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Qishloq Ovozi

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev addresses the nation live on TV on January 30. It was his second such speech in just under a week.

On January 30, for the second time in less than a week, an announcement suddenly went out in Kazakhstan that the country's leader, President Nursultan Nazarbaev, would make an important speech to the nation within hours on national television.

But Nazarbaev's January 30 "special statement" proved as unspectacular as his January 25 address to the nation.

In fact, after television channels once again cleared airtime in the 9 p.m. prime-time broadcasting slot, Nazarbaev's January 30 statement lasted only about five minutes as he mentioned, first in Kazakh then in Russian, that a "third modernization" was coming to Kazakhstan. He then said that this year, rather than read out his annual address to the country it would appear in print on January 31, leaving Kazakhstan's citizens to wait until the next day and read for themselves in state newspapers what a "third modernization" means.

In his January 25 address to the nation, Nazarbaev just said there would be some changes to the constitution intended to better balance the powers between the presidency and the parliament and government. Everyone already knew that, because Nazarbaev had announced those changes more than one month earlier in his Independence Day address to the nation.

These "surprise" announcements from the president to Kazakhs, which sent television and radio stations rushing to clear airtime, stand in stark contrast to events in the spring of 2016.

Stark Contrast

In late April and again on May 21, some of the biggest protests in nearly two decades broke out in cities across Kazakhstan over land reform plans that many in the country interpreted as meaning foreigners, specifically Chinese, would be able to lease land in Kazakhstan.

There were no emergency statements from Nazarbaev on television.

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Kazakh Security Forces Crack Down On Land Code Protests
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On June 5, a group of some two dozen young men allegedly robbed a gun shop then attacked a military facility in Kazakhstan's western city of Aqtobe. Twenty-five people were killed, most of them alleged attackers.

Again, there was no urgent statement on television from President Nazarbaev.

On July 18, a recently released convict shot and killed 10 people in Almaty, eight of them policemen -- an incident that led city authorities to declare a lockdown on Kazakhstan's commercial capital amid fears of a terrorist attack.

No special announcement from Nazarbaev on that day either.

Succession Plans?

The recent sudden announcements of important televised statements from Kazakhstan's president naturally prompted speculation on both occasions that he might be announcing succession plans, maybe even his resignation.

Nazarbaev turns 77 this July. Uzbekistan's longtime president, Islam Karimov, died recently at the age of 78, and since Karimov's death there have been an unusual number of changes and some arrests of officials in Kazakhstan.

But after Nazarbaev's recent television appearances, and his failure to appear on television during times of national crises last year, another thought occurs to me: Maybe he is no longer in total control of the country. He remains president, but others might now be carrying out some or most of the affairs of state.

We'll have to wait until his next sudden, important statement on television to get more clues.

Yerzhan Karabek of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service contributed to this report

The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL
Uzbek Eggonomics
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During the 1928 election campaign in the United States, the Republican Party hailed the kind of prosperity that put a "chicken in every pot." It echoed a possibly apocryphal quote widely attributed to King Henry IV of France desiring a "chicken to eat, every Sunday" for every laborer.

Uzbekistan's new president, Shavkat Mirziyaev, has gone a step further, ordering every rural household to keep chickens as a source of food and potential income for families.

Mirziyaev made the comment during a recent visit to the poorest part of the country, the western Karakalpakstan Autonomous Region, made up mainly of desert and parts of which are an ecological disaster zone due to alkaline soil and wind-borne salt from the desiccating Aral Sea.

The president's plan is for every rural household to have 100 chickens that would produce "at least" 50 eggs daily, 10 of which they could eat and the other 40 of which they could sell.

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, produced a light-hearted video based on a clip of Mirziyaev's comments and graphics outlining the plan.

As a program for low-income families, or as food security for remote areas, the plan has merit. On the other hand, if every household is keeping chickens, it is unclear to whom all those families will be able to sell their extra eggs.

Ozodlik spoke with some residents of Uzbekistan who agreed, on condition of anonymity, to give their opinion of Mirziyaev's plan.

One person explained that he knew nothing about keeping chickens except that they needed medicines sometimes, which would cost him money, and the effort needed to tend to 100 chickens would leave him little time for anything else.

There is also the matter of chicken feed, which is not in huge supply in Uzbekistan and therefore might need to be purchased from other countries -- a matter made more difficult by the fact that the Uzbek national currency, the som, is not convertible.

However, it is encouraging that Mirziyaev, who was sworn in in December to succeed the late Islam Karimov, is considering ways to improve the lives of Uzbekistan's people, even if this initial proposal is probably in need of some refining.

Based on material from RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

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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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