photographs from October 2000
Besides ethnic Kazakhs Russians, Ukranians, Germans, Koreans, Tchechens, many more gathered round here and made this country a multicultural mystery. Most Non-Kazakh citizens were banished from their homecountries during the Era of Suppression by Stalin. They worked in Labour Camps, stayed as coalminers, Virgin Lands-farmers or marketsellers. The Kazakh SSR was somehow the big "dumping ground" of the Soviet Union. A good place to get rid of intellectual troublemakers as well as nuclear waste: The huge and remote Kazakh steppe served as nuclear testing ground up to the Nineties, until a civic action group called "Nevada Semipalatinsk" achieved the stop of the testings. Maybe it’s their status of being cast off as enemies of the Soviet Union that made the Kazakhstanians feel united.
Kazakhstan, now an independent state, slowly loses many of those inhabitants that made the country manifold. Everyone who gets the opportunitiy to emmigrate does so. The Russians return to Russia, the Germans leave for Germany. Now the newly independent state has to find a new visual identity and leave the dominant Soviet heritage, which had been present through architecture, public art and design. What kind of architecture should replace the pragmatic soviet blocs? An interesting question for a former nomad culture. What to do with soviet heroic monuments? The situation is similar to that of Eastern Germany after the Reunification. There the decisions were often made very fast. Street- and citynames were changed and communist monuments put away.
At a small park in Karaganda, Central-Kazakhstan, there still exists a relatively small monument of Stalin, which hasn’t been removed but restored. Stalin got more of the look of a Kazakh Hero by enlarging his beard and making his narrow eyes a bit more narrow and Asiatic. He has been renamed and is now a Kazakh National Fighter. Why waste the valuable material? Monuments stay monuments and heroes are all the same. Regardless of which world they defend.