The President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in an extensive and detailed interview with the newspaper Ana Tili answered topical questions regarding the pandemic, the importance of the national language and the results of the first year of the presidency. During the interview, the Head of State was first asked if they were losing the battle against the infection, since the Government had ceased to control the spread of the epidemic because there were not enough places in the hospitals.
“Indeed, the pandemic has changed the usual way of life not only of our compatriots, but of all humankind. We have witnessed that even the most developed states were helpless in the face of a serious illness. Leading European countries, the United States, Asian giants – China, Japan, South Korea, and many others found themselves in an extremely difficult situation. I consider the argument that ‘we are losing in the fight against the epidemic, and the Government has lost control over the situation’, incorrect. As you know, in the cities of Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Shymkent three hospitals focusing on infectious diseases were built quickly. Clinics in other regions were equipped with the necessary equipment. Our doctors have the necessary knowledge to treat patients” – stressed the President of Kazakhstan.
He also noted that doctors are selflessly fighting the pandemic day and night.
Speaking on this issue, the Head of State reminded that the people in power are the same as everyone else. You cannot divide the ill into officials and ordinary people. All of them are in the same country, breathing the same air, experiencing the same problems, so no one can fully defend themselves against this disease. A pandemic does not recognize boundaries. Only by taking care of themselves and their loved ones can the people be protected from the disease. This is a passing phenomenon, the difficulties are temporary. Therefore, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan urged citizens to strictly observe the quarantine regime and to carefully consider sanitary and hygienic requirements.
“Today it is important to pay special attention to the question of how we will continue to develop, what we will do after the end of the pandemic and the economic crisis,” Kassym-Jomart Tokayev concluded.
Society does not stand still, it must develop. Taking this opportunity, the journalist raised a number of questions that have accumulated lately that concern the future of the Kazakh people, in particular, the expansion of the use of the Kazakh language.
Answering a question, the Head of State emphasized that the newspaper Ana Tili invariably raises the topic of strengthening the status and expanding the horizon for the use of the Kazakh language in society, doing this while consistently protecting national interests and taking care of the future of the language. For this, K. Tokayev sincerely thanked the journalists working in this newspaper, as well as the writers and scientists involved in the discussion.
According to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the use of the Kazakh language has changed over thirty years. This is noted by outside observers. True, some of them are not always happy with this trend, because they understand that it has become irreversible. Speaking about the status of the Kazakh language, K. Tokayev emphasized that the founder of the state, First President, Leader of the Nation Nursultan Nazarbayev, should be paid tribute, since he proclaimed the Independence of Kazakhstan, when the Kazakhs were a minority in it. Nevertheless, under his direct influence, the Kazakh language was declared the state language.
At the same time, the Head of State assured that the language problem is of great political importance and, if improperly handled, can lead to irreparable consequences for the statehood and security of the country’s citizens. As a demonstration, he cited the example of Ukraine. A frontal attack with the aim of increasing the status of the state language and forcibly expanding the range of its application is counterproductive, as it can provoke destabilization of interethnic relations, he added.
According to President Tokayev, when it comes to the development and increase in the share of Kazakh-language content, the experience of Uzbekistan can be used as a good example. With the tact and courtesy inherent in Uzbeks, without making loud statements, they completely solved the language problem, willingly resorting to the Russian language, when necessary.
“This country is not protesting now, but building. Learning from history, we are obliged to think about the well-being of the Kazakh people in the new era, where technology and robots will play a dominant role. The world is on the verge of a cardinal transformation. Therefore, under no scenario should one slide into the archaic and fixate on linguistic culturology. Honouring our own history and keeping traditions, we must at the same time strive forward. Constant lamentation over the flawed state of the state language is perplexing abroad, especially in Central Asian states. This is the case when we need to talk less and do more. Otherwise, in the eyes of the international community, we will look like a flawed nation” – Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stressed.
In this context, according to the Head of State, the Kazakh language should become prestigious and in demand in society. When appointing to government positions, preference should be given to those who, along with professional qualities, are fluent in the Kazakh language. It is also necessary to always support and encourage representatives of other ethnic groups who are fluent in the Kazakh language by electing them to Parliament and representative bodies, appointing them to high posts in the public service system, and marking them with state awards. According to K. Tokayev, such people will help to raise the Kazakh language to the level of the language of interethnic communication. Also, it is necessary to show tolerance and understanding to those compatriots who make phonetic and spelling mistakes when using the Kazakh language. We also have to work to improve the content of television and radio programs. According to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, it should become a centre of attraction for public opinion, and not copy Russian analogues. There should be less cheap entertainment shows, and more programs that serve the national idea that appeal to the root sources of our being. We need quality products for both historical and modern issues, and cinema plays an important role in this, the Head of State explained.
According to the President of Kazakhstan, the status of the Russian language should not be infringed when strengthening the position of the Kazakh language, as in his opinion, the teaching of sciences at universities can be left in Russian. This is a striking example of the experience of Malaysia, where at first they decided to abandon the English language, but then restored its status in universities and as a means of diplomatic communication. According to the President of Kazakhstan, priority should be given to the Kazakh language in primary school. It is also necessary to teach the Russian language. And English can be taught from grades 5-6.
“Our younger generation should be fluent in Russian, along with the Kazakh language”, he explained.
Overall, language is a big policy according to the President, so haste and capriciousness can harm statehood. One must act smartly, with a full understanding of historical responsibility. Only in a civilized way does the country turn the Kazakh language into the language of science.
During the interview, journalists asked about the success of the development and implementation of a number of programs aimed at building a labour society. What new steps should be taken to ensure that labour serves the good of the people of Kazakhstan?
Answering this question, the President of Kazakhstan emphasized the importance of revising the attitude of society to creative work. According to the Head of State, every work should be held in high esteem. Therefore, on his initiative, a new state award “People’s gratitude” was established, and the list of merits for promotion with the order “Labour Glory” was expanded. Last year, ordinary workers of enterprises and villages were invited to the Akorda, where they were awarded orders.
According to the Head of State, a kind of aura of respect and even adoration should be created around such people, so that young compatriots understand that public recognition can be achieved not only at prestigious positions in the public service, but also with simple labour. By order of the Head of State, the Government has developed an employment map. Up to 1 trillion tenge has been allocated for its implementation.
During the conversation, the Head of State was asked to express his opinion on what place the Kazakhs with their unique worldview and lifestyle can occupy in the colourful mosaic of the peoples of the world.
As a sophisticated diplomat, the Head of State was unable to circumvent the issues of international relations. He believes that the pandemic encouraged countries to use the issue of nationalism as an instrument of interstate relations, a trend which he identified back in 2008, which led to a weakening of globalization, self-isolation and self-survival of states. As an example, he pointed out that the development of a vaccine against coronavirus is being carried out outside international cooperation on the principle of “each for himself”.
One could hear a note of grief at the weakening of the UN during the pandemic. As a former Deputy Secretary General of this organization and as a diplomat, he considers it a unique and uncontested international structure. In his opinion, confrontation between the major powers is escalating, regional conflicts are aggravating, which is not a favourable trend both for Kazakhstan and for the whole world.
He quite clearly expressed his rejection of the sanctions wars and political confrontations, in contrast to which he pointed out the constant demonstration by our country of peace and willingness to make a constructive contribution to global and international security, making Leader of the Nation a universally recognized leader of the anti-nuclear movement. The President once again drew attention to one of the most important principles of international law – the inviolability of the state border, calling the confirmation and delimitation of state borders with neighbours historically important steps of Independent Kazakhstan.
Overall, according to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the situation in the world does not stand still, the geopolitical aspirations of the leading powers are changing. In these conditions, Kazakhstan is obliged to take care of its national interests. That is why at the EAEU summit on May 19, he said that integration would be supported until it damages the sovereignty of Kazakhstan.
During the conversation, the question of maintaining public order and the personal safety of citizens participating in peaceful processions was raised. The journalist asked about the new law on peaceful assembly.
The head of state in his answer clearly said that participation in peaceful meetings and rallies is the constitutional right of any citizen of Kazakhstan. As the guarantor of the Constitution, I see my duty in fully ensuring this right, he stressed.
According to the deep conviction of the President of Kazakhstan, the new law is a big step forward in promoting democracy in the country. It is now only necessary to give a five day notice to local authorities without asking them for permission. Special places will be allocated for the organisation of such meetings. The rally organisers are required not to disturb the public order and peace of citizens, not to come up with unconstitutional slogans, and not incite ethnic and social discord. And this is quite natural, especially given the recent events in the United States and other developed countries, he added.
At the same time, he noted that some fellow citizens receiving grants from international human rights organizations made unjustified criticisms of the law. In their opinion, the principle should be applied in Kazakhstan: “When I want, with whom I want, where I want,” that is, full permissiveness. In this context, he was strongly outraged by their demands to allow foreign citizens and minor children to participate in rallies.
According to him, their intent is obvious. They need unrest and destabilization, while the people need a rapidly developing, prosperous and sovereign Kazakhstan. In Central Asia, the main states are Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Large-scale cooperation is developing between the two countries, which does not exclude economic competition, which is why Kazakhstan is obliged to maintain its leading position. And for this, the country must be stable, he said.
According to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, stability should be provided not by law enforcement agencies, but primarily by the population itself. And during a pandemic, and other times, people listen to the voice of the intelligentsia. People carefully listen to the voice of reason, learn useful lessons and conclusions. This is especially true for our society, whose traditions go back centuries, added the President of Kazakhstan.
Along with this, the Head of State expressed gratitude to all representatives of the intelligentsia, in particular, Academician Toregeldy Sharmanov, for their useful contribution to the implementation of the state policy in the context of the pandemic.
According to the President of Kazakhstan, famous writers could more actively participate in modern events, pass on their life experience to the youth, acting as a kind of guidebook.
“Now, when the whole world is faced with the consequences of a pandemic, when the global economy is collapsing before our eyes, when a whole new way of life comes to the fore, the younger generation is interested in the opinion of our moral authorities. All of us, especially young people, are tormented by the question: “How to live?” And here our views, our existence must correspond to new realities. Reasoning on historical topics should be replaced by updated values. We need conclusions that are adequate to the challenges of modern times. With the advent of the era of cutting-edge technologies, robots, artificial intelligence, the concept of morality becomes particularly relevant. Will such human qualities as honour, dignity, and conscience be in demand in the new era? In my opinion, this is a big philosophical topic, worthy of an interesting discussion among the intelligentsia. Indeed, without moral guidelines, without national values, we will be lost in the world of machines and robots. And the works of our great writers will also lose their relevance. This would be an extremely undesirable development of events, so our intelligentsia could now reflect on issues of future life”, he said.
Governance is a huge responsibility. In conclusion, the journalist asked what gives the leader of the country confidence in its future. Since, according to the famous political scientist Nurlan Seydin, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called the past period “the year of trust and trials.”
Answering this question, K. Tokayev admitted that the past year of the presidency was really not easy for him. It is possible to say that this was a year of overcoming difficult trials. According to the President, he always felt the support of the people, and this gave him strength and confidence in the ultimate success of such a complex matter as government.
During the year, many reforms were carried out in the political and economic fields of the country. According to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, this policy will continue, and the President of Kazakhstan has new ideas in this important process.
“We must not stand still, otherwise we will slide into stagnation with all the consequences for statehood. We must never forget the simple truth that in this complex, multidimensional world, we Kazakhs are, by and large, not needed by anyone. We need only our own country. Moreover, ill-wishers such as politicians and even states that are not happy about the success of Kazakhstan have not disappeared. In other words, the development and prosperity of Kazakhstan is exclusively in our hands. We have no right to make a mistake, because the destiny of the Kazakh people is on the scales of history”, President Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich Tokayev firmly and proudly concluded his speech.