Whether we are talking about individuals or nations, it is important to pause and celebrate milestones. There are, of course, always more challenges to overcome and new ambitions to realise. But taking time to enjoy past achievements does not mean ignoring the struggles ahead. Instead, it can make it easier both to summon up the effort needed and provides confidence that this effort will be rewarded.
This is certainly the case with the national celebrations around Kazakhstan’s 25th anniversary. It is an occasion for the country to come together and reflect on the extraordinary progress since 1991. It is progress, too, all the more remarkable because it was far from inevitable.
There was, as this paper has pointed out before, certainly nothing pre-ordained that the newly independent Kazakhstan would join the ranks of upper-middle-income countries or see an outstanding increase in living standards over its first 25 years. There were real doubts whether it was possible to forge a stable and harmonious society from such a diverse population. Predictions that Kazakhstan could successfully chart its own course in the world and enjoy international status as a trusted partner and influential voice for peace and co-operation would have been regarded, frankly, as implausible.
The steady leadership of first and current President Nursultan Nazarbayev, through good and bad times, has been a major factor in all these achievements. But as the Kazakh President always makes clear, they are the result of a true collective effort with credit shared across the whole country. It is the hard work, good sense, determination and, at times, resilience of the Kazakh people which is at the centre of the 25th anniversary celebrations.
It is also these qualities which provide confidence for the future. There is no doubt Kazakhstan, along with many other countries, faces a challenging period. The fall in oil prices, weaker growth in Kazakhstan’s major trading partners and increasing global tensions will continue to have an impact in 2017 and beyond. But without in any way minimising these difficulties or the efforts which will be needed, they are dwarfed by the combination of problems Kazakhstan faced and overcame in its first few years of independence.
The last 25 years also show that our country will not have to face these challenges alone. From the beginning, the support of individual countries and international organisations played a critical role in helping our young nation first get on its feet and then stride out on our journey. This advice and help along with the political and economic partnerships we have forged with countries right across the world have been an important element in our progress.
It is why there is nothing inward or backward looking about our 25th anniversary celebrations. They provide an opportunity to thank all those both within and outside our country for the role they have played in the progress of the last 25 years. And by providing time to remember just how far Kazakhstan has come, they underline why we should be confident about the future. There is a huge reason for our country and our friends to celebrate.