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Expelled Kazakh Students May Get Break For 'Harlem Shake'

Kazakh students compare/contrast the "Harlem Shake" with "Gangnam Style."
Kazakh students compare/contrast the "Harlem Shake" with "Gangnam Style."
Two Kazakh university students may have shaken off their punishment for joining in on the world's trendiest dance crazes.

Kairat Mashtybaev and Eldar Akhmetov were expelled from Karagandy State Technical University for posting a dance-fight video on the Internet pitting the "Harlem Shake" against "Gangnam Style."

The university determined that Mashtybaev and Akhmetov were responsible for shooting and editing the video, and accused them of damaging university property, creating a mess, and offending a custodian in the process.

Now, Kazakh Education Minister Bakytzhan Zhumagulov is weighing in, telling reporters on March 19 that the punishment was "too harsh" and vowing to instruct the head of the state university to reinstate the students.

The university has not yet publicly commented on the minister's remarks. However, Mashtybaev and Akhmetov informed RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that the university administration had told them they can resume their studies on March 20.

The video (below) shows a group of male students quietly studying around an oval desk when music starts to play and a mask-wearing student jumps on the table and breaks into a "Gangnam Style" dance.

Before long, he is pushed off the makeshift stage by a youth who launches his best interpretation of the "Harlem Shake" as the others at the table continue to study. Then, in keeping with the universally accepted standard for "Harlem Shake" videos, all hell breaks loose, with masked and shirtless students thrusting their hips and gyrating all over the place.

A portrait of President Nursultan Nazarbaev hanging on the wall behind them appears to survive unscathed. Mashtybaev and Akhmetov, however, were unable to escape expulsion.

Karagandy State Technical University's action against the two students in February sparked flash-mob protests in other Kazakh cities. One protest included former lawmaker Bakhyt Syzdykova performing a version of the "Harlem Shake" in an Astana shopping center (see video here).

Now the education minister says the university should simply let the students off with a warning. "After expulsion, the students would forever lose their right to apply for state education grants, therefore I think this is a very severe punishment, and I will try to reverse it," Zhumagulov said.

It's not the first time a "Harlem Shake" performance has led to punishment. Scores of students around the world have found themselves in hot water for performing the dance on school grounds. And just this month an overnight team of some 15 Australian miners lost their jobs after they performed a subterranean version of the "Harlem Shake" and posted it on the Internet.

The "Harlem Shake" originated in Harlem, New York, in the 1980s. It has found new life as an Internet phenomenon since February, when a group of Australian teenagers uploaded a 31-second dance video, "The Harlem Shake v1." Tens of thousands of imitations have since been posted online.

-- Farangis Najibullah, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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