A trip to Astana – Kazakhstan

I already blogged about it in this message, but here I’d like to share some more observations from the first session of the RCC where I participated.

The RCC consists of representatives of the Communications Ministries and Agencies from the CIS, as well as the communications administration from Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Latvia, and several operators – from Estonia, Finland… You can read more about the even itself in the official memo, here I am sharing my personal views.

First of all: great hospitality. No, first of all – great people! No – both!

What are the most important observations (in no specific order)?
– The RCC works in extremely convenient way; all items on the agenda are preliminary distributed, and discussions are very fruitful. One can not stop making comparison to the happening at the same time meeting in Rio on Internet Governance, and not see how efficient the Astana meeting was…
– Bulgaria was accepted as a country-observer without any hesitation, and with 11:0 votes; we felt there as if we have always been there – and this is good.
– Russian Minister Reiman is a master of guiding the meeting.
– All presentations are made in a very timely manner. If the agenda says, for example “7 minute” for a report, the report is indeed 7 minutes. Not 5, not 10.
– The time after the meeting is extremely well organized – in this case the Kazakhstan hosts did a splendid job.
– The hotel of the venue – Rixos – is a brand new hotel (like everything else in this only 10-year old capital), with all that could be required for such a meeting. The people, engaged in playing the live music at the restaurant: there was a young guitar-player, who was fantastic.
– The evening programs were also beautiful – with performances of the best Kazakh musicians, dancers and singers. The Kazakh dancers reminded me of the Balkan dancing “horo”; see the Greek entry at Wikipedia for it.

Here is a partial list of the officials I met:
Russian minister Leonid Reiman, Moldova minister Vladimir Molojen, Azerbaijan Minister Ali Abbasov, Kazakhstan ICT agency chair Kuanyshbek Yessekyeev, Armenian deputy-minister Vruyr Arakelian, Kyrgyzstan deputy-minister Chinara Suyumbaeva, head of the FCA Valery Bugaenko, Ukrainian deputy-minister Leonid Netudykhata, RCC executive director Nurudin Muhitdinov, Matjaz Jansa (SI), Balint Juhasz (HU), as well as Igor Kravets (UA), Vadim Belov, Gagik Grigoryan (AM), Anora Zakirova (TJ), Rashad Nabiyev, Ayaz Bayramov, and Jalil Jafarov (AZ); Evgenia Kolosova and Katya Slizkova (RU), Irina Morozova (EE), Alexander Shramenko, Konstantin Batygin and Andrey Ignatyev (RU), the journalists Irina Khrabrova and Leonid Konik (RU), Iryna Saksonava (BY), Aleksei Kuzmin (RU), Anna Jarikova (RU), Stanislav Borodyuk (RU), Yuri Mnuhin (RU), Victor Veshchunov (RU), Michael Natenzon (RU), Olga Rymyantseva (RU), Sergiu Ghincu (MD)… (and these are only some of the people I met!)

Our Bulgarian chairman of the governmental Agency for ITC Plamen Vachkov was there – feeling like in his students’ years (he studied in Moscow for 9 years in the 1970s), and welcome by all.

The spirit of the meeting wouldn’t be possible without the wonderful organization, provided by the RCC, and especially the people of the executive committee (see them here, here, here)

Full set of pictures from the meeting – here.

Some more thoughts:

I’ve always enjoyed the Russian culture. Back in 1985-1987, when we published the Krugozor magazine, we always had a number of articles, related to the Soviet Union / Russia. Interviews with Russian writers, poets, artists, were often taken by us – teenager journalists. Russian language was obligatory in the Bulgarian school system – a treasure, thinking about it from today’s perspective.

Unfortunately the young Bulgarians (and the westerners in general) would not be able to understand why Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov are genius writers, and why Ostap Bender is among the world’s best characters. For my generation writers like them, like Osip Mandelshtam, Mikhail Zoschenko, Andrei Platnovo, Konstantin Simonov, Vladimir BogomolovKir Bulichov, and of course the Strugatski Brothers, are not just plain names from the Russian (Soviet) culture, but they helped us define a different perspective of the world itself.
The language of Ilf and Petrov is similar to the one of czech Jaroslav Hasek, or Serbians Momo Kapor and Branislav Nusic, or Bulgarian Stanislav Stratiev.
The songs of Vladimir Visotski or Victor Tsoi are still sending shivering signals through my body, and when I listen to the lyrics, I understand why the whole nation loved him. In their (short) lives they brought to the people of our countries new meaning and new ways of understanding life. When there was no hope, there was always a book to read.
And note – I am not talking here about the “classics” Tolstoy, Pushkin, Gogol, Chekhov; not even about Mayakovski or Evtushenko. I am talking about the art that could touch anybody, that could keep you awake while in times of total sleepiness.

We have talked a lot about this Russian phenomenon – that they had hundreds of novels in their drawers, and they took them out in 1985, and started publishing them one after the other. In Bulgaria we didn’t have this – almost no writer there had their novels ready to be published. Sometimes I wonder how was that possible. The term “samizdat” (самиздат) has had a meaning, which is difficult to explain to the westerners, where the freedom of speech is usually declared in the first articles of the Constitutions, and it is well protected.

My meetings with the people from the RCC made me remember all the culture I’ve discovered in the Russian language. It is worth studying it, and it is worth reading the books in Russian. It is even better to spend some (lot of) time understanding the culture. Because, that may give the answers to many of the questions that bother the people from the West today: what is the secret of the Russian soul.

One piece of an advice, though: if you don’t understand the Russian jokes, then you will hardly be able to understand the Russian soul. They go hand by hand.

And finally – I am really happy I met all of these people; I will remember the conversations with all of them, and I am looking forward to meeting them again in 2008 – in Tajikistan, in Turkmenistan, and elsewhere.

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