The legacy of the Soviet Union. For many this will conjure images of communism, bleak architecture juxtaposed by imposing statues of Lenin, and economic stagnation. The legacy of the Soviet Union in Kazakhstan however, paints a very different picture.
For those of you unaware of Kazakhstan, it is the world’s largest landlocked country, neighbouring Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Photo credit: elsevier.com
As early as the 18th century, Kazakhstan was of interest to the Russians, and by “by the mid-19th century, they [Russia] nominally ruled all of Kazakhstan as part of the Russian Empire“. It was also “the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991″.
Despite the Soviet Union’s heavy hand in culture of every kind, usually in a repressive manner, it also at times promoted film for the illiterate, socialist realism (expression of some kind), and during the late 50s and 60s censorship was diminished. In the shadow of post-soviet life however, nowadays Kazakhstan is largely associated with human rights abuses and it’s autocratic political system.
But there is another side to the Republic that may surprise you – perhaps in a somewhat warped continuation of the Soviet Union’s fascination with culture and art, Kazakhstan promotes the wide availability and easy access to the arts, everything from ballet to opera to classical music. Not only this, but theatre productions, classical recitals and dance performances are incredibly affordable, not to mention of a high quality, and free of the social class connotations found in a lot of western cultures.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union a mere 24 years ago, Kazakhstan occupies an astounding position – many contemporary artists, theatre people and those involved in the arts have noted the culture that is growing in Kazakhstan, singling it out as an exciting place to be.
For anyone who’s curious, here is an interview with Ersain Tapenov, and a quick guide to Almaty’s 10 Best Contemporary Galleries and Museums.