27 August 2013

Celebrating Constitution Day in Astana

30 August is Constitution Day, a public holiday here in Kazakhstan.  This is one of the most important of all our holidays here because it celebrates the day, in 1995, when Kazakhstan accepted the new constitution of the Republic.  

The city authorities arrange many different events  around Astana for people to celebrate the day.  This year the events they are taking the form of concerts, art exhibitions and fireworks.  There is also an open public debate/discussion on the constitution the topic being ‘Pride and Honour of Free People are the Main Law’.  The debate sounds quite fascinating and it would be interesting to watch from a sociological point of view but we know that it will be lost on us.  With that in mind we will probably drive up to the Alzhir museum which is holding a special exhibition before returning home and watching the fireworks from our kitchen window.  

We were very lucky to be in Astana for the Constitution Day celebrations in 2011.  2011 marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of Kazakhstan as an independent nation so the celebrations were truly magnificent and included an infantry and a mechanised parade in-front of the Pyramid and the Kazakh Eli monument for review by the President.

Waiting for the parade to start
We had only been in Kazakhstan for a few weeks and did not speak a word of Russian or Kazakh.  The parade was being held just half an hour's walk from our apartment so we decided to go along to enjoy the atmosphere rather than watch on the television.  We were not able to get into any of the stands to view the infantry parade but did manage to get a spot near the head of the mechanised parade.  We waited for some time and watched the final preparations to the lead vehicles.  After an hour or so the parade started to move, led by the chiefs of the Army, Airforce and Navy (I was surprised to learn that Kazakhstan has a navy but of course they do have a shoreline on the Caspian).  Once they had moved past they were followed by a very long  mechanised procession which included tanks (T-72's I think), APC's rocket launchers, howitzers, mortars and missiles (sadly I am not sufficiently educated in this area and could not identify each individual item with any real degree of accuracy) before watching a very impressive aerial display. 

The parade processes past the yet to be completed mosque.
Note how, despite the crowd, no-one steps on the beautiful flower display.
While the display was magnificent perhaps the most lasting impression we had was of the warmth of the crowd, their genuine pride in their country and their willingness to share it both with each-other and with foreigners.  We also noticed that, despite people crowding around to get the very best view not a single person pushed or jostled another and nobody stepped on the beautiful displays in the flower beds.  It was one of the most joyful introductions I have ever had to life in another country. 

The event culminated in a 20 minute aerial display
It was quite something to watch the MiGs fly over the Astana skyline
The logistics and cost involved must have been staggering, but how often does a country turn 20 years old!  We felt very lucky that we were here at just the right time to see it, certainly not something we would have predicted had anyone asked us in 1991.

Click the picture for more posts on life in Kazakhstan.

Ersatz Expat

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