Independence Day is usually one of the nation’s most important holidays. It tells the story of the nation and represents its most important values; and Kazakhstan is no different.
All over the country in the days leading up to December 16, large festivities including concerts, exhibitions and competitions were held to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Kazakhstan gaining independence in December 1991.
In the time since, Kazakhstan has emerged from the shadow of the former Soviet Union’s nearly 70-year communist regime in order to establish one of the region’s strongest economies and peaceful nations. It has worked hard to cultivate its abundant natural resources, has built a new capital nearly from scratch, has become a world leader in the anti-nuclear weapons movement and regularly unites the world’s religious leaders in dialogue.
Independent Kazakhstan has been blessed with the resources to build a strong nation, including abundant oil and gas, as well as uranium and rare earth metals. But it has also been the character of the people and policies, such as multi-vector foreign policy that seeks to develop positive relations with all nations, that has allowed it to progress in the uncertainty of the post-Soviet years, according to officials.
“On this day (Dec. 16, 1991), we started our Kazakhstan Way. We have implemented a great mission—we began our independence. Time flies,” Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said during the most recent Independence Day celebration. “Today, what came just after the birth of independent Kazakhstan is already history, receding into eternity. We must judge our past in comparison with our current great achievements. Twenty-two years ago, we could only dream that we could grow our economy. This year, Kazakhstan is among the 50 most competitive countries in the world.”
Nazarbayev then went on to list seven assets Kazakhstan gained upon independence, including its land and secure borders, the unity of Kazakhstan’s people, the country’s culture and language, its industry and innovation, the Society of Universal Labor the country is building, the city of Astana and the nation’s sense of global responsibility.
“Independence rallied the people under the single shanyrak (top of the Kazakh yurt made from felt) of the assembly, guardian of peace and harmony. Our spiritual unity is the main foundation of the secular state and society,” Nazarbayev said. He also thanked the Kazakh people for their “painstaking work” in building the country’s economy.
Kazakhstan also marked Independence Day this year with the presentation by Nazarbayev of state awards to prominent figures in Kazakhstan’s cultural, scientific, health, education, business, military and other spheres for their contributions to the socioeconomic and cultural development of the country.Afterwards, a gala concert and reception were held in honor of Independence Day.
Astana’s Alau Ice Palace also hosted days of public skating leading up to the Dec. 16 holiday and held contests and prize giveaways on Independence Day. The rock opera Zheruiyk was shown in the Palace of Peace and Harmony. In Astana’s central square, a public dance party was held with the participation of Kazakh stars. Soloists from the State Philharmonic of Astana followed by Kazakh stars Ulytau, Yerke, Zhalyn, Retro, the Alaman trio, KZ, Dabyl and soloists Kydyrali Bolmanov, Dos, Assel Omarova, Bakit Shadayeva and Dosymzhan Tanatarov performed on stage. The celebration closed with fireworks.
“Every year during [the Independence Day celebrations] we go to the Yessil river with (our) kids to watch the fireworks,” 36-year-old Anton Danilchenko said. “Independence Day is always celebrated as one of the brightest holidays in Kazakhstan, the only other [celebration] that can supersede it is Astana Day in Astana.”
“I noticed how with each year the celebrations are becoming grander. The fireworks are larger, it gets more crowded everywhere we go,” said Anton’s wife Kristina Danilchenko.“We want to be in a good mood, we need to take our children out, show them how to celebrate our national holiday and pass on to them this culture and tradition.”
Timeline of Milestones for Independent Kazakhstan
1991 – Nursultan Nazarbayev wins the presidential election; Kazakhstan declares independence from the Soviet Union and initiates the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Nazarbayev signs a decree closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site.
1992 – Kazakhstan joins the United Nations and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the predecessor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
1993 – Kazakhstan ratifies the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
1994 – Kazakhstan joins the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a non-nuclear weapon state.
1995 – Kazakhstan signs economic and military cooperation pact with Russia; nuclear-free status is obtained.
1997 – President Nazarbayev unveils the Kazakhstan 2030 Strategy, whose goal is to turn the country into a “Central Asian snow leopard”, akin to South-East Asian economic “tigers”. Major oil agreements secured with American, European and Chinese companies. The Kazakh capital is moved from Almaty in the south to Akmola (formerly Tselinograd) in the north.
1998 – New capital is renamed Astana.
2000 – Economic Security Strategy up to 2010 is adopted. World Bank praises economic reforms.
2001 – First major pipeline for transporting oil from Caspian to world markets opens in March running from the massive Tengiz oil field in western Kazakhstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.
Kazakhstan joins China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in launching the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
2003 – President Nazarbayev announces moratorium on the death penalty.
2004 – Deal signed with China on construction of oil pipeline to Chinese border.
2009 – Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Nazarbayev unveil the Kazakh section of a natural gas pipeline joining Central Asia to China. At Kazakhstan’s initiative, the UN General Assembly proclaims August 29 the International Day Against Nuclear Tests.
2010 – Kazakhstan becomes the first former Soviet state to chair the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and Astana hosts the first OSCE summit in 11 years. A Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan comes into force.
2011 – Almaty and Astana host Asian Winter Games where Kazakhstan emerges as a clear winner collecting the most medals.
2012 – Kazakhstan sees unprecedented success at the London Olympics, winning seven gold medals and taking the 12th overall position in final medal standings. Kazakhstan wins bid to host EXPO 2017 in Astana. Kazakhstan launches The ATOM Project. President Nazarbayev unveils the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, whose goal is for the country to join the world’s top 30 most developed and competitive nations by the middle of the century. The UNESCO starts observing the International Decade of Rapprochement of Cultures for 2012-2022, according to a UN resolution put forward by Kazakhstan.
2013 – Almaty launches bid to host Winter Olympics in 2022. Kazakhstan launches its candidacy to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017-18. Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus work on a treaty, to be signed in 2014, establishing a Eurasian Economic Union by January 1, 2015.