ASTANA – The beginning of the month of May in Kazakhstan is, perhaps, some of the most anticipated period in the country as it brings together three celebrations, each being important and carrying special meaning in their own right.
On May 1, Kazakhstan celebrates the Day of the Unity of the People. On May 7, it is the Defender of the Fatherland Day, complete with a military parade, air show and fireworks in Astana. And On May 9, Kazakhstan, along with many other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Kazakhstan marks Victory Day, with mass celebrations throughout the country feting the generation of World War II veterans.
On May 1, President Nursultan Nazarbayev met Astana residents in the main square in front of the Kazakh Eli Monument. He visited the ethnic village and the tents that displayed works of art and the traditional clothing, musical instruments and handicrafts of Kazakhstan’s many ethnic groups.
“If a family is united, it will be strong. If a company is not united, it will not prosper. And if a country is not united, it will just crumble,” the President said in his congrtulatory speech. He emphasised that the unity of Kazakhstan’s many peoples was at the core of the young country’s identity and statehood.
“There are many different ethnic groups living in Kazakhstan and the unity of us all is the foundation of peace in our country. When people live in peace and harmony, it is real happiness. It is impossible to be happy alone; well-being depends on the condition of the whole nation. That is why we have to cherish the unity and harmony that we have reached in Kazakhstan and pass it to our children,” he said. He also urged Kazakhstan’s citizens to work for their own happiness.
On May 6, the day before Defender of the Fatherland Day, the President bestowed military honours and special ranks to some of the nation’s soldiers and commanders. Nazarbayev is also supreme commander of Kazakhstan’s armed forces.
Presenting the awards, the President noted the role the armed forces play in setting a positive example for the nation’s youth. He also drew attention to the importance of the officers who protect the country’s borders and help maintain a peaceful nation.
“The notion of the officer’s honour has never been forgotten, and its value has never been belittled. The true courage of a warrior is to be ready for self-sacrifice for the country and the people. Setting an example of service to the fatherland, you educate the younger generation and strengthen the moral foundations of our society. The state expects you to actively participate in the formation of patriotism in Kazakhstan. I am sure that you will cope with these problems,” President Nazarbayev said.
“To be a general is a great honour and you should carry this rank with dignity. I wish you good health and success in your service,” he told honourees.
On Defender of the Fatherland Day, May 7, more than 35 tanks, 40 infantry vehicles, 110 armoured transporters, 250 other types of military vehicles, 56 helicopters and military airplanes and over 4,000 personnel of various infantry units marched through Astana’s main square to celebrate those who fought to defend their home soil.
“The parade is a demonstration of our power, a patriotic education for our youth and an uplifting of our spirit,” Commander of the Army of Kazakhstan Murat Maikeev said.
Servicemen and commanders awarded new ranks or high honours include the following: Deputy Minister of Defence of Kazakhstan Okas Saparov, Commander of Air Defence Forces Nurzhan Mukanov, Deputy Commander in Chief of Air Defense Forces Marat Uashpayev, First Deputy Commander of Regional Command Marat Khusainov, Deputy Chairman of the National Security Committee Samat Abish, head of the Astana Department of the National Security Committee Kurman Elyubayev, head of the Aktobe Department of the National Security Committee Nurlan Kydyrbayev, Commander of the National Guard of the Interior Ministry Ruslan Zhaksylykov, First Deputy Commander in Chief of the National Guard of the Interior Ministry Beibit Ashkarov and others.
Finally, on May 9, Kazakhstan commemorated Victory Day. It is one of the most touching holiday in the country, which sent 1,500,000 of its men and women to fight the Nazis in 1941-1945, of whom only half returned home. And it is literally touching, as there is almost no single family in Kazakhstan today that was not affected by that war in one way or another.
On May 9, President Nazarbayev laid flowers to the Defenders of the Fatherland memorial on the right bank of the Ishim River near the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and spent time with the veterans of the bloodiest conflict in the human history.
Such a day traditionally sees people of all walks of life and age congratulate the veterans and those who showed heroism working deep inside the Soviet Union. People present them with flowers, gifts, sing them war-time songs and generally try to create a festive mood. There are fewer and fewer veterans of that war today among us, as the living ones are in their late eighties.