Kazakhstan, visualizing extremes

Davey Meelker

Kazakhstan, the country of extremes. At one moment you are enjoying a 3D movie in one of Astana’s luxerious malls, the next you are driving in a small Lada on a bumpy road looking for a hole in the ground that is called a toilet (read more here about Kazakhstan’s inequality). It really feels as if you are going to a different country when you travel from the cities to the rural areas. Those extreme differences are visually expressed in this blog

A huge part of the population lives in the rural areas, where life didn’t change much the last decades. People live in mud brick huts and have some cattle to survive. That’s it. Medical care and social security is barely provided.

There is even no sewer system in many places. The toilet is just a hole in the ground.

Many people eat bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With some luck you have butter with it and soup in the evening.

Winters, especially in the north, can be really cold. Proper heating is often not provided in the rural areas and people therefore revert to their own coal for heating and cooking.

This poverty exists even though Kazakhstan is extremely rich with oil and gas. With a population of only 17 million people, wouldn’t there be enough wealth for everybody?

Even though only 6 percent of the population lives in Astana, it is estimated that 30% of the governments expenditures are spent on Kazakhstan’s capital.

The countries assets are not only unequally divided between the cities and rural areas. Because of corruption many of the Kazakhs barely share in the countries riches. The president, Nazarbayev, (his palace is on the picture) has been in power even before Kazakhstan became independent from the Soviet Union. After a series of dubious elections and accusation of transferring the country’s oil money to his personal bank account, he still is in power. Corruption is extremely widespread. In the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), a widely acknowledge measurement for corruption, Kazakhstan is listed as even more corrupt than countries like Bolivia, Mali, Senegal and Malawi. The country has a score of 2.7 on the index (1 extremely corrupt and 10 extremely clean).

After 23 years of construction, the beautiful subway of Almaty was finally finished. At least it is something all the inhabitants can use. Hopefully this is a symbol of Kazakhstan moving forward towards a country where the wealth is spread to everybody. Nevertheless, the subway also symbolizes the long and painful way Kazakhstan has to follow before this will happen.

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  1. Kazakhstan and the Dubai of the Steppe « - November 1, 2012

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