Alta is our tour guide in Kazakhstan. She has been a university professor with deep understanding in history and international relations. Yet we discovered that no matter she or the lecturer we met in local university, they all seemed to understate the history of Kazakhstan during the Soviet Era.
Alta was explaining the exhibits in the history museum. She described the traditional nomadic culture since 11th century in great details. When it came to the Soviet period, she started to hesitate, ‘this is the furniture from the Soviet Era…. At that time the lifestyle was simpler…but you know that the government….’
I didn’t wait for her hesitation but add directly, ‘suppression of freedom?’
‘Yes,’ she admitted.
Although she continued to describe about some cultural development, I did not let go this golden opportunity to understand about locals’ real thoughts, ‘as you said that the life was simpler, do you miss the life in Soviet Era?’
She smiled, but seemed embarrassed, ‘I was only 15 years old when the Soviet Union collapsed. It is hard to say if I miss that….’
‘Were you happy?’
‘My family and I were happy. My dad worked in the embassy. He worked for the government…I know that we had a better life than most people do. So yes, we were happy.’
Kazakhstan has been independent from Soviet Union for 26 years, yet it could not completely get rid of the Soviet dictatorship ruling style. The President Nazarbayev has been in the position since the independence of Kazakhstan. As he was the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, his policies might inevitably inherit Soviet ways, such as the repression of speech and press freedom. No criticism about the President is allowed in the country. Only pro-government political parties could exist. Independent or opposing party will face suppression and participants might be jailed.
The situation seems to improve in recent years. Last year, a large scale protest broke out in Kazakhstan to raise voice against the land reform, successfully causing the government to abandon the plan at last.
When we discussed about the recent development of Kazakhstan, Alta avoided the issue of dictatorship of the government, but emphasized the economic achievement of the country that the GDP of Kazakhstan is the highest among Post-Soviet states (except Russia) and 5 times the GDP of other Central Asia countries.
‘Do you like Nazarbayev?’
She giggled and stressed, ‘at least he has done something. Our living standard is the highest among Central Asia countries!’
Economic development and raising living standard might still be the most important issues to ordinary people.
🇰🇿【Kazakhstan: Not Quite the Belt and Road】 13 – 19 Oct. (HKU Reading Week) Details and Registration：bit.ly/EVKazak-oct
Minor episodes always enlighten a journey, such as the following story about ‘Loser fan’.
Our team visited the Green Bazaar in Almaty, Kazakhstan in summer. It is a famous market in Central Asia in which you can find all sorts of goods and necessities. Yet right in the middle of summer with an average temperature of 35°C , this outdoor market is stifling. And we, the spoiled kids from Hong Kong which are also named as ‘loser teenagers’, undoubtedly could not withstand the high temperature that we could only walk in the Bazaar with a portable fan (a.k.a. Loser Fan).
Kazakh people are always passionate. With little tourists in the summer, we became the focus in the market with the greetings from all vendors. Some gave us free trials of snacks and some kept asking where we were from. We then stopped by a nut stall. The vendor was very interested in our Loser Fan. He did not only try with it, but also ask us to offer a price. We joked that it was worth 10 USD and he really wanted to pay us! He also suggested that it could be exchanged with 2 big packs of nuts, which were worth nearly 80 HKD.
Yet, the spoiled kids were too sensitive to hot that we decided to keep this priceless treasure.
Let’s enjoy the passion of Kazakhstan in October. 🇰🇿【Kazakhstan: Not Quite the Belt and Road】 13 – 19 Oct. (HKU Reading Week) Details and Registration：bit.ly/EVKazak-oct … See MoreSee Less
CNN entered North Korea for 15 days and interviewed North Koreans in various cities. The North Korean kids in the interviews were paranoid, and they expressed hatred to Americans. Indeed, we have done a similar interview before (bit.ly/2xCh7hx) and It is quite expected that when Koreans are facing cameras, they would probably be along the party line.
其實CNN去到的地方，我們也能做到，可以考慮跟我們一起去北韓：bit.ly/dprk_oct We had similar access as the CNN, you may see North Korea yourself by following us: bit.ly/dprk_oct … See MoreSee Less
// Tour Mentor: Anna #HumansOfNorthKorea －－－－－－ 🇰🇵 【我們仍然最幸福？】 14 – 19 Oct. (HKU Reading Week) 詳情及登記：bit.ly/dprk_oct 🇰🇵 【North Korea Experience: Autumn Tour (ISN)】 4 – 10 Nov. Registration and details: bit.ly/isn-nov … See MoreSee Less
【鳥瞰平壤發展 Flying Over Pyongyang✈️📸】 Our partner, Aram Pan (of DPRK 360), shot over Pyongyang from an Aerial view where we can see the city centre with high-rise buildings, and the rather barren parts near the city’s edges.