Fareed Zakaria wants to blame (or whatever) Borat for a recent increase in tourist visa applications to Kazakhstan:
When the movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan premiered in 2006, Kazakhstan’s government banned the film and threatened to sue its star. Six years later, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister is thanking Borat, crediting the film with a large tourism boost. He called it a ‘great victory’ as the number of applications for tourist visas to Kazakhstan has grown tenfold.
Well, that’s all he posts. The story first showed up last week in the AP, Hollywood rags, and Eurasianet, where Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov is quoted thanking Borat Sagdiev for increasing the number of visa applications.
Of course, there’s no real reason to think the increase has anything to do with Borat. In addition to the movie, the government of Kazakhstan has undertaken an aggressive marketing campaign in this country — buying multiple full-section advertisements in papers like the Washington Post, and even sponsoring the 2012 Congress Handbook (pictured to the right). Maybe, just maybe, Kazakhstan’s own zealous efforts to sell “The Kazakhstan Way” have had an effect as well.
As for Zakaria, he recommends future tourists should watch a video uploaded to YouTube by Prime Minister Karim Massimov called “The Stirrups of Time,” which is apparently not about natural childbirth but rather horses and whatever else happened in Mongol, or Nomad, or whatever. It is very cleverly narrated by Tony Blair, which means — thanks to his lucrative advising contract — that he’ll totally tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the country.
Zakaria ends his segment by rattling off some Wikipedia stats about press freedom, corruption, and democracy. Cute, right? He could not, it seems, bring himself to note the wholesale murder of 17 protesters in Zhanaozen in December, though one would think travelers to the country would kind of want to know about that.
But who really cares? Borat will forever be the perfect hook for talking about Kazakhstan, no matter the context. You don’t have to get all your facts lined up or even say anything interesting or real about the country — you just have to reference Borat and feel really clever for it.