Astana Calling No 346-2

A traditional hanging swing where young people gather during Nauryz celebrations

 Kazakhstan Celebrates Nauryz

Nauryz is the celebration of the New Year on the solar astronomical calendar for Iranian and Turkic peoples. Nauryz is also a national tradition in Kazakhstan that has no direct relationship to Islamic traditions.

The origin of this holiday is rooted in the pre-literate era of human history. It acquired an official status in the Achaemenid Empire as a religious holiday of Zoroastrianism. It continued to be celebrated after the Islamic conquests until the present time. In modern times, it is celebrated in days of the vernal equinox.
Nauryz is a very important holiday for Kazakhs as it marks the beginning of a new year. It is celebrated for several days starting March 21, the day of the spring equinox.
Nauryz means “new day” and has been celebrated in the great steppes since ancient times. This holiday symbolises goodness and wealth, happiness and love. It is also a day that unites because it is celebrated by many nations.
During Nauryz celebrations, past offenses are forgiven and forgotten and everybody makes a wish to leave negativity behind and bring renewal to the New Year.
During the Nauryz holiday, large and small cities, as well as villages become festival centres, felt yurts -- traditional nomad houses -- are erected in city centres and a rich dastarkhan (table) is laid down in each of them.

City squares are filled with yurts and live performances. Visitors can learn about Kazakh culture, the lifestyle of nomads and see people wearing beautiful traditional clothing. They can also listen to Kazakh songs and play national musical instruments. Traditional gifts and souvenirs are also sold in the squares.
Young people usually also gather around Altybakan, a large hanging swing with colourful decorations, where songs are sung and traditional games are played. During Nauryz, many famous stars also give concerts in cities and the holiday is completed with fireworks.
The main dish served during Nauryz is Nauryz kozhe, which is the most important meal during Nauryz and is the main symbol of the holiday. Nauryz kozhe is special for its unique recipe. Traditionally, seven ingredients are added to Nauryz kozhe. They vary, but usually include water, meat, salt, milk or yoghurt, one type of grain, chosen from rice, corn or wheat and others. Seven ingredients symbolise seven virtues, such as joy, success, intelligence, health, wealth, agility and security.
During the celebration, the kozhe is offered to all guests in any Kazakh city or village. Other traditional Kazakh meals, such as beshbarmak, kuyrdak, baursaks and many types of meals made from milk (yoghurt, kurt, cream, butter and cheese) are also offered.
Between 1926-1988, when Kazakhstan was a Soviet Socialistic Republic, Nauryz was not officially celebrated in Kazakhstan. In 2009, three days beginning each March 21 were declared national holidays in Kazakhstan.
On Sept. 30, 2009, Nauryz was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO. Since then, March 21 is has been known as the International Day of Nauryz.

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 Kazakh President Nazarbayev (center) at a recent meeting with Bombardier President Pierre Beaudoin (left of Nazarbayev)

Kazakhstan to Create New Domestic-Service Airline

Kazakhstan is planning to create a new airline to serve domestic routes that will increase domestic mobility and boost intra- regional commerce.

The new service will be called Air Kazakhstan and is expected to include 10 78-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop- powered aircraft, Umirzak Shukeyev, chairman of the board of the Samruk Kazyna National Welfare Fund, announced recently. Commercial flights are planned to begin early next year.

The Canadian aircraft maker refused to comment on the agreement. “We are currently in discussions with several buyers in the region and are not committed to any particular one,” said Mark Duchesne, a media relations contact at Bombardier.
The announcement of the new airline follows a recent meeting between Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian plane manufacturer Bombardier Pierre Beaudoin, after which Bombardier was invited to open a representative office in Kazakhstan. The development of regional aviation is an important step, not just for transportation, but also for the benefit of the population through increased mobility. The fact that President Nazarbayev and Samruk Kazyna are involved speaks volumes about the government’s commitment to increasing domestic travel.
Over the past several years, the Russian government has also listed reviving local aviation among its key priorities and has revamped local airports and subsidised regional air services.
“I have been working in Russia on and off since 1994 and traveling everywhere by plane,” said Andrew Romeo, an expat executive of a Saint Petersburg-based consumer goods company. “I use to limit trips to one city because all regional cities were reachable by air only through Moscow. Now, it is possible to leave Moscow or St. Petersburg for a regional city and fly from that city to other destinations in the same or neighbouring regions without using Moscow as a hub,” he said.
The new Air Kazakhstan and existing Kazakh carrier, Air Astana, are expected to work closely on the project. Air Astana President Peter Foster said in a statement that “Air Astana has been involved in the discussions of the formation of a regional airline with our majority shareholder, Samruk Kazyna, since we retired the Fokker 50 fleet last January.”
Air Astana was established in 2001 and made its inaugural flight in May 2002. It currently operates an all-Western fleet of Airbus A320, Boeing
767-300ERs, 757-200s and Embraer E-190s serving more than 60 international and domestic routes. Samruk Kazyna owns a 51 percent stake in the company with Britain’s BAE Systems, Plc owning the rest.
“We welcome the decision and expect to work closely with the new airline to jointly develop these markets for the benefit of both airlines and of the traveling public,” Foster added. The creation of Air Kazakhstan will now allow Air Astana to focus on international routes.
Five airlines currently conduct regular flights in Kazakhstan with 28 more offering charter flights. And Bombardier’s Dash 8 Q400 is not the only option available in this plane class. Designed for mid-range flights (up to 2,430 km) at an average cruising speed of 650 km/h, the Canadian-made aircraft competes with the Russian Sukhoi Super Jet 100 (distance 3,048 km, speed 830 km/h, 98 seats), Brazilian Embraer 120 turboprop aircraft, the Czech L-410 prop engine and other mid-range aircrafts.
While meeting with Beaudoin at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, President Nazarbayev stressed that a partnership with Bombardier could grow beyond merely the delivery of aircraft.
“Apart from cooperation in the field of aircraft, we are interested in projects in other sectors of the transport industry. Besides, cooperation on training of domestic pilots and specialists for technical service centres of the country is of great importance as well,” Nazarbayev said.

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 Damu Entrepreneurship Development Fund Chairwoman Lyazzat Ibragimova addresses a recent Central Communications Service briefing

Women Creating “Quiet Revolution” in Business

Damu Entrepreneurship Development Fund Chairwoman Lyazzat Ibragimova told a briefing recently that Kazakhstan’s women are very active in business.
“In Kazakhstan, every second entrepreneur is a woman,” she said. “Experts call this mass involvement of women in business in recent decades a ‘quiet revolution.’ Kazakhstan’s citizens have options: to be employed or self-employed. Women increasingly choose the latter.”
Women in Kazakhstan have been starting businesses in fields in which they have knowledge and experience. Female doctors with regular clients have created their own medical centres and teachers engaged in tutoring have opened training centres. Many women are also involved in hotel, food and catering businesses, Ibragimova said.
General Director of Tamak LLP Gulmira Tamasheva believes domestic spaghetti could be quite popular in Europe and that domestic noodles manufactured from top-quality grain could compete with Italian pasta. A tenth of the products manufactured by her small company have long been exported abroad. In January of last year, Tamasheva began exporting noodles as well as sochni, the very thin sheets of dough used in the traditional Kazakh dish, beshbarmak, to the United States. This year, the entrepreneur plans to double her exports.
“The idea of the project was prompted by life itself. Our women today are very busy. They have to be successful at work, take care of the family and children and at the same time be beautiful and attractive. That’s why I decided to produce noodles, to help housewives save time when cooking national dishes,” said Tamasheva. The Damu fund helped her implement the idea. Tamak LLP now has more than 80 employees.
Gulnara Bokebayeva, head of another LLP, Astana Florinter, also told the briefing about her business.
“I am a professional biologist, a Ph.D., and I know all about plants. I always wanted to create a company that would be involved in landscaping. But in the harsh climatic conditions of Astana, it was difficult to implement such an idea. However, having received a grant to develop my business, I invested money in building a greenhouse, where we now grow flowers,” Bokebayeva said.
Today, she said, there are new opportunities to develop her business. Through the Damu Fund, Bokebayeva received training in Germany. During the training course, she met an interested potential business partner. At the briefing, Ibragimova also discussed the problems and difficulties of entrepreneurs.

“First of all, there is the lack of knowledge and information. Second, is a shortage of funds,” she said, speaking of the challenges she and others face.
For entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses, but do not have the skills and knowledge they need, four years ago, Damu created a business advisor programme. This network of free consulting centres is now active in all regions of Kazakhstan.
“During this time, we have provided training to more than 52,000 beginners and existing entrepreneurs. More than half of them are women,” Ibragimova said.
Damu also helps entrepreneurs access funding for their businesses.
“Women entrepreneurs are ready to start even with a small investment. That’s why the fund has been implementing a microcredit programme for women’s entrepreneurship for four years. During this period, more than 5 billion tenge (US$27.5 million) in loans were granted and every third credit guarantee was given to a woman entrepreneur,” Ibragimova added.
Loans through the women’s microcredit programme come through commercial banks that partner with the fund and operate according to certain restrictions.
“That is, the banks can only lend this money to businesses that are owned or co-owned by a woman and the interest rate on the loan should not exceed 14 percent per year,” Ibragimova said.

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 Yerbolat Toguzakov, the star of the movie “Shal,” gives an interview to journalists

Kazakh Film “Shal” Nominated for Nika Award

The Kazakh movie “Shal,” inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” has been nominated for best movie in the Commonwealth of Independent States and Baltic States at Nika 2014, according to the Kazakhfilm press office.

The movie is directed by Yermek Tursunov, the acclaimed director who is renowned for his previous movie “Kelin.”
“An additional four films were nominated for the award: ‘Capitalism at the Cross Roads,’ directed by Ivars Seletskis (Latvia), ‘Passion,’ directed by Temir Birnazarov (Kyrgyzstan), ‘Haytarma’ directed by Ahtem Seytablaev (Ukraine) and ‘Excursionist,’ directed by Audrius Yuzenas (Lithuania).
The best film in the CIS and Baltic States award has been given since the 16th Nika Award Ceremony in 2003. “Shal” is not the first movie produced in Kazakhstan nominated for this award. “Prayer of Leila” directed by Satybaldy Narymbetov, “Renaissance Island” directed by Rustem Abdrashev, “Notes of a Wayman” directed by Zhanabek Zhetiruov, “Swift” directed by Abay Kulbayev, “Farewell, Gulsary” directed by Ardak Amirkulov and “The Gift to Stalin” directed by Rustem Abdrashev have all received nominations in the past. However, the award has been won only once by Serik Aprymov in 2005 for his film “The Hunter.”

Nika is a national film award, established by the Nika Russian Academy of Motion Picture Arts. Its first award ceremony took place in 1988. Prize winners are awarded statuettes of the winged Greek goddess Nike. Winners are chosen during a secret ballot voting session by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, which includes representatives of all cinematic specialties from the regional offices of the Union of Cinematographers of Russia. In 2013, renowned Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky became the President of the Russian Academy of Motion Picture Arts. The founder and Artistic Director of the award is Yuli Gusman.
The 27th National Awarding Ceremony Nika for 2013 will be held
April 1, 2014 at the Moscow State Academic Operetta Theatre.
“Shal” is based on the famous novel by Ernest Hemingway, “The Old Man and the Sea” and tells the story of a family consisting of an old man, a daughter-in-law and a grandson who live on a remote steppe. The film was released Oct. 11, 2012. In October 2013, the film was submitted for the best foreign-language Oscar. In November 2013, Shal was nominated for an annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) in two categories: “Best Actor” and “Best Cinematography.” In February, the film took part in the main competition of the World Panorama of the 32nd International Film Festival Fair in Iran and received a prize for outstanding technical and artistic achievement.
Shal has also been presented at international film festivals all over the world, including the 3rd Beijing International Film Festival, the Moscow
International Film Festival and the 25th International Film Festival in Palm Springs in the U.S.
The film was named Kazakhstan’s best movie of 2013. It was also awarded first place at the Kinoshock Festival and lead actor Yerbolat
Toguzakov won the best male actor award.

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 Also In the News...

• President Nazarbayev speaks with UK Prime Minister David Cameron

On March 14, the President of Kazakhstan spoke with Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron. The leaders discussed bilateral cooperation, as well as implementation of agreements reached during the state visit of the Prime Minister to Kazakhstan. The two sides also discussed the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague and political situation in Ukraine. (

• President Nazarbayev discusses Kazakh Banking System with National Bank Chairman

President Nursultan Nazarbayev met with Kazakh National Bank Chairman Kairat Kelimbetov to discuss the financial sector and banking system in the country, as well as international financial markets. Kelimbetov reported that the National Bank’s gross international reserves have increased 6.1 percent to $26 billion in February 2014. International reserves of the country, including National Fund assets in foreign currency, have grown 2.1 percent and reached $97.6 billion. At the end of the meeting, the President instructed the National Bank to monitor and analyse the influence of global changes on the domestic economy. (

Minister of Agriculture briefs President on ministry’s 2013 activities and tasks for 2014

On March 18, Minister of Agriculture Assylzhan Mamytbekov reported on the results of the ministry’s work in 2013 and their tasks for
2014 to President Nazarbayev. He also informed the President about preparations for spring fieldwork. The President told Mamytbekov the ministry must ensure all planting can be done well and on time. Planting has begun in the south of the country and preparations are underway in the north. The minister also talked about agricultural sector development, in particular in cattle breeding, and the implementation of sectoral programmes. (

• Kazakhstan Security Council releases statement on Crimea referendum

President Nursultan Nazarbayev chaired a March 18 meeting of the National Security Council. On the agenda was the situation in Ukraine and its effect on the economic development of Kazakhstan. The President emphasised the need for Kazakhstan to be responsive to developments in the global economy and world politics in light of the situation in Ukraine. (

• Foreign Minister pays official visit to China

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov paid an official visit to China on March 18-19. During the visit, Idrissov met with Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Wang Yi and Vice President of China Li Yuanchao. The Minister also took part in a ceremony to open a monument to Kazakh poet and thinker Abay in Beijing. (

• Kazakhstan Ministry of Foreign Affairs releases statement on referendum in Crimea

In a statement on the referendum in Crimea on March 16, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry reiterated the country’s commitment to international law and the United Nations Charter. It also called the referendum “a free expression of the will” of the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and said it had “understanding” for the Russian Federation’s position. “We support peaceful ways of settling the crisis in Ukraine and believe it should be done by means of negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations and other reputable international organisations,” the statement concluded. (

• Diplomatic relations established between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Republic of Seychelles

On March 11 in New York, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations H.E. Kairat Abdrakhmanov and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Seychelles to the United Nations H.E. Marie-Louise Potter signed a communiqué establishing diplomatic relations between the two states. During the signing ceremony, the sides exchanged views on prospective bilateral cooperation and important United Nations issues that are significant to Kazakhstan and the Seychelles. The Seychelles was one of the first states of the African region to support Astana’s candidacy to host the international specialised exhibition EXPO 2017. (

• Government allocates 160 billion tenge for Affordable Housing Program in 2014

Minister of Economy and Budget Planning Yerbolat Dossayev reported that about 160 billion tenge (US$877.5 million) has been allocated for the country’s affordable housing programme this year. According to the minister, the funds will be used to provide housing loans, secure rental housing for young families or those on waiting lists, develop engineering infrastructure and build rental housing through the Kazakhstan Mortgage Company. (

• Kazakhstan to chair CIS Tourism Council in 2015

At the International Economic Forum, CIS and New Formats of Cooperation held in Moscow on March 14, Kazakhstan was elected chairman of the CIS Tourism Council for 2015. The CIS Tourism Council was established in 1994. It is composed of representatives of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The council is formulating a common tourism development strategy for countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States. (

• Things to Watch:

President Nazarbayev will pay an official visit to the Netherlands on March 23 and attend the third Global Summit on Nuclear Security on March 24-25 in The Hague.

Created at : 18.04.2014, 12:26, Updated at : 21.05.2014, 09:45