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Cablegate: Kazakhstan: A Tale of Two Northern Cities

VZCZCXRO4423
OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHTA #0013/01 0110311
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 110311Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7157
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 2319
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1681
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2387
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1876
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1726
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000013

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, SCA/PPD, EEB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON SOCI KPAO RS KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: A TALE OF TWO NORTHERN CITIES

ASTANA 00000013 001.2 OF 002


REFTELS: A. ASTANA 0010
B. 09 ASTANA 0959

1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: On recent visits to Kostanai and North
Kazakhstan Oblasts, PolOff visited American corners in Kostanai and
Petropavlovsk. Local residents claimed their regions are "the most
peaceful in Kazakhstan," and expressed optimism about their regions'
futures, although infrastructure, especially in Petropavlovsk,
appeared relatively unchanged since the Soviet era. Local residents
requested more opportunities to travel to the United States on
scholarship and exchange programs. They expressed concerns about
Kazakhstan's relationship with China and the effect of possible WTO
accession. END SUMMARY.

KOSTANAI TOUTS ITS CULTURAL LEGACY -- AND NEW INFRASTRUCTURE

3. (SBU) Several of PolOff's interlocutors in Kostanai, including
American Corner event participants, Oblast Akimat (regional
administration) representative Tatyana Zueva, and the director of
one of the largest NGOs in Kostanai, Igor Vassilenko, praised their
"safe, livable, and dynamic" city. Many residents, including Zueva
and Vassilenko, noted with pride that they were born and raised in
Kostanai. Near the modern airport, a large billboard welcomed
investment and featured Canadian, Chinese, Israeli, and Russian
flags. On the drive into town, Zueva pointed out several new
residential districts and shopping malls. The town's center boasted
extensive holiday decorations, including an ice castle and several
large, lighted "Christmas trees." In spring, the Oblast purchases
flowers from the nationwide conglomerate ZelenStroi to decorate the
city and improve quality of life, Zueva said. She praised the
city's commitment to a "green environment," noting a city law that
requires the planting of two trees for every tree cut down.

4. (SBU) "Kostanai has been known as a center of arts since Soviet
times," Zueva asserted, proudly emphasizing the Oblast's
preservation of many historic buildings, including those housing a
modern art academy and philharmonic. Zueva also led PolOff on a
tour of the two-story, 600 square meter, government-subsidized
local-artists gallery, which the Charge visited in May (ref B). The
first floor showcased works by well-known artists with Kostanai
connections, the second exhibition room was devoted to young
Kostanai artists, and a third gallery allowed Kostanai artist to
exhibit works for sale. Various other residents commented on the
high value Kostanai residents place on art and culture.
Representatives from the House of Friendship and NGO activists
praised Post's May 2008 jazz event held in Kostanai, and urged the
United States to support more cultural programming in Kostanai (ref
B). House of Friendship exhibits praised the accomplishments of
Kostanai youth.

5. (SBU) At the same time, Kostanai Oblast's official
representative, Tatyana Zueva, insisted on showcasing the city's
modern development. Zueva, a former music teacher and Soviet Young
Pioneer leader, took PolOff to the newly constructed French House
and two quirky restaurants, a faux castle and a trendy caf designed
to look like a submarine. The five-year-old castle restaurant was
almost deserted during the week-day lunch hour, despite the fact
that prices were approximately half those of an average Astana
restaurant. Young diners, on the other hand, filled the popular
Nautilus cafe, where prices were 80% cheaper than in Astana.

MORE SOVIET INFRASTRUCTURE IN PETROPAVLOVSK

6. (SBU) In contrast to the situation in wealthier Kostanai, the
main airport in the neighboring North Kazakhstan Oblast was small,
old, and dimly lit, with no mechanized baggage carousel. In North
Kazakhstan Oblast's capital city of Petropavlovsk, nondescript
Soviet apartment complexes and administrative buildings filled the
downtown, while traditional Siberian-style houses predominated in
residential districts. A few elaborately-carved ancient wooden
houses lined the main street. Unlike in Kazakhstan's large cities
and new oil towns, large-scale new construction and skyscrapers were

ASTANA 00000013 002.2 OF 002


conspicuously absent in Petropavlovsk, and PolOff's hotel felt
distinctly Soviet. The front-desk staff collected keys when guests
left hotel premises, and large rooms were dimly lit. The
recently-remodeled sauna and swimming pool complex remained shabby.


...BUT RESIDENTS PRAISE CITY FOR BEING SAFE AND QUIET

7. (SBU) Despite the lack of new buildings, local residents
asserted their high satisfaction with Petropavlovsk's quality of
life. PolOff's first interlocutor, an ethnic-Kazakh taxi driver and
long-time Petropavlovsk resident, said that "he would never want to
live anywhere else," since the city is safe and calm. The taxi
driver's only complaint was occasional hoarding of gas at some
stations in order to sell at peak prices. Laura Temenova, a
long-time, ethnic-Kazakh resident and manager of the Petropavlovsk
American Corner, praised her "quiet and safe" city, but alleged that
the heating was turned on several weeks late this year, causing many
schoolchildren to become sick.

RESIDENTS EAGER FOR EXCHANGES AND INTERESTED IN U.S. POLICIES

8. (SBU) At separate presentations at the American Corners in
Kostanai and Petropavlovsk, PolOff answered questions from audiences
that included over 50 North Kazakhstan and Kostanai State University
students, several retirees, one journalist, and representatives from
the regional administrations. They asked PolOff about her
impressions of Kazakhstan, the role of an Embassy, the
foreign-service application process, and opportunities to study in
the United States. Of particular interest to the students was the
economic crisis' affect on U.S. scholarship programs. Residents did
not hesitate to ask about international politics and U.S. policies,
questioning PolOff about World War II memorials in Georgia,
per-hectare grain yields, U.S. farm subsidies, Obama's Nobel Prize,
U.S. policies towards Iraq and Afghanistan, and the October
U.S.-Kazakhstan Energy Partnership meetings. One participant
further questioned the benefits of alternative energy cooperation
for oil and gas-rich Kazakhstan. A particularly active contributor,
Marat Yermukanov, a journalist in his late 50s, who works for North
Kazakhstan's "Severniy" newspaper, said his daughter had studied in
the United States, and "returned with great impressions based on
what she saw." An ethnic Kazakh, Yermukanov expressed interest in
U.S. journalism and concern about the decline of Kazakh language,
the effect of the Iran-Israel conflict on Kazakhstan, the benefits
of WTO accession, and the flooding of Kazakhstan's markets by cheap
Chinese goods.

9. (SBU) After both sessions, PolOff answered individual questions
from audience members. A young North Kazakhstan Oblast
representative, Samat Shakanov, asked for a list of companies
interested in joint ventures, particularly in wheat-refining, meat
production, bio-diesel, and bio-fuels. At the same session, a local
North Kazakhstan University graduate complained that he must pirate
music and videos due to a lack of jobs in the region for educated
young people.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: North Kazakhstan and Kostanai Oblasts are
stable regions with residents who are unafraid to speak their views.
However, the contrast between the Akimat representative, looking
for cooperation to grow the local economy, and the self-proclaimed
pirate, who expressed frustration at the lack of opportunity,
demonstrates the challenges facing regional administrations. END
COMMENT.

HOAGLAND

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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