It’s been 20 years since the disintegration of the USSR. In this article we are going to tell you about the events which happened in Kazakhstan during this time.
So, on January 22nd, 1991, President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev signed the edict about recalling from circulation 100-rouble and 50-rouble denominations of 1961. They were to be exchanged for smaller ones within just three days. Moreover, one person could exchange no more than 1000 rubles, and no more than 500 rubles could be withdrawn from an account.
Mass media informed about the edict late in the evening, when all the stores and banks were closed. So the next day, endless lines could be seen on the streets. Government wanted to withdraw from use at least some part of the surplus money. The money reform resulted in impoverishment of people.
Back in 1990, they announced about conversion to managed market economy. In May, government pushed up prices for bread thrice and in January, 1991 they pushed them up again by 1.5-2 times.
Buying fever caused acute food shortage. Shelves in stores have never been that empty.
Under-the-counter trade is flourishing. People are literally fighting for critical commodities.
Political life is active as never before. People follow political events which are going on in the country and are not afraid to express their opinion. People attend meetings to make demands concerning social problems and political instability.
On March 17th, they conduct an all-USSR referendum. Citizens of the country are asked to answer the question, ‘Do you want to preserve the USSR, as a renewed federation of independent republics with equal rights, where people of any nationality will be guaranteed freedom and rights?’ The Supreme Soviet of Kazakhstan for some reason omits the part about freedom and rights, thus shortning the question. As a result, 76% voted ‘for’ and 22% voted ‘against’.
Liberalization spreads to mass media too. So, in 1991, two commercial TV channels appear at once.
They broadcast foreign action films, Disney cartoons, advertisements. TV journalism will appear several years later though.
The same year, they released the first weekly newspaper called ‘Karavan’. At the beginning, its circulation was 50 thousand newspapers but by 1998, it increased by 5 times! The secret of success was the fact that they began to print what they had always been prohibited to: critical articles about politics and politicians, sex, celebrity information, advertisements. Some say that only advertisements would bring them 7-8 million dollars in profit yearly.
In his appeal, President Nazarbayev called the citizens of Kazakhstan to order and asked them to stay calm.
However, in August, 1991, after declaring the state of national emergency , they created the State Committee on the State of Emergency (provisional government). People were able to learn the news only from TV specials. The rest of the time they had to watch ballet and symphony concerts.
‘Workers of the world (all lands) unite! The Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Raise the importance of the member of the Party higher and higher… ‘
The State Committee on the State of Emergency did everything to overthrow President Gorbachev and his government, and wreck the signing of the Union of Sovereign States Agreement which was to take place on August 20th, 1991.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan ceased to exist giving place to different political organizations, known since the 80s. So, Kazakhstan has acquired pluralism.
From all post-Soviet states, Kazakhstan was the first to renounce its powerful nuclear armoury, by closing the Semipalatinsk Test Site. Officially, Kazakstan joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons two years later (1993), but in fact, they stopped testing nuclear weapons two years before its closure.
Olzhas Suleimenov is a Soviet poet, Kazakh politician, and one of the most prominent Soviet anti-nuclear activists, who managed to draw attention of the public and international environmental organiztions to the anti-nuclear movement. His activity resulted in reduction of explosions they carryed out in Semipalatinsk. The total number of fires they have shot during the 40 years of the existence of the test site is 468.
The same year, cosmonaut Toktar Aubakirov became a national hero after spending over 7 days in cosmos.
He was a parachutist and test pilot with the rank of Major General in the Kazakhstan Air Force before he was selected as a cosmonaut. He is also registered in the Guinness Book of Records for taking off the supersonic fighter MiG-29 from air-capable cruiser ‘Tbilisi’.
People’s Artist of the USSR Bibigul Tulegenova is also the last Hero of Socialist Labour.
After the putsch, leaders of the countries dreamt of independence but at the same time they understood that they could not do anything by themselves, so they decided to create the Union of Sovereign States with Gorbachev as the head. However, before that, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine had joined the Commonwealth of Independent States, bypassing Gorbachev.
Kazakhstan was the last to declare independence. They created new departments, such as Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Sport, Agency of Space Research, etc. Tax Administration and Customs Committee appeared.
On December, 1st, citizenes of Kazakhstan elect their president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
One of the problems ‘inherited’ by independent Kazakhstan is the Aral Sea which formerly was one of the four largest lakes in the world and which has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet Union irrigation projects. By 1991, its level had dropped by 14 meters. Most of its marine animals and plants extincted; a new 25-thousand-square kilometer desert appeared. The United Nations Organization called the Aral situation an ecological disaster.
Unfortunately, by closing the test site, they did not stop radiation which still contaminates fruits and vegetables which grow at the contaminated area.
Primary industry still prevails in Kazakhstan.