Kazakh town dismisses Russian quiz event as ‘propaganda’ amid war in Ukraine

The Kazakh town of Semey is refusing to take part in a Moscow-backed initiative that some say glorifies the Soviet military’s victory in World War II after it was condemned as Russian and inappropriate propaganda with a war raging in Ukraine.

“We are likely to cancel the [Essay Of Victory] because of the social media reactions to this event,” a coordinator of the annual competition in Semey told RFE/RL.

Several other Kazakh cities were yet to participate in the September 3 event despite criticism and calls for it to be scrapped.

Launched by the Russian government in 2019, Victory Trial is not a regular trial. Participants in the contest – which lasts about 45 minutes – are asked about their knowledge of the “heroic history” of the Soviet Union during World War II.

The event takes place in most Russian cities and regions as well as Russia-friendly countries, including the five Central Asian countries. The trial is open to people of all ages, according to its official website.

Some 1.5 million people are believed to have taken part in the initiative in 2021, but this year many Kazakhs have condemned the contest as blatant Russian state propaganda amid the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Lawyer Ruslan Tusupbekov was one of the first Kazakhs to ask the country’s education ministry to quash what he called a ‘warmongering affair’ that ‘has nothing to do with independent Kazakhstan “.

“I think our schools should be completely free from propaganda from a foreign state, especially from a state that attacked a peaceful neighboring country,” Tusupbekov wrote on Facebook.

He urged Kazakh social media users to tag their local authorities and other state bodies to help authorities cancel the event in Kazakhstan.

Speaking to RFE/RL, Tusupbekov also said he wouldn’t mind “if it was a purely cultural or language-related event”. But the essay is all about politics and “Russian ideology”, he added.

“They will say ‘our victory’, ‘our grandfathers fought’, ‘we can do the same’ and so on,” Tusupbekov said.

Trials are expected to take place in several Kazakh cities, including Almaty, Aqtobe, Zhambyl, Qaraghandy, Oskemen and the capital, Nur-Sultan.

According to the official website, similar events are also planned in six locations in Uzbekistan, three in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and one in Turkmenistan.

Editorial events outside Russia are organized by Russian cultural centers called Russkiy Dom, which represent the Russian Federal Agency for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Affairs, compatriots living abroad and cooperation international humanitarian.

The agency known as Rossotrudnichestvo oversees Moscow’s civilian foreign aid and cultural exchange programs and promotes Russia’s political and economic interests abroad, primarily in the CIS. The agency is believed to be behind the widely condemned pro-Russian rallies held in some European countries in April in support of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

‘Cause for grave concern’

Kazakh political expert Dimash Alzhanov claims that Russia is using the Soviet victory in World War II to bolster its “war and hate propaganda”.

Alzhanov says it should be a “cause of serious concern” for Kazakhstan because this Central Asian country has a significant number of “consumers” of Russian propaganda.

Russian is an official language in Kazakhstan, where pro-Russian sentiment remains strong among most policymakers. And Russian TV channels are easily accessible in almost all regions of Kazakhstan.

a may survey conducted in Kazakhstan showed that nearly 40% of the approximately 1,350 respondents supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Only about 13% of respondents supported Ukraine on the issue. About 36% described the war as a special operation against the “Nazis” in Ukraine.

Kazakhstan and Russia have seen behind-the-scenes tensions over the war in recent months, with Nur-Sultan refusing to recognize the Russian-backed regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as states. independent.

Meanwhile, Moscow has halted Kazakh oil exports through key pipelines in southern Russia several times this year, a move seen as an attempt to punish Kazakhstan.

Russian officials have also renewed threats to Kazakhstan’s territorial integrity, with President Vladimir Putin declaring that all of Kazakhstan’s territory was historically part of Russia.

Joseph K. Bennett