ALMATY, Sept. 25 (The Conway Bulletin) — Ukraine’s embassy in Astana sent an official protest note to the Kazakh reign ministry after a school text book published a map of Russia showing the annexed region of Crimea to be firmly within its borders.
The map touched off a row that not only threatens to derail relations between Ukraine and Kazakhstan but also highlights the sensitive diplomatic tightrope that former Soviet states have to walk. Russia is the main economic driver of growth in Central Asia but Kazakhstan, and others, also need to maintain good relations with the West which firmly backs the Ukrainian government against the Kremlin.
“The Ukrainian Embassy has sent a note of protest to Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry because school books issued by the Mektep publishing house say the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is a federal subject of the Russian Federation,” Ukraine’s statement
“The distribution of this information contradicts the position of the international community and Kazakhstan that has repeatedly stated its support to Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”
Mektep is one of the biggest publishers of school textbooks in Kazakhstan.
Its textbooks are used across the country and are based on the school curriculum.
The map, published in a geography textbook aimed at 16-year-olds earlier this year, showed Crimea as part of Russia.
Crimea quit Ukraine last year after a referendum overwhelmingly supported joining Russia. The referendum, though, has not been recognised by Kiev or its Western allies. Since then a civil war in the east of Ukraine has pushed relations between the
West and Russia to a post-Cold War low.
Only a few countries, such as Syria, North Korea and Venezuela recognise Crimea as part of Russia. Kazakhstan, officially, has been careful not to recognise it as part of Russia.
When contacted by a Bulletin correspondent in Kazakhstan, the Mektep publishing house declined to comment. A couple of the book’s authors had previously spoken to RFE/RL, though.
They defended the map by saying that it wasn’t meant to be a political statement but instead to reflect the results of last year’s referendum.
>>This story was first published in issue 249 of the weekly Conway Bulletin newspaper, which covers Central Asia and the South Caucasus