On 12 April, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, published an article titled “Course towards the future: modernization of Kazakhstan’s identity”, in which he set out his vision for the modernization of Kazakhstan’s identity and society.
“I am sure that the large-scale reforms that we launched should be continued with advanced modernisation of nation’s conscience. It won’t just complement the political and economic modernisation, but will be its core,” the article reads.
Setting out the agenda for the coming years, President Nazarbayev proposed in the article a number of concrete projects. These include specifying a timeline for transitioning the Kazakh language to the Latin alphabet by 2025, translating the world’s 100 best textbooks on the humanities into the Kazakh language, promoting Kazakhstan’s national holy sites domestically and Kazakhstan’s modern culture globally. Other projects include encouraging a stronger “neighbourhood” and local identity as part of a wider national one, and acknowledging individuals who contributed to the achievements of Kazakhstan over the last 25 years.
Nazarbayev noted that “the first condition for successful modernization is maintaining national culture and tradition”, adding, however, that “this does not mean preservation of everything in the national culture.” He explained: “We need to separate those aspects which give us confidence in the future and those that hold us back.”
The President further noted that aspects of the modernization will include making education the top priority for Kazakh youth and ensuring that Kazakh citizens are computer literate, have foreign language proficiency and cultural openness.
Earlier this year, President Nazarbayev announced the ‘Third Modernization of Kazakhstan’, which involves creating a new model of economic growth that will ensure the country’s global competitiveness. The modernization includes five main priorities, which are designed to ensure economic growth and sustainable development to help Kazakhstan join the top 30 most developed countries by 2050.
In January, the President also set out steps to increase the powers of parliament. He stated that these constitutional reforms, which have been adopted in March, are aimed at furthering the democratic development of Kazakhstan, as the Government will be more accountable to parliament.
Main directions to modernize the mindset of the nation
“The first condition for successful modernization is the preservation of national culture and tradition. Without this, modernization is empty rhetoric.
However, this does not mean preservation of everything in the national culture. We need to separate those aspects which give us confidence in the future and those that hold us back,” President Nazarbayev underlines, proposing several aspects of this modernization process:
Society and individuals can succeed only by developing their competitiveness in not only material things, but also in knowledge, intellectual products and quality of human resources.
“That is why each Kazakh and the nation in general should possess a set of qualities fit for the 21st century. Among those qualities are computer literacy, foreign language proficiency and cultural openness,” Nazarbayev says.
“Pragmatism means an accurate knowledge of our national and personal resources, the cost-effective use and the ability to plan for our future. Pragmatism is the opposite of profligacy, arrogance and a flashy lifestyle. The culture of modern society is a culture of moderation, of prosperity, not luxury. It is a culture of rationality,” the article shows.
- Preserving national identity
“Our national traditions and customs, language, music and literature, in one word, our national spirit should remain with us forever,” President Nazarbayev maintains.
- The cult of knowledge
“Only highly educated people with the ability to switch careers will be able to live successfully in such conditions. That is why Kazakhstan is now among those developed countries that invest most heavily in education.
Every citizen of Kazakhstan must realize that education will be fundamental to success in the future. Education should be the number one priority for our youngsters,” Nursultan Nazarbayev writes.
- Evolutionary, not revolutionary development of Kazakhstan
“Evolutionary development as a principle of ideology should be one of the benchmarks on a personal, individual level for every person in Kazakhstan.
Of course, evolutionary development of society as a principle does not mean nothing will change forever. It is, however, important to understand not only the lessons of history but also examples of the present and signals of the future,” the President further says in his article.
- Open attitude
In President Nazarbayev’s view, having an open attitude has three main aspects:
- understanding what’s going on in the world, around your country and in the part of the planet where you live.
- it also means being open to the changes that the technological revolution brings.
- having the ability to adopt and learn from the experience of other people and countries. “The two great Asian nations of Japan and China are the best examples of this approach,” said Nazarbayev.
AGENDA FOR THE COMING YEARS
The Kazakh President also set out an agenda for the coming years, presenting several ambitious projects to be fulfilled:
“Changing our collective identity not only requires us to focus on the principles of modernization, but also concrete projects that enable us to adapt to the challenges of the future without losing the great power of tradition,” said the Head of the Kazakh State.
First project is a step-by-step transition of the Kazakh language to the Latin alphabet.
“We must approach this carefully and with sensitivity. It will require a steady and staged approach. And we have been preparing for this with caution since independence. By 2025, Kazakhstan will begin using the Roman alphabet in documentation, periodicals, textbooks and other official forms of communication to better accommodate the technological environment, communications, scientific and educational processes”, the President wrote.
He urged the Government to elaborate a transition timetable.” I believe that by the end of 2017 it is necessary, with the help of scientists and the general public, to adopt a single standard version of the new Kazakh alphabet. In 2018, we should begin training for teaching the new alphabet and preparing textbooks for secondary schools,” he added.
During the adaptation period, the modified Cyrillic alphabet, currently in use, will also be applicable.
The second project is called the “New humanitarian knowledge. One hundred new textbooks in the Kazakh language” project in the social and human sciences.
The project aims to facilitate comprehensive education in humanitarian sciences.
In President Nazarbayev’s view, “the humanitarian intelligentsia should be supported by the state by restoring humanitarian departments in the country’s universities”. “We need not just engineers and doctors, but also people who understand modernity and the future well,” he emphasized.
“We need to translate in the coming years the world’s 100 best textbooks on the humanities into the Kazakh language to enable our youth to easily access this knowledge. These textbooks should be used to educate our students by the 2018/2019 school year,” he added.
Third project is the program “Tugan Zher” (“Homeland”), which will easily be translated into a wider framework –“Tugan El” (“Home Country”).
This programme is aimed at improving the business, educational and cultural environments of Kazakhstan’s regions. It includes conducting a serious study of local lore in the sphere of education, ecology and site improvement, study of regional history, and restoration of cultural and historical monuments and cultural sites of local significance.
“A special attitude to the native land, its culture, customs and traditions is the most important feature of patriotism. This is the basis of the cultural and genetic code that makes any nation a nation, and not a collection of individuals,” the President wrote further..
Fourth priority area is the protection of the national holy sites, namely “Spiritual Holy Sites of Kazakhstan” or “Sacred Geography of Kazakhstan” project as scientists call it.
“Every nation, every civilization has its national holy sites that are familiar to every representative of this nation. This is the basis of spiritual tradition and is particularly important for Kazakhstan. We represent a country with huge territory and rich spiritual history. Sometimes our size played a different role in the history. But the nation has never broken its ties in this spiritual geographical belt,” the President said.
He gave as task to the Government to develop this project within a year and unite three elements in the project while maintaining a dialogue with the public:
- educate every citizen of Kazakhstan on the role and place of this Cultural and Geographical Belt;
- the mass media should be involved in national information projects in this sphere;
- domestic and international cultural tourism should be based on this project.
“Modern Kazakh Culture in the Global World” is the fifth project proposed by the Kazakh President targeting the competitiveness of the Kazakh culture in the world patrimony of cultures.
“We need the world to know about us not only because of oil resources and major foreign policy initiatives, but because of our cultural achievements as well,” the President further said, suggesting a targeted approach in order to make Kazakh culture better known in the six UN languages: English, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, and French.
The last project proposed by the President is the “100 New Faces of Kazakhstan” that will tell this story through the individual lives of 100 citizens from different regions of different age groups and ethnic origins – each of whom having succeeded over the last 25 years.
“These real stories of real people will paint a picture of modern Kazakhstan. They will bring our achievements more to life than any statistics. We should make them central figures of our TV documentaries. They should become role models in a clear and balanced view of life. Modern media culture is not built on talking heads, but on true life stories,” Nazarbayev underlined in his article published recently in the national press.
“A new global reality came without a knock and permission to everyone’s door – that is why today almost all countries are facing the tasks of modernization.
Time does not stop, and, therefore, modernization, like history itself, is an ongoing process,” he added.
Mr. Nazarbayev concluded: “ Kazakhstan has a unique historical chance to build its own better future through renewal and new ideas”. He also expressed his belief that the people of Kazakhstan, especially the younger generation, understand the importance of the country’s modernization.
Mr. Nazarbayev’s view on modernization of Kazakhstan’s identity and society was expressed just weeks prior the inauguration of Astana Expo, a visionary project that since its inception has already been synonym with “modernism” and “modernization”.
It is for this reason why in less than two months, when the gates of the EXPO 2017 “Future Energy” will open to welcome millions of visitors from all over the world, Kazakhstan will be ready to prove the world that one of its bets with the “modernization” will be won.