Tag Archives: national branding

Comment: A quick week in Kazakhstan

ASTANA/ALMATY, MAY 28 2017 (The Conway Bulletin) — Gripes about the economy dominated my week in Astana and Almaty. Not gripes from officials but gripes from ordinary Kazakhs who are feeling the pinch.

Still, Astana and Almaty felt upbeat.

Astana was busy putting the final touches on EXPO-2017, an event it has been building towards for several years. It’s with brash civic pride that people living in Astana tell you that the world is going to visit their city this summer. We shall see.

Not that I could have a look around EXPO-2017 when I was there. They weren’t ready yet for visitors, including journalists, despite advertising that the media centre and accreditation desks were open for business.

If Astana was full of brash pride about the multi-billion-dollar government-funded EXPO-2017, Almaty’s pride lies in its more sanguine nature. I arrived off the overnight train from Astana. After a few days of interviews in Astana I was ready to see friends and the Bulletin’s correspondent in Almaty.

And May is a perfect time to visit Kazakhstan’s former capital. It’s warm, but not too hot, and the trees and flowers are blooming. The warmer air has also lifted the smog, giving visitors’ glimpses of Almaty’s regal snow-capped mountains.

Almaty oozes a breezy, louche confidence whereas Astana seems to crave attention and praise.

Astana grabs the headlines and improves with every visit I make. Almaty, though, has always had it and always will. And it knows this too.

By James Kilner, Editor, The Conway Bulletin


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(News report from Issue No. 330, published on May 28 2017)


Turkmen president releases his next book

FEB. 21 2017 (The Conway Bulletin) — Turkmen president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov released yet another new book, this time focused on the prowess of Turkmenistan’s military. Mr Berymukhamedov is given to showcasing his various skills which include authoring several books, writing poetry, teaching weighlifting techniques to his ministers and horse riding. Official news channels said that the book contained 13 chapters showcasing the Turkmen army as “a powerful defensive weapon”.


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(News report from Issue No. 318, published on Feb.24 2017)

EXPO bridge collapses in Kazakhstan

NOV. 16 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) — A decorative bridge linking two pavilions in Kazakhstan’s headline EXPO-2017 project collapsed, only a few months before the exhibition is scheduled to open. Media reported that nobody was injured, unlike Kazakh pride. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has set much store in using EXPO-2017 to promote the country.


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(News report from Issue No. 305, published on Nov. 18 2016)


Turkmenistan opens Tbilisi shop

OCT. 21 2015 (The Conway Bulletin) – Perhaps with potential gas supplies to Europe in mind, Turkmenistan opened a shop in Tbilisi selling various national produce. Turkmenistan is exploring the potential of supplying the EU with gas. Georgia hosts a gas pipeline running west from the Caspian Sea.


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(News report from Issue No. 253, published on Oct. 23 2015)


Not always “Made in Kazakhstan”

MARCH 26 2015, Almaty (The Conway Bulletin) –  Cyan coloured labels proudly proclaiming “Made in Kazakhstan” have appeared in supermarkets across Kazakhstan, part of a government drive to promote local products.

Data collected by a Bulletin correspondent, though, suggested some labels may be misleading, perhaps even farcical.

At three supermarkets in central Almaty, basic agriculture goods — milk, cheese, yogurt — carrying the label did appear to be genuinely made in Kazakhstan but Italian chocolates and Belgian and French beer, all imported from Europe, also carried the label.

The Kazakh news magazine Vlast also looked into the veracity of the “Made in Kazakhstan” labels.

In its investigation, Vlast said that some ice cream and sweets sold as Kazakh had actually been made in Russia, part of the flood of Russian goods imported into Kazakhstan since the devaluation of the Russian rouble.

When Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the “Made in Kazakhstan” drive earlier this year he wanted the label to stimulate the local economy. It currently needs more oversight or risks becoming meaningless.

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(News report from Issue No. 225, published on April 12015)

Kyrgyz nation-building film aims for Oscars

SEPT. 1 2014 (The Conway Bulletin) – On Independence Day, people in Bishkek crammed into cinemas to watch a film geared towards nation-building.

The film’s organisers think the film has a shot at the Best Foreign Film Category at the Oscars. Kurmandjan Datka, Queen of the Mountains received $1.5m from the threadbare republican budget and was part-organised by nationalist MP, Zhyldyz Zholdosheva.

The Kyrgyz-language picture, telling the story of a female clan ruler during the time of the Russian empire, was generally well received, although one viewer, 21-year old Maxat Dukenbayev, said it was some way short of Nomad, a Kazakh state-made epic with 25 times Kurmanjan Datka’s budget and featuring B-List Hollywood actors.

“That didn’t come close to an Oscar,” he said, standing outside Bishkek’s October Cinema.

Not that Nomad did either.

Still, Zholdosheva, who gained a reputation as an outspoken nationalist in the aftermath of ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in 2010 declared herself ready to win an Oscar.

Elsewhere, on a grassy stretch outside Bishkek’s Panfilov Park, scores of Kyrgyz families grilled skewered kebabs and took in national beer.

Kyrgyz films celebrating its independence, seemingly, are not for everyone.


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(News report from Issue No. 198, published on Sept. 3 2014)


Turkmen Pres. pledges happiness

OCT. 23 2012 (The Conway Bulletin) – Proclaiming a period of “happiness”, Turkmen president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov pledged to spend profits from gas sales on improving living standards. Turkmenistan, routinely criticised for human rights abuses, holds the world’s fourth largest gas reserves and has boosted exports over the past few years.


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(News report from Issue No. 110, published on Oct. 26 2012)