Kazakhstan’s “Democracy”

by Joshua Foust on 4/1/2011

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, March 31, 2011:

Our country is, I believe, seen as a voice for moderation and peace, reinforced by our decision to give up the nuclear arsenal we inherited after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We were elected to chair the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010 and hosted the first OSCE Summit in 11 years in Astana. We are determined to play a unifying role between the West and the Islamic world through our chairmanship of the Organization of the Islamic Conference this year.

Congratulations! It’s true, and we’ve said it here many times before—of all the post-Soviet Central Asian states, Kazakhstan is by far the most stable, functional, prosperous, and (yes) free. However.

On the eve of an election in which Kazakhstan’s strongman leader hopes to improve his democratic credentials, a prominent opposition newspaper announced on Thursday that its publisher had suffered a severe beating and that his whereabouts were unknown.

The paper, Golos Respublika, which has been highly critical of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s government, called a news conference in Almaty, the country’s commercial capital, to express concern about its publisher, Danyar O. Moldashev.

Oh well. Like any good journalist, Golos Respublika has been a voice of sanity about the dark underside of Nazarbayev’s Bright Shining Future, and has suffered for it:

Mr. Moldashev’s newspaper has long been a thorn in the side of Kazakh authorities, publishing articles about corruption, human-rights violations and official malfeasance. Because of legal threats, Golos Respublika has been unable to use a printing press or sell copies at newsstands, and has resorted to producing the newspaper on photocopiers and hawking it on the streets in major cities.

I pray Danyar Moldashev is found alive, and can recover from his injuries, even as I acknowledge that, much like in Russia, his attackers will never be found or prosecuted.


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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 Registan.net. 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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