Deep Breathing

by Joshua Foust on 5/30/2007 · 8 comments

King of Carrot Flowers I was excited by the title, but after the teaser and first three paragraphs, I had to stop reading.

He is the omnipotent ruler of Kazakhstan. She is the woman tipped to succeed him. But a bitter and bizarre power struggle involving allegations of kidnapping has thrown the family – and the country – into turmoil. By Anne Penketh

The characters in this family feud come straight out of central casting. Top billing goes to the Soviet-era President of Kazakhstan, who last week gave himself the right to run for office as many times as he likes. His eldest daughter, an opera singing mezzo soprano, who has been tipped to succeed her father in a post-communist dynasty, has a secondary role.

And then, of course, there is the ineffable Borat, the creation of the comic Sacha Baron Cohen who put the oil-rich central Asian state on the map by inventing the oafish, satirical character famed for such outrageous declarations as “throw the Jew down the well”.

Borat actually has a walk-on part in this drama. But this is no soap opera. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been accused of overseeing one of the most nepotistic, ruthless and corrupt regimes in central Asia.

Alright, girlfriend needs to breathe, deeply. Having no idea who Anne Penketh is, I’m going to assume she’s like Maureen Dowd, in that she prefers florid and overly-affected prose over anything approaching clarity or wit (a quick Google yielded unflattering results). What exactly does “one of the most… corrupt regimes in Central Asia” even mean? There are only five (or six) regimes. Obviously more corrupt and horrid than Kazakhstan are Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, with Kyrgyzstan getting extra points for its rolling political crises. While the recently de-Russified Rahmon hasn’t made Tajikistan a target of international opprobrium, he certainly hasn’t earned many brownie points from the World Bank’s anti-corruption squads.

In fact, I’d make the case that, even though Kazakhstan is absolutely corrupt, nepotistic, and ruthless, it is actually the least of these in the region. And WTF with mentioning Borat? Is the case against Aliyev borne from Nazarbayev’s scorned ego? And “omnipotent” = LOL. Please.

After reading such crap, I don’t care if the rest of Ms. Penketh hyperventilation says anything useful. I cannot read it.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Nick May 30, 2007 at 8:14 am

First of all, I hope that’ll teach you to read the Independent, which is probably the most excitable of the so-called ‘serious’ or ‘broadsheet’ newspapers in the UK. It is the home, remember, of Robert ‘Baghdad Bob’ Fisk and Alexander Cockburn, who can always be relied upon to put some kind of Leftist or anti-Western spin on a story – which is not to say that Anne Penketh is guilty of the same thing, rather that the Independent‘s editorial policy since, ooh, 2001 is a paragon of the ‘if it bleeds – it leads’ school of journalism in that bad news is always jazzed-up and preferably presented on the front page with some gloomy analysis and graphic about how we’re all going to hell in a handcart. Foreign coverage seems always to be linked to some nefarious plot originating in Whitehall, the Pentagon or Foggy Bottom. What amazes me, though, is that sportswriters have, as yet, desisted from blaming the Cricket World Cup fiasco in the West Indies on Bush 😉

However, Penketh’s analysis may have been ‘sexed-up’, but I don’t think anyone can disagree with factual basis of her report.

Joshua Foust May 30, 2007 at 8:24 am

I can’t say, as I refuse to read the rest of what she wrote. Her opening was so atrocious, I closed the tab right after copying the quoted bits. I refuse to go back. But it very well might be a good take on the situation.

Also, I just noticed the avatar. Sikunder Burnes? Really?

Ben May 30, 2007 at 8:33 am

I agree Nick. I read it this morning and was slightly put off by the Borat + corrupt-regime link as well. All in all, however, I’ve seen worse.

Botir May 30, 2007 at 8:52 am

Nathan, Joshua, it is not quite related to the topic but check out this.

would like to have your opinions on that. 🙂

Nick May 30, 2007 at 9:02 am

Also, I just noticed the avatar. Sikunder Burnes? Really?

Indeed! However, I hope I live to a ripe old age and not to be hacked to death by an angry Kabul mob …

Joshua Foust May 30, 2007 at 10:41 am

Yes indeed, I would also definitely prefer to avoid that fate.

Botir, I’d have to read the report, but it all sounds too terribly general. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are struggling, while Turkmenistan is barely hanging on and Kazakhstan is booming. While that would produce good regional numbers (and my examples ignore the Caucasus, which has its own vagarities), it doesn’t necessarily give a good measure of actual economic health.

Jonny the Monkey May 31, 2007 at 8:42 am


My name a Jonny the Monkey, #1 most famous celebrity in all Kazakhstan. Good friend Borat still only #4 most famous, even after great success movie film…

Jonny want to thanks you for say “Obviously more corrupt and horrid than Kazakhstan are Uzbekistan”…

That very true! It well known fact Uzbeks have bone in middle of brains which cause many Kazakh childrens to have nightmare. Uzbeks also eat dog and ring bell along border late at night to make childrens have bad sleep and arrive late for work in factory!

And you also say “Kazakhstan is absolutely corrupt, nepotistic, and ruthless”.

Jonny thanks you for that. Very nice compliments!


NOTE: This comment was ‘hand signed’ by Jonny the Monkey to his gypsy assistant Batyr, who then translated and typed those words here.

Baldwin May 31, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Uh….you guys may be right, but the stupider readers in Independentstan won’t look up long enough from their lattes to take notice.

Welcome to the ignor-o-tron.

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