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Nursultan Nazarbayev: Seven Facets of the Great Steppe

(The beginning part is in the  previous issue)

II. Modernisation  of historical identity

All these issues require serious thought. They relate to the fundamentals of our worldview, the past, present and future of the nation. I believe that we can begin this work with several large projects.

1. Archive-2025

During the years of independence, a lot of work has been done to study the past of our people – the “Cultural Heritage” programme was successfully implemented, which allowed restoring the forgotten fragments of the historical chronicle. However, many documented evidence about the life of ancestors and their unique civilization has not yet been introduced into scientific circulation and are waiting for their hour in numerous archives around the world. Therefore, I believe that we need to create the seven-year programme “Archive2025”, which would include serious fundamental research of all domestic and foreign archives, starting with antiquity and ending with modernity. As part of its implementation, it is necessary to focus the research work of special groups of historians, archivists, and cultural scientists on systemic and long-term engagement with domestic and major foreign archives. This important activity in all respects should not turn into “academic tourism” at the public expense. It is necessary not only to painstakingly collect archived data, but also to actively convert it into a digital format, making it available to all interested experts and the general public. Raising a sense of pride in one’s history, fostering patriotism must begin at school. Therefore, it is important to create a historical and archaeological movement at schools and local history museums in all regions of the country. Being familiar with the national history creates the feeling of unity of their origins among all the people of Kazakhstan.

2. The great names of the Great Steppe

It is known that the historical process in the mass consciousness is primarily personified. Many nations are deservedly proud of the names of great ancestors who have become the unique ambassadors of their countries. For example, such world-famous personalities of bygone eras as Tutankhamun, Confucius, Alexander the Great, Shakespeare, Goethe, Pushkin and George Washington are today invaluable “symbolic capital” for “their states”, contributing to their effective promotion in the international arena. The Great Steppe also spawned a whole galaxy of prominent figures. Among them are such large-scale figures as Al-Farabi and Yassawi, Kul-Tegin and Beibars, Tauke and Abylay, Kenesary and Abay and many others. Therefore, we should, first of all, create an educational Park-Encyclopedia “The Great Names of the Great Steppe”, where, under the open sky, sculptural monuments in honour of our famous historical figures and their achievements will be presented. Secondly, by organising a targeted state order, it is necessary to initiate the formation of a topical gallery of images of great thinkers, poets and rulers of the past in contemporary literature, music, theater, and visual arts. In addition to the classic formats, it is also important to tap the creative potential of alternative youth art. This work can involve not only domestic, but also foreign masters of art and creative teams. Thirdly, it is necessary to systematise and step up activities for the creation and dissemination of the popular science series “Outstanding personalities of the Great Steppe” – “Uly Dala Tulgalary”, covering a broad historical horizon. In this direction, international multidisciplinary teams can be created, in which, along with Kazakh scientists, foreign specialists will be involved. As a result, the life and activities of our heroes will be known both in our country and abroad.

3. The genesis of the  Turkic world

Kazakhstan, the ancestral homeland of the Turkic peoples, is the sacred “Kara Shanyrak”. From here, from our steppes, the Turkic tribes and peoples who made a significant contribution to the historical processes in other countries and regions went to different parts of the world. We need to launch the project “Turkic civilization: from the beginnings to the present”, within which it is possible to organise the World Congress of Turkologists in Astana in 2019 and the Days of Culture of the Turkic ethnic groups, where the ancient Turkic artifacts will be displayed in the museums of various countries. It is also important to create a single online library of common Turkic works following the example of Wikipedia, of which Kazakhstan can act as a moderator. In addition, as part of the promotion of Turkestan as a new regional centre, it is necessary to strengthen its positioning in the international arena. The ancient capital of Kazakhstan is not only the spiritual centre of our people, but also a sacred place for the entire Turkic world.

4. The Museum of Ancient Art and Technology  of the Great Steppe

We have every opportunity to create the Museum of Ancient Art and Technology of the Great Steppe “Uly Dala”. It is possible to collect samples of high art and technology, including artefacts made in animal style, the decoration of the “Golden Man”, objects reflecting the process of taming the horse, the development of metallurgy, the manufacture of weapons, equipment and other artifacts. Expand in it the exposition of valuable archaeological finds and archaeological complexes found on the territory of Kazakhstan, which reflect the development process of various sectors of the economy on the territory of our country in certain historical eras. 9 And also create the National Club of Historical Reconstructions “Great Civilizations of the Great Steppe” and hold festivals in Astana and the regions of Kazakhstan on its basis: the ancient Saks, Huns, the era of the great Turkic Kagans, etc. Work on these topics can be done simultaneously, bringing together those interested in these subjects. The tourist project for the partial restoration of the ancient city of Otyrar with the reconstruction of objects of the urban environment – houses, streets, public places, water supply, city walls, and so on – will be interesting. At the same time, it is necessary to focus on the popularisation of knowledge and the development of tourism on this basis.

5. A thousand years of steppe folklore and music

Within the framework of this project, we need to create an “anthology of steppe folklore”. It will contain the best examples of verbal folk art by the heirs of the Great Steppe over the past millennium – tales, legends, stories, epics. In addition, it is necessary to release a collection of “Ancient motifs of the Great Steppe” – a collection of significant works created for traditional Kazakh musical instruments: kobyz, dombra, sybyzgy, sazsyrnay and others. The folklore and melodies of the Great Steppe should acquire a “new breath” in a modern digital format. To work on these projects, it is important to attract domestic and foreign professionals who are able not only to systematise, but also to actualise the rich heritage of the Steppe. The main plots, characters and motives of our culture have no boundaries and should be systematically researched and promoted throughout the whole of Central Eurasia and in the whole world. Modernisation of verbal and musical traditions should acquire formats that are close and comprehensible to the modern audience. In particular, ancient words and texts may be accompanied by illustrations or be embodied in the form of vivid video materials. In turn, sounds and melodies can be born not only by means of authentic instruments, but also through modern electronic versions. In addition, it is necessary to organise a series of scientific and research expeditions to various regions of Kazakhstan and other countries to search for common historical foundations of the folklore tradition.

6. History in film and television

In the modern world, cinema occupies a huge place in the self-education of peoples in historical subjects. Bright film images sometimes play a more significant role in mass public perceptions than documentary portraits in scientific monographs. Therefore, in the near future it is necessary to launch into production a special cycle of documentary films, television series and feature-length movies that demonstrate the continuity of the civilizational history of Kazakhstan. Work on these projects should be carried out within the framework of broad international cooperation involving the best domestic and foreign scriptwriters, directors, actors, producers and other specialists in the modern film industry. In addition, it is necessary to maximise the use of genre of the new historical television and film productions, by including elements of fantasy and actionpacked blockbusters that are popular today with the audience, as well as adventure and melodramatic motifs. For this purpose, it is possible to use the rich mythological and folklore material of the Great Steppe. Particular attention should also be paid to the younger generation, which is in dire need of high-quality children’s films and animated series that can create a cult of national superheroes. Our illustrious warriors, thinkers and rulers deserve to be role models not only in Kazakhstan, but throughout the world.


A year and a half ago, I published the article “Course towards the future: modernisation of Kazakhstan’s identity,” which found a broad response in society. I consider the above projects as a continuation of the programme “Rouhani Zhangyru”. The new components of the nationwide programme “Rouhani Zhangyru” will make it possible to bring to reality the centuries-old heritage of our ancestors, 11 making it understandable and in demand in the current conditions of the digital civilization. I am convinced that the people who remember, appreciate, and are proud of their history have a great future. Pride in the past, a pragmatic assessment of the present and a positive outlook into the future – this is the key to the success of our country.

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