Saturday, October 16, 2010

The rise of Kazakhstan

If you're looking for something to read over the weekend, check out:

-- Der Spiegel: "Nazarbayev Dictates a Bright Future for Kazakhstan," by Erich Follath and Christian Neef.

It's a fascinating look at an up-and-coming authoritarian country with huge reserves of natural resources:

Kazakhstan has oil, coal and uranium -- and a capital full of stunning architecture. President Nursultan Nazarbayev hopes his country can become the region's leading economy, but his heavy-handed cult of personality is not universally welcomed. Others worry about China's growing influence.

It's a part of the world that we don't think nearly enough about but that we need to understand with great urgency. (Even if there's an awful lot that's truly awful about this country in particular. Including Borat.)

Here are a few photos from Der Spiegel's gallery:

"Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev is everywhere in the country. He has been able to greatly improve the country's economy and has built a shiny new capital city, but many complain of the strong hand with which he rules Kazakhstan. Opposition isn't tolerated and when he steps down, most assume that one of his relatives will step up."

"Now, [Astana, Kazakhstan's new capital city] boasts a large collection of ultra-modern buildings and is the epicenter of Nazarbayev's cult of personality. This tower is dedicated to the country's president -- opposition leaders have vacated Astana for fear of persecution."

"The Ministry of Oil and Gas resembles a kind of triumphal archway. The country has high hopes for its reserves of fossil fuels. Nazarbayev calls Kazakhstan an 'Asian Snow Leopard,' a reference to the Asian Tiger economies further east."

Through the archway of this statist monstrosity, you can see Khan Shatyr, the world's largest tent, opened earlier this year, cult of personality in full swing, to celebrate Nazarbayev's 70th birthday.

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