Ahead of the visit to Astana by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in early April, Nurbakh Rustemov, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador in Budapest, shared his views on the bilateral relations and their future, touching, among other things on the interesting and long-standing cultural links between the two countries.
In your interview last year with our newspaper, you said “In our cooperation with Hungary, we try not to confine ourselves to mere political, economic, trade and social areas. Our goal is to also attach high importance to literary and cultural ties and deepen mutual respect based on our common roots.” What steps are being taken in this direction? What are the future plans?
When Prime Minister Karim Massimov unveiled Abai’s sculpture that was placed on Astana Street in Budapest, I thought “Abai should not remain just a monument in Hungary.” Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev praises and publicises the wise Abai at home and abroad. I believe this noble cause should be continued by all public officials and representatives of intellectual circles. If Abai’s imaginative poetry and humanistic philosophy gain wide recognition in the Hungarian language, it will open the door to other diamonds of Kazakh literature.
After the interview last year, we began developing action plans for the proposed translation of literature in the context of cultural ties. Last August Kazakh Minister of Culture Arystanbek Mukhamadiuly met with leaders of the Hungarian cultural and humanitarian institutions and discussed cooperation prospects.
Early this year, Foreign Affairs Minister Yerlan Idrissov noted the 550th anniversary of the Kazakh Khanate will be celebrated in those countries where the groups of Kazakhs are concentrated. Hungary is a land having common roots with Kazakhs. Is there any information of Kazakh history in Hungarian museums?
Every time I visit the two-century-old National Museum and Ethnographic Museum in Budapest, I start looking for Turkic and Central Asian titles among permanent exhibitions. But the share of groups of the Kipchak (Cuman) origin believed to link our common roots with Hungarians in the modern Hungary’s population is insignificant.
It is believed that Turkic-Mongolian tribes mixed with the Finno-Ugric peoples and settled during Genghis Khan’s empire. When the Kazakh Khanate was only emerging, Hungary already was one of the high-powered kingdoms in Central Europe. In modern Hungarian museums, one can find exhibits relating to the Soviet era and independent Kazakhstan, but the number of artifacts dating to times of common pre-history is close to nothing. I believe this gap can be filled by a mobile exposition.
How much interest do Hungarian historians demonstrate towards Kazakh history?
Among Hungarian ethnographers and anthropologists, there are some who attempt to identify connections with Turkic nations and some who gravitate towards the idea of their Finno-Ugric origin. I try to understand why some Hungarians, in whose European language the word “kurultaj” was preserved, want to consider themselves the “most Western Turks.” It seems that modern Hungarian researchers seeking to learn the history of the Turkic nations fell under the influence of Turanism ideology as well.
In December 2014, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Kazakh Central State Museum and the Hungarian Natural History Museum to determine a scientific foundation for the activities described above. Now Kazakh and Hungarian scientists will be able to hold joint research and expert reviews.
Among the issues discussed by the foreign ministers of the two countries last February was the Ukrainian crisis. In this respect, the countries’ liberals often criticise Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s policy as pro-Russian. How did Hungarians accept the peace efforts taken by Kazakhstan?
Prominent representatives of the political establishment and local experts in Hungary gave high evaluation to the peace efforts taken recently by President Nazarbayev between Ukraine and Russia and Russia and the West with respect to the Ukrainian crisis. The head of state made a huge contribution to the creation of the necessary prerequisites for implementation of the second Minsk Agreement. The presidents of Russia, Ukraine, France, US and the German Chancellor regularly consult with our President.
I believe that during the Ukrainian crisis, our President has once again proven himself a world-class diplomat. Being a part of an economic union with Russia and at the same time supporting Ukraine’s integrity, offering help with Ekibastuz coal at the time of the energy crisis in Kiev, keeping its own country neutral while Russia and the West play an economic and food sanctions game between themselves, preventing our national currency (tenge) from devaluation notwithstanding the collapse of the ruble – all these result from our President’s political foresight and proficiency.
His busy schedule calls to memory one of the final passages in “My Life,” the autobiography of Golda Meir. She wrote about the difficulties of existing in a world that is often insensitive to the sufferings of small nations. Her words miraculously echo the statement of our head of state, “From my experience, I feel that the years to come will become the time of global trials. The entire architecture of the world will be changing. Not all countries will be able to get through these complications in a decent manner. Only strong states, with their people united, will manage to do that.”
This year is the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II. Are there any updates in respect to Kazakh soldiers who took part in the Hungarian liberation?
In 2014, our embassy began its search for the burial places of Kazakh Soviet soldiers reported missing in Hungary. In 1944-1945 the 72nd and 73rd guard rifle divisions took part in the battles for liberation of the territories of Hungary, South Czech Republic and Austria. During these battles, around 140,000 Soviet soldiers and officers fell in the lands of Hungary.
There were a lot of difficulties in connection with the search for information about Kazakhstanis fallen, taken captive and missing. The diplomatic corps forged close links with the Russian Ministry of Defense and a memorandum of cooperation in the area of military and memorial work was signed. Representatives of the embassies of Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine take part in the burial ceremonies of remains of newly-found and unknown soldiers in Hungary. It is a settled tradition.
Are there representatives of Kazakhstan who reside in Hungary?
There are quite a few Kazakhs permanently living here, predominantly our fellow countrymen who married local nationals and remained. Some of them accepted Hungarian nationality. Protection of rights and legal interests of Kazakhstan citizens is the obligation of every diplomatic mission.
What is the news in cultural relations between the two countries?
In April, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will pay an official visit to Kazakhstan. In the framework of his visit, one can enjoy the performance of the Hungarian National Ballet’s prima ballerina, Kazakhstan-born Aliya Tanykpayeva and her Hungarian partner Zoltán Oláh who will both play the first parties in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” at Astana Opera National Opera and Ballet Theatre. The artists of the Astana Ballet theatre will then demonstrate their creativity to Hungarian audiences at the Budapest Palace of Arts in May.
An expedition entitled “From Altai to Danube” in connection with the anniversary of the Kazakh Khanate is also ready to depart.