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2022.01.12 从伯金包到比特币:哈萨克斯坦的六大抗议活动

发表于 2022-9-7 23:41:35 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

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From a Birkin bag to bitcoin: Kazakhstan’s protests in six objects
Resentment of the ruling elite pushed the country to the edge of chaos

Jan 12th 2022



By Simon Long

Of the five Central Asian “stans” that emerged as independent republics from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan had seemed the most prosperous, best-run and most stable. Its leader at the time of independence, Nursultan Nazarbayev, remained president until 2019; even afterwards he was the power behind the throne.

Nazarbayev rigged the political system and won elections by repressing the opposition and co-opting the elite, parts of which became fabulously rich, including his own family. When Nazarbayev stood down from the presidency in 2019 he was still recognised in the constitution as “leader of the nation”, and seemed to have engineered a smooth transition by installing a pliable successor, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev. This year that cosy arrangement has fallen apart.

In January, protests started in the south-west of the country against the rising price of car fuel. The unrest soon grew and spread to the country’s largest city, Almaty, and elsewhere. The president’s security forces used lethal force to contain it: dozens of people were killed and thousands detained. Tokayev summoned foreign troops to help, including from Russia.

The unrest doesn’t bode well for his mentor. Nazarbayev, now 81, hasn’t been heard from throughout the protests. One of his most important henchmen, Karim Masimov, a former prime minister and head of the security services, has been sacked and arrested. Tokayev seems to have emerged as his own man – and to be in charge, at least for now.

Fuel to the fire A highly combustible cocktail
Zhanaozen, the town in south-western Kazakhstan where unrest began on January 2nd, has a history of resistance to the central government. In December 2011 a strike by oil workers about pay turned into a political protest in the main square. Security forces opened fire, killing 16 people.

This time the unrest there was provoked by a sudden doubling in the price of liquefied petroleum gas (lpg) from 60 to 120 tenge a litre (14 to 28 American cents). lpg is widely used as car fuel by less well-off drivers. It cost so much less than petrol that in recent years many drivers have converted their cars to run on it, sacrificing space in their boot for the canisters.

Lately, however, lpg has been in short supply in Kazakhstan: a government price-cap on the amount customers could be charged for fuel led producers to export lpg to countries where they could get more money for it. To fix the shortages, the government removed the cap.

The subsequent sharp rise in the price of lpg seemed to take everyone by surprise. Various contradictory explanations were given by the authorities: unexpectedly high demand; a shift to electronic trading on the international market; price-fixing by retailers. Whatever the true reason, it was plain the price rise was unsustainable. On January 5th price caps were restored for six months, for lpg, petrol and diesel. But by then, the fuel had already ignited.

Goody bag Did someone forget to pay for this Hermès Birkin?
When police raided properties belonging to the family of Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, in 2018, they found $273m-worth of jewellery (12,000 items), cash and handbags – including nearly 300 Hermès bags, some of which may have been gifts from the family of Kazakhstan’s president.

In 2015 Najib’s daughter married a Kazakh man she had met while they were students at Columbia University in New York: the young man, Daniyar Kessikbayev, was a member of Kazakhstan’s elite and the president’s step-nephew. To celebrate their engagement, Kessikbayev had given his bride-to-be 16 chests of lavish gifts – an ancient Kazakhstani custom, he said. He was outraged by reports that it was his fiancée who had given him the presents.

His new father-in-law – who was still Malaysia’s prime minister at the time – was equally upset at suggestions that there was anything improper in the financing of at least three extravagant wedding receptions (two in Malaysia, one in Almaty). It was, suggested a spokesman for Najib, their “well-connected” new in-laws who had borne the cost, which included flying plane-loads of Malaysians to Kazakhstan.

The Malaysian prime minister’s touchiness was understandable. It later emerged that, during his tenure, some $4.5bn had been siphoned from a state investment fund, while the prime minister’s own bank balance rose by nearly $700m (an unrelated gift, he said).

For the groom’s family, too, unpleasant stories have been hard to avoid. In 2015 a retailer in New York brought a lawsuit against Kessikbayev and his mother, claiming that they failed to pay for seven Hermès bags. According to the lawsuit, some of the bags were for personal use; others were meant as gifts at the wedding of the century. The 19m Kazakhs without an invitation would be forgiven for feeling short-changed, too.

Capital gain This way to Nur-Sultan
Searching for a suitably sycophantic gift for his boss’s 68th birthday, Sat Tokpakbayev, a Kazakh politician, hit upon the perfect idea: why not rename Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, in President Nazarbayev’s honour? After all, America had its Washington; even Turkmenistan, a quirky isolationist neighbour, had a port named for its former dictator, Turkmenbashi. And “Astana”, which just means capital, was hardly dripping with historic import.

Tokpakbayev’s suggestion of renaming the capital “Nur-Sultan” was enthusiastically endorsed by almost all his fellow deputies (the others, one assumes, were inexplicably absent that day). Kazakhstan’s press was less keen. With inflation soaring and the economy in the doldrums, commentators wondered whether parliament might have had more serious things to discuss.

Self-effacing as ever, Nazarbayev declined the honour. It took years of wheedling from his loyal subjects for him to be persuaded that the new name was no more than his due. He eventually accepted it, like a gold watch or a greetings card full of embarrassing workplace reminiscences, as a retirement gift. He unexpectedly resigned the presidency in March 2019, to retreat to a life of behind-the-scenes string-pulling as the constitutionally designated “leader of the nation”. The protesters in Almaty this month, however, were less respectful, chanting “old man out!” They, at least, seemed to think he was still running the show.

Homes sweet homes 399 Route d’Hermance, Switzerland
Even if you live in a land of snow-capped mountains and gushing waterfalls, it can be useful to have a bolthole or 19. This sumptuous villa overlooking Lake Geneva, which belongs to Nazarbayev’s second daughter, Dinara Kulibayeva, is far from poky: it covers 3,200 square metres and has an indoor-outdoor swimming pool and spa.

Geneva seems a favourite not just for this branch of the Nazarbayev dynasty, but also for the family of his successor, Kassim-Zhomart Tokayev. He served as head of the United Nations office there from 2011-13, and his son, Timur, has an apartment in the Swiss city.

Other parts of the Nazarbayev family have an affinity for Britain. On London’s “Billionaires’ Row” – The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead – is a palace owned by another daughter, Dariga, and her son Nurali Aliyev. They also own expensive houses in Chelsea and Highgate, and, reportedly, the part of Baker Street where Sherlock Holmes had his fictional apartment.

The first three properties were the subject of an embarrassing “unexplained wealth order” from Britain’s National Crime Agency (nca) in 2019, alleging that they had been bought with money from Aliyev’s father, Rakhat Aliyev. The elder Aliyev, divorced from his wife, was a former senior official. In 2015 he was found hanged in an Austrian prison cell, where he was awaiting trial for murder. In 2020 the nca lost its case and the properties were unfrozen.

The conspicuous consumption and wealth that has fuelled antagonism towards the ruling elite does at least mean that, if they’re forced to flee, the Nazarbayevs and their friends won’t be short of places to stay.

Crypto cross words A fast-depreciating bitcoin
Miners have long been drawn to Kazakhstan’s natural resources. The vast country – as big as western Europe – is famously rich in oil and gas, and is a substantial producer of coal, as well as copper, steel and wheat. It also dominates the production of uranium, the basic fuel of the nuclear-power industry. In the days after unrest broke out, the price of uranium rose by 8%.

But the global market that was most discombobulated by events in Kazakhstan was that for bitcoin. Kazakhstan is the world’s second-biggest crypto-mining country (after America), accounting for nearly one-fifth of global production. Its rise to ascendancy has been swift, beginning in May 2021 when China, a former world leader in crypto-mining, cracked down on the industry. Many miners shifted to Kazakhstan, lured by its cheap electricity – bitcoin-miners use vast amounts of energy.

They also rely on internet connections to other miners. So when the authorities in Kazakhstan shut down the internet in response to the unrest, the impact on global bitcoin-mining was dramatic. According to, a data service for the cryptocurrency industry, there was a 14% drop in the amount of computing power devoted to bitcoin-mining between January 4th and 6th, which contributed to a steep fall in bitcoin’s value.

If unrest continues, crypto-miners may be forced to emigrate yet again. That, at least, would be welcome news for many ordinary people in Kazakhstan who’ve experienced blackouts recently due to pressure on the electricity grid.

Mane attraction Time to call the cavalry
Kazakhstani art, literature and folklore teem with horses, fittingly for a tradition stretching back 6,000 years to the domestication of the horse by nomads on the Central Asian steppes. Tulpars, winged horses, are a key part of the national emblem. Both flying and earthbound breeds appear on denominations of the country’s banknotes. Horse products also feature on menus: koumiss – fermented mare’s milk – is a traditional staple of steppe life. So, too, is beshbarmak, a stew of boiled horse meat, served on sheets of pasta.

But for most Kazakhs, the notion of a nomadic life roaming the vast steppes on horseback seems so distant as to be almost unimaginable. Their country is the most urbanised of all the “stans”, with more than half the population living in cities. Ethnic Kazakhs make up 70% of the population. The next biggest group, at 18%, are Russians, some of them descendants of the 1.5m political prisoners held in Kazakhstan in Stalin’s day, or the 1.3m deported there as “representatives of unreliable nations” during the second world war.

The country’s representatives remain proud of Kazakhstan’s equestrian traditions, however, boasting of traditional games, such as kokpar, where two mounted teams scramble over the carcass of a goat; or audaryspak, where two horsemen wrestle, each attempting to unhorse the other. The nearest equivalents these days are probably found in Kazakhstani politics, where horseplay has become a little more violent in recent years.■

Simon Long is an editor-at-large at The Economist




在1991年苏联解体后作为独立共和国出现的五个中亚 "斯坦 "中,哈萨克斯坦似乎是最繁荣、管理最好和最稳定的。其独立时的领导人努尔苏丹-纳扎尔巴耶夫(Nursultan Nazarbayev)一直担任总统,直到2019年;即使在那之后,他也是王位背后的掌权者。

纳扎尔巴耶夫操纵政治制度,通过镇压反对派和拉拢精英阶层来赢得选举,其中部分精英阶层变得富可敌国,包括他自己的家族。2019年,当纳扎尔巴耶夫从总统职位上退下来时,宪法仍然承认他是 "国家领导人",并且似乎通过安排一个柔顺的继任者Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev实现了平稳过渡。今年,这种舒适的安排已经瓦解。



火上浇油 极易燃烧的鸡尾酒




礼品袋 有人忘了为这个爱马仕伯金付款吗?


他的新岳父--当时还是马来西亚的总理--对于资助至少三个奢侈的婚宴(两个在马来西亚,一个在阿拉木图)有任何不妥的说法也同样感到不安。纳吉布的发言人表示,是他们 "关系良好 "的新亲家承担了这些费用,包括让一飞机的马来西亚人飞往哈萨克斯坦。



哈萨克斯坦政治家萨特-托克帕克巴耶夫(Sat Tokpakbayev)在为其老板的68岁生日寻找合适的献媚礼物时,想到了一个完美的主意:为什么不以纳扎尔巴耶夫总统的名义重新命名哈萨克斯坦的首都阿斯塔纳?毕竟,美国有华盛顿;甚至土库曼斯坦这个古怪的孤立主义邻国也有一个以其前独裁者命名的港口--土库曼巴什。而 "阿斯塔纳",仅仅是首都的意思,并没有什么历史意义。

托克帕克巴耶夫提出的将首都改名为 "努尔-苏丹 "的建议几乎得到了他所有同僚的热烈支持(人们猜测,其他人当天莫名其妙地缺席)。哈萨克斯坦的新闻界则不那么热心。随着通货膨胀率的上升和经济的低迷,评论员们想知道议会是否有更严肃的事情要讨论。

纳扎尔巴耶夫一如既往地自谦,拒绝了这项荣誉。他的忠实臣民经过多年的劝说,才让他相信这个新名字不过是他应得的。他最终接受了这个名字,就像一块金表或一张充满尴尬的工作场所回忆的贺卡一样,作为退休礼物。2019年3月,他出人意料地辞去了总统职务,作为宪法指定的 "国家领导人",退居幕后,过起了拉关系的生活。然而,本月在阿拉木图的抗议者却不那么恭敬,他们高呼 "老家伙滚蛋!" 至少,他们似乎认为他仍在主持大局。



纳扎尔巴耶夫家族的其他成员对英国也有好感。在伦敦的 "亿万富翁街"--汉普斯特德的主教大道--有一座宫殿,由另一个女儿Dariga和她的儿子Nurali Aliyev拥有。他们还在切尔西和海格特拥有昂贵的房子,据说还有夏洛克-福尔摩斯的虚构公寓所在的贝克街部分。

前三处房产在2019年成为英国国家犯罪署(nca)发出的令人尴尬的 "不明财富令 "的对象,指控它们是用阿利耶夫的父亲拉哈特-阿利耶夫的钱买的。与妻子离婚的老阿里耶夫是一名前高级官员。2015年,他被发现在奥地利的一个监狱牢房里上吊自杀,当时他正在等待谋杀案的审判。2020年,nca败诉,财产被解冻。


低成本交叉词 一个快速贬值的比特币




马恩的吸引力 是时候召集骑兵了

但对大多数哈萨克人来说,骑着马在广阔的草原上漫游的游牧生活的概念似乎很遥远,几乎无法想象。他们的国家是所有 "斯坦 "中城市化程度最高的国家,有一半以上的人口生活在城市。哈萨克族人占人口的70%。其次是俄罗斯人,占18%,其中一些人是斯大林时代被关押在哈萨克斯坦的150万名政治犯的后代,或者是第二次世界大战期间作为 "不可靠国家的代表 "被驱逐到那里的130万人的后代。

然而,这个国家的代表仍然为哈萨克斯坦的马术传统感到自豪,他们以传统的游戏为荣,如kokpar,即两个骑马队在山羊的尸体上争夺;或 audaryspak,即两个骑手的摔跤,每个人都试图解开对方的马。如今,最接近的对应物可能是哈萨克政治,近年来,那里的马戏变得更加暴力。

Simon Long是《经济学人》杂志的无任所编辑。
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