Kazakhstan is a land of contradictions. Big cities like Almaty with approx. 2 million inhabitants are “modern” and “car-friendly” in appearance, i.e. full of high-rise buildings and traffic jams. 100 years ago two earthquakes destroyed all houses. There is no old town. The air pollution is world class. The city is growing disorderly into the landscape, which was once dominated by canals and apple orchards. None of this has survived.
A few hours drive outside, as shown here by the Altyn Emel National Park, shepherds herd their sheep and goats from the back of their small, strong horses. The people have electricity, mobile phones and medical care, but their lives are still based on herds and agriculture. Outside the big cities, life is simple and down-to-earth.
Kazakhstan is rich in natural beauties that are carefully protected, at least in the national park. Here live kulans, gazelles, and soon again tigers, which are to be brought back from Russia into the park.
I experienced the people as open, friendly and helpful. I had only a few days at the edge of an international conference to get to know the area around Almaty.
Kazakhstan is a country in search of a new identity. It stretches from Europe to the Chinese border and integrates a variety of traditions and peoples. It has left the planned economy and plunged into a capitalist economic system.
30. March 2019