Diplomat from Central Asia Talks about Bilateral Friendship
26 July, 2012
Diplomat from Central Asia Talks about Bilateral Friendship

Interview with Mr. Adil K. Tursunov, Charge d’Affaires e.p. of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Head of the Diplomatic Mission)

The Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan opened in Tbilisi in 2003. However, it turns out that this Central Asian republic has several embassies in the world have Charge d’Affaires e.p.instead of Ambassador.  Adil K. Tursunov is the acting Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Georgia. Georgian Journal met with him and made friends very easily. It happens when you forget that this is

an interview. I must admit that he is one of the most sociable and open-hearted among the Ambassadors accredited to Georgia. The interview turned out not very serious, but interesting. His personality did not let me be too serious and too formal. Sometimes, this is interesting too. He talks about our common past,  as he has heard a lot about Georgia, beginning from Georgian movies and songs, ending with Georgian tea that her mother used to brew quite often.  

 

G.J: As far as I know, you are quite a new Ambassador here.

A.T: Georgia is my fourth country where I am posted as a diplomat after India, Azerbaijan, Singapore. I started my career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of my country just after the graduation, at the age of 21. As for Charge d’Affaires (CDA), it is a kind of a diplomatic practice. In some countries we don’t have an Ambassador but a CDA who is the permanent Head of mission. Embassies of Kazakhstan are headed by CDAs in Thailand, Norway, Bulgaria and Romania.

G.J: What were your first impressions and how did you get accustomed to the Georgian lifestyle?

A.T: I came to Georgia at the end of February of  2012 straight from Astana where winter still was in full swing with its – 25 degrees C.. Here it was only -5 C and on some days - 0, so it was very warm for me. It was my first time to Georgia and not only weather but people whom I met appeared very warm to me. I spent my first days in Courtyard Marriott. We adapted to Georgia very easily (he lives here with wife and one and a half year-old son). We knew a lot about Georgia, as we are two friendly countries, with common Soviet past. Georgians also have general impression what Kazakhstan is. When I meet someone and tell him about my origins, he becomes generally quite warm.  A lot of people here speak Russian or English and since I do too, there is no problem of communication. During the years of independence, we worked quite close with each other. Before coming to Georgia, I worked on the position of the Director of European Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thus dealt with the bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and Georgia, so I was well-informed. Therefore, despite the fact that I came here for the first time, I did not have a feeling that I was a stranger in this country. This background is very helpful to start with.

G.J: Do  you agree that we also had many things in common in terms of problems that we faced along with the acquisition of our independence?

A.T: I agree with you, but probably, for Georgia it was easier than for us. You have been independent in your history before and you only regained it. But for us, it was a totally new story, new chapter, because when in 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, we did not have a number of things such as our own currency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and so on. But you are right that the problems were quite similar. Kazakhs started their history in the 16th century and since then, we did not have our own statehood.

G.J: Georgia still faces a lot of social and economic problems. With significant progress in some spheres, living conditions of people are still very hard. How do you live in Kazakhstan?

A.T: The average GDP growth is about 7% now. The per capita GDP is 11 thousand US dollars compared to 700 US dollars fifteen years ago. As you know, we are rich in natural resources, especially in oil and gas. Our policy is to use oil and gas recourses to develop other industries. We believe that our future is in the spheres, which are not related to hydrocarbons. The government has initiated a number of programs and we make efforts to develop alternative sources of our growth. For example, we started production of cars, production of planes, different equipment. We invest a lot of money in infrastructure. We believe that we can be a hub for transit of goods between Asia and Europe, especially between China and Western Europe. During the last two years, we set up 200 new plants and factories with 90 thousand new jobs. It already brought us some results. For example, 60 factories give us the production for 2 billion US dollars. We invest a lot of money in innovations and new technologies as well. Last year we spent to that end 1.5 billion US dollars. We have a well-developed agriculture sector.

G.J: Georgia is the country of agriculture, but unfortunately, this sector is not very well developed at the moment.

A.T: It takes time first of all. But here we cannot compare the two countries in this aspect, because we produce mainly wheat and Georgia specializes in grape, which is processed for wine. But I have been to Kakheti, Guria and I believe that Georgian agriculture is developing at a good speed.

G.J: What cab you say about the unemployment?

A.T: It is a challenge for our governments and it is the problem for the Western Europe at the moment. A lot of people wish to get a job and they cannot.

G.J: Can we talk about Georgian cuisine?

A.T: We liked it from the very beginning, including me, my wife and my son. We came to Tbilisi  in the morning and we went out to have a lunch. My son is quite small and he likes it very much. I must say that I had tried some Georgian food in Kazakhstan where we have few Georgian restaurants in Astana.  I had some idea about khachapuri and khinkali. But here I found a lot more dishes. I like your dishes made from vegetables. I like eggplant with walnuts; chashushuli is my favorite. Maybe it’s a nature of my profession – when you visit a country, you try the food. I like that almost every Georgian is a gourmand. They have their own favorite restaurants that they like to go for dinner; they know the best places for eating, which is good. Another thing is that Georgians like to cook food at home. Nowhere in the world have I seen the kind of hospitality that I have experienced here. When you have a lot of dishes on the table, and when there is not enough space and you put them over other dishes like the second floor. I say: that’s enough, let us finish with these dishes first, but they say: no, no, no, and they keep bringing in new dishes. This is a new thing for me. That makes your heart warmer and that’s interesting. Another feature, which I have seen in Georgia and I was pleasingly  surprised, is how Georgians love children. When I walk with my son anywhere – in the shop or park, people whom I don’t know, stop and start caressing him. I have not seen this anywhere in the world. Georgians are the nation, which loves children like no one does in the world. Warmth and hospitality is so characteristic of you. I have noticed one difference in having parties: in my country, Tamada offers toasts to everyone and everybody is obliged to say something different from others. But in Georgia, Tamada can pronounce toasts for the whole evening and do not ask someone to say a toasts.

G.J: You too have Tamadas?

A.T: We have Tamada, but we know that this institute came from the Caucasus. But the concept of Tamada was wrong – I am saying to my friends now that Tamada should not offer toasts to everybody. It’s quite comfortable as your original tradition is, when no one tells you to say something. We probably had other  variation, but yours is better.

G.J: What can you say about the Georgian culture?

A.T: I was surprised that people sing almost in every family. In Kazakhstan, mainly  women sing, and here, men do a lot of singing too. And here, there is no generation gap, while with us, father and son cannot sing together as they will not know the text of the song; meanwhile here there are songs that everybody knows by heart. I like Georgian movies very much. My favorite is “Soldier’s Father”. It’s a pity that younger generation in my country doesn’t know much about the Georgian culture, they hardly know about “Mimino”, which was tremendously popular.

G.J: I have heard about one more tradition that we had in common – abduction of brides that only we, Caucasian and Central Asian men understand. Has this tradition died out or does it still exist?

A.T: It was a tradition in the Central Asia. Now, there is no such practice. But there are very rare cases when young boys do such things, especially in rural areas. There are two variants: first variant is when the youngsters know each other and jointly decide that they will marry and the bride agrees that the boy abducts him. But there are some rare cases when she does not know about his intention; such cases are prosecuted in Kazakhstan and everybody knows that if he does such a thing, he can be sent to jail. Unfortunately, I cannot say that we have foregone these traditions for good. There are some cases, but very rare. We don’t even remember it. It is remembered by journalists only. Many tourists coming to Kazakhstan are surprised when they see skyscrapers and they ask: do you still ride camels, or do you still have three wives as it was before? Those are the tradition that we had many centuries ago.

G.J:  What is the role of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the upcoming elections and how are you involved in the pre-election campaign?

A.T: I have to say that we are closely following the development of internal situation in Georgia as we can’t stay indifferent to what’s going on in a friendly country and because of the fact that Kazakhstan is a leading foreign investor here, having two banks (“BTA” and “Halyk”) plus a number of  large-scale companies even by the world standards.  “KazTransGas-Tbilisi” functions in Tbilisi, “KazTransOil” runs Batumi Sea Port and Oil terminal, “Rompetrol”, “KazMunaiGas-Service” is building a sanatorium in Likani, “Air Astana” operates 4 flights a week from Tbilisi to Almaty and is planning to add 2 weekly flights to brand-new Astana capital in September. Recently I met with the Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Georgia Mr. Zurab Kharatishvili and we discussed the opportunities of observers from my country (as members of the OSCE team) to take part in monitoring the parliamentary elections.

G.J: At the end of last year, Georgian Journal organized the event that identified “The Ambassador of the Year”. What do you think of this idea and have you heard of similar event in other countries?

A.T: Georgia is my 2nd country where I’m working as Charge d’Affaires e.p. (Head of Mission) after 4 years of similar experience in Singapore and it is always a pleasure to meet new Ambassadors – my senior and more experienced colleagues. As far as your question is concerned, I would like to join Guenther Baechler, Ambassador of Switzerland, hoping that this year the nominee will be “une Ambassadrice”. In conclusion I would like to wish you success and hope that Georgia and Kazakhstan will become the leaders of the Caucasus and Central Asia and will succeed to make closer links not only at a country-to-country level but also help these two regions get closer.

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