Pokazukha and Kazakhstan’s political leader, the very one

The following piece was recently written by a Kazakh linguist who has since moved to America. She has a certain perspective on Kazakh culture and politics that only a person who loves her own country can have.  I’m also grateful that she corrected my spelling of Pakazooka (see my last post) since I always wondered what the spelling really was for this Russian term.  I had only heard about it from my husband who speaks Russian and he muttered it plenty while we lived in Ukraine for seven years and Kazakhstan for three and a half years.

It’s “показуха” or in standard Soviet transliteration, “Pokazukha” (“poh-kah-zoo-kah” phonetically). From the Russian verb “показывать” (to show) + noun-forming “-ух” suffix which in this case denotes a negative attitude towards the term.

Yes, like you said, a show off, a pretense, a dog and pony show.

There’s a colloquial equivalent with a stronger critical connotation often used by the youth, “понт(-ы)”, or “Pont(-y)”. In Kazakh we would say “maqtan” or “ozing-ozi maqtan” in the same sense.

Yes, I left Kazakhstan because I simply couldn’t be physically present in my home country that I love so dearly, so much was the daily suffocation from the political environment and injustice, so many things I didn’t agree with. I started being a bit involved in the politics, I just couldn’t help it, but I strongly resented the idea. Too dirty games. Potentially very dangerous for my loved ones, too, couldn’t afford it…….

About Nazarbayev, unfortunately, he is just a son of his people… My mom’s friend, a composer, singer, “aitysker” (traditional Kazakh dombyra-debater), studied with Nazarbayev at the same school for 10 years (or maybe 8, not sure). So I personally know what the roots of our country’s leader are. Besides, I simply have eyes to see. I know well what his personal qualities and ambitions, especially after working as a translator for a few months at a Japanese company and having to translate during meetings with very high-ranking Kazakhstan officials. He is no leader for a country, he is far from that caliber. He should have been a director of a steelworks plant as the maximum. But, unfortunately, in the communist party of the USSR the only qualities from the leaders in the Central Asian Republics that were valued were of total submissiveness to the centre in Moscow, lack of moral principles to sack your opponents and a strong stamina to keep your subjects in fear and submission. A perfect recipe for a dictator, isn’t it?

So, Nazarbayev, having all those qualities and unquenchable primitive selfish ambitions, was brought up high into the leadership of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic’s communist party, one of the least important provinces in the USSR at the time. A nobody as a convenient pawn in a nobody land, as far as Moscow was concerned. Not these days, of course, no, he is a “mighty leader of a rapidly developing country”, a true “leader of the world”, a “would-be Nobel prize winner”… How petty and sad…  What I am deeply ashamed of is that the Kazakh people, with all their wisdom and talent, tolerate such man as their leader well over 20 years… Then we fully deserve the bitter fruits we see appearing in our poor land!!! I know it is not fair to say it, and I bear a 1/7millionth of the responsibility (talking about the adult population of Kazakhstan) too, but that is how I see it…

Anyways, sorry for all the emotions. Realistically, I know as an emigrant I will never be able to contribute much back to my country. And I don’t want to now, as I have come to firm belief that you cannot change the human nature, and thus you cannot change the world we live in… All you can do is set achievable goals in your small circle of influence and to do the best you can with whatever you have… Just to be honest and love people, that’s all… And then, what happens, happens. If you change even one person’s life along the way, it is good. But no attacks on windmills Don Quixote-style for me…

I had lived many years in a communist fairy tale and have been harshly disillusioned once. It was a very bitter pill to swallow that I think has inoculated me for life from the bug of idealism…

7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    It is a pity that you feel that nothing can be done by the individual. Some individuals think in a different way, they believe that it is within their power to change things. This belief stirs something in others and as they come on board mountains begin to move. Keep the faith, believe with all your heart that it will change and you will find that with time it will change. Meantime my thoughts are with you.

  2. 3

    Paul said,

    I could agree with you on some of your vision of that country, but couple things that you wrote here about Kazakhstan is not right. First Nazarbaev, his qualities as a leader of the country. I worked for many years in Alma-Ata, and saw this unique man by my own eyes. He is extremely smart, wise and intelligent. I don’t know another political leader in that country who really has wisdom, experience and vision like he has. I am not exaggerating. It’s not good that he stays at power for such a long time, but Kazakhstan is not England, the mentality of people is different, the lack of democratic traditions, the “клановость общества” explains the necessaty of such people at transition period of the country. I could give you a lot of examples from the history when the leaders were at power for a long time. Roosevelt who was elected 4 times is the best example.

  3. 4

    Paul said,

    Secondly: You wrote that the leaders of the republics had to be “totally afraid and submissive to the center”. That is such a naive point of view on the relationship between the Center and the republics. Kunaev was in fear? Come on! He was the most influential member of Politburo in the USSR after Brezhnev and Gromyko! I also leave without comment your words about Kazakhstan as “one of the least important provinces in the USSR at the time”. Did you really live in Kazakhstan at that time or you got such a poor knowledge of this rich country from the Cold War western history books?
    Anyway, thank you for your point of view. Best, Paul

  4. 5

    kazaknomad said,

    Paul, I only quoted what this Kazakh linguist wrote to me, thanks for taking the time to write your response. I hope this person, who now lives in the U.S. and who wrote this above piece, will write back. It should be an interesting discussion. How long did you live in Almaty and what position did you work with Nazarbayev as a foreigner? You must have very good Kazakh language skills in order to know him personally.

  5. 6

    kazaknomad said,

    Paul, you need to write in English, I have deleted what you wrote in Russian, however, it translates poorly in Google Translator. Do you want to explain “change it to any balapan, it is serious?” I don’t understand what you mean. “Hi, zherles! I am not a foreigner by birth. Left there 20 years ago. My name is Paul. Worked with Nazarbayev, said too boldly. He was at the top I just below. But I saw it “In action”. And this man is undoubtedly the leader of his people. Change it to any balapan it is serious. I wish you happiness and Kazakhstan.”

  6. 7

    Paul said,

    Sorry, I thought you are Kazakh. Who are you? And what do you want for me to explain?

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