Interview with Ambassador Yerlik Ali, Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Ethiopia
Question: Your Excellency, we all heard about recent political developments in your country, the most notable of which is the resignation of your former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Could you please tell us about that?
Ambassador Yerlik Ali: First of all, I would like to note that on March19 in a televised address to the nation, President Nazarbayev announced his decision to resign, outlining both the past achievements of Kazakhstan and the promising future of the country.
He noted that he was “honoured” to have served as the First President of an independent Kazakhstan.
Commenting this event, I would like to emphasize that only under Nazarbayev has Kazakhstan become a part of the global economy, attracting investment and trading with almost all countries of the world.
Upon achieving independence in 1991 following the collapse of the USSR, Kazakhstan had ruined economy and politics.
Now Kazakhstan became a flourishing market economy, evolving from an agrarian to an industrial service economy. Currently our country is now among the top 50 most developed countries in the world, aiming to reach the top 30 by 2050. Kazakhstan has attracted more than $300 billion in foreign direct investment over the past 27 years, and is the number one investment destination in the region.
This all became possible due to the ambitious and purposeful policy of President Nazarbayev, which was aimed to promote economic reform and prosperity. His initiatives included widespread “industrialisation and urbanisation”, new infrastructure networks, building a market economy, “dismantling” the totalitarian system, modernising all Kazakh institutions.
Could you tell us about political achievements of your country?
Well, when it comes to political achievements I would like to say that Kazakhstan became a world leader in the movement to ban nuclear weapons and ensure nuclear security, as one of the few governments to have voluntarily given up its nuclear arsenal.
Apart from that, Kazakhstan was a founding member of the Eurasian Economic Union, and has chaired key organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Kazakhstan was also elected to serve as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council between 2017-2018, the first Central Asian country to be represented on the Council.
We know that your former President was famous for a number of innovative and reformist ideas, one of which is the program “Rukhani Zhangyru”. What is this document about?
Well, first and foremost I would like to note that this program is the ideological platform, which is supposed to become the basis for qualitative transformation of the whole country.
Today Kazakhstanis are witnessing the birth of a new stage in the history of Kazakhstan. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that the modernization process announced by the President is implemented simultaneously in three directions: modernization of the economy, constitutional reform, laying the foundations for large-scale political modernization and modernization of public consciousness.
At the same time, it is the third direction that is the most complicated and complex, since Kazakhstan has never faced such a task as modernizing the public consciousness.
From my view, this is the core of all possible transformations in the country.
Advocating this point of view, I would like to stress that we live in the world of global corporations and enhanced communication technologies, where various tech advances have played a role in making the world a smaller place. It opens a wide array of opportunities for economies and businesses, but it also poses a challenge for cultures and traditions. It raises a question of how nations can preserve their cultures while adapting to the changing environment and benefiting from it.
Fully cognizant of these challenges, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed a strategic program aimed at modernizing Kazakhstan’s national identity. This initiative complements the already existing processes of political and economic modernization in Kazakhstan and will become the cornerstone of major reforms in Kazakhstan.
It is a reality that President Nursultan Nazarbayev showed he fully understood when a year ago he coupled an ambitious programme of economic reform with plans to support and modernise Kazakhstan’s national identity. The announcement underlined the determination to build on a national character and cohesiveness, which has proved critical in the country’s remarkable journey over the last 26 years.
It is a character, for example, which is moderate in attitudes, which helps explain why extremist views have found little resonance here in Kazakhstan. It is also outward-looking as you might expect from somewhere, which for centuries has been where cultures and people meet. This openness to ideas and influences is why the country has been so successful in attracting outside investment and building economic partnerships to boost growth and living standards.
The Modernisation of National Identity programme – and the practical measures which underpinned it – unveiled a year ago were aimed at strengthening these positive national characteristics and links with Kazakhstan’s history, traditions and values.
Over the last year, we have seen the measures begin to be rolled out, putting a new emphasis on the rich history, both ancient and modern, of our country and its people. Important archaeological and sacred sites are being identified and restored across the country and a renewed effort at local level and national level to explain their importance. The 100 New Faces of Kazakhstan initiative will see individual stories from every walk of life publicised to reveal how the country has been transformed in recent decades.
The gradual switch to the Latin alphabet, with a target date for the change now set for 2025, is perhaps the clearest example of this determination. It was never going to be an easy or straightforward task but it will be worth the effort. The move will bring Kazakhstan into line with 70 per cent of the world’s countries and will be invaluable in opening up new opportunities in business, education and science.
It is the same reasoning which lies behind the commitment to ensure the young generation have the education and skills they need to thrive in the decades ahead. The new emphasis on IT skills and English, for example, in schools and colleges shows a country with confidence in the ability of its young people.
So, this is all my thoughts concerning the Rukhani Zhangyru program.
Could you please specify the details regarding the “Rukhani Zhangyru” program?
Sure, I will do it with a great pleasure. To be exact, the Rukhani Zhangyru program consists of six components:
Tugan Zher is a project that seeks to strengthen the ties of Kazakh citizens with their homeland. It aims to cultivate a feeling of belonging and a special attitude towards the Kazakh heritage.
Sacred Geography of Kazakhstan aims to raise awareness of unique cultural and historical attractions that exude the nation’s rich history and identity. The spiritual shrines of Kazakhstan include the mausoleums of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi and Arystan Baba in Turkestan, ancient monuments of Taraz, the Beket-Ata Underground mosque and many more.
Modern Kazakh Culture in the Global World is implemented in close cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Sport to introduce the global community to the modern Kazakh culture. A selection of Kazakh novels and books will be translated to the six official languages of the United Nations. Also, exhibitions of Kazakh art and theater performances will be held all over the world.
100 New Books is a project that will help to improve the quality of education in Kazakh. It proposes to select 100 world’s best textbooks on history, political science, sociology, philosophy, psychology, etc. and translate them into Kazakh. The first result of this program is expected as early as 5-6 years after books become available to Kazakh students.
100 New Faces will showcase individual stories of 100 Kazakh citizens that succeeded professionally. These stories will serve as examples to others and will help reveal how the country has transformed in recent decades.
Switch to the Latin Alphabet will help open new opportunities for Kazakh and foreign investors in business, science and education. Kazakhstan plans to introduce the new alphabet by 2025.
This comprehensive initiative is crucial for Kazakhstan’s development. It will enable the country to preserve its cultural legacy and identity while keeping pace with modernity and technological advances. The trailblazing program will help Kazakhstan forge a unique way forward, where tradition blends with modernity, and national customs remain intact.