Home Special projects Course towards the future: modernization of Kazakhstan’s identity "The Course towards Future: Modernization of Public Conscience"

"The Course towards Future: Modernization of Public Conscience"

30 September 2017
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Kazakhstan has entered a new historical period. This year in my state-of-the-nation address I proclaimed the start of the Third Modernization of Kazakhstan. Thus, we kick-started two most important processes of modernization - the political reform and the modernization of economy. The goal is to enter the world's 30 most developed countries. Both modernization processes have crystal-clear goals and tasks, priorities and methods to achieve them. I am confident that everything will be done in time and very effectively. However, this is not enough. I am sure that the large-scale reforms that we started should be complemented with advanced modernization of public conscience. It won't just complement the political and economic modernization; it will be in its core. It is worth mentioning that over the years of independence we have adopted and implemented a number of large programs. Starting from 2004 we have been implementing the Madeni mura program aimed at restoration of historical and cultural landmarks on the territory of Kazakhstan. In 2013 we adopted the Khalyk tarikh tolkynynda program that enabled us to collect and study the documents dedicated to the history of our country from the world's leading archives. Today we must embark on a bigger and more fundamental path. That is why I decided to share my vision of how we can take a step towards the future together and change public conscience to become the nation of strong and responsible people.

I. ON NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE XXI CENTURY.

We are witnessing the beginning of a new, largely unclear, historical cycle. And it is impossible to occupy a place in an advanced group, preserving the old model of consciousness and thinking. Therefore, it is important to concentrate, go through changes, adapt to changing conditions, and take the best of what the new era offers. What was, in my opinion, the main drawback of Western modernization models in the 20th century in relation to the realities of our time? They applied their unique experience to all peoples and civilizations without taking into account their characteristics. Even largely modernized societies have culture codes, origins of which go back to the past. The first condition for a new type of modernization is the preservation of culture and national code. Without this, modernization is an empty rhetoric. However, this does not mean conservation of everything in the national consciousness - something that gives us confidence in the future and something that drags us back. The new modernization should not, as it happened before, look at historical experience and traditions arrogantly, rather it must make the best traditions prerequisites and an important condition for its success. Without reliance on national and cultural roots, modernization will be left hanging in the air. And I want it to stand firm. Thus, history and national traditions must be taken into account. It is a platform which connects the horizons of the past, present, and future of the people. I am convinced that the most important mission of spiritual modernization is to reconcile the various poles of national consciousness. I would single out several directions for modernizing the consciousness of both the society as a whole and every Kazakhstani in particular.

1. Competitiveness

Nowadays not only a single person, but a nation in general, has a chance of success only by developing its competitiveness. First of all, it means that the nation has something valuable in terms of price and quality to offer at regional and global markets. It is not only material things, but also knowledge, services, intellectual products, and lastly, quality of human resources. The peculiarity of the future is that the competitiveness of an individual becomes the nation's success factor, not its mineral wealth. That is why each Kazakhstani and the nation in general should possess a set of qualities that fit the bill in the 21st century. Among those qualities are computer literacy, foreign language proficiency and cultural openness. Hence, the Digital Kazakhstan program, the trilingualism program and the program of cultural and confessional accord is a part of preparation of the nation (all Kazakhstanis) to life in the 21st century. It is a part of our competitiveness.

2. Pragmatism

Modernization is impossible without changing certain habits and stereotypes. And there are many examples of genuine pragmatism throughout our history. For centuries our ancestors had a unique environmentally friendly way of life, preserving the habitat, natural resources, using them in a very pragmatical and economically correct way. And only in a few years in the middle of the last century, irrational use of resources led to the disappearance of the Aral Sea and transformation of thousands of hectares of fertile land into ecological disaster zones. This is an example of an extremely non-pragmatic attitude towards the environment when the former national pragmatism turned into profligacy. In the course of modernization, we should remember the skills of our ancestors. Pragmatism means an accurate knowledge of our national and personal resources, the cost-effectiveness of their use, and ability to plan for our future. Pragmatism is the opposite of profligacy, arrogance, flashy lifestyle. The culture of modern society is a culture of moderation, a culture of prosperity, and not luxury, it is a culture of rationality. The ability to live rationally with an emphasis on achieving real goals, on education, healthy lifestyle and professional success is the pragmatism in behavior. This is the only successful model in the modern world. And when a nation or an individual are not oriented toward concrete practical achievements, unrealizable populist ideologies which lead to catastrophe appear. Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples in the history when whole nations, led by unrealizable ideologies, were defeated. We witnessed the collapse of the three main ideologies of the last century - communism, fascism, and liberalism. The age of radical ideologies has passed. We need clear, understandable and forward-looking ideas. The idea both of a person and the nation as a whole can be aiming at achieving a specific goal while understanding our capabilities and limits. Realism and pragmatism are the slogans of the next few decades.

3. Preserving national identity

The concept of spiritual modernization implies changes in national conscience. There are two aspects. First of all, changes in national conscience. Secondly, preserving the inner core of national identity while only some of its characteristics change. What are the risks of modernization models existing today? They see modernization as a transition from the national model of development to a single, universal one. But life constantly proves that it is a mistake! In reality, different countries and regions develop their own models. Our national traditions and customs, language, music and literature, in one word, our national spirit should remain with us forever. Abay's wisdom, Auezov's pen, Dzhambul's touching verses, Kurmangazy's magical sounds, ancestors' eternal call is only a part of our spiritual culture. But modernization also means that a number of archaic habits should be left behind in the past. Dividing a single nation by regions should become the thing of the past. It is a useful thing to know and take pride in the history of your region. But one should not forget that he or she belongs to a great nation. We build a meritocratic society in which every individual should be estimated based on his/her personal contribution as well as personal and professional qualities. Nepotism has nothing to do with such system. This is the way to carve your career only in a retarded society. We must understand two unalterable rules. First. Modernization is impossible without preserving national culture. Second. To move forward, a nation must leave behind the elements of the past that hinder its development.

4. Cult of knowledge

Our nation has always been known for its thirst for knowledge. A lot has been done through the years of independence. We have trained tens of thousands young specialists at the world's best universities. As you know, we laid the foundation with the Bolashak Scholarship Program in early 1990s. We have created a number of top-class universities, a network of intellectual schools and more. However, the cult of education should be universal. And there is a crystal-clear reason for that. Half of existing professions will cease to exist in the upcoming decades as a result of the technological revolution. Only highly educated person capable of switching professions thanks to a high level of education will be able to live successfully in such conditions. That is why nowadays Kazakhstan is among those developed countries that invest heavily into education. Every citizen of Kazakhstan must realize that education will be the most fundamental success factor in the future. Education should be the number one priority for our youngsters. If education becomes the key value, success will come to the nation.

5. Evolutionary, not revolutionary development of Kazakhstan

This year marks 100 years since the radical changes on the vast part of Eurasia took place in October 1917. And the entire twentieth century was marked by revolutionary upheavals. Every nation draws its lessons from history. It is its right, and one can not impose their point of view on others. But also no one has the right to impose their subjective vision of history on us. And the lessons of the twentieth century are for the most part tragic for our people. First, the natural path of the nation's development was broken and foreign forms of social organization were imposed. Secondly, a terrible damage has been made to the demography. And its consequences affected the nation throughout the century. Thirdly, Kazakh language and culture were almost lost. Fourthly, the territory of Kazakhstan in many regions has been turned into an ecological disaster zone. Of course, history is not only black and white. The 20th century brought a lot of positive things to Kazakhstan, such as industrialization, the creation of a social and industrial infrastructure, the formation of a new intelligentsia. A certain modernization took place. But it was rather a modernization of the territory and not the nation. We must clearly understand the lessons of history. The time of revolutions is not over. And while they have changed greatly in their form and content, our whole recent history says directly and unambiguously: only evolutionary development gives nations a chance for prosperity. Otherwise, we will once again find ourselves in the trap of history. Evolutionary development as a principle of ideology should be one of the benchmarks on a personal, individual level for every Kazakhstani. Of course, evolutionary development of society as a principle does not mean eternal conservation, it is, however, important to understand not only the lessons of history but also examples of the present and signals of the future. The nature of revolutions has changed. Today they have distinct national, religious, cultural or separatist characteristics. But in the vast majority of cases, they lead to violence and economic collapse. Thus, a serious rethinking of what is happening in the world is part of a huge attitudinal and ideological work that has to be carried out by society as a whole, and political parties and movements, as well as the educational system in particular.

6. Open conscience

Many problems occur because the big global world is changing rapidly; however, public conscience stays in the "home boundaries". It would seem unnecessary to prove the need to study the English language when over one billion people around the world learn it for professional communication. Do you really think that 400 million citizens of the European Union do not respect their native German, French, and Spanish, Italian or other languages? Do you really think that millions of Chinese, Indonesian and Malayan people learn English for the sake of learning? It is not someone's psychological longing, it is a job requirement in the global world. Open conscience means at least three peculiarities of conscience. First of all, understanding what's going on in the world, around your country and in the part of the planet where you live. Secondly, open conscience means being ready for changes that the technological revolution brings. In ten years it will change many things in our lives - work, way of life, leisure, our houses and ways of communication. We must be ready for it. Thirdly, the ability to adopt others' experience and learn from others. Two great Asian nations Japan and China are the brightest examples in that respect. Being open to the best practices is the key to success and one of characteristics of open conscience. Why open conscience will be important in the future? If Kazakhstanis pass judgment on the world from the windows of their houses, they will not be able to see that storms are coming in the world or in neighboring countries. They will not see the woods for the trees or the factors that sometimes force us to change approaches dramatically.

II. AGENDA FOR THE NEXT FEW YEARS.

Public consciousness entails not only elaboration of modernization principles but also specific projects to meet the challenges of time without losing the greatness of tradition. I see several specific projects which can be initiated in the next few years. Firstly, it is necessary to commence the work on phased transition of the Kazakh language to the Latin script. We addressed this matter very carefully and delicately. We need a smooth phasing here. And we were carefully preparing for that for all the years of Independence. The history of the Kazakh language script has deep roots. In the 6th/7th century, early Middle Ages, the Old Turkic Runic script scientifically known as the Orkhon-Yenisey script emerged and was used in the territory of Eurasia. In the 6th/7th century, the Old Turkic script, one of the most ancient types of alphabetic script of the mankind, appeared. From the 5th to the 15th century, the Turkic language was the common language for the most of Eurasia. For example, the Golden Horde mainly used Turkic for the official documents and international correspondence. From the 10th to the 20th century, for nearly 900 centuries, the Arabic script was used in the territory of Kazakhstan. Coming off the runic script and spread of the Arabic language and the Arabic script started after the acceptance of Islam. On August 7, 1929, the USSR Central Executive Committee Presidium and Council of People's Commissars adopted introduction of the new Latinized alphabet "Common Turkic Alphabet". The Latinized alphabet was officially used from 1929 to 1940, and then it was replaced with the Cyrillic. On November 13, 1940, the Law "On transition of Kazakh script to the new Alphabet based on the Russian script" was adopted. Thus, the history of changing Kazakh alphabet was determined by specific political reasons. In December 2012 in my annual Address to the Nation of Kazakhstan "Kazakhstan 2050" I said that "From 2025 we need to proceed with transition of our alphabet to the Latin script". This means from that time on we must start transition to the Latin alphabet in all areas. That is to say that by 2025 we will start issuing the paperwork, periodical literature, educational books and all the rest in the Latin script. And now we will proceed with preparation for the beginning of the transition to the Latin alphabet. The transition to the Latin script also has its deep historic logic. This includes the peculiarities of modern technology environment, the specifics of communications in the modern world and the features of the educational and scientific process in the 21st century. Therefore, the year of 2025 is not far off and the Government needs to have a clear schedule of the Kazakh language transition to the Latin alphabet. All children in our schools study English. It is in the Latin script. That is to say that it will not be a problem for the youth. I suppose that with the help of the scientists and the wide public it is necessary to accept the unified standard of the Kazakh alphabet in the new script by the end of 2017. From 2018, to start training the personnel to teach the new alphabet and preparing educational books for a secondary school. In the next 2 years, to do necessary organized and methodological work. Of course, the Cyrillic script will be used as well for a certain time in the adaptation period. Secondly, it is project "New knowledge of humanities. 100 new educational books in the Kazakh language" for social and human sciences. Its essence is as follows:

1. We must create conditions for complete education of students in history, political science, sociology, philosophy, psychology, cultural studies and philology. The state must support our humanitarian intellectuals by reestablishment of humanities departments in country's universities. We do not need mere engineers and physicians but we need people who have a good understanding of the modernity and the future.

2. In the next few years we need to translate 100 best educational books of the world from various languages in all areas of humanities knowledge into the Kazakh language and provide our youth with the opportunity to study in line with the world's best practices. As early as in the 2018/2019 academic year we must start educating our students using these books.

3. For these purposes, based on already existing translation structures, it is necessary to establish a nongovernmental National Translation Bureau which on request of the Government would start this work already in summer 2017. What will we achieve with this program?  First of all it is a qualitatively different level of training hundreds of thousands of our students. Further, it is training of the personnel adapted to global competitiveness in the area of knowledge. Finally, it is those people who will become the main relays of the principles of consciousness modernization - openness, pragmatism and competitiveness. The future is created in classrooms. Our social and humanities knowledge for many years was put on hold in the framework of one doctrine and in the framework of one way of viewing the world. Issuing 100 best educational books of the world in Kazakh language will produce its effect as early as in 5-6 years. It is necessary to take everything that is up-to-date and have its translation into the state Kazakh language. And that is the target for the state. It is necessary that the Government will follow up on this issue and solve it with consideration of translation specialists, copyright, curricula, teaching staff, etc. Thirdly, patriotism begins with love to your land, your village, city, region, региону, love to your small motherland.  Therefore, I suggest the program "Tugan Zher" which will easily pass into a wider concept "Tugan Yel". "If a Person Is Not Loyal to His Motherland Will He Be Able to Love His People?" or "From Where the Motherland Begins?" These pieces of work imply a great sense. Why the small land? A human-being is not only a rational but emotional creature. The small land is the place where you were born and grew up or even lived your entire life. There are mountains, rivers, stories and myths about their emergence, names of people etched in people's memory. I can go on further. All this is important. A special attitude to the native land, its culture, customs and traditions is the most important feature of patriotism. It is the basis for the cultural and genetic code that makes any nation a nation but not just a gathering of individuals. Throughout the centuries our ancestors defended particular places and areas saving millions of square kilometers of grateful land for us. They saved the future. What is the practical meaning of love to small motherland and what does program "Tugan Zher" mean? First:  serious regional work is necessary in education, ecology and landscaping, studying regional history, restoration of local historical monuments and cultural sites. For instance, the best form of patriotism is studying history of the native region in secondary schools. Second:  it is assistance to entrepreneurs, civil servants, representatives of intelligentsia and youth who moved to other regions of the country and want to support their small motherland. It is a natural and patriotic desire, and we must maintain and not prohibit it. Third: the local authorities need a systematic and organized approach to program "Tugan Zher". We must not give free rein to this work because it requires reasonable and truthful understanding. To help to small motherland we must find various forms of support and social respect, including the mechanism of sponsor support. There are a lot of tools to work with. We can plant trees and shrubs in our cities; we can help in computerization of our schools; we can support regional universities, museums and galleries etc. Speaking shortly, the program "Tugan Zher" will become one of the real grounds for our nationwide patriotism. Love for a big motherland, to the native country (Kazakhstan), arises from the love for a small motherland. Fourth, along with "Tugan Zher" project which is aimed at local, regional facilities and settlements, we need to give consideration to the importance of fastening national shrines in people's conscious. We need a "Spiritual Shrines of Kazakhstan" project or, as scholars say, "Sacred Geography of Kazakhstan". Each nation, each civilization has its own sacred places which are of nationwide importance and are known to every representative of this nation. This is one of the grounds of spiritual traditions, and they are of special importance for Kazakhstan. We are a big country with a rich spiritual history. Sometimes the size of our land played different role in our history. However, the nation has never broken this tie in this spiritual-geographical belt. Nevertheless, throughout our history, we failed to create a common field, a common chain of these holy sites.  The point at issue is not even the restoration of monuments, buildings and installations. I mean that we need to correlate in national consciousness the complex of monuments around Ulytau and Khoja Akhmet Yassawi Mausoleum, ancient monuments of Taraz and Beket Ata burial site, ancient complexes of the east Kazakhstan and sacred places of Semirechye and many other places. All of them form a frame of our national identity. When speaking about foreign ideological influence, we should not forget that these ideologies defend certain values, certain cultural symbols of other nations. National symbolism only can resist to these ideologies. Cultural-geographical belt of national shrines of Kazakhstan can be some kind of symbolic protection and source of pride which invisibly carries us through the centuries.  This is one of the elements of the national identity frame, therefore, for the first time in our one thousand-year-old history we need to develop and implement this project. Within a year, the Government together with the public needs to develop this project and add three elements into it:

1. Each Kazakhstani citizen should know the role and place of this Cultural-Geographical Belt;

2. Our mass media should be seriously and systematically involved in national information projects;

3. Domestic and international cultural tourism should be based on symbolic heritage of the nation. By its cultural importance, Turkestan and Altai are the sites of global importance. Fifthly, competitiveness in the modern world and competitiveness of cultures. The U.S.' success in the ‘cold war' epoch was caused mainly by the success of Hollywood. If we want to be a nation with its unique place on the global map of the world in the 21st century, we should implement one more project - Modern Kazakhstani Culture in the Global World. The point at issue is to enable the world to learn about us not only by our oil and gas reserves or foreign economy initiatives, but also through our cultural achievements. What should this project focus on? First - we need a targeted approach to make domestic culture speak six languages of the UN: English, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and French. Second - this must be a modern culture created by our contemporaries. Third - this must be an absolutely modern method of presentation of the material. For example, books should be accompanied by additional multimedia tools. Fourth - we need a strong governmental support, in particular, systematic work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Ministry of Information and Communications. Fifth, a huge role of our creative intelligentsia including the Union of Writers, Academy of Sciences, universities and public organizations. What components of our modern culture should be promoted in the world? This is a very serious and labor-intensive work which includes both selection of the best works of national culture and their presentation abroad. This also includes translations and special methods of promotion of our cultural achievements - books, plays, sculptures, pictures, music works, scientific discoveries etc. I suppose that year 2017 must be decisive: we must determine what in our culture we want to demonstrate to the world. This unique program can be implemented in 5-7 years. For the first time in one thousand-year-old history, our culture will speak in all the continents and in main languages of the planet. Sixth, I propose to draw the public's attention to the history of our contemporaries, which can be demonstrated in 100 New Faces of Kazakhstan project. The History of Independence - is only a quarter of century. The scale of our achievements does not raise any doubts! However, very often we do not see bright, dramatic and happy human destinies behind numbers and facts. The project "100 New Faces of Kazakhstan" will disclose the stories of 100 certain people from different regions, belonging to different age groups and ethnicities, those who achieved significant success in these years. These must be certain stories of certain people. Their stories will be much more important than any statistical data. We must turn them into the heroes of our TV documentaries.  This project must be aimed at solution of three objectives:

1. To show the society a real face of those who creates modern Kazakhstan with their own hands and talent;

2. To create a new multimedia platform of information support and popularization of our outstanding contemporaries;

3. To create both nationwide and regional project "100 New Faces". We must know the people who enter the gold pool of the nation;

State and nation is a live construction, a developing organism. The new global reality came to everyone without knocking - namely for this reason all the countries are set modernization tasks to date. Time does not stop; it means that modernization and history itself - are continuing processes. Kazakhstan has a unique historical chance to build its best future through renovation and new ideas. I am confident that Kazakhstanis, especially young generation, realize the importance of our modernization. The internal aspiration to renovation must be a key principle of our development.

We need to change to survive.

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