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The Nazarbaevs Go Wild As Kazakhstan Burns


Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (left) and his daughter Darigha, who is now chairwoman of the country's Senate.

Kazakhs could be excused in recent weeks for thinking they were stuck in a rerun of Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous -- or perhaps the rich and infamous.

Kazakhstan's long-serving first president and still-in-control elder statesman, Nursultan Nazarbaev, and some of his relatives have been making the news in a way that will certainly not help the family's reputation.

Nazarbaev stepped down as president of the oil-rich country in March after heading independent Kazakhstan for more than 27 years -- and before that for more than two years as head of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Kazakhstan.

The former steelworker amassed a fortune during his reign, the gargantuan size of which can only be guessed upon.

Among his riches, according to an October 9 report on the Metro news site, is a home on Billionaires Row, officially named The Bishops Avenue, in north London's swanky Hampstead area.

The website says the home -- purchased in 2008 for some 50 million pounds ($65 million), making it "one of the most expensive houses in the U.K." -- belongs to the "former President of Kazakhstan Nursultan [Nazarbaev]."

That was not the only news of an amazing property acquisition abroad involving the Nazarbaev family that was in the news lately.

The Swiss magazine Bilan reported on August 21 that Nazarbaev's second daughter, Dinara, had acquired a castle, the Chateau de Bellerive, near Geneva for some $63 million. The same article said Dinara had bought other property in Switzerland worth some $75 million in 2009.

Dinara is married to Timur Kulibaev, one of Kazakhstan's wealthiest businessmen. Forbes magazine estimated their combined wealth at $3.4 billion.

Concerning the house on Billionaires Row in north London, it was in the report because it was one of several extremely expensive houses in that area that have inexplicably been abandoned by their owners and are slowly but sadly falling into ruin.

Drug-Fueled Bender

Moving along to a London courtroom on October 18, Aisultan Nazarbaev, the 29-year-old grandson of Kazakhstan's first ruler, was on trial for creating a disturbance at a London hotel on June 3 when he went out on the balcony of an eighth-floor room and threatened to jump.

Two days later a woman called police after a man tried to enter her central London home from a balcony. It was Aisultan -- who had already broken into a neighboring apartment and apparently did some laundry as some of his clothes were found in the owner's washing machine.

When police arrived at the apartment, Aisultan deeply bit into an officer's arm, forcing police to taser him. Aisultan's defense attorneys blamed a drug addiction for the incidents, which might also explain why Aisultan did not go to the nearby, empty 50-million-pound home that his grandfather owns and run wild there.

The court gave Aisultan an 18-month suspended prison sentence, fined him 1,000 pounds (some $1,300) for his public disturbances, and ordered him to pay 5,000 pounds ($6,500) more for damage to the first apartment he broke into. He was also ordered to perform 140 hours of community service and undergo treatment for drug addiction. Aisultan has reportedly had a narcotics problem for several years.

He is the son of Nazarbaev's eldest daughter, Darigha, and her notorious husband Rakhat Aliev, an overly ambitious man who ruthlessly acquired key businesses in Kazakhstan and, according to Kazakh prosecutors, set his sights on deposing his father-in-law.

He was found dead in an Austrian prison cell in February 2015 in what was ruled a suicide but a death that many suspect involved foul play.

This is all news from outside the borders of Kazakhstan.

Lavish Circumcision Party

Back at home, the ex-president's younger brother, Bolat, caused quite a stir in social media circles and elsewhere by holding an incredibly opulent circumcision party for one of his sons in the southern Shymkent area on October 17.

Video taken at the event shows Bolat Nazarbaev, 66, arriving by helicopter, where he is met by a large police escort that accompanies him from the landing site to the party.

Police are clearly visible providing security for the large event that had hundreds of guests.

In one clip, Bolat decides to reward someone for some unknown deed and reaches into his pocket to reveal a fat pile of dollars from which he peels several off and distributes them generously.

While no one knows the exact source of Bolat's incredible wealth, many found the bigger problem to be the use of at least two helicopters and all of the police.

Who paid for all of that? If the answer is the state, it seems to be a very flagrant abuse of government money.

These instances are far from the first time there have been amazing stories about the Nazarbaev family's incredible wealth and extravagant lifestyles.

But even though Nursultan Nazarbaev continues to have a huge amount of power in Kazakhstan, he is no longer the country's president.

Such rapacity may have been grudgingly tolerated by Kazakhs for nearly three decades, but protests over social and political conditions have been growing in 2019 at a considerable pace.

Foreign houses worth millions of dollars, private circumcision parties paid for by the state, and drug benders in London by a 29-year-old member of the presidential family are only increasing resentment with the current status quo in the energy-rich country.

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service contributed to this report.
Huge hat tip to Ryskeldi Satke (@RyskeldiSatke) for his seemingly tireless monitoring of the news in Central Asia, in this case the videos of Bolat Nazarbaev's celebration.

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Bruce Pannier
Bruce Pannier

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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