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Nazarbaev Answers Putin With Celebration Of Kazakh History, Turkic Future

  • RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

In an apparent rebuke of the notion that his nation was never a state, Kazakhstan's president has drawn on history while laying plans for the future development of the Turkic world.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev kicked off celebrations marking the 550th anniversary of the Kazakh Khanate on September 11, and in so doing realized an idea he put in motion after controversial comments made by his Russian counterpart.

Nazarbaev announced plans to mark the Khanate's anniversary in 2014, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin said publicly that "Kazakhs had never had any statehood."

Putin's words were taken by many Kazakhs at the time as a warning from Putin, who made the comment after Russia had annexed Ukraine's Crimea and pro-Russian separatists had seized control over some districts in Ukraine's east.

At a special gathering ahead of the nationwide celebrations, which include concerts, conferences, and exhibitions, Nazarbaev introduced "The Land of the Great Steppe" as Kazakhstan's new motto, saying it "symbolizes our multiethnic nation's character."

The start of celebrations coincided with the holding of the fifth summit of the Turkic Council, at which Nazarbaev called for creation of a new fund to foster the development of the Turkic world.

"If we consider it necessary to raise the issue of the Turkic world's future, then we must think about the creation of a fund and attract sponsors to invest in [its] development," Nazarbaev said while addressing the summit in Astana on September 11.

According to Nazarbaev, the fund would help to implement projects for cultural, educational, and economic cooperation among the Turkic-speaking nations of the world, which include Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.

Nazarbaev also said it was necessary to establish a single television channel geared toward Turkic-speaking countries and a center for the study of Turkic history.

The summit was attended by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev.

Nazarbaev initiated the formation of the Turkic Council in 2009. The organization is composed of the Turkic-speaking nations Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan. It held its first summit in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, in October, 2011.