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Kazakhstan envoy speaks at Wiess

By Hallie Jordan     9/24/09 7:00pm

Thanks to the 2006 film Borat, the nation of Kazakhstan has quickly, if infamously, earned household recognition. However, unlike the film's hirsute and skimpily-swimsuited main character, Kazakhstan Ambassador to the United States Erian Idrissov, who spoke at Wiess College Monday, promoted a message of peace and progress. This talk was part of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy's partnership with the residential colleges.

The ambassador began his speech in front of the 50-member audience by noting that Kazakhstan, which gained its independence in 1991, is still attempting to develop its economy, culture and influence.

"In terms of economic and political outlets, I believe we have done our homework," Idrissov said. "To say we have achieved what we want would be a gross mistake, but we are making the first steps to build[ing] our country and society. It is still very much a work in progress."



He said progressive development is most evident in the country's per-capita gross national product, which has increased from $400 to $10,000 over the past 18 years. The global recession, however, has not left Kazakhstan untouched, with economic growth slowing from 10 percent to 1 percent.

A nation with an erratic history - the country has been ruled by the Hans, the Turks, Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire, and the Soviet Union - the now-autonomous Kazakhstan is striving for peace and collaboration, Idrissov said.

"Being nomads in the past, we are positioned in the center of a mass of land," Idrissov said. "Therefore it is our policy to be peaceful and disposed to all sides. We enjoy excellent relations with Russia, with China, with the European Union and we enjoy an extensive relationship with the United States."

One way to further advance peace, Idrissov said, is through education. Though Kazakhstan's school system still struggles to overcome the Soviet-era setbacks that plagued it, the ambassador said progress is being made.

"We will be successful if we nurture the young and healthy generation," Idrissov said. "Our mission is to prepare them to take over."

To give the next generation a more varied experience, the Kazakh government pays for 3,000 students a year to study abroad. Over 90 percent of the students return to Kazakhstan because of the opportunity to use their skills, Idrissov said.

After being prompted by the audience during the subsequent question-and-answer session, Idrissov addressed the matters of terrorism and Kazakhstan's proximity to the Middle East.

"We share one vision with the United States and joined the coalition after Sept. 11," Idrissov said. "Our focus is on education. We hope it is the most efficient way to get rid of terrorism."

Wiess master Michael Gustin worked with the Dean of Undergraduates' office to host this event.

"I think it's great to be more connected to events," Gustin said. "This is a good way it can happen."

Wiess College sophomore Alisher Kamalov, who was born in Kazakhstan and has lived in the U.S. for the past 12 years, said he liked the Ambassador's openness with the audience.

"I thought that the speech was very informative, especially to those that don't know much about Kazakhstan or its current influence and position in the world," Wiess sophomore Alisher Kamalov said. "I especially enjoyed the fact that he gave the audience a chance to ask any questions they had pertaining to Kazakhstan.



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