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Home > Screenings > > Kazakhstan - Boom and Crisis

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Director: Marcus Fischötter
Producer: doc.station Medienproduction for ZDF/arte
Executive Producer: Martina Sprengel
Writer: Marcus Fischötter
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Kazakhstan - Boom and Crisis


52', 45’

The Expo 2017 – to be held under the motto 'Energies of the Future' – will focus attention on Kazakhstan during the Summer of 2017. The country’s political leadership is hoping to use this event to enhance its political profile and visibility on the international stage and, with a dose of megalomania, to keep abreast with a globalized world.

After all, this former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, with its vast steppe landscape, is the world’s ninth largest country. And its wealth of resources gives Kazakhstan additional weight in this geopolitically significant region. As a member of the Eurasian Union, Kazakhstan continues to be wedded to the Russian Federation though – especially since the emergence of the Ukraine crisis – it has been cautiously distancing itself from Moscow. In doing so, both its Soviet heritage and its corrupt presidential system are proving to be a burden to the further development of this Eurasian nation. It’s unclear what the future will bring to Kazakhstan and thus to the entire region.

Already now there are signs of a generational conflict between the old boys’ network around 76-year-old President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the young, up-and-coming business elite. After the oil boom years, crisis has taken hold of the country’s economy. The plunging price of oil has resulted in deficits in the national budget.

The 'Nazarbayev system' was long seen as a guarantor for the country’s stability. But now people are having growing doubts about whether the path adopted by their regime is the right one. Many of the approximately 18 million Kazakhs are fed up with the latest corruption scandals in connection with the Expo. They are beginning to wonder whether the millions spent on this large-scale project might have been a complete waste in terms of bringing their country forward.

What this film addresses are the discrepancies between the expectations of the country’s leadership and reality, between the glittering backdrop of the modern world and the grim realities. Shooting locations include the vibrant metropolis of Almaty and Astana, one of the world’s youngest capitals, built only in 1997. Nowhere is the will to embrace the modern age more pronounced than in this administrative capital. This is also where we meet a young manager who is part of the country’s modern business elite, which stands in stark contrast to the outdated ruling elites. We also meet a representative of the opposition and the leading human rights activist, Yevgeny Zhovtis, who is planning a campaign to get all of Kazakhstan’s political prisoners released before the Expo. Zhovtis is a charismatic figure who comes from a long line of dissidents in his family. Inga Imanbay, a journalist and activist, represents Kazakhstan’s young opposition. A few years ago, she founded – jointly with some colleagues – the newspaper 'Tribuna', which is regularly shut down by the authorities.

Internationally-acclaimed Kazakh artist, Erbossyn Meldibekov, is a traveler between both worlds. He sees himself as a political artist and combines traditional elements with modern expression in his object art. His subject matter is the relationship between Central Asia and the world. In addition to these prominent protagonists who we accompanied during their work and who talk about their home country in interviews, the film also devotes itself to the everyday lives of regular Kazakhs, the people who have to navigate between modernity and tradition. The film’s objective is to offer a complex portrait of this emergent Eurasian country as it tries to find a new place in the globalized world of the post-Soviet era.

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