Saving the Kazakh Language, One Film at a Time
Despite its predominantly ethnic Kazakh population, Kazakhstan has struggled to promote widespread use of the Kazakh language within its borders. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstanis have nevertheless demonstrated continued preference for Russian, with 84.4% of the population speaking the language. For film distribution, this has meant that Russian-dubbed foreign films—many coming from Hollywood—have been in considerably higher demand than Kazakh-dubbed ones. The government has sought to promote the integration of the country’s historical language via Kazakh’s status as the official language and laws requiring film distributors to dub or subtitle foreign films in Kazakh. EurasiaNet explores the challenges within the film industry of balancing cultural and political considerations with social demand for what some ethnic Kazakhs worry may become a marginalized language.
“Kazakhstan: Movies Going Kazakh, But Distributors and Audiences Resist” (EurasiaNet)
(Image Credit: CityKey.net, via EurasiaNet)
Suspicion of land privatization policies erupts into rare protests across Kazakhstan
- Despite the Kazakhstani government’s low tolerance for dissent, thousands rallied across the cities of Aqtobe, Semei, and Atyrau to protest proposed land privatization policies that will put 1.7 million hectares of public land up for auction beginning on July 1.
- Kazakhstanis have expressed concern that land will be sold to foreigners (particularly the Chinese) or will end up in the hands of the elite, inflected by centuries of redrawn borders that have seen ethnic Kazakhs divided between Kazakhstan, Russia, and China.
- Government officials have stated that the legislation only extends the foreign lease period cap from 10 to 25 years foreigners and have threatened to punish those who say otherwise.
“Kazakhstan’s land reform protests explained” (BBC)
“Protesters In Kazakhstan Rally Against Land-Privatization Plan” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
“Land Sales Unearth Kazakhs’ Love For The Motherland” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
(Image Credit: Sania Tolken/RFE-RL)
Kazakhstan’s Unfolding Mental Health Crisis
An economic downturn in Kazakhstan has led to deteriorating mental health conditions for a population of men struggling to find work and support their families in a heavily patriarchal society. Mental health professionals have reported significant increases in the number of male clients, though numbers of those afflicted with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are believed to be significantly underreported given cultural attitudes that deter men from seeking professional help. An IWPR report highlights some of the factors compounding Kazakh men’s social, economic, and psychological alienation and attempts to provide assistance to the community.
“Kazakhstan’s mental health crisis: ‘as men we can’t seek help’” (Institute for War & Peace Reporting, via The Guardian)
(Image Credit: Igor Kovalenko/EPA, via The Guardian)
Discovering Opportunity Beyond Illness in Kazakhstan
With an estimated 200,000 registered in the country as afflicted with chronic psychiatric illness, Kazakhstan has a significant population that has suffered under punitive models of psychiatric care inherited from the Soviet era. Psychiatric professionals and advocates are battling the ward-to-grave pipeline and wasted human potential through new efforts to provide visibility for a community that often languishes behind walls in the Central Asian country. In addition to political and medical reforms, work initiatives have given birth to opportunity through businesses like the Training Café, a restaurant in Almaty that employs people with learning disabilities and other mental illnesses. EurasiaNet profiles ongoing efforts to de-institutionalize and integrate Kazakhstanis with mental illness into productive society.
“Kazakhstan: Cafe Dispels Disability Stereotypes” (EurasiaNet)
“Kazakhstan to eliminate discrimation against disabled persons” (Tengrinews, March 2015)
“Business Centre for Disabled Opens in East Kazakhstan” (The Astana Times, June 2015)
(Image Credit: Joanna Lillis/EurasiaNet)
Three-month suspension of independent magazine in Kazakhstan raises press freedom alarms
- Adam (Person) magazine, known for its critique of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s administration, was handed a three-month suspension by the government for publishing only in Russian when it claimed to publish in both the Russian and Kazakh languages.
- Press freedom watchdogs claim such bureaucratic tactics are frequently used to shutter independent journalism, with Kazakhstan sitting at 160th among the 177 countries ranked by Reporters Without Borders.
- The suspension follows a libel conviction likely to bankrupt an independent journalist for reporting on alleged corruption in the city of Almaty’s construction industry.
“In Kazakhstan the closure of any media outlet is a matter decided by political bodies. … Of course this is connected to politics.”
Read the full story at EurasiaNet.
Kazakhstan police detain protesters attempting to launch an anti-corruption demonstration
- Around 10 protesters were rounded up in the street and carried away to detention by police.
- The demonstrators identified themselves as construction workers protesting the exclusion of construction firms from the market by the government.
- Rights watchdogs have criticized the country for widespread corruption and intolerance of dissent
Watch the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report on YouTube.
Asian Jews from Steppe to Sea
One the “bridge between Islamic and Jewish countries” and the other the largest Muslim nation in the world, Kazakhstan and Indonesia have strikingly different attitudes towards their Jewish communities. While the former hosts the largest synagogue in Central Asia despite being a Muslim-majority country, the latter pushes Jewish religious expression to the margins and sees rampant, politically opportunistic anti-Semitism. The Jakarta Post takes a comparative look at the conditions faced by Kazakhstani and Indonesian Jews.
Read the full feature at the Jakarta Post.