On April 30, Shavkat Rahmatullaev would have turned 66 years old. Three weeks before his birthday, a terrible disease took his life. Many, including his relatives, found out about his fatal illness only after his death. He didn’t want his illness to bring anyone any unnecessary discomfort, this was his nature.
A native of Samarkand, Rahmatullaev went to Moscow in search of professional success and professional success in Moscow he found. He received his first university degree in teaching (pedagogic) and later graduated from the Institute for Advanced Training of Television and Radio Staff run by Gosteleradio (the Soviet Union’s state television and radio broadcaster). He began his media career in 1985 and worked as a director and cameraman on a number of television projects in Moscow.
Since 1994, his name has been inextricably linked with Central Asia, where he worked as a Reuters representative, covering the most important events in the region.
The world usually learned about the most important events in our country through Rahmatullaev’s camera. The high profile state visits, the presentation of the new capital, Astana, the Congresses of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, Pope John Paul II’s visit to Astana, the summits of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building in Asia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation among other newsworthy events were brought to the public eye by him. He also covered broadcasts about Kazakh traditions, like equestrian sports, eagle hunting and the velvet antler industry in the Altai. This is only a short list of what the world learned about our country from Shavkat’s videos that were broadcasted by BBC, CNN, and Euronews, amongst other similar agencies. More than once did Shavkat make short films for Reuters’ programme Lifestyle and features about the problems plaguing the Aral Sea.
He also covered Baikonur events regularly; he did not miss any rocket launch or landing.
He knew everyone at and everything about Baikonur. When the world’s leading TV channels got a video of a Baikonur rocket launch, it was usually thanks to Rahmatullaev.
According to his colleagues, he could easily predict the rocket’s flight path before the launch, which is important in getting a good camera angle.
His best product was a video of a rocket launch showing four orange flames, the so-called King’s Cross.
Experienced international journalists, especially those at a Baikonur launch for the first time, could not contain their admiration for what they witnessed, as well as for Rahmatullaev’s predictions.
A father of two daughters, Shavkat always dreamed about having a son. According to his colleagues, one day, together with his colleagues, he had to craft a story about an orphanage. Before entering the facility, he met a boy who ran to him shouting “You are my father!” Right there and then, one more child came into Rahmatullaev’s family. Surely, he had booked his place in paradise with that encounter if he had not already before.
Shavkat invited us to try his delicious Samarkand pilaf, which he prepared himself. Once, he half-jokingly said that he wanted to find his eternal peace in the steppes of Kazakhstan, where he spent a lot of time observing rocket launches
As if he felt destiny gave him not enough time.
I will remember him this way forever.
The author was the Kazakh Foreign Ministry’s Press Secretary from 2004 to 2013.