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Kazakhstan to modernise hundreds of post offices

Thu, 2017-03-23 12:32

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A new, modernised post office was officially opened in Almaty March 16, the fourth such upgraded post office in the city. Fourteen more are set to be completed soon.

A total of 400 post offices in 197 localities in Kazakhstan will be put through a modernisation programme, according to the website of Kazpost, Kazakhstan’s postal service.


“We are doing a lot of work to improve our city, we are modernising all infrastructure. And new branches of Kazpost that will provide services in modern, beautifully decorated rooms, without queues and red tape, will undoubtedly please the Almaty residents,” said Akim (Mayor) of Almaty Bauyrzhan Baibek at the opening ceremony of the renewed facility.

Updated post offices were opened on the same day in the East Kazakhstan region, the South Kazakhstan region, Karaganda, in the Almaty region and other regions of the country.

The modernisation of the branches includes not only major repairs, but also the introduction of new technology. All post offices are equipped with a single electronic queue system, a video surveillance system and fire safety equipment. To monitor the situation in the service halls, a Situation Centre has been created, where on-line video monitoring of the work of all departments is carried out. The opening of such a centre will help Kazpost quickly address queues and regulate the work of operators.


According to Kazpost Chairman Saken Sarsenov, during the modernisation of post offices, special attention was paid to the optimisation of working space. The area of ​​the operating rooms was increased from 9,000 square metres to 19,000 square metres by eliminating non-functional offices. The heads of the operating rooms were transferred from separate offices to common rooms, and barrier-free services have been introduced. Service areas for individuals and corporate clients and postal and financial services rooms have been separated and the number of operating windows has been increased.

“The transition to a new format of work will allow us to optimise the procedures for receiving and sending parcels and improve the quality of services to the public. Already, the time for receiving and sending parcels has been reduced by two or three minutes,” added Sarsenov.

In addition, most post offices will operate around the clock through a special self-service zone called POST 24 that includes ATMs and payment terminals for financial services and special terminals for postal services. The new offices also have foreign exchange kiosks.

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Nauryz celebrated throughout capital, nation

Thu, 2017-03-23 12:26

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Numerous celebrations have been held around Astana for the Nauryz holiday.


On March 16-17, the programme started with the festival for people with limited abilities “A creation without borders.”

On the days of Nauryz, March 21-22, folk festivals with fairs, concerts, sports and entertainment events were held in different parts of the capital, including the area of Kazakh Eli square, the Students Park and the territory near the Zhastar theatre.

At the Kazakh Eli Square, traditional Kazakh rites such as Bata beru, Tusau keser, Aitys, Betashar and others were shown to the public. A show programme with concerts took place as well. Also, people were able to buy and taste traditional food and drinks.

This year, the residential areas of Kuygenzhar, Michurino, Industrialny, Internationalny, Zheleznodorozhny, Prigorodny, Urker, Koktal-1, Ondiris also hosted events.

But the main and the biggest event was located in the area near the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre. Visitors were able to witness ethno aul with yurts, Kazakh games, food and the work of craftsmen.

There were 19 yurts, shopping tents, as well as a bazaar. During the days of celebration, traditional Kazakh folk rites were performed by the artists of the theatres of Astana, as well as representatives of ethno-cultural associations. At an Oriental-style bazaar, an exhibition-sale was organised, where visitors saw different types of arts. Craftsmen shared their secrets of the manufacture of decorative art. Traditionally, there was a free distribution of baursaks and Nauryz kozhe. Everyone was also able to take part in national games, such as kazakhsha kures (Kazakh wrestling), arkan tartys (tug of war) and others. Also, visitors witnessed dog races.

Also, the Saryarka velodrome hosted perhaps the largest and the most elaborate special event March 21 attended by dignitaries including the head of state.

The Astana Opera also showcased on March 22 the Kyz Zhibek opera. Numerous art performances were also available at theatres in the capital.

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South Kazakhstan region to supply 20,000 tonnes of meat to Iran each year

Thu, 2017-03-23 12:16

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Iranian investors plan to do big business in South Kazakhstan in meat – they’re planning to buy 20,000 tonnes per year from the region, reports.


The website of the regional akim (governor), Zhanseit Tuimebayev, explains that the plan, which is being implemented through bilateral agreements between the two countries, was presented to farmers during a recent seminar at the Kaiyp-ata feed yard in Kazygurt district.

Iranian investors, regional mayors and governors, agriculture management professionals, farmers and agricultural businessmen and representatives of research centres and financial organisations participated in the seminar.

“Supporting farmers who do animal farming in our country is being implemented by the Kazakh government,” Tuimebayev said.

“The general public needs to be given an explanation on establishing agricultural cooperatives, loan services and subsidising. In many countries there is a big demand for our ecologically clean product. We need to make use of it,” he added.

They are mainly engaged in fattening cattle in the Kaiyp-ata partnership of the Kazygurt district. There are 3,000 head of cattle there at present.

Iran consumes 2.4 million tonnes of meat each year. The parties signed a contract on meat supply – 3,000 head of small ruminants and 100 head of cattle.

The region plans to establish an association of farmers engaged in cattle breeding in the near future.

Over the past two years the number of cattle in the region increased by 35,000 and amounted to 865,000. The number of sheep increased by 155,000 to 3.9 million, horses by 16,000 to 230,000 and camels by 1,700 to 23,000, according to

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Qazaq Air launches new route between Astana and Shymkent

Thu, 2017-03-23 12:12

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANAQazaq Air will introduce March 26 a new flight route between Shymkent and Astana.

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“Shymkent is one of the most densely populated and, at the same time, economically developed cities of the country. Since the establishment of the company in 2015, Qazaq Air has connected the citizens of this sunny region with the cities of Almaty, Aktobe and Atyrau. Now we are pleased to inform about the possibility of traveling from Shymkent to the capital of Kazakhstan. Thus, Shymkent becomes a kind of hub for the airline,” Qazaq Air Chief Executive Officer Blair Treherne Pollock said.

Flights from the regional centre of the South Kazakhstan region will operate twice a week on the modern airliner Bombardier Q400NextGen.

Ticket costs for a flight from Shymkent to Astana lasting one hour 55 minutes start from 11,557 tenge (US$36.6) one way, including airport passenger charges.

At present, Qazaq Air operates flights from Almaty to Aktobe, Astana, Atyrau, Kostanai, Kyzylorda, Pavlodar, Semey, Taldykorgan and Shymkent.

According to the company’s website, Qazaq Air is a new domestic regional airline in Kazakhstan founded by the Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund owning 100 percent of shares of the airline. The company was registered in April 2015. Qazaq Air meets local and international safety requirements and operates modern turboprop aircraft.

The airline logo was developed on the basis of the theme “Connecting Kazakhstan” and the network of regional flights. The logo’s 14 colourful circles represent the 14 regions of Kazakhstan.

“During the first year of operation, the airline carried more than 160,000 passengers between 12 cities of the country using three aircraft. During 2017 and 2018, it is planned to increase the fleet of the carrier by two aircraft. According to the business plan, in 2019 it is supposed to reach the target capacity of 450,000 passengers per year,” Managing Director on Asset Optimisation of Samruk Kazyna Berik Beisengaliyev emphasised.

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South Kazakhstan region entrepreneur launches commercial nut garden operation

Thu, 2017-03-23 12:08

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – South Kazakhstan region resident Tanabai Shyntasov plans to create a commercial nut garden. The entrepreneur has already planted seedlings of fruit trees and grapes in the Saryagash district.

Today, the garden area is more than 90 hectares. Practically the whole territory is equipped with a drip irrigation system. About 50 people work there as most of the work is done manually. The annual income is 90 million tenge (US$ 285,120). The gardener intends to raise the country’s gardening to a new level and unite like-minded people.

According to Shyntasov, little attention is paid to this culture in Kazakhstan although Central Asia is considered the birthplace of nuts.

“We found about 40 types of nut. We brought them and plan to grow as we want to see how it shows itself. Nuts are evaluated for the quality of the core and if it contains oil and protein. We will plant them taking into account these indicators. Growing a large amount of nut trees for commercial purposes, they need to be vaccinated. I think the business that we’ve started is very useful for our country,” the gardener noted.

He has been engaged in growing seedlings of apples, peaches, plums and pears for more than ten years. Exotic fruits and berries including pomegranate, kiwi, lemon and banana have already begun to grow in his garden.

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Being a woman and doing business in Central Asia

Thu, 2017-03-23 12:03

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Being a businesswoman and a housewife at the same time is really arduous – in a society in which most household chores are still the province of women, a working mom must juggle cooking a meal for the kids, planning business meetings and keeping in mind what to put on the grocery list.

Park’s kindergarten in Bishkek

And there may not be many people to sympathize, because entrepreneurship is still mostly dominated by men. So what’s it like being a businesswoman in this part of the world?

Central Asia, although mostly Muslim, was under Soviet rule for more than 70 years and therefore inherited a mostly secular educational system and some Soviet views on life.

In the early 1990s, when the newly independent country was just getting onto its feet, it was quite unusual to see women drivers, for instance, or women watching soccer, or women negotiating trade deals worth millions and billions of dollars in Central Asia, let alone internationally.

Today, the women of Central Asia are successfully operating small and medium-sized businesses and negotiating trade deals on the highest levels and are quite active in politics.

“This probably has to do with the ongoing crisis our country has been going through since, perhaps, ever,” said Marina Park, 44, an ethnic Korean born and raised in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Park is a bright example of a woman entrepreneur, managing family ties and two medium-sized businesses.

“Our country has seen two revolutions and people had to adapt quickly to different situations, so if you ask me, entrepreneurs in Kyrgyzstan are probably the best in the world,” she said, smiling. “As we are quite adept in volatile political and economic turmoil. Sadly, we are used to that.”

Kyrgyzstan saw a Tulip Revolution in 2005, when the first president, Askar Akayev, was overthrown. In 2010, his successor Kurmanbek Bakiyev met a similar fate.

“In 2005, I was a beginner business woman with three kids, after my husband had passed away from a sudden heart attack. We had to feed our family; we had to survive. I had saved some money and rented out a small boutique in the city and bought some kids’ toys for sale. But that year after the revolution started the country saw a major setback and I didn’t make much off selling toys,” Park remembered.

After an unsuccessful run with the children’s toys Park decided to quit and try a different sphere, but was completely clueless.

“I was depressed and had no idea what to do. My kids were growing up and they saw my efforts trying to multitask with work and home. That helped them stay determined in school. I saved up some cash and wanted to try my own business, as I understood that my salary would never be enough for the four of us in the family, and my children were still very young to work.”

After saving some cash, Park decided to open a kindergarten.

“I love my kids and I love children in general. I thought if I started this type of business I would be able to watch over my own kids and this is something that can both feed us and provide shelter if worst comes to worst. So I sold my apartment and moved in with my mother, who helped us throughout all this effort with my children. I bought a small house and opened a kindergarten.”

Today, her kindergarten has about 50 children and it keeps growing. Park created work for all her relatives who were unemployed and is now the foreman and breadwinner not only for her immediate family but also for all her relatives.

In 2012, after saving again, she launched a network of small grocery stores.

“The kindergarten business was more a help for me to watch over my children – I just combined what was needed and what could help us survive. It required a lot of effort and responsibility though and it didn’t give me much time to think of future plans. Now my children are all grown up and that gave me a little more freedom and so I decided to move on. I started with renting out a small kiosk-type grocery store and then I rented out another and then another and I bought them out eventually and today I own six small grocery stores in the capital. I am also planning to build my own mini-mall in a residential area in the micro-districts,” Park shared.

“I think only those who face really hard times in life succeed. I watch American films and often see how women live there and how they have to cope with chores and business. I see myself there, too, in their shoes. I understand how hard it must be.”

Park isn’t the only female entrepreneur with such a success story in Bishkek, she said.

“My closest friends are all engaged in some type of business. They own fitness clubs, beauty parlours and boutiques. We can’t afford to work for someone. All we want is a stable political situation. Many people lost their businesses after the Tulip Revolution in 2005. Marauders took advantage of the chaos in the city and they broke into houses, stole valuables, broke into supermarkets and malls and stole all they could. For us small and medium business people this is heart breaking. We earn money by honest means, we don’t plunder, we don’t steal from the national budget. We just want to be left alone and do what we can to thrive, to get on with our lives. But even that can’t be achieved easily sometimes in our region. We have to fight for our spot under the sun. That’s why we succeed, because we don’t have any other choice.”

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Kazakh writer pens novel chronicling three generations of Almaty residents

Thu, 2017-03-23 03:15

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A new Kazakh novel about love and three generations of Almaty residents in an historic retrospective of the 20th century was recently presented in Almaty in honour of International Women’s Day.

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“I was writing this book for two years but was nurturing the idea for a long time. I wanted to tell about generations that were lost and found several times during the 20th century. This is a saga about three generations of Almaty residents. The elder generation born in 1920s-1940s that have gone through war, the second generation born in 1960s-1970s and the third generation from the end of the 1980s-1990s. These three generations form our modern reality,” said Beknur Kisikov, writer and author of “Ol,” reported.

The story is set in Almaty during the 20th and 21st centuries, however, the main character going through a midlife crisis travels to worlds that surround every person. Love and betrayal, conflicts between generations, historic events, globalisation and the washing out of his inner self are central topics of the novel written in a post-modernism style.

Kisikov calls “Ol” a psychedelic novel. “I am sure that modern characters and happenings can be conveyed only through a phantasmagoria, psychedelic and fragmentary post-modernism way of thinking.”

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The conflict of the main character with his inner self is the main conflict of the novel. The writer develops several topics at the same time: families (gender and interpersonal relationships), true and imaginary values, search for harmony and ideal, friendship, war, continuity of generations, love and others, according to one of the first readers, professor Bagilya Akhatova.

She said the author pays much attention to modes of Kazakhs’ lives, by revealing culturally unique features of national signs and symbols. “This presents a big cultural value for readers opening a Kazakh reality for themselves.”

Akhatova added the novel is chockfull of symbols that pervades the characters’ perception of the world.

“The author’s style of outlining events is unordinary; an individual style of writing, the artistic vision of the world reflecting in a combination of prosaic and poetic styles is interesting. The speech from the author is marked by an aphoristic nature, towering imagery and laconic brevity,” she wrote, reported.

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EXPO 2017 road shows kick off in Asia, Europe and Middle East

Thu, 2017-03-23 01:40

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Numerous road shows promoting EXPO 2017 have launched in Astana and will be held across Asian, European and Middle Eastern states.

The road shows will provide detailed information about Kazakhstan and its tourism potential, as well as the portfolio of EXPO 2017 tourist routes. Business-to-business and business to consumer events are planned.

EXPO 2017, with its Future Energy motto, is not only a business, thematic, cultural and entertainment showcase, but also a global event gathering the best experts in the field. Every expo generates great interest and attracts great number of tourists from around the world.

Business people, scientists, politicians, artists and sportsmen participate. Visitors will be able to see the best renewable energy technologies and projects, to learn about the cultures and traditions of the participating countries that will present their pavilions. Many parades, shows and concerts of famous stars will be held in Astana.

From March to June, the EXPO 2017 road shows will be presented at large international tourism exhibitions in Moscow (MITT), Berlin (ITB), Beijing (COTTM), Almaty (KITF), Seoul (KOTFA), Hong Kong (ITE) and Dubai (ATM).

EXPO 2017 tourism products will be presented from March till April in European countries. The participants of the show will perform in Paris, Vienna, Budapest, Frankfurt, Vilnius, Warsaw, Helsinki, Prague, Milan, Madrid, Amsterdam and London.

In spring, a promotion campaign will be held in the territory of the Commonwealth of Independent States. It will operate in Baku, Tbilisi, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Bishkek, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Orenburg, Yekaterinburg, Astrakhan and Tyumen.

A programme promoting EXPO 2017 will also be launched in the spring in such cities in Asia and the Middle East as Xian, Shanghai, Urumqi, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Istanbul, Tehran and Tokyo.

The Kazakh government plans to hold an informational tour for foreign tour operators April 20-22.

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British expert visits KTZ to share experience within IOSH-EBRD project

Thu, 2017-03-23 01:32

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), the nation’s state-owned railway and logistics operator, is exchanging experience with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the British-based organisation for health and safety professionals. Railway group chair Keith Morey spent a week in the capital to see how KTZ protects its workforce and ensures exchange experience in the field.

“Everything I have seen shows that the company is willing to move forward with the times and wants to be a leader and I think you’ve got enough scope to be a world-class leader in railways and their safety,” said Morey in an interview with The Astana Times.

Morey, who is also a part of Network Rail’s infrastructure projects team in the United Kingdom, met with the health and safety team at KTZ to discuss the challenges it faces.

“I am keen to learn how they manage these risks. It is a two-way communication. I hope to be able to share my own experience in case they find something useful to replicate for managing risks, but at the same time, to be able to bring back new ideas for our work in the U.K.,” he said.

The visit will contribute to sharing good practices from both the U.K. and Kazakhstan rail networks and build links between relevant organisations. IOSH is the chartered body for health and safety professionals. With more than 46,000 members in more than 120 countries, it is the world’s biggest professional health and safety organisation.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for all parties. KTZ is a huge operation and, as with any rail industry organisation, there are many risks faced by their workers,” said Morey.

KTZ is planning to expand its operations and is keen to interact with a railway peer with years of experience in the same sector to compare health and safety practices.

“I am really impressed with the facilities, especially the new engineering facility where new locomotives are being built. The new coaches were very good. The collaboration between Kazakhstan and Spain with coaches is a very good example,” he said speaking of a Talgo plant near Astana, adding some of the engineers brought work practices from Spain, where they were trained, and are very helpful and willing to share information.

Everything realting to safety has been taken seriously and much attention is being paid to it, said Morley.

“There are always opportunities to improve, because the IOSH certification says you should look and continue improvements. The fact that KTZ is willing to have me here and share experience shows the willingness to learn and find ways to improve,” he added.

Concerning particular ways for improvement, Morey noted the next step on KTZ’s journey will be “a behavioural, modern way or more Western way of doing things rather than the Russian [Soviet] way. A slightly different perspective from the people. It is not about the raw book; it is more about people and working with people to achieve the best.”

The main difference between how safety is managed in the U.K. and Kazakhstan is culture and openness, said Morey.

“We have much more of an ‘open’ sort of culture in the U.K. regarding safety. The actual thing is whether people will speak up if something isn’t quite right; are they willing to say something,” he noted.

He added Kazakhstan has moved a long way and “safety is something that comes on a journey.”

“The meeting where the two organisations exchange information and experience in the field of safety and health protection in the transport sector should promote the establishment of business relations and develop cooperation,” said Aidos Aishikov, General Manager of KTZ’s Ecology and Industrial Safety Department.

Morey’s visit is the first activity as part of a partnership between IOSH and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The organisations are working together “to ensure that safety and health is at the forefront of business operations in emerging Europe and beyond,” according to the IOSH website. KTZ has been a long-term partner of EBRD.

“This assignment provides an opportunity for both the IOSH Railway Group and KTZ to transfer and exchange sector-specific knowledge, learn new skills and promote alternative health and safety standards from both the U.K. and Kazakhstan which have been effective in protecting rail workers,” said Derran Williams, EBRD Principal Health and Safety Advisor.

“This first project to be set up under our partnership with the EBRD will allow for a two-way exchange of information on how risks in the industry can be successfully managed. This is timely ahead of KTZ’s expansion plans and will help to pave the way for healthier and safer working environments across their operations. We thank Keith for volunteering his time and valuable experience,” said IOSH’s Policy Executive Director Shelley Frost.

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First film by Kazakh director Salamat Mukhammed-Ali to premiere in North America

Thu, 2017-03-23 01:28

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The 2017 American adaptation of “Diamond Cartel,” directed by Kazakh filmmaker Salamat Mukhammed-Ali, will premiere in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia for the first time in the nation’s cinema history.

“After a successful release of our ‘The whole world is at our feet’ film in Kazakhstan, American distributors offered to bring it to an American release. Our film received a new international title ‘Diamond Cartel’,” Mukhammed-Ali told The Astana Times.

The premiere will be held March 24 in Los Angeles and New York. The film features stars including Armand Assante, the late Peter O’Toole, Michael Madsen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Tommy Lister, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Oliver Gruner and Bolo Yeung.

The movie is being promoted by global film industry personalities such as Hollywood legend Gray Frederickson, the Oscar and Emmy-winning American producer responsible for the three Godfather films. It is also receiving support from renowned U.S. producers Peter Zhmutski and Gamal Diab, European producer Pavel Nyziak and Anara Musrepova (artistic nickname Anarelle Mus), the well-known French producer and head of the International Transcontinental Corporation of Innovation Technologies office in Europe and America.

The film’s prospects are “marvellous,” said Musrepova, as it is the first Kazakh movie to hit such a large number of screens.

“The occasion is remarkable both for Kazakhstan and the global film society. As far as I know, this is the first time a film of such scale has been made inside the Commonwealth of Independent States. Mukhammed-Ali’s work exceeded all expectations; he has shown professionalism and his ability to work in a big team,” she said in her interview with the paper. “Our film entered the history of world cinema. It so happens that this is the last film where legendary actor, winner of Golden Globe Awards and Oscar nominee Peter O’Toole played.”

Western distributors breathed new life into the film two years after it was released in Kazakh cinemas, she added.

“It opens the first page of the Kazakh country in the world cinema of the U.S. The Sony Company improved the sound,” she noted.

Mukhammed-Ali’s creative career began in 1991 when, as a lead singer, he founded the rock band Epoch. He left the music industry after being offered a technical director position at the National Television Network, directing music videos for the nation’s top artists like Makpal Zhunisova, Myra Ilyasova and Dinara Kyrkybaeva. He was also a producer and director for national commercials and public service announcements, according to

Mukhammed-Ali currently has four film projects to be made in America with worldwide starts, although he cannot disclose information on these projects until the production has ended.

He shared some of his ‘’unforgettable’’ impressions from working with foreign actors. Bolo Yeung, who plays the main character’s bodyguard, approached him one day on the set.

“The great Chinese film actor and martial arts master holds out a kitten for me and says ‘Salamat, I very much want to devote my role to my friend Bruce Lee. Lee fights Chuck Norris in his The Way of the Dragon film and a cat watches their battle.’ I shivered; everything got mixed up in my head – Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Bolo Yeung, Serik Bimurzin, a kitten and 100 people on set. I took this grey, fluffy lump and confirmed the kitten in the role of observer of the fight scene between the Chinese master and a Kazakh member of the Mafia. The kitten coped with his role first-class. Bolo Yeung remained pleased, while I had warm memories of this bright moment in my life kept with me,” he said.

Mukhammed-Ali also had a message for his fans.

“Believe sincerely in what you do and you are bound to succeed. The point is that the energy of your confidence is passed onto other people. Keep up your spirits. By having faith, you will reach your goal one day,” he said.

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Almaty photographer reveals how simple hobby turned into career

Wed, 2017-03-22 01:10

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The breathtaking pictures of exotic marine life taken by Almaty resident Nadezhda Kulagina took the fourth and sixth places in the wrecks category of the 2017 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition.

Photo credit: Nadya Kulagina

An interpreter by occupation, Kulagina has been involved in underwater photography for seven years. She specifically went to Sudan last year, going to the bottom of the Red Sea with like-minded people. Several dives were devoted to the study of the Umbria, the sunken Italian ship.

“I’ve always wanted to learn diving, but we do not have such an opportunity in Kazakhstan. Once I visited Hawaii, I tried diving for the first time. It was incredible and I decided to continue this hobby. After many years, I went to Thailand and learned diving there. After I learned to dive, I realised that I needed to take pictures. By this time, I was fond of photography and had my own studio, so I decided that my studio should be moved under water,” said Kulagina in an interview for this story.

The Haunted Room. Photo credit: Nadya Kulagina.

Her photograph “The Haunted Room” caught the attention of the jury with an atmosphere of complete tranquillity in the underwater scene and the flooded ship imprinted with rays of sunlight.

“The wreck cat[egory] was strong this year and one image which particularly caught my attention was this internal view. The position of the sunbeams pouring onto the decking is particularly eye-catching and the author has exposed both midtones and highlights. The composition leads the eye back and forth through the wreck and towards a door in the distance. The depth perspective of this image and its view is most eye-catching,” said jury member Martin Edge.

Kulagina noticed the room flooded with light on her way back from the dive. The rays streaming through the portholes were lined up nicely, creating a mysterious look of the way the room might have appeared when the Umbria was still intact and plying the seas.

“I couldn’t miss an opportunity to take a picture. The wreck lies on its side with the portholes looking up toward the surface, so the saloon is turned sideways, which is very confusing to the human eye. I flipped the camera vertically to take this shot. Since I used a very slow shutter speed to correctly expose the sun beams and still be able to see the far back of the room, I had to rest the housing on the side of the opening through which I was photographing and hold my breath in order not to blur the image,” she said.

The critics wrote “a pleasing composition and a strong idea” about her second picture, “Three Warriors.”

“Having seen hundreds of images of these three beautiful Fiats that rest in one of the holds of the Umbria wreck, I decided to take an image that would stand out from the others. The idea was to use off-camera strobes to light up the cabins of the three cars. Unfortunately, one of the strobes was too far and refused to fire. The hold with the cars is relatively small and very dark, so I had to be very careful not to kick up silt and rust. I was very limited on time, as the rest of the group was already breathing down my neck. To me, these three cars stand tall as the famous three warriors by Russian artist Victor Vasnetsov, hence the title,” said Kulagina.

“The photographs I sent randomly received prize-winning places. I thought that others pictures would catch the attention of the jury. I am still studying the art of underwater photography. Famous underwater photographer Alex Master is my teacher. I attend his master classes and learn a lot from him. I plan to go to Mexico soon. Several years ago I had an exhibition, so if I collect enough works, I will organise it again,” she added.

The Underwater Photographer competition was founded by Bernard Eaton in 1965. Photographers from 67 countries participated this year.

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Mystery shoppers to be used against corruption

Wed, 2017-03-22 01:03

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The Kazakh Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption together with the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan are looking for ways to solve the country’s corruption problem. Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption Agency Deputy Chairperson Alik Shpekbayev recently talked about the methods being used at a public conference.

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“One of the projects is a so-called mystery buyer. It will be aimed at improving the quality of public services and eliminating corruption risks. When the whole society is involved, when people act together and help identify unlawful actions, we will make appropriate decisions. There is a special department for monitoring the provision of public services, but we believe that its efforts are not enough. In order to bring this to the public, we decided to involve civil society,” he said.

Shpekbayev noted it is impossible to guarantee the instantaneous effect of all taken and planned measures, citing the example of European countries that “have worked for centuries to minimise the corruption.”

“For many years, they have been making appropriate changes and additions to the normative legal acts, constitutional-management functions and personnel policy. Changes cannot be made immediately,” he said.

The main goal of the agency’s actions is not only to eliminate the consequences of corruption, but is also aimed at forming society’s right attitude towards the issue.

“Many of our citizens do not know that there is an anti-corruption policy, that there is a law on combating corruption. We want to bring this to the people, because if they face corrupt cases – they need to know where to report them. We pay great attention to this by distributing special recommendations. A person should show zero tolerance for corruption; he should not accept such a phenomenon at all,” said Shpekbayev.

He also urged the entire population to take an active part in anti-corruption activities, noting corruption risks can only be minimised through comprehensive support of the initiative.

“In his last address to the nation, the head of state once again drew attention to the efforts of civil society in this direction. The recommendations received at the latest anti-corruption forums are being put into practice. Corruption is a topical issue that must be addressed by the whole society. To defeat corruption only by the efforts of the state body is impossible. To minimise it, we need a strong civil society, which today has already been formed in Kazakhstan,” said Shpekbayev.

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Kazakh experts improve safety at research reactor

Wed, 2017-03-22 00:59

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts recently announced that Kazakh scientists have improved the safety of Kazakhstan’s research reactor after that agency reviewed recent modifications.

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“The research reactor is now starting a new life after major modifications and refurbishment, including conversion from the use of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) to further serve science and the national economy,” said General Director of the Almaty-based Institute of Nuclear Physics Yergazy Kenzhin, according to the IAEA’s press release.

Kazakhstan’s Institute of Nuclear Physics has implemented significant upgrades and modifications to improve the safety of its research reactor. Experts of the Integrated Nuclear Safety Assessment of Research Reactors (INSARR) mission working under IAEA reviewed the safety programmes at the Kazakh light water reactor. The research reactor called WWR-K has new safety systems. Its staff has also received new training under qualification programmes.

The IAEA review mission has provided recommendations, which will help ensure continuous safety improvements.

Kazakh experts converted the WWR-K reactor to LEU in 2008 with the repatriation of spent HEU fuel to decrease proliferation risks while doubling the reactor’s utilisation capacity. The WWR-K was stopped in 2015 to implement modifications at the reactor to allow for the conversion, which was completed in 2016.

“The IAEA review team noted the implementation of recommendations of the previous INSARR mission in 2008, including those related to the management system, training and qualification of personnel and radiation protection,” said Team Leader David Sears.

He also said that additional recommendations on safety analysis, ageing management, safety of experiments and emergency preparedness were provided during this mission.

The mission conducted at the WWR-K research reactor took place from Feb. 27 to March 3 and included international nuclear safety experts from three countries that operate research reactors and IAEA staff.

The reactor is located in Alatau, close to Almaty, the commercial capital of Kazakhstan. The 6-MW research reactor is used for the production of medical and industrial radioisotopes, scientific research and testing nuclear materials for industrial use. It was put into operation in 1967, when HEU fuel was typically used to conduct scientific experiments.

INSARR is a review mission, which evaluates safety at research reactors. The mission uses the IAEA safety standards. The safety standards provide the fundamental principles, requirements and recommendations to ensure nuclear safety. They are used as global references for protecting people and the environment and contribute to a harmonised high level of safety worldwide. Research reactors are nuclear installations used for research, education and training, testing materials or the production of radioisotopes for medicine and industry.

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New international tourism route through Kazakhstan to launch in April

Wed, 2017-03-22 00:56

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A new international tourism route passing through Kazakhstan will be launched in April, Marat Igaliyev, head of the Tourism Industry Department of the Kazakh Ministry of Investment and Development announced recently.

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According to the head of the department, he discussed this project with a colleague from Kyrgyzstan as part of the seventh meeting of ministers of tourism of the Silk Road countries in Berlin under auspices of World Tourism Organisation.

As part of this event, he met Azamat Zhamankulov, Deputy Minister and head of the Tourism Industry Department of Culture, Information and Tourism Ministry of Kyrgyzstan.

“We discussed the opening of a new tourism destination of the Silk Road within the Turkic Council. The launch of the pilot project of the tourism branch via Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is planned for April 2017 and will take 12 days,” Igaliyev wrote on his Facebook page.

On Kazakhstan’s part, tourists can visit attractions in Almaty, such as Shymbulak, Koktobe and the famous Kolsai Lake.

“Later they will go to the ancient city of Turkestan that in 2017 was recognised as the cultural capital of the Turkic world. Also, foreign tourists will be able to visit the Zhambyl region, a sacred place where the Kazakh Khanate was founded,” he added.

Meanwhile during the forum of the World Tourism Organisation, Alla Peresolova discussed new opportunities for sustainable tourism development along the Silk Road. According to her, this tourism project, according to the search data, still remains the most demanded in the world among tourists.

Kazakhstan enterprises presented their tourism deals for foreign citizens at Berlin’s ITB-Berlin 2017 exhibition.

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Kazakh diaspora share joy of celebrating Nauryz with people around them

Wed, 2017-03-22 00:50

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Nauryz, an ancient eastern holiday celebrated March 22 in many Middle and Central Asia countries, is one of the favourite holidays for Kazakh people. The event is also widely celebrated by Kazakh diaspora across the world.

The Astana Times interviewed Kazakhstan-born people who currently reside in Paris, Moscow and Los Angeles to learn how they celebrate the coming of spring and their feelings about the date.

Pianist and Korkut Cultural Centre founder Aigerim Matayeva has been living for four years in Paris and pursuing her career at the Slavonic Conservatory.

“As for everyone, Nauryz is a spring holiday for me. Especially in France, spring begins March 21. As a child, I was looking forward to this holiday, because I knew that the weather would already be warm after a long and cold winter. We celebrated the New Year holidays at home, but we always celebrated Nauryz in the street. In childhood, we went to the park with my father and my mother was preparing various kinds of treats on this day. Now, March 22 is a special date for me and my husband, as we met this day,” she said.

Aigerim Matayeva

Matayeva has a tradition of celebrating the event with her family and the Kazakh diaspora. This year, a concert with the participation of young performers and visiting musicians from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey will be held at the centre.

“We hold an annual concert with my colleagues dedicated to the spring holiday. This time we also invited Melvin, the star of jazz clubs in Paris, as a guest performer. He will perform a song in Kazakh in a jazz style. The audience has a chance to go on a journey through the Great Steppe, listening to traditional kuis and jazz songs. They can also enjoy dancing and watching theatre performances. The eats and drinks that reflect both past and everyday lifestyle of nomads also will be served,” she said.

Kamshat Shakhatova, a visiting teacher at Moscow State Linguistic University (MSLU), feels the Nauryz celebration is an excellent opportunity to tell students about diverse Kazakh culture and traditions.

“Nauryz is widely celebrated in Moscow. The city celebrations with a festive programme and a trade fair are held annually at the VDNKh trade show and amusement park. This year, the holiday will be held April 1,” she said.

Nauryz celebrations at Moscow State Linguistic University

“This year, students of the Foreign Studies faculty began to study the Kazakh language as a second foreign language. They learn not only language, but also culture. We decided to organise the event March 22 at the Kazakh language and culture centre. We want to tell the students about the traditions of this holiday – how it is celebrated, what to do, what meals are prepared,” added Shakhatova.

Graduate students from Kazakh Ablai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages interning at MSLU are involved in the organisation.

Kamshat Shakhatova

“We will have an official ceremony and entertainment part, including playing games and singing songs. A rich dastarkhan (table) with traditional festive dishes such as Nauryz kozhe (the main dish served during Nauryz with seven ingredients), baursaks, samsa and sweets will also be served. The students have a task to make a presentation about how they imagine this spring holiday,” she said.

The Silk Road Festival dedicated to Nauryz took place March 17 at Moscow State University. The gala was open to all students from countries where the holiday is celebrated.

“Nauryz is a holiday of spring, renewal for me. It is associated with peace, harmony and friendship. It’s a time when you can start a brand new page of your life,” said Shakhatova.

Kazakh people living in Los Angeles plan to celebrate Happy Nauryz March 26 in cooperation with the Kazakh Student Association, said entrepreneur and head of Kazakh family living in LA Beibit Tabynbai on the group’s Facebook page.

“We have a tradition to celebrate all holidays together. Earlier, about 30 people attended our events. There were no personal interactions between the events. When I came to the U.S., I started to unite all Kazakh people and celebrate the holidays with a big company. This year, we expect that more than 100 people will join us on this day. Many of them come from neighbouring cities,” he said.

The main goal of such events is to meet friends and get acquainted with new ones. Living in another country can often cause many problems in everyday life. People want to know how to get medical care, where to go for sports, have questions about obtaining an education or where to find a job. A social gathering is a perfect platform for such discussions.

Nauryz celebrations at Moscow State Linguistic University

“People can talk and learn a lot of interesting things, find friends by interests. We support each other and help with advice. Last year, an ethnic Kazakh from China who has lived in America for many years came to us. She teaches at the university. We were pleased that she came and were proud to get acquainted with her. You feel incredible about holidays and meetings with compatriots. Such events leave only positive impressions and emotions. The celebration turns out to be something special, personal for you,” he said.

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Turkestan welcomes guests and receives status of Cultural Capital of Turkic World

Wed, 2017-03-22 00:46

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The ancient historic, architectural and religious town of Turkestan welcomed thousands of guests March 21, including an official delegation from 22 Turkic and other countries, as it received the status as the 2017 Cultural Capital of the Turkic World.

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“We have 20 hotels ready to welcome guests. Six of them are VIP-located near the square. We have a guest list. About 50 guests and as many artists will arrive here,” said deputy akim (mayor) Gani Rysbekov, reported before the event.

Turkestan residents held their last preparations during these festive days. The staff celebrated a housewarming party along with guests.

Hotels have affordable prices for everyone – 15,000 tenge (US$47.50) per day for a senior suite and 3,000 tenge (US$9.50) for economy class, according to the website. Beds, textiles, electronics and essential hygiene products are all new.

The “Turkestan – a Cultural Capital of the Turkic World” project started with nationwide Nauryz celebrations and a grand concert featuring more than 230 performance groups from different countries. Performances were held on the town’s numerous concert platforms.

The activities included aitys (an ancient art of improvisation), animated feature film festivals, traditional arts, dance, a circus, opera, Turkic nations theatre, craftsmen’s fair and the Uly Dala Sazy international festival.

A media forum, forums of women from Turkic states, journalists and historians, a congress of literary magazine editors, book exhibitions, a meeting with writers, poets and press tours for media, bloggers and tour operators also took place.

Forty events were scheduled, including 21 organised by the South Kazakhstan region akimat (administration), 14 by TURKSOY, the International Organisation of Turkic Culture, and five by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Founded more than two millennia ago, the ancient city of Yasy (Turkestan) was one of the important commercial centres on the Silk Road and the trade route between Europe and China. From the 16th-18th centuries, it was the capital of the Kazakh khanate.

Turkestan is now the historic centre of Kazakh culture, where one can discover the ruins of Otrar and admire its architectural heritage. The famous Khodja Ahmed Yassaui Mausoleum attracts hordes of tourists every year.

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UNICEF Innovation Laboratory Opens in Almaty

Wed, 2017-03-22 00:42

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has opened a laboratory aimed at improving the quality of life of children through the development and integration of information technology solutions.

The Innovation Laboratory, which opened in Almaty, is the first such laboratory in the Commonwealth of the Independent Countries (CIS) and is hosted by International IT University (IITU).

“The laboratory will help ensure adequate product design and development and UNICEF will share its programme knowledge so that those products can have maximum impact. Products developed through the Innovation Lab will be brought to market. UNICEF will support marketing nationally through its network of partners and internationally through its global network of offices and its presence in 190 countries worldwide – which provides a potentially significant outlet for innovative ideas coming from Kazakhstan,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative Fiachra McAsey at the opening of the lab.

According to the organisation’s press release, the Innovation Laboratory will cooperate and involve both internal and external partners. Also it will focus on the participation of young people in solving urgent issues related to children and adolescents through IT.

“The laboratory will serve as a platform where ideas and solutions from youth will be brought to the end products, such as mobile applications, electronic platforms and tools that are scalable within and beyond the country,” reads the statement.

The UNICEF Innovation Lab is open to students from different universities and professionals with interesting and promising innovative ideas. Successful products developed through the lab will also be eligible for start-up venture capital funding through UNICEF’s Global Innovation Fund.

“The idea of creating the centre arose more than a year ago, and UNICEF and the university have already organised two hackathons [sprint-like design events in which computer programmers and others involved in software development compete] for students from different cities. Various ideas were presented during the hackathons to solve children’s problems, such as the problem of child abandonment, child suicides, protecting children from information on the Internet, health problems, malnutrition, school violence, et cetera. In the future we plan to develop mobile applications, robotics, simulators and other gadgets in the lab,” said head of IITU Damir Shynybekov.

Similar UNICEF Innovation Labs have opened in 12 other countries since 2010, including Indonesia, Kosovo and Jordan.

“UNICEF’s global network of Innovation Labs offers a meaningful launching pad to engage with a wide range of youth and partners around innovative solution which have provided positive impacts on the lives of the most vulnerable children and their families. For example, in Uganda the Innovation Lab developed a mobile phone-based data-collection system called EduTrac, which is now available worldwide. The system enables to collect real time data including teacher and student attendance and delivery of materials. EduTrac helps districts improve their education planning and provides better and timelier supervision to schools based on system reports,” a statement by the lab explains.

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International brands succeeding, expanding on Kazakh market

Sat, 2017-03-18 01:46

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Global brands, such as Starbucks and H&M, have entered the Central Asian market and are outperforming some local companies.

“H&M will launch an aggressive takeover of Kazakhstan market. It means the rapid opening of brand sales outlets in large areas of stores,” said head of the Business Programme of Central Asia Fashion Milena Yershova, reports.

She is confident in H&M’s success in the market, saying, “H&M always opens large or giant stores, which offers customers the widest choice of products. Thus, for example, in the crisis year for Russia in 2015, H&M’s flagship with an area of about 5,800 square metres was opened in Moscow. Another three large stores were opened in Novosibirsk, Murmansk and Barnaul. According to this analogy, the company will act in the Kazakhstan market too.”

The Starbucks network has been operating in Kazakhstan for two years. It looks with great enthusiasm at Kazakhstan as a country with a developing coffee industry, according to the official website of the company. At the opening of the first Starbucks coffee house in Almaty in 2015, people lined up at 7 a.m. to try the first cup of the famous coffee.

Kazakhstan residents are also interested in the opening of H&M stores, one of which will be opened at the Mega Silk Way Astana shopping centre in the EXPO 2017 area.

H&M’s marketing strategy specifies that the company manufactures products for those who want to follow fashion trends, but not spend a lot of money. According to company statistics, the audience of H&M is predominantly female. The company focuses on millennials: students, graduates of high schools, single young people or childless couples. The company’s experts consider shopping a leisure and target people who buy new things every season to stay fashionable. The brand’s values are fashion, money savings, sociality and attention to the environment.

“Against the backdrop of cost reduction and optimisation in other mass brands, such a policy brings a double result and can become an excellent bid for leadership,” Yershova said.

“I would not be surprised if a line of Muslim clothes will be presented in H&M stores in Kazakhstan. For Kazakhstan and the Central Asian region in general this is a very good direction,” she said.

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Exhibition opens marking 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s accession to UN

Sat, 2017-03-18 01:38

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The “Kazakhstan and the United Nations: Interaction for Peace” exhibition has opened in the Museum of the Library of the First President of Kazakhstan to mark the 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s accession to the UN and the beginning of the country’s activity as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.


The exhibition will continue until Sept. 1 and features archival documents, photographs and diplomatic gifts illustrating the 25-year history of Kazakhstan’s work within the UN.

“March 2, 1992 became an historic day for Kazakhstan. It was the day when Kazakhstan joined the United Nations. At the plenary meeting of the 46th session of the UN General Assembly, resolution 46/224 on the admission of the Republic of Kazakhstan as the 168th member of the UN was unanimously approved. After the meeting, a solemn ceremony was held to raise the flag of Kazakhstan in front of the organisation’s headquarters. The recognition of Kazakhstan’s merits in strengthening regional and global security was the election of our country as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017-2018,” said Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Yerzhan Ashikbayev at the opening ceremony.

To date, 15 representative offices of the organisation operate in Kazakhstan, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), among others.

Important milestones in the development of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the UN include official visits to Kazakhstan by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Oct. 17-18, 2002 and Ban Ki-moon on April 6-7, 2010. In addition, Ban Ki-moon attended the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) summit Dec. 1-2, 2010 in Astana.

During his visit to Kazakhstan in 2010, the UN secretary-general visited the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. Ban Ki-moon also visited Astana in June 2015 to participate in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions as a guest of honor.

On the initiative of Kazakhstan, the UN proclaimed Aug. 29 as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. Since 2009, this date is celebrated annually throughout the world. Kazakhstan also initiated the Universal Declaration for the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2015.

“I would like to note that Kazakhstan has clearly defined working priorities in the UN Security Council, which were detailed in the political address of the head of state. First of all, we are talking about achieving peace and freedom from nuclear weapons, renunciation of wars and forceful methods of solving any conflicts as well as the international evil called terrorism. It is also worth recalling that Kazakhstan is the first country from our region that represents the interests of the region in the UN Security Council,” Ashikbayev pointed out.

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Astana Ballet Theatre premiers “Walpurgis Night”

Sat, 2017-03-18 01:32

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The “Walpurgis Night” ballet premiered March 17-18 at the Astana Ballet Theatre in the capital.


The ballet was staged by Honoured Artist of Russia, People’s Artist of Tatarstan Georgy Kovtun who has produced approximately 300 ballets and choreographic performances for many theatres in Russia and Ukraine, including the Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky Theatres and the Vaganova Russian Ballet Academy.

About 40 people from the Astana Ballet troupe and young performers aged 10-12 from the Kazakh National Academy of Choreography performed in the production. Children performed for the first time on the stage in this premiere.

The unusually bright choreographic performance with expressive musical language, colourful scenography and spectacular plasticity was warmly greeted by audience.

The famous ballet acquired the traditions of classical Russian ballet, in which the myths and legends of ancient Greece are revived. Three-D light and other technical elements were used in this production.

“Walpurgis Night” was written for the “Faust” opera but recently it became an independent play performed around the world. I worked with the team that has been with me in many theatres of the world and the country works with me. Our artists are Irina Safronova and Irina Dolgova from St. Petersburg, Dmitry Shamov from Kazan, Kostyleva from the Mikhailovsky Theatre. And all the local choreographers. In addition, the children from the local ballet school perform in the play,” said Kovtun.

“This theatre has incredible opportunities. We used various technical aspects in the show brought by the team who made the performance. I think we are close in some parts to the level of the Cirque du Soleil performances. We want the viewer who sits in the hall to not be able to take his or her eyes off the stage. When an action holds a person, then probably there is an art,” he said.

Initially, “Walpurgis Night” was a ballet scene, which Charles Gounod completed for the second edition of the “Faust” opera, based on the tragedy of Johann Wolfgang Goethe. The scene was first staged at the Paris Opera in 1869 and became known as a one-act ballet.

The “Diversity” ballet produced by choreographer Ricardo Amarante premiered in the second part of the programme. The show is a retrospective journey into the world of ballet, showcasing how the ballet was born and what it became today. The music and costumes and movements have changed but the inspiration and beauty remained unchanged.

The new theatre that opened last December has some of the most modern and advanced equipment. The Astana Ballet repertoire currently includes 10 ballets and two concert programmes.

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