ASTANA – Dmitry Petrukhin, Kazakhstan’s modern nomad and head of the Geographical Society of Kazakhstan, has ridden his bike across the world. Now he is going to host other international wanderers as Ambassador of EXPO 2017.Recently, Petrukhin visited the United States to promote the international exhibition. The Astana Times interviewed the famous traveller about issues he faced during the trip and asked what foreigners know about Kazakhstan and what they think of EXPO 2017 in Astana.
How did you start to travel and why?
Because of my dreams… I dreamed and brought it into life. It is definitely hard to take a break from work, family and trouble. But once you open your eyes you will see that the day has come and it is time to go.
Do you meet travellers like you from other countries?
There are freestyle bikers who travel but not on a global scale. They go for long distances, but nobody has circled the earth except me. It may seem romantic, but in reality you always need money. You must be able to pay for your hobby. I sold my house and my car and went on my first tour around the world. My wife and children, carrying on the business, helped me. The larger and longer tours require more money. Gasoline, food, tolls and customs fees; you should also add traffic congestion, breaks and meetings. My goal is not to just whirl across continents and set speed records.
Have you thought about travelling within Kazakhstan?
Oh, I have travelled the length and breadth of Kazakhstan [smiles]. And then rushed on and on.
Do you think you are helping promote Kazakhstan on the world stage?
This is my mission, the meaning of my life and I actively work for the benefit of my country
…Our president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, announced preparations for the national project EXPO 2017, highlighting the significance of the participation of each citizen of Kazakhstan. In response to this, as president of the Geographical Society of Kazakhstan, I started my next world tour last autumn. It’s no coincidence that we began the journey in South America. These countries had not strongly supported us and we came to them on the eve of voting, we held a press conference saturated with demonstration materials under the slogan “There is a country – Kazakhstan!,” to maximise their acquaintance with our culture and people and, finally, to link our states with strong bonds of friendship. When our team arrived in the Caribbean Islands, we met with diplomats and heads of chambers of commerce and increased our chances for victory.
The whole world voted. And Astana became the capital of the International Exhibition EXPO 2017. And what happens now? Five million visitors and boundless opportunities for economic and business development are coming. Fighting for it and travelling thousands of miles to personally gather the support of distant countries was totally worth it.
The fact is that the scales of my projects have changed now, and importance of this is hard to overestimate. There was a time, when I started as individual, that I could simply conquer the country on a motorcycle. But my next trip to Asia became a serious diplomatic mission; I went across all Asian states, met with diplomats and chairmen of sport committees and invited them to visit the Winter Asian Games, which were held in our country in 2011 for the first time.
Today, EXPO and Universiade are on an even higher level. You can already see the results and you will continue to see them in the future.
Who sponsors you?
As I say, my first trip was funded by me. At present, at this higher level, I receive assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That has helped me to work more efficiently.
How do you communicate with local people in other countries?
By gestures, by facial expressions and kindness in the eyes. This is the first step; then you start to get used to and remember basic and the most necessary words.
What do you think Kazakhstan should do to help ordinary people, not politicians, businesspeople and diplomats, get to know our country?
We need to develop tourism, to create and produce new cultural values, organise festivals and international cultural mass events. And it must be instilled from childhood. That is exactly why we have created a new project, the children’s Internet portal “The Young Travellers’ Club,” with international children and the Geographical Society. Its main purpose is to encourage friendships across cultures.
What do people around the world know about Kazakhstan’s hosting of EXPO 2017 and the expo in general?
They definitely do [know about it]; EXPO is an event of global impact. Astana awaits five million visitors in 2017. And now we do not have the right to rest, we must prepare for EXPO 2017 and Universiade 2017. That’s why I came back to Kazakhstan, being aware of the incompleteness of my mission. We managed to identify major opportunities to improve the process of preparation for the most important events for our republic, EXPO 2017 and Universiade 2017. And my “mototrip” around the world continues as a public relations campaign and a global colourful demonstration of Kazakhstan’s achievements in the international arena and the culture and history of the Kazakh people. Campaigns like this can have very positive results and create new admirers of our country. Our diplomatic alliances confirm that Kazakhstan is a worthy member of the world community, and now we plan to meet with other governments and reflect on the expo’s theme, the global issue of “Future Energy.”