Saturday, December 17, 2011

Independence Day

On December 16th, 1986 there was a large protest near what is now the new republic square.  The protest was about the appointment of a Russian instead of a Kazakh to the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan.  Needless to say, the authorities did not look kindly on the protesters (they never do) and many people were killed and injured in the confrontation that resulted.  It is in honor of this event that Kazakhstan celebrates its independence on December 16th.

To celebrate the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence, I bring you pictures of the monument at the new square and a brief retelling of Kazakhstan's historic relationship with Russia as I understand, or perhaps more accurately, fail to understand it.

Legal disclaimer: I do not make any claims on the following information being fact.

Once upon a time (in the 17th century to be slightly more precise) there were a group of people living in the seven rivers region of central Asia (what is now south east Kazakhstan).  This was actually three groups of people ruled by separate leaders called Khans, but every once in a while they would agree on something and be one group of people ruled by one person - also called a Khan.

To the east of these people, were some other people (the Zunghars) who were gradually moving West. To the west and north of these people were some more people (the Russian Cossacks) who were gradually moving south and east.  If you have ever played risk, you understand the predicament the three Khanates found themselves in.  Ultimately, one by one, the three Khanates sought protection from the Russian Cossacks, and histories of the two states have been intertwined ever since.

Now,  I could try and explain the complicated politics that lead to Kazakhstan's independence in 1991, but honestly it reads like a Dostoevsky novel with dozens of players and hundreds incomprehensible plot twists.  The short version is that there was a demonstration in Almaty which was followed by some political posturing.  Then a few years later there were a couple of attempted coups on other leaders in other countries.  I'm not sure how that part relates to Kazakhstan's independence, but apparently it does.  Then, apparently, everything in Moscow fell apart and so Kazakhstan became independent.

While the events leading to Independence are apparently only comprehensible to political scientists and secret agencies, today people in Kazakhstan are proud of their independence.  Flags, flowers, and festive greetings are the rule on this four-day weekend.  So hey, bring on the party and с днем конституции!

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