A NEW SLOPE

Kazakhstan 2016 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Arystanbek Mukhamediuly, Minister of Culture and Sport, on the country's UNESCO sites, hosting the Winter Universiade 2017, and what is in store for the year.

Arystanbek Mukhamediuly
BIOGRAPHY
Arystanbek Mukhamediuly began his career in 1984 as an artist of the State Symphony Orchestra of the Kazakh State Philharmonic. From 1991-1993, he served as a chief specialist in the Ministry of Culture of the Republic. In 2001, Mukhamediuly finished his postgraduate studies at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. He was appointed Vice Minister of Culture and Information in 2006 where he organized large-scale cultural events on both government and international levels, including the state program Cultural Heritage. On August 9, 2014, he was appointed Minister of Culture and Sport.

Eight settlements on the Silk Road were recently named UNESCO World Heritage sites. How is the Ministry further promoting Kazakhstani culture and history worldwide?

We have many sacred places related not only to the history of Kazakhstan as a nation, but to human development at large, which were not included on the UNESCO list. We currently have three properties inscribed on the list, namely the Mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi, the Tamgaly petroglyphs, and the eight cities that form a section of the Silk Road. We also have eight remnants of Buddhist culture, many sacred sites of Zoroastrian gatherings, and assorted other historical places of a similar nature. The whole world would be thrilled to find the placement of Genghis Khan's grave. The eldest son of Genghis Khan, Jochi, was buried in the Ulytau district of the Karaganda region. Essentially, we have many unique sites that can be considered the common heritage of mankind, but which have still not been included on the UNESCO list. To this end, we are working on opening the UNESCO Center in Kazakhstan, for which we are providing all the requirements for funding and construction. Recently, we had a UNESCO committee meeting here to discuss the possible inclusion into the list of the next segment of the Silk Road. The first step in our current plan is the joint production of a documentary film (a collaboration of groups from Italy, Kazakhstan, and China), based on a book by Marco Polo. It is fortunate that we have a first-person account of the Silk Road from Marco Polo.

What are your expectations for the Winter Universiade 2017?

The new President of the International University Sports Federation recently paid us a visit. It is necessary for the countries of Central Asia to work together on these larger-scale sports events. It is a pity that such events have never been held in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, or Mongolia. We are confident that hosting these types of events will be beneficial not only to Kazakhstan, but to the whole region. It would be a great way to improve the overall international reputation of countries with the “-stan" suffix in their names. We have a strategic plan, and as the leader of our country has pointed out, three important factors lie at the basis of any successful state. These are that the nation should have established moral and spiritual values, its citizens should be health-conscious, and it should form a happy society. That is why the state is generally interested in the advancement of sports. We are lucky to have a leader who takes the initiative to bring new sports into the country.

What are your primary goals as Minister of Culture and Sports for this year and beyond?

Our foremost sports-related goal for 2016 is to successfully participate in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Over the past 24 years, we have fostered our own talented sportspeople, born and bred in Kazakhstan, who will now represent the nation internationally. With regard to culture, in May 2016 the National Academy of Choreography will be opened. It will be an institution where students will be able to study the art of dance from primary school to the PhD level. It will be a unique establishment, funded not by the state, but by oil companies that operate in Kazakhstan. During the Soviet era, we had only one opera theatre—the Abay Opera House in Almaty. Recently, we have opened the second one in Astana, and another in Shymkent city. There are also dancing groups active in all of the country towns. We have to train a pool of dancers to fill the demand. Traditional Kazakh culture coexists with the European culture in our country. We will also spare some funds to build opera houses, temples of arts, and athletic venues.