Kazakhstan Ambassador to U.S. discusses country's vision for future

Kairat Umarov

Kairat Umarov -

Republic of Kazakhstan Ambassador Kairat Umarov addresses an audience of about 15 people to answer questions about the current, post-Soviet atmosphere of the country. 

Photo by Alisa Reznick

Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United States Kairat Umarov spoke to students and faculty in Thomson Hall Thursday morning about the “Kazakhstan 2050” plan for the nation’s future.

Umarov, who became ambassador Jan. 14 after serving four years as deputy foreign minister of Kazakhstan, previously held numerous other distinguished positions in foreign service, including a five-year stint as the country’s ambassador to India from 2004 to 2009.

His discussion yesterday focused on the recent success of Kazakhstan’s development post-independence in 1991 and their goals to be reached before the year 2050.

“Central Asia is becoming a key area,” Umarov said. “Kazakhstan was once an impoverished and insignificant country. After gaining independence, many thought we would not survive, but history proves a different story. Kazakhstan is now one of the most successful areas in central Asia.”

Umarov said that according to the World Economic Forum’s yearly report, Kazakhstan is currently ranked 49th, and the ranking shows the nation’s fast development. However, the country’s goal is to become one of the top 30 most developed nations by 2050.

Senior Ekaterina Balakireva, president of the Association of Central Asian students, said she thought the 2050 plan was very ambitious.

“I was surprised that they said that they already fulfilled their 2030 plan in half the time they had expected,” Balakireva said. “They are definitely one of the most successful republics out of the five countries that were left after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. You can see the progress they’ve made.”

Umarov said the nation, which is approximately four times the size of Texas, owes much of their economic success to their refrainment from conflict.

“We are one of the only countries in the world without conflict; we do not accept the concept of using force in international affairs; we think it should be done only through negotiation,” he said. “We are so principled on that because in the early days of our independence, we decided to get rid of our nuclear weapons. We were asked to keep this arsenal, but all of this is gone.”

As one of the youngest nations in the world, Kazakhstan faced severe economic depression in the 1990s just after gaining independence, but then experienced fast growth in the early 2000s due to a strong demand for oil, its main export.

In addition to discussing the plan for 2050, Umarov explained the importance of maintaining and recovering Kazakh culture, which was damaged during and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He said citizens of Kazakhstan have been returning to the Kazakh language, which was spoken less frequently prior to independence. The nation is teaching the Kazakh language in all schools, as well as Russian and English, encouraging the new generation to be trilingual.

Balakireva, who visited Kazakhstan last summer, says the majority of citizens she met in rural areas spoke three languages or more, with English usually present in urban areas.

“They tend to speak Kazakh and Russian, which they learn in school,” she said. “In more urban areas they are putting an emphasis on English knowledge. Many students from other central Asian republics go to Kazakhstan for their educational institutions because of their reputation.”

Umarov said students have helped with the success of Kazakh culture and politics through their desire to live and work in the country.

“We have people who can tackle the issues of our nation today,” he said. “We are preparing our young people to be competitive inside of Kazakhstan and outside.”

Reach reporter Kate Clark at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @KateClarkUW

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