of President Bush. Yet Kazakhstan, which has embraced American NGO’s and volunteers like me, allows Russian MTV to influence its youth, and even has its own “American Idol” rip-off. America’s cultural and economic connections, particularly in the younger generation I work with, are more important than the political divisions Russia raises.

For every drunk young man yelling “Yankee go home!” at a bar, there are a hundred Kazakhstanis who want to work at an American summer camp or debate David Bekham’s premiere with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

But cultural influence isn’t all good. When my train journey began, the first thing the Russian man asked me was where I was from in America. I said I was born in California, and his response was: “Oh, Malibu… Mel Gibson and Jessica Simpson!” in that order…As I said, the Russian media insists on showing America’s ugly side.

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Comments (34)

Peter V:

So because a dictator who is hated in Serbia as he is in anywhere else tried to ethnicly cleanse Albanians from Kosovo, Serbs have to pay now? Even though Serbs ousted Milosevic from power in 2000, sent him to the hague, and elected a democratic pro western president? Even though the UN charter and resolution 1244, and the Helsinki final act of 1975 all guarantee Serbias territorial integrity, and Kosovos unilateral declaration of independence is against international law and the UN charter? Kosovs is not independent, 22 out of 192 UN states recognise Kosovo, and Kosovo is not a member of the UN.

Brian Sells:

Whoever you are, Kazakh/Old Schoolboy, you evidently don't speak or write English as a first language, so I empathize as a person who speaks Russian as a second language. However, that does not exempt you from the Washington Post's rules against ad hominem. You have attacked me personally enough now, that I find your comments offensive. Nonetheless, I will try one last time to explain my argument in English words that you might be able to understand.

Old Schoolboy -- you are what we refer to in my country as a "prescriptivist" -- a person who would tell others how they ought to use a certain classifiable language with commonly agreed upon rules. The problem with this ideology is that in telling other's how they use their own language, you deny the contributions of individual experience and creativity to language. Obviously, the evolution of all human language betrays the reality that no person or group of people gets to dictate how a language is used.

Language is not static, and there is no logical or historically accurate reason that I should call myself an American, yet I do, as do numerous other Americans who do not resemble me in terms of skin color, ethnicity, religion, values or any other defining characterisitic of self-identity.

The reason I keep invoked the word Soviet, is that the usage of the word Soviet during Soviet times was almost identical to the current usage of the word American. THAT, is why I keep talking about Stalin and Soviet identity. If it is an artificial word like American that binds people of all races and creeds together in the United States, than logically, I can't turn around and argue that a Soviet identity was an inherently evil identity. It was a POLITICAL identity, just like American connotes a POLITICAL identity.

My argument (and I stress again that I will say this one final time because I'm really getting tired of saying the same thing over and over again in so many words) is that Kazakhstan needs a POLITICAl identity, and one way foreigners who live in Kazakhstan can help create that POLITICAL identity is by using the word KAZAKHSTANI as opposed to the word KAZAKH to describe the inhabitants of Kazakhstan, whether they be of Russian, Kazakh, Uzbek, or whatever ethnicity.

Why does the Russian langauge matter to any of this? Because if you had bothered to live in Kazakhstan or even to look up information about the country on Google, you would realize that not only do the majority of people still speak Russian, Russian is the second official of the language of the country, so YES, what "natsionalist" denotes in Russian does matter to this debate.

However, I give up. You can have the last word, whoever you are who refuses to provide me with a confirmable identity as I believe should be required by the Editors of the Washington Post/Newsweek.

Tantor:

Singing Senator: "Ultra-nationalist Americans did attempt genocide on the natives."

Actually, they didn't. Indians were prone to casual attacks on European settlers who were prone to respond in kind. There were about two million Indians in the future USA when Columbus landed and there about two million now. In a genocide, the population goes to zero, or at least in that direction.

almaden: "The secession of Texas out of the United States is something devoutly to be wished."

What a foolish prejudice expressed in a silly rant.

Oldschool Boy:

Brian Sells
You've got a lot of superficial and misled information about the history and the region and you get carried away by your confidence in importance of your knowledge.
It is really annoying that you alway turn the point into something completely different. Is it your way to prove that you are right?
By the way, Kazakh and I are different people. My arguments had nothing to do with any politics or nationalism, only about correct use of terms. Why do you always refer to how Russians use terms 'nationality', 'nation', etc? Why should russian terms (from Marx and Lenin) apply to English or Kazakh languages?
What do my arguments have to do with you calling yourself American? What is with Stalin? What is with colonialism, nationalism? What are you talking about here? You've lost me.
By the way, Nyura had some sensible point here, but you trashed it completely.

Brian Sells:

It's no use, Nyura. The amorphous contributor by the pseudonym Kazakh/Old Schoolboy does not understand that "natsionalist" in Russian means ethnicity, which is what everyone thinks of when they hear the words Russian, Kazakh, Uzbek or Tajik in Central Asia. S/he does understand the distinction between the Russian words rossiyanin and russkiy and why this is applicable to Kazakhstani and Kazakh, respectively. Moreover, s/he does not understand that "stani" is a perfectly acceptable adjectival ending in Persian, and if we were to be grammatical about our Turkic, it would be forbidden to place Persian suffixes on Turkic words, and country names like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan would never have come into existence.

More to my point -- does it even make sense that countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, and Iraq exist today? No, they were made-up products of European colonialism, just like nationalism was a European invention in parts of the world that only knew tribalism before the Russians and Brits set foot in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia.

In my mind, the only way out of this illiberal quagmire of 19th century colonialism and 20th century nationalism would be for the citizens of Central Asia to develop a new political language and identity that encompasses all people within a political boundary, regardless of their ethnicity. An even better solution would be to rid ourselves entirely of these artificial political boundaries that were created almost entirely on the prerogative of Stalin (Stalin, of course, was an ethnic minority in the Russian empire who knew all too well the dangers of ethnic nationalism to a collective Soviet identity). However, that of course is an unrealistic and unachievable outcome given that none of the despots that currently govern their khanates in Central Asia would be willing to give up power and wealth in favor of another.

I'm an American, but that word didn't exist a millenium ago, nor did the words Uzbek or Kazakh, so by Old Schoolboy's logic, I should not be allowed to call myself an American, and an Uzbek and a Kazakh should not be allowed to call themselves those words respectively. Now THAT is truly silly, but let the prescriptivists say what they like. It won't change my opinion (or the opinions of many others) one bit.

Nyura:

>>Actually term Kazakhstani as nationality is nonsense. It would be the same as calling an English person 'Englandi'. Kazakhstan means 'land of Kazakh', as 'stan' means land or place. So using ending 'stan' when describing somebody would be like 'a person from land where he lives'.

This is exactly my point, though the terms can be confusing. An English person by ethnicity is unknown; by passport-carrying nationality, he's British. In the English-speaking mind, 'nationality' and 'ethnicity' are separate ideas. Nationality means what governmental entity you belong to (whether it's an internationally recognized country, or a 'nation' such as Scotland or Wales). In Central Asia, 'nationality' means what ethnic group a person is identified with, not the nation he/she lives in.

Kazakhstan would mean 'land of the Kazakhs,' which it is, and certainly was before the last 150 years of European migration to the area. Kazakhstanis (or more clumsily, Kazakhstanians) are people from the land of the Kazakhs,regardless of ethnicity. In America, ethnicity/nationality is hyphenated/qualified: Italian-American, Asian-American,African American.

As I mentioned, it seems that the KZ government is using "Kazakh" to mean "citizen of Kazakhstan." Maybe this is intentional? As a linguistic move toward national unity? or a linguistic statement of ethnic nationalism? As time goes by, maybe "Kazakh" will come to mean any citizen of Kazakhstan, in the minds those citizens. But that's not what it means now.

Nyura:

>>Actually term Kazakhstani as nationality is nonsense. It would be the same as calling an English person 'Englandi'. Kazakhstan means 'land of Kazakh', as 'stan' means land or place. So using ending 'stan' when describing somebody would be like 'a person from land where he lives'.

This is exactly my point, though the terms can be confusing. An English person by ethnicity is unknown; by passport-carrying nationality, he's British. In the English-speaking mind, 'nationality' and 'ethnicity' are separate ideas. Nationality means what governmental entity you belong to (whether it's an internationally recognized country, or a 'nation' such as Scotland or Wales). In Central Asia, 'nationality' means what ethnic group a person is identified with, not the nation he/she lives in.

Kazakhstan would mean 'land of the Kazakhs,' which it is, and certainly was before the last 150 years of European migration to the area. Kazakhstanis (or more clumsily, Kazakhstanians) are people from the land of the Kazakhs,regardless of ethnicity. In America, ethnicity/nationality is hyphenated/qualified: Italian-American, Asian-American,African American.

As I mentioned, it seems that the KZ government is using "Kazakh" to mean "citizen of Kazakhstan." Maybe this is intentional? As a linguistic move toward national unity? or a linguistic statement of ethnic nationalism? As time goes by, maybe "Kazakh" will come to mean any citizen of Kazakhstan, in the minds those citizens. But that's not what it means now.

Kazakh :

To Brian Sells:
"nothing to offer people in Wealther parts of the world besides oil and prostitutes"
Excellent finish Brian, and allow me to say well done.
If you really view the world from the prism that you have expressed in your last sentence. You are poorly educated person. Plus you should learn how to spell correctly Wealther. I think wanted to say wealthier, in your own language.

"I'm not for a millisecond going to allow the Kazakhs or Uzbeks to repeat the same historical revisionism that Stalin"
Well first of all you shouldn't compare Stalinism with the current socio-economic and political stages in Kazakhstan. It is completely wrong. You are missing the point. Plus, what does it mean "I am not going to allow". I have to say how? I think the shadow of the small Stalin lives in you.
Plus express your opinion, since you don't represent the whole west.


Brian Sells:

That's a valid question, and one that someone else who lived in Kazakhstan asked me. What follows is my response to that particular question -- why should we foreigners use made-up words to describe people in other countries when a majority ethnic group would prefer everyone within their political borders just be called what they call themselves?

Uzbekistan is not much different than Kazakhstan in terms of it's leader or attempts to Uzbekify non-Uzbeks. The question is, as a foreigner in such an environment, do you passively support this negative as well as un-Soviet, un-American, and un-liberal trend by adopting the usage of the word Kazakh to stand for people who are not ethnically Kazakh yet live within political borders created by a dictatorial Georgian in the Kremlin who denied his own Georgian ethnicity in favor of a more universal Soviet identity, or do you try to find the equivalent of the word "Soviet" in the modern Kazakh language?

My argument, and granted Nazarbaev or Karimov don't really care what my opinion is, let alone the opinion of most of their own citizens, is that as a foreigner who perhaps appreciates minority rights more than ethnic Kazakhs in Kazakhstan or ethnic Uzbeks in Uzbekistan, you have a duty grounded in morality and historical truth to minority groups to push back against this blatant corruption of Soviet experience that most of the citizens in these countries still recall to some extent.

[To my inquisitor who lived in Kazakhstan] As you surely know from having lived there, Central Asia is unique in that it was the dumping ground for minorities on the eastern and western fringes of the Soviet Union. The Meskhetian Turks from western Georgia who were forcibly removed from that country on cattle cars to the steppes of Kazakhstan are probably the most famous example, but the Azeris, Germans, Armenians and Koreans who now straddle the borders of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are yet others. I'm not for a millisecond going to allow the Kazakhs or Uzbeks to repeat the same historical revisionism that Stalin and his followers were notorious for. Granted, there were many bad results of Stalinism, but one of the more positive results is that Central Asia remains perhaps the most polyglot and diverse part of the former Soviet Union today.

Allowing Nazarbaev or Karimov to rewrite the Soviet experience and legacy they have inherited is sacrilege in my mind. Not everything Soviet was bad, and I believe the emphasis on a political identity as opposed to an ethnic or religious identity was one of the few yet very good ideas that evolved from the 1917 revolution. Kazakhstani and Uzbekistani are words that connote political identities, and a
westerner who sees the danger of the nationalism based on ethnicity (do I need to mention Nazi Germany, the Balkans, Afghanistan, or Rwanda?), should always attempt to remind people in Central Asia that ethnicity at one time in their recent history was subordinate to a political
identity called "soviet" by always using such words as Kazakhstani and Uzbekistani that connote political identity.

Of course, [to my inquisitor again] you're right about the Kazakhs, but the Kazakhs aren't
right about how I use my own language. I choose that, just as Kazakhs in Astana or Almaty choose how they want to speak Russian much to the chagrin of Russians from St. Petersburg who think they speak the most proper and nice-sounding Russian. Anyway, I really appreciate your comments [again, to my inquisitor]. I wish more westerners would spend time in places like Kazakhstan as opposed to watching films like Borat and assuming that people in poor parts of the world have nothing to offer people in wealther parts of the world besides oil and prostitutes.

Olschool Boy:

Brian Sells

So you are a specialist in Central Asian culture and languages. Then tell this: as far as I know, in kazakh and uzbek languages there are such words as Kazakhstan and Uzbekiston, naming their countries, however words 'kazakhstani' or 'kazakhstanian', or 'uzbekistani' or 'uzbekistanian' do not exist. The word Pakistani is used because no people as 'paki' ever existed. Why do you want people to use words 'kazakhstani' and 'uzbekistani', that are nonsense in any language?

Brian Sells:

The rule should be that you use your real name not pseudonyms when posting comments to this strand. I think it's unfortunate that Washington Post/Newsweek do not do a better job of enforcing this rule.

Whatever your name is, I was making an analogy to Russian and not saying what Russian controls what people in Kazakhstan are called in English. If you're fine with such words as Pakistani in English, then you should be fine with such words as Uzbekistani or Kazakhstani.

You obviously have not lived in Central Asia or speak the languages of this region because of the arguments you make. I'm not trying to demean you, but I do believe your lack of real-world experience in the southern republics of the former Soviet Union gives your opinion less weight (as compared to the opinion of me or Nyura).

In any case, you can believe what you want, but I believe the large number of non-ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan would disagree with you, and I definitely think their opinion counts more than any of our's.

Oldschool Boy:

Brian Sells
you think your best argument here is to ridicule your opponents name or nickname. And you think you are a good debater. Good luck with that!

You did not even uderstand what I wrote. You and Nyura are trying to apply russian rules (russkiy, rossiyanin) elsewhere in other languages, in this case in English. It does not work. Let me remind you that everyone from Russia is called russian in English, regardless whether in Russia he/she called russkiy or rossyianin. Same applies for Kazakhstan.

The country Kazakhstan is called after people 'kazakhs', and not vice versa.
Please, do not generalize.

Brian Sells:

Duh, Old School Boy (who maybe should return to school). Perhaps you would like to study some Persian or bother to live in the region before you make declaratory statements about the region, and you'll realize that "stani", lit. Persian for "a person from the land where he lives" as you correctly translated, is used throughout the region, not just in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Persian "i" (the arabic letter ya) at the end of a noun turns a noun into an adjective. For example, Persian-speakers call an American, AmrikaI, as opposed to simply Amrika, which is what they call the United States of America.

In any case, Nyura is completely correct, and I would assume she's either from Kazakhstan or has lived extensively in the region. For example, I would never call a Russian, Tatar or Greek in Tashkent (where there live many mind you), an Uzbek but an Uzbekistani. The equivalent, if you know Russian, is Rossiyanin versus Russkiy. The former connotes the American English word "nationality" (of course, "nationalist" in Russian denotes ethnicity, so bear with me, and don't get too confused), whereas Russkiy denotes an ethnic Russian. See the difference?

It is for this reason, I always use the more encompassing language Rossiyanin and Uzbekistani when refering to people in Russia or Uzbekistan, respectively. To not do so betrays one's ignorance of the historic ethnic complexity of this part of the world. In other words, if you prefer the word American when referring to someone like Arnold Schwarznegger, then logic stipulates you should prefer Kazakhstani when referring to a Russian who lives in Astana.

Anonymous:

Duh, Old School Boy (who maybe should return to school). Perhaps you would like to study some Persian or bother to live in the region before you make declaratory statements about the region, and you'll realize that "stani", lit. Persian for "a person from the land where he lives" as you correctly translated, is used throughout the region, not just in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Persian "i" (the arabic letter ya) at the end of a noun turns a noun into an adjective. For example, Persian-speakers call an American, AmrikaI, as opposed to simply Amrika, which is what they call the United States of America.

In any case, Nyura is completely correct, and I would assume she's either from Kazakhstan or has lived extensively in the region. For example, I would never call a Russian, Tatar or Greek in Tashkent (where there live many mind you), an Uzbek but an Uzbekistani. The equivalent, if you know Russian, is Rossiyanin versus Russkiy. The former connotes the American English word "nationality" (of course, "nationalist" in Russian denotes ethnicity, so bear with me, and don't get too confused), whereas Russkiy denotes an ethnic Russian. See the difference?

It is for this reason, I always use the more encompassing language Rossiyanin and Uzbekistani when refering to people in Russia or Uzbekistan, respectively. To not do so betrays one's ignorance of the historic ethnic complexity of this part of the world. In other words, if you prefer the word American when referring to someone like Arnold Schwarznegger, then logic stipulates you should prefer Kazakhstani when referring to a Russian who lives in Astana.

Oldschool Boy:

Actually term Kazakhstani as nationality is nonsense. It would be the same as calling an English person 'Englandi'. Kazakhstan means 'land of Kazakh', as 'stan' means land or place. So using ending 'stan' when describing somebody would be like 'a person from land where he lives'.

Oldschool Boy:

The title of the article is funny. It itself gives an impression that the "russian anti-americanism" is a Kazakhstan's considerable political phenomenon. I would say it is not that serious. I do not think many people in Kazakhstan really share russians' views about Kosovo, despite all this russian propaganda on TV.

Nobody in the train told your russian fellow traveler to shut up just because nobody cared. (and believe me, anti-russian out-bursts there can be much more threatening and serious issue in Kazakhstan).

Most russian, like that kid in the train, express their anti-americanism because they have their national pride wounded: once, as they think, great nation, now they become almost second sort people in places like Kazakhstan. They used to feel as masters on that land, but now they are driven out of any political or economic significance. But they can't turn their anger openly toward kazakhs in Kazakhstan, because it's dangerous. So they express their frustration through antiamericanism, as many frustrated people in the world do, like, for instance, Taymoor.

Believe me you can find the same "russian antiamericanism" in places like New York.

Nyura:

>Also, I do disagree with the term "Kazakhstani", >and I suggest to the author never to use it since its grammatically and politically incorrect term.

Huh? This is the exact opposite of my understanding and experience. 'Kazakh' is a nationality as in ethnicity; 'Kazakhstani' is a citizenship, regardless of family background/appearance/religion/ethnicity.

I have noticed in the last couple of years, though, that the official government press has begun to use "Kazakh" to mean "citizen of Kazakhstan." I wonder how someone who chose to stay in Pavlodar and carried Kazakhstan-issued passport, whose grandparents came from Russia and whose brother chose Russian "repatriation" feels about being called a "Kazakh?"

Taymoor:

It all starts with English courses. They teach you about human rights, women rights , multiculturalism, religious tolerance,…etc

They'll take themselves as an example. But they won't tell you about their healthcare problem. They won't tell you that an 80 year old woman, who is living in the big apple, cannot pay for her medication after she spent most of her life working and paying taxes.

They won't tell you that they have shipped jobs, which their teenagers and youth need, to India in order to increase their profits.

If one of you, kazaks, is fortunate enough to get a scholarship to the US, you will return to your country only to find that Americans and other westerners are taking your job, and again, if you are fortunate enough you will be offered a job with a salary worth at least a quarter of what they earn!

You will see your country men and women working in Bars, serving alcohol to Russians, Westerners, and other cheap Kazaks, and cleaning restrooms after they stink it.

These people don't care about your future or your family's or your country's, they only care about their own.

This what Western culture is all about.

mr europe:

Quote Jim:
There is nothing wrong with the Russian people. Its the stupid leaders of countries who cause
all the problems. Posing and posturing around
the world they are like a bunch of rooster
cocks

"Mirror mirror on the wall who reflects this best of all"

"Why you do America"

Jim:

There is nothing wrong with the Russian people. Its the stupid leaders of countries who cause all the problems. Posing and posturing around the world they are like a bunch of rooster cocks.

to Taymoor:

"For every drunk young man yelling “Yankee go home!” at a bar, there are a hundred Kazakhstanis who want to work at an American summer camp ..."

This shows how low Kazakhs aim. Most of them won't reach beyond night clubs and bars.

Those kazaks were enslaved by Russians during the Soviet times, now they are enslaved by a barren culture which will end them up worse than when they started.

TO TAYMOOR:

I wonder from where people like you come from. First of all you should learn how to spell "Khazakhs" correctly. Indeed, for the bright and I assume young guy like yourself it's Kazakh. Furthermore, Taymoor I would like to argue with you, concerning “the illusion of the stupid culture”, however, I think I would like to hear more about you, so to understand were the comments like this come from.

Also, I do disagree with the term "Kazakhstani", and I suggest to the author never to use it since its grammatically and politically incorrect term. Indeed, you should refer to the people who are living in Kazakhstan as Kazakh regarding their nationality. And, please don’t try to convince yourself otherwise.

Plus well (western) educated Kazakh's has different view, which the author didn't experrienced in Kazakhstan, and it's a shame.

Taymoor:

I pity the Khazaks. Living with leftovers from a dark era and living in an illusion of a stupid and worthless culture whose future looks so bright and profitable especially under the influnce of Alcohol and drugs.

At the end they make 40$ and the end of each month and they feel happy

ASHWANI KAPANIA:

Dear All,

Please be agree on one point that USA is ruling the World not because of some its proclaimed unity in costitution also by dividing the world , creating unrest all over world , keeping control of gulf, threatening With nuclear might beside other many things. But main is their currency acceptability all over world and worst part of that is even their enemies prefer keeping dollors.
This has made or making stronger and stronger day by day to them considering trillion of trade deficit not effecting their economey ?

White Eagle:

It always amazes me how difficult it is for the Americans to understand foreign cultures. Russians seem to remain an enigma for this youngster, who despite having the money to travel all the way to Kazakhstan lacks the capacity and knowledge to understand the country he writes about. Also, the irresponsible use of the big, fancy words such as "genocide" (of course, the Serbs are genocidal because they fight for their land, but Americans are not when they go to foreign countries to bomb the hell out of them)is sad and pathetic. All I can say is: get a clue!

David L. Book:

Mr. Wehner: I suspect that in post-Soviet Kazakhstan (and even more so in Russia itself), questions like the ones you report are not really hostile. It's more like a debate: Your interlocutors were adopting the official line, or their version of it, because they wanted to hear your response. They may even have wanted to hear a rebuttal.

Under the Soviet government news was even more controlled than it is now. Soviets often asked me what seemed to be very aggressive questions. I found that the best tactic was not to take offense, but simply to give my point of view (which wasn't always the official Washington line!), as objectively as possible.

David L. Book:

Mr. Wehner: I suspect that in post-Soviet Kazakhstan (and even more so in Russia itself), questions like the ones you report are not really hostile. It's more like a debate: Your interlocutors were adopting the official line, or their version of it, because they wanted to hear your response. They may even have wanted to hear a rebuttal.

Under the Soviet government news was even more controlled than it is now. Soviets often asked me what seemed to be very aggressive questions. I found that the best tactic was not to take offense, but simply to give my point of view (which wasn't always the official Washington line!), as objectively as possible.

Not a genocide in Kosovo...:

...but it was an attempted ethnic cleansing. Now "our" side is helping the Kosovar Albanians, who are ethnically cleansing the Serbian minority. Not pretty, either way. It is a tough situation to solve. Allowing a new country to form certainly won't guarantee fairness, but that isn't ever really a priority with American foreign policy, our claims to the contrary. It is hard to explain such intricacies to Americans, who are busy getting educated by such films as 'Borat.'

Another Writer:

The Serbs didn't try to effect any genocide on the Albanians. It's conveniently portrayed that way to the American public to "get them on side". Propaganda is part of any war.

Convenient how the KLA, which was led by the "Prime minister" of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, was regarded by the US government throughout the Balkan wars in the 1990's as a terrorist organisation until the US decided it could be used to effect it's policy, namely control over Kosovo and it's resources. 15 Billion tons of coal plus a host of other minerals.

The idea that the US intervened on humanitarian grounds is fantasy. If that were the case then why not intervene in Rwanda or Sudan where hundreds of thousands of people have died, whereas in Kosovo the number is nearer 7000 and that includes all sides!!

Brian Sells:

I've also lived extensively in Uzbekistan and Georgia, with the asssistance of Peace Corps and the US State Department, and I couldn't agree more with the comments of Kyzl Orda. First, I agree that a nostalgia for the Soviet Union exists in even the most nationalist and russophobic parts of the former Soviet Union, including in such countries as Georgia and Uzbekistan (please see my blog --- www.saratepo.com -- for more empirical examples). Second, I agree that the US government needs to do more to increase mutual understanding between the parts of the former Soviet Union and the United States. Unfortuantely, a country of 25 million called Iraq (which is no different in size than Uzbekistan in terms of its sunni muslim population or strategic military importance) has consumed too many of our current and future public resources to now start focusing on projecting soft power (i.e. public diplomacy) in places like Central Asia that have very similar (and scary) demographic and economic trends compared to, say, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In regard to Kosovo, the proper analogy is not Texas but Abkhazia in Georgia, and the question should be, what would the current US government do if Abkhazia tried to secede from Georgia. The answer is it would supply millions in new roads and military equipment and training to a fledgling Georgian government (the Kosovo equivalent of Serbia) that supports not the broad egalitarian and democratic ideals that the US supposedly stands for but the politics and inept foreign policy of the Bush Administration. In other words, Russia sees political meddling in Abkhazia, Kosovo and Iraq, not on human rights grounds as the United States claims, but on political grounds that advance the selfish foreign policy interests of who? Why, the United States, and more specific, the Bush Administration.

What makes these international political fights in places like Abkhazia and Kosovo so ludicrous and wasteful is that even though countries like Canada, the UK, Spain, China and Russia all have their own varied experiences in dealing with minority groups bearing separatist tendencies, all of these countries realize to some degree or another that the world is larger than their own political borders and that even the right to self-determination in larger political entities like China (with Uighurstan and Tibet) and Russia (with Chechnya) must be sacrificed in the name of improving the conditions of everyone in that country, and more important, everyone in the world.

In contrast, the United States has attempted to buck the trend of internationalization and compromise by asserting the will of its majority electorate on the rest of the world. This is not only sheer arrogance in such places as Iraq, Abkhazia and Kosovo, which Putin rightfully calls us on, but it is this nationalist tendency that the United States acts out on the international stage, which I believe, will ultimately lead to the economic, political, cultural and military demise of the very country, to which I pledge my allegiance.

Kyzl Orda:

There are ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan, which contains over 200 diverse ethnic communities including Kazakhs, Russians, Uzbeks, Koreans, Turks, Kurds, etc. Perhaps a second title for this article could refer to soviet-holdover sentiments rather than Russian because the persons here are Kazakhstani ethnic Russians (rather than Russians from Russia).

Much of Central Asia is still closely tied to Russia -- language-wise and culturally the old system still 'colors' people's perspectives and this is the main culture they are still exposed to so people feel more comfortable accepting certain values and ideas. Also, there are many people who miss the Soviet Union and this is due in part to the economic and social conditions in the region -- the economic situation throughout Central Asia since the end of the USSR is very dire. For many people, the Soviet system held and still does positive memories: they got paid regularly (!!!!) and could save their money, there was structure in society, everyone had a job and knew his/her place. No worries like those of today. What is it like to work for months at a time only to receive no salary from your employer? In addition, people feel an affinity to the USSR and Russian culture because they grew up and attended Russian-established educational systems. I worked for a school in the south of Kazakhstan with Peace Corps and my director, an ethnic Uzbek, always tried to present himself as a big supporter of American democracy and culture. Then one day my students asked me if I wanted to see the head of a statue of Lenin that my director had saved and stored in a facility on the school grounds because he couldn't bear to see it thrown away when it was knocked down.

Our government needs to invest more money in Kazakhstan and the rest of Central Asia, making sure most of this goes to public projects and is spent appropriately. We also need to fund more exchange programs, which have been drying up, and reopen American libraries in these countries. Central Asians have a right to be exposed to all political views and ideas -- Russian, American, English, Chinese, whatever. The issue is we know the Russians aren't going to invest in programs that foster a better understanding of our country -- we have to do that ourselves.

almaden:

The secession of Texas out of the United States is something devoutly to be wished. America would be much better off without Texas. Texas would be forced to keep its native sons at home, for example, George W. Bush, Lyndon Johnson, Bonnie and Clyde. It's unlikely, however, whether Mexico would want to take Texas, and no one else would want it either. Maybe it could be run by UN professionals experienced in managing backward countries.

Myrdred:

Singing Senator: I'm not certain what exactly your post has to do with this story, but your opening bon mot misses the point. If the example proposed had been "An American Indian tribe seceding," that would be one thing, but that isn't the case for Texas.

Singing Senator:

Ultra-nationalist Americans did attempt genocide on the natives.

For a media story that might possibly be slightly more important than this piece, concerned netizens could turn their attention to the atrocious case of Sayed Perwiz Kaambaksh, a 23-year-old Afghan student who has been sentenced to death for printing an allegedly blasphemous article downloaded from the internet, as CNN reports.

According to a Christian named Floyd, Kaambaksh was tried in a closed court, without legal representation, by officials of the government installed by George Bush's pipeline crusade to, you know, liberate the Afghan people from the religious repression of Taliban extremists. Ahem.

But it seems that in this case – as in so many others – religious crankery is being used as a cover for political chicanery. God bless America. The real target is apparently Kaambaksh's older brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, who is "one of the leading independent journalists in the region and [who] has written numerous stories that detail human rights abuses," according to Jean Mackenzie, Afghan bureau director of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.

But far more important than the life of Karambaksh is the very real danger hanging over the life of American dissidents. Perhaps if enough noise is made about their plight, the resulting bad PR will cause the satrap appointed by our own duck hunter to grant clemency. For yes, that is what are reduced to in our ultra-modern 21st-century world: pleading for mercy from tyrants and their tools, just like the lowliest serf coming in supplication to the Tsar.

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