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Kazakh Journalist 'Ignited Ethnic Hatred' With Crossword Clue

Kazakhstan - Kibasov Sergey Vitalevich, the chief editor of the newspaper "Stepnoy mayak", undated
Kazakhstan - Kibasov Sergey Vitalevich, the chief editor of the newspaper "Stepnoy mayak", undated
KOKSHETAU, Kazakhstan -- The chief editor of a weekly newspaper in northern Kazakhstan has been found guilty of "igniting ethnic hatred" over a crossword clue deemed insulting to the Kazakh nation, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Sergei Kibasov, chief editor of "Stepnoi mayak" (Steppe Lighthouse) published in the city of Kokshetau, was fined 151,200 tenges ($1,026) on August 8 over the crossword that appeared in May.

Kibasov pleaded guilty to printing the puzzle that included the question: "Name the house of a Kazakh street bum," to which the correct answer was "yurt," the traditional home of the nomadic peoples of Eurasia, including the Kazakhs.

The crossword sparked protests in Kokshetau and other Kazakh cities in June.

Dauren Babamurat, chairman of the Bolashaq (Future) movement that is believed to receive some funding from the government, told RFE/RL on June 22 that the newspaper should be closed as it compared Kazakhs with street bums. He added that such a harsh punishment would be a lesson to Kazakhstan's other Russian-language newspapers.

Also in June, parliament deputy Nurlan Onerbaev called on parliament to discuss the possible closure of "Stepnoi mayak" and several other Russian-language newspapers. Onerbaev said the papers often intentionally misspell the names of Kazakh historic figures.

Onerbaev's request to close the newspapers was signed by 14 parliamentarians and sent to State Secretary Qanat Saudabaev.

Kibasov told RFE/RL in June that the crossword with the controversial question and answer was taken from a foreign periodical and printed by mistake. He publicly apologized to readers and to the Kazakh people.

Read more in Russian here