The Russian Speaking North.

The northern provinces of Kazakhstan are mainly populated by people who speak Russian. Most of northern Kazakhs speak Russian as a native language, and have poor knowledge of Kazakh. If you see a Kazakh speaking person in Astana, Kostanay, or Pavlodar, then they are migrants. People native to the region north of Sary Arka  Uplands ceased to speak Kazakh in 1960-ies.

That happened because of the Soviet”Virgin Lands” campaign (1954-1960) when hundreds of thousands of Russians and Slavs moved into the region and turned most of the steppe into the fields producing wheat and rye.  Kazakhs became a small minority of regions population.

Map of European ethnic groups, as a percentage of district population. From Wikipedia.

Kazakhstan_European_2016_Rus

However Russian colonization of the region started back in 18th century with foundation of Petropavlosk (1752). Peasants started to move there en masse in late 19th century. The land was taken from Kazakh tribes and given to Russian settlers, free of charge.

Many northern districts still have Russian majority. I predict of them will still have Russian Majority in 2040. That’s because Kazakh migration to the region is mostly directed to the city of Astana. This caused this city to swell, in 1989it had less than 300 hundred thousands people, most of them Russians, in in 2016 Astana had 850 thousands people, most of them Kazakhs.

However it is pretty much the only place of the region which is attracting migrants. Most towns and districts of the North, lose population to either city of Astana, or to neighboring Russian Federation.

Fitness for Everyone.

Fitness for Everyone.

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Image Author-Chun Kit To.

The Mayor of Astana  Aset Isekeshev stated that it would be a good idea to create a city wide network of affordable fitness clubs. He got this thought after one Russian businessman. The businessmen’s name is Tichon Kosych,  and his strategy is to open new locations in the residential neighborhoods, and have them operate with out swimming pools and with maximum automation, so that he does not have to pay wages. Tichon also told the Mayor, that in order to save money some locations were opened in big malls with high ceilings and free underground parking spaces. All these savings allow Mr. Kosych to provide his clients access to most advanced fitness equipment with membership cost of only 1500Russian Rubles per month (circa 25USD).

After hearing this Isekeshev got inspired and stated that in his Facebook wall:That’s a wonderful idea, we should launch a similar project in Astana, “Affordable Fitness for Everyone”.

Meanwhile the average fitness club membership fee in Astana is 70-80 thousand Kazakhstan Tenge per month(about 200 USD). So he is proposing to create a network of gyms that would charge 8times less! I don’t think that the owners of established fitness clubs like this idea.

 

 

Paradox

My country is in a way run by women. Despite being a Muslim majority country. Kazakhstan has more women than men,  working for it’s government. In fact the share of females at decision making positions have increased to 56% in the last 3 years. In 2014 we had 34 women in political offices, 39 in 2015, and 43 in 2016.

Overall our bureaucracy is 55.5% female. Which is weird for a Muslim country in Asia.

That’s in complete dissonance with the fact that brides are still being kidnapped in this country.  Today in the center of Almaty several young men were caught putting a girl into into a Toyota. In the middle of the day in the biggest city of the country!! Yes, it is 21st century, in a country where females dominate the bureaucracy. It also happens in the northern city of Pavlodar.

The Petroleum West

 

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Kazakhstan is an  exporting nation. Most of our petroleum comes from Oil Fields in the Caspian Depression.

Caspian depression is a giant bowl, hundreds of thousands square kilometers of land at sea level or lower.  This land used to be a dust bin nobody cared about.  Up until  Petroleum Production started at Makat in 1904. By 1939 Kazakhstan produced more than 10% of USSR petroleum. The output more than doubled during the Great Patriotic War. It continued to increase after that. In 1991 Kazakhstan became independent.  Two years later giant Tengiz oilfield  was given to Shevron. It is a joint venture they have with our national oil company Kaz Munay Gaz.

Two other giant oil fields are also run by joint ventures. Production at Karachaganak and Kashagan belongs to   consortiums, Kaz Munay Gaz owns about a quarter at both projects.

Those fields are offshore projects, in the middle of Eurasia. The oil comes from under the seabed. Yes, seabed of Caspian Sea, that giant salt lake, whose surface is 28meters below sea level. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caspian_Sea). That’s right an entire sea is below sea level.

The Caspian Sea is home for the largest project in history of Post-Soviet Central Asia. The Kashagan oil field contains 10billion barrels of recoverable oil. The production started in September of last year. The project cost more than 50billion dollars.

But, the start of production there did not prevent Kaz Munay Gaz  reported profits fall by 44%, last year, it fell to 132billion Tenges.

Nevertheless their Cap Ex increased by 17% last year, while most oil companies were busy cutting expenses.

Well, that means that oil production certainly will not decrease.

 

 

 

Bankrupt metropolis.

The president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, told the governor of South Kazakhstan province to turn city of Shymkent, into a place with more than million people.That would be our third million city, after  Almaty and Astana.

President stated that the region is dependent on subsidies from central government, and the tax revenues from the region are low, despite being most populated province in the country. A lot of people in the region are either unemployed or self-employed. So the president ordered the regional government to promote small and mid-sized businesses. That measure is supposed to stop the massive outflow of people from the region.

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Meanwhile, the mayor of Shymkent,  had to explain the people of a struggling Kaynarbulak neighborhood that city does not have infinite funds., where 9thousand houses lose their electricity supply 5 times a day, they don’t have flowing water. Lamp posts and sidewalks don’t exist in the area, where 51thousands people live. Kaynarbulak was part of Shymkent since 2014.

He compared demands of neighborhoods for road repairs,  natural gas, electricity,  and bus service to kids asking parents for new clothing. The city only has funds to fix problems street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood. /

That same mayor, stated that city’s public transport is a shame. He realized the necessity of making buses run specific routes, and follow schedule!

 

 

 

They were always there.

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Eastern Border of Achaemenid Persia.

Source:commons.wikimedia.org.Author: Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας.

The history of southern Kazakhstan, is history of farmers paying tribute to the nomads. The area has been inhabited by land tillers for the past three thousand years. At first the  areas among Syrdaria river, were inhabited by Massagheti, mostly nomadic group where some people chose to till land. As generations passed the cultures of herders and farmers became more different. The farmers of the area became connected to the Sogdiana cultural region, which was also inhabited by Iranian people. The Sogdian culture was that of farmers,  merchants and artisans. The South Kazakhstan province, south of Betpak Dala, was included into that region, as well as river valleys of Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, and Kyrgizstan.  It was part of Achaemenid empire,  And then of the Greek Bactrian Kingdom. Then came the long reign of Nomadic tribes from the North,  various tribes and khans, fought each other, but the pattern stayed the same. The land tillers were inferior to the nomads. It did not change after locals have been converted to Islam.  The change of language from Iranic to Turkic, also changed little.  That continued until the Russians came. Russians did not come for tribute. They came for cotton. Their merchants bought cotton from the locals and shipped it to central Russia, where it was made into clothes, those same merchants  sold to locals.

In 20th century cotton became the main crop in many districts of South Kazakhstan. Cotton production in the region expanded so much, new irrigation canals had to dug.The waters flowing to the Aral sea were diverted to thirsty cotton fields. Which led to drying of the Aral, and turned lands around former lake bed into an official environmental disaster zone.

Nevertheless, cotton is still grown in the region.