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A Vision for the Future from Kazakhstan

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Before he became President of a newly independent Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev was  chairman of the Kazakh Supreme Soviet in the last days of the USSR. Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev had tapped him to be the Prime Minister of the reformed Federation he was trying to set up when the August 1991 Coup took place and, by default, brought to power in Moscow Boris Yeltsin who, with the blessings of the West, hurriedly proceeded to disband the Soviet Union, thereby hatching with one blow fifteen sovereign nations.

Among all those new countries, Kazakhstan can be, even with some reservations, regarded as the greatest success story and much of that relatively peaceful transition out of the post-Soviet quagmire can be credited to Nazarbayev who always acted with the conviction that independence was not an end in itself and had to be utilized to build prosperity, both in his nation and in the wider region. From the early nineteen nineties he consistently championed the reorganization of the common former Soviet space through such vehicles as the CIS, the CSTO and the EURASEC while proposing at the same time a common currency and economic community for all Central Asian states, including Iran.

Eurasian interdependence and solidarity were not empty words in his vocabulary and his view was especially valuable in view of the fact that it could not be attributed to Russian or Pan-Slavic chauvinism. Nazarbayev defines himself as a proud descendent of the nomadic rulers of the vast steppes who on various occasions in the last three thousand years unified much of the Eurasian continent under their various historical avatars, such as the Scythians or Sakas, the Turks and the Mongols, all members of the loose commonwealth of horse riding herdsmen and warriors who held sway from the Caspian to Manchuria and from Southern Siberia to Northern Afghanistan. Nazarbayev draws much of his supra-nationalist inspiration from the late Professor Lev Gumilev (the son of Anna Akhmatova) after whom he has named the new university in Astana. Gumilev, who enjoys a wide following in the Russian and Central Asian academic community, believed that Russians were related, within the Eurasian "superethnos", to the Turko-Mongols and other peoples of the steppes and that the Tzar's empire was a successor of the earlier Scythian and Genghiskhanid continental states.

Kazakhstan , territorially the largest of the Central Asian States occupies the core of the Eurasian mass which Halford Mackinder defined as the heartland. As such it is the cradle of the founders of the Khazar, Seljukid, Ottoman, Mughal, Qajar Persian and other empires and it separates or connects, depending upon our perspective, China and Iran, Russia and South Asia. Like the empire of the Kushans in the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD, Kazakhstan is deeply influenced by all those neighbouring cultures and it is Nazarbayev's vision not to artificially homogenize his young nation state by ignoring or understating those "foreign elements" but rather to highlight them in the process of building a synthesis conceived as a union without assimilation. The new capital built by his decision illustrates that syncretistic spirit through clear allusions to the various architectural styles of the civilizations which have shaped modern Kazakhstan: Astana, in its contemporary, often futuristic architecture, deploys facades, spires and prospekts reminiscent of Romanov and Stalinist Moscow and Saint Petersburg alongside Chinese pagodas, Turkish domes, Mongol Yurts, Egyptian pyramids and Arab minarets.

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One distinguishing aspect of Nazarbayev's action however is that he is not satisfied with merely building a pharaonic capital, like the fabled Karakota of Genghis Khan, the Xanadu of Kubilai or the Samarkand of Timur. Neither he is merely trying to make Kazakhstan one of the states that matter on the global scene in view of its size, mineral wealth and strategic location. He sees Kazakhstan as a fulcrum and a testing ground for a new international architecture to integrate the Eurasian continent and eventually the world as a whole and for several years he has advocated a number of measures designed to bring about that ambitious goal which, in the context of unfolding events, appears increasingly necessary.

It would seem rather futile for the head of a remote, landlocked, sparsely populated newly independent state with has a short track record in global diplomacy to pursue  such lofty objectives. However Nazarbayev's background experience near the pinnacle of the Soviet State and his privileged relations with both the Russian and Chinese leadership as well as his cordial rapport with the governments of the United States and the European Union give him unusual outreach and a rare ability to be heard far and wide. He has made Kazakhstan a member of the OSCE, the SCO and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, thereby affirming its vocation as the archetypal Eurasian state, similar to Russia in that sense. Further, in consonance with the ideal of global peaceful coexistence and disarmament, the Kazakh nation under his leadership renounced and dismantled the nuclear weapons it inherited from its past in the USSR although it joined the CSTO as a structure intended to protect common regional security from outside threats.


Beyond merely vying to make his country win in the global economic casino on the strength of its large reserves of oil, gas and strategic minerals, Nazarbayev has conducted a scholarly, sharp sighted analysis of the current system which he has defined in those terms: "Neoliberal ideology with its hegemonic monetary system does not promote the creation of global, innovative, technological and socio-cultural preconditions for transition to a new cycle of evolutionary development" ("Anti-Crisis Plan of N A Nazarbayev", by S N Nugerbekov, 2011).

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He accordingly calls for "a cardinal transformation of the economic system" and to that effect he has taken a number of initiatives, beginning with the annual convening of the Astana Economic Forum, gathering many top ranking economists, scientists, business and political leaders and resulting in the creation of G-Global, a more broad based response to the Western-sponsored G-8 and G-20, that he sees as a tool for building "Global Partnership among civilizations" according to the principles defined between India and China in 1954 as the basis for the famous Panchsheel agreement and in tune with the Russian-led World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations. An interface between G-Global and G-20 is an informal thinktank referred to as Think20 which met in Guadalajara, Mexico, prior to the last G-20 Summit in  that country in March 2012 and issued a report to the G-20 Sherpas.

On the spiritual and cultural level, the Kazakh President is a promoter of the traditional Asian notion of unity in diversity as an alternative to the French Jacobine irreligious secularism or "laicite" which assumes permanent mutual suspicion and estrangement between any "church" and faith and the state. In that view, all religions -- and Kazakhstan is inhabited by Turkic and Iranian Muslims. Orthodox Slav and Protestant Germanic Christians, Jews and Buddhist-Confuceans of Korean origin, along with several other ethno-religious minorities - can commune in the awareness of the universal transcendent principle which in the Turco-Mongol spiritual realm is honored as "Tengri", the father Sky or Heaven.

 In that spirit Astana hosts every year a World Spiritual Forum of religious leaders, metaphysically aware scientists and independent seekers.

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Come Carpentier is a French writer, traveller, editor, consultant and researcher born in the Canary Islands, who lives and works in India and in Europe (France, Italy.Switzerland), helping manage a private foundation and contributing to various (more...)

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