ASTANA – An international library, a concept sparked by a former cellmate of Nelson Mandela, was opened Oct. 21 at the Kazakh Humanities and Law University (KAZGUU). Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs Erlan Idrissov, heads of diplomatic missions and representatives of international organisations participated in the official opening ceremony.
The initial idea was communicated by Ahmed Kathrada, a friend of the former President of the Republic of South Africa who spent 26 years in jail with Mandela. Kathrada visited Kazakhstan in 2012 and his lecture to KAZGUU students was the first speech in the country dedicated to him.
As part of the July 18 festivities celebrating Mandela Day, South African Ambassador to Kazakhstan Shirish Soni donated 450 books from his personal collection to the KAZGUU library. Among them were books on law, history, foreign policy and social studies and many biographies and autobiographies of world leaders. In particular, the South African embassy donated a number of books about Mandela’s life. The books are in different languages to support academics and students in language studies and some include topics on religious studies, yoga and meditation.
The initiative was supported by the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the diplomatic corps. The library also received book donations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassies of Belarus, Greece, Hungary, India, Kyrgyzstan, Netherlands, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The Kazakh foreign ministry will also encourage Kazakh diplomatic missions abroad to contribute books to the newly-opened international library. Receipt of these books is expected throughout December. Other embassies in the city could also contribute books to the library.
Idrissov also delivered a speech to academics and students on the theme of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy and its role in international organisations. After the lecture, they asked questions on the relationship among Kazakhstan, the Eurasian Economic Union and EU countries, Kazakhstan’s view on the current situation in Ukraine and how hosting EXPO 2017 would benefit Kazakhstan.