A vet­eran diplo­mat from a coun­try that pro­motes ac­cep­tance of oth­ers

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By GREER FAY CASHMAN

Dur­ing the Com­mu­nist era, peo­ple in the West were brain­washed into be­liev­ing that cit­i­zens of the Soviet Union and eastern bloc coun­tries were mem­bers of the world’s great down­trod­den – op­pressed and de­pressed.

True, they did not en­joy the rights and priv­i­leges that went hand in hand with Western life­styles. They of­ten suf­fered from food short­ages and their clothes were hardly fash­ion­able, but they laughed and they danced, wrote books, com­posed mu­sic, got mar­ried, raised fam­i­lies and, in many re­spects, were not much dif­fer­ent from hu­man be­ings any­where else the world.

The in­ter­est­ing thing is the speed and the ex­tent to which they adapted to Western norms once the Soviet Union was dis­man­tled.

A case in point is Kaza­khstan’s am­bas­sador to Is­rael, Doulat Kuanyshev, 58, a vet­eran diplo­mat who was born and raised un­der the Com­mu­nist regime. Though a very se­ri­ous and widely ex­pe­ri­enced diplo­mat who has been his coun­try’s am­bas­sador to Is­rael since December 2014, Kuanyshev is far from the stereo­typed im­age of the Soviet pub­lic ser­vant. He is suave and so­phis­ti­cated, and in pos­ses­sion of ad­mirable so­cial skills.

Kuanyshev has been a diplo­mat for close to 30 years. He speaks English flu­ently with only the faintest trace of an ac­cent.

His other lan­guages are Kazak, Rus­sian Spanish, Por­tuguese, Turkish and French.

He is a grad­u­ate of the Peo­ples’ Friend­ship Univer­sity in Moscow, where he stud­ied from 1977 to 1984. The venue and the time­line beg the ques­tion: Was this Rus­sia’s fa­mous school for spies in which stu­dents were trained to speak for­eign lan­guages in the ac­cents and di­alects of par­tic­u­lar places so that they could eas­ily in­te­grate into those com­mu­ni­ties?

Kuanyshev – who early in his ca­reer while still a stu­dent had worked as an in­ter­preter for the Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the USSR to the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of An­gola – finds the ques­tion amus­ing.

“In the W,est our univer­sity was called the school for spies or the school for pro­pa­ganda,” he ad­mits, but says this was an er­ro­neous as­sump­tion. It was in fact a school to de­velop open­ness with the aim of pre­vent­ing bias. It had a multi-eth­nic and multi-re­li­gious stu­dent pop­u­la­tion.

As for his per­sonal evo­lu­tion, he did not ac­tu­ally be­come a diplo­mat un­til the end of the 1980s, and like many young peo­ple of his gen­er­a­tion at the time, he was not all that blindly steeped in com­mu­nist ide­ol­ogy.

His first diplo­matic post­ing in Oc­to­ber 1991 was to Moscow.

Up un­til that time, he had done 18 months of com­pul­sory mil­i­tary ser­vice in the Soviet Army and had worked as a ju­nior re­search fel­low at the In­sti­tute of World Econ­omy and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at Moscow’s Academy of Sciences.

Then came the tran­si­tion pe­riod, when Kaza­khstan was on the road to in­de­pen­dence and democ­racy and reach­ing out to the world at large. Peo­ple with any kind of in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence and those who spoke for­eign lan­guages be­came the first gen­er­a­tion of young diplo­mats who gained the con­fi­dence of Pres­i­dent Nur­sul­tan Nazarbayev and the govern­ment, with Kuanyshev among them.

How did he shake off what­ever there was of pre-in­de­pen­dence ide­ol­ogy?

“I’m not sure I changed,” he re­flects.

There had been sev­eral years in which there had been a thaw. It was a wa­ter­shed pe­riod in which there had been what he calls “a moral and hu­man­i­tar­ian upris­ing,” which brought Kaza­khstan and some other Soviet Republics closer to the out­side world.

“We were un­der the in­flu­ence of Western pop cul­ture,” Kuanyshev said. “Ac­cess was lim­ited, which made it so at­trac­tive, sim­ply be­cause it was in­ac­ces­si­ble. We imag­ined some­thing big­ger than it was. When we were chil­dren, chew­ing gum was a dream.”

Change grad­u­ally came to Kaza­khstan as some­thing that was uni­ver­sally wel­come.

Kuanyshev re­mem­bers that there were dif­fi­cul­ties in the de­vel­op­ment pe­riod. There was a new mar­ket econ­omy, and many peo­ple did not know how to cope with the sit­u­a­tion.

Be­fore the change, “we had a wel­fare state that pro­vided ev­ery­thing.” For many peo­ple, the past looks rosy, he says, be­cause they were not deal­ing with the chal­lenges of to­day.

Re­lat­ing to the young peo­ple who aimed for new hori­zons in the first blush of in­de­pen­dence, he ex­plains, “We didn’t have enough ex­per­tise. We felt like pi­o­neers. It was eas­ier then to ac­cept a chal­lenge.”

Kuanyshev was ini­tially in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, pro­mot­ing for­eign in­vest­ment and eco­nomic re­la­tions, and this is what led to his diplo­matic ca­reer.

Nazarbayev is al­ways in­ter­ested in find­ing peo­ple with ex­per­tise in eco­nomic en­trepreneur­ship and in­vest­ment, says the am­bas­sador, es­pe­cially be­cause Kaza­khstan is so rich in nat­u­ral re­sources and com­modi­ties.

Is­rael was among the first coun­tries to rec­og­nize and es­tab­lish diplo­matic re­la­tions with the newly in­de­pen­dent Kaza­khstan, and re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries have been good, even though Kaza­khstan is a mem­ber of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Islamic Co­op­er­a­tion.

Nazarbayev has twice paid official vis­its to Is­rael, first in 1995 and then in 2000.

PRES­I­DENT SHIMON Peres vis­ited Kaza­khstan in June 2009 and Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu was there in December 2016.

In ad­di­tion, prom­i­nent Is­raeli fig­ures at­tend Nazarbayev’s an­nual Congress of Lead­ers of World and Tra­di­tional Re­li­gions in As­tana, which be­came the na­tion’s cap­i­tal in December 1997 fol­low­ing re­lo­ca­tion from Al­maty, the for­mer cap­i­tal. At the most re­cent Congress in Oc­to­ber this year, Is­raelis in at­ten­dance in­cluded the two chief rab­bis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef. Also among the par­tic­i­pants were Theophi­los III, the Greek Pa­tri­arch of Jerusalem, and Dr. Joshua Lin­coln, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Haifa-head­quar­tered Baha’i In­ter­na­tional Com­mu­nity.

At the congress, Yosef cas­ti­gated the re­li­gious lead­ers of other faiths for their fail­ure to con­demn acts of ter­ror­ism against Is­rael.

Al­though Islam is by far the dom­i­nant re­li­gion in Kaza­khstan, the na­tion’s con­sti­tu­tion en­sures “free­dom of con­science” in re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion and prac­tice, and Kaza­khstan char­ac­ter­izes it­self as a sec­u­lar coun­try.

Like most heads of for­eign mis­sions in Is­rael, Kuanyshev lives in a spa­cious house in Her­zliya Pi­tuah. Whereas the stan­dard pho­to­graphic dis­play in the res­i­dences of most am­bas­sadors may have one fam­ily group photo, one of the am­bas­sador with his or her monarch, pres­i­dent, chan­cel­lor or prime min­is­ter and one of the am­bas­sador pre­sent­ing cre­den­tials to Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin, in Kuanyshev’s residence, there are many more pho­to­graphs fea­tur­ing his adult daugh­ter Me­d­ina and teenage son Da­ri­man at var­i­ous stages of their lives. There are also fam­ily pho­to­graphs that in­clude Kuanya­shev and his wife Gul­mira, plus pho­tos from dif­fer­ent coun­tries in which he has served, il­lus­trat­ing the mile­stones in his ca­reer.

In 1992, he served as third sec­re­tary at the Kaza­khstan Em­bassy in Turkey. Back home two years later, he was a coun­selor in the For­eign Min­istry’s direc­torate of po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis and plan­ning, and from there be­came press sec­re­tary to Nazarbayev and head of the pres­i­dent’s press ser­vice.

Af­ter two years in this po­si­tion, he par­tially re­turned to his first love, which was pro­mot­ing for­eign in­vest­ments in Kaza­khstan. He did that in the ca­pac­ity of di­rec­tor of the state com­mit­tee on in­vest­ments, and sub­se­quently as deputy chair­man and later chair­man of the Kaza­khstan In­vest­ment Agency.

Ten years af­ter his first diplo­matic post­ing, he was ap­pointed vice min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs, and two years af­ter that as am­bas­sador to France. Next stop was Aus­tria and con­cur­rent with his role as am­bas­sador in Vi­enna, he was also Kaza­khstan’s per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe (OSCE), as well as other in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions that were sta­tioned in Vi­enna. And if that was not enough on his plate, he was si­mul­ta­ne­ously the non-res­i­dent am­bas­sador to Slove­nia and Croa­tia. An­other two years passed, and he was ap­pointed Kaza­khstan’s am­bas­sador at large.

That hap­pened to be a three­year stint, and then he was ap­pointed am­bas­sador to In­dia and non-res­i­dent am­bas­sador to Sri Lanka. Once again, it was a two-year as­sign­ment. The pe­riod that he has served in Is­rael is on the whole longer than any­where else. He is also non-res­i­dent am­bas­sador to Cyprus, and by sheer co­in­ci­dence his residence is next door to that of the am­bas­sador of Cyprus to Is­rael.

Kaza­khstan has huge re­serves of en­ergy – prob­a­bly more than any other coun­try in Cen­tral Asia. It also has the most ro­bust econ­omy, part of the credit for which goes to the ef­forts of Kuanya­shev.

Whether it’s clas­sic diplo­macy or eco­nomic diplo­macy, Kuanyshev says, “To be in­volved in the in­ter­na­tional arena is a must in or­der to con­sol­i­date our role as an in­de­pen­dent state.”

Kaza­khstan val­ues not only its own in­de­pen­dence, but that of its neigh­bors, and is ac­tive in safe­guard­ing bor­ders be­tween coun­tries.

This can be dif­fi­cult when it also in­volves a large wa­ter mass that is both a sea and a lake. Af­ter 20 years of ne­go­ti­a­tions, Kaza­khstan is among the par­ties that will sign an agree­ment which de­fines and de­lin­eates eco­nomic zones, fish­eries and en­vi­ron­ment is­sues of all the coun­tries bor­der­ing the Caspian Sea.

With re­gard to Is­rael, Kaza­khstan is now in the process of fi­nal­iz­ing a dou­ble tax­a­tion agree­ment. It has waived visas for Is­raelis who are vis­it­ing for 30 days or fewer, and is try­ing to get Is­raeli rec­i­proc­ity.

It had never oc­curred to Kuanyshev that he would be posted to Is­rael, but he en­joys be­ing here, al­most to the ex­tent of feel­ing at home. The rea­son: Most of the coun­tries that are part of the Com­mon­wealth of In­de­pen­dent States are rep­re­sented in Is­rael by im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties who have brought their cul­ture with them, and of course this is a cul­ture with which Kuanyshev is fa­mil­iar and which he ap­pre­ci­ates.

Re­view­ing his time in Is­rael over­all, he says that his post­ing here “was a gift be­cause it has en­riched me.”

(Kaza­khstan Em­bassy)

KAZA­KHSTAN AM­BAS­SADOR Doulat Kuanyshev wi­ith Yitzhak Yosef, the Sephardi chief rabbi of Is­rael.

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