ASTANA – Flag-raising ceremonies and cultural festivities on Republic Day in Kazakhstan take a distinctive perspective through the eyes of educators. Teacher voices not only drive changes in the education landscape but shape the nation’s collective wisdom. In an interview with The Astana Times, Kazakh scholars shared their thoughts on the essence of its celebration.
For Malike Baigonova, an Almaty-based history teacher in Public School 44 with 39 years of pedagogical and research experience, the revival of the Republic Day is “the beginning of the independence of our long–suffering motherland, the birthday of the sovereign Republic of Kazakhstan.”
The Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the Kazakh SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) on Oct. 25, 1990, according to Baigonova, marked the beginning of the modern history of Kazakhstan. “It was a decisive moment for Kazakh people and the country’s government to solve the most important tasks to determine the course of foreign and domestic policy,” she said.
In 2009, the amendments introduced by Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the Law on Holidays, canceled the celebration. The event, Baigonova emphasized, was “undeservedly sent to the backyard.”
“Such a decision crossed out the very historical moment of our independence. The other event [referring to Independence Day on Dec. 16], which is no less important in its value, has absorbed the Republic Day for the last 13 years. But after all, these are two completely different milestones and it is not the right thing to integrate them,” said Baigonova.
The proposal to revive the date was put forward by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev during the first National Kurultai (Congress) on June 16 in the Ulytau Region.
“For Kazakhs, kurultai is more than an age-long tradition. Since ancient times, it has served as a forum to solve the most acute problems and make fateful decisions. The most popular topic raised during kurultai was the unity of people to defend their freedom. The holiday itself is the first step towards unity,” said the teacher.
“In an environment when the world is restless, when thousands of people are deprived of shelter, food, and the most precious thing – life, we all understand perfectly well that the most important value is our sovereignty, our independence,” she noted.
Recalling her first reaction to the announcement of the Republic Day in 1990, Gulnara Dadabayeva, an educator with doctorate in historical sciences, said she “felt that this would lead to a better future despite the uncertainty.” Dadabayeva is now an associate professor at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research (KIMEP) University.
“In 1990, as a very young specialist, I underestimated the importance of the event. Only later we understood what hardships we have overcome to build this modern successful state recognized in the international arena. Since then, a lot of professional positive changes have happened in my life,” she said.
When Dadabayeva started to teach a course on the history of Kazakhstan, it was difficult for her to realize that this treasured knowledge was not shared in the universities during Soviet times.
“We did a lot to collect historical materials and publish our textbooks. We tried to fill the blank space left in our history and revealed undisclosed developments, tragedies of the 1930s, wartime troubles and losses, as well as the Kazakh nation’s achievements,” she said.
More than 30 years ago, the professor noted, Kazakhstan “laid a strategy to become a respected power to promote peace and stability in the country, regionally, and globally.”
“Thus, we must avoid a trap of being anchored to wrong ideas and ideologies. The celebration of the Republic Day should strengthen national identity formation and remind us of the great value of independence,” said Dadabayeva.
Kazakh mathematician and professor at Kazakh-British Technical University (KBTU) Kairat Mynbayev teaches quantitative finance and advanced statistics. In a conversation with The Astana Times, he said he appreciates “the Republic Day is not a conversion of a Soviet holiday but is our own national event.”
Mynbayev shared the university’s plans to organize a movie day for its students on this special occasion.
“It will be a get-together. Such events were not practiced by the previous KBTU management, so this is one of the changes for the best,” he noted.
The second meeting of the National Kurultai took place this June in Turkistan. The head of state reviewed Kazakhstan’s transformation within one year. The strengthening of national identity, socio-cultural changes driven by younger population, and the creative industries’ development took center stage during discussions.