May 5, 2015
Translated by Kristina Rus
Opponents and defenders of St. George ribbon clash in Kazakhstan
Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Masimov will receive more than a thousand signatures of citizens who do not agree with the replacement of St. George ribbon for stripes with colors of the republican flag.
The campaign against the St. George ribbon was launched in the Republic in April, when a representative of the “Liberty” movement Botagoz Zarykhankyzy called the golden-black ribbon “a symbol of colonization of Kazakhstan in the period of Tsarist Russia” on air of the Kazakh edition of radio “Svoboda” (“Liberty” or “Freedom”). The “civil activists” sent a letter to the akim (mayor) of the city Almaty, Akhmetzhan Yesimov, calling to replace the unwanted symbol with blue and white stripes, and distribute them to the citizens on the streets on the eve of May 9 anniversary celebration.
The letter was signed by only 20 people, but the “gesture” of Kazakh opposition has made a lot of noise — the Russian media immediately found the main “masterminds”. Earlier REGNUM explicitly named the promoters of the idea – the U.S. Department, recalling the direct financing by the Americans of radio “Svoboda”. In the campaign for a ban on the traditional symbols the “civil activists” did not hesitate to involve school age children.
The response of the defenders of St .George ribbon was a counter measure to collect signatures. A letter to the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov was signed by more than 1,000 people. Authors of the appeal recalled that “St. George ribbon is a symbol of remembrance of the price of Victory in the most terrible war of the last century”, and reminds the new generations, “whose beneficiaries we are, what and who we should be proud of and whom we should remember.”
Social activists emphasize that the more extensive use of this symbol in Kazakhstan is “a response to an increasingly powerful attempts to distort the history of the Great Patriotic War and to split the Kazakh society”. The patriots say that “the public is in a “St. George mood, but not everyone understands the real meaning of what is happening”. And draw parallels with the situation in neighboring Ukraine where it all began “with attempts to insult or distort the memory of the great Victory of the Soviet Union over the Nazi invaders”. In the end, the statement says, “such actions have led to the exile of the legally elected government, the murder by pro-fascist forces and the Nazi wing of peaceful citizens who attempted to express an alternative opinion, and plunging the country into the chaos of civil war and devastation”.
The authors of the letter asked Karim Massimov to “take measures to prevent the desecration of the memory of the Great Victory and a cultivation of division and antagonism in society.” Karim Masimov was reminded about the April incident with the beating of a 67-year-old granddaughter of the hero of Soviet Union, Ivan Panfilov — Aigul Baikadamova. In the media and in social networks there was a version about possible involvement in the beating of a woman of her opponents in the online discussion about the use of St. George ribbons. Baikadamova on her page on Facebook made a post calling the attempts to substitute the symbols of Victory and rewrite the pages of history of the Great Patriotic war – an “attack on the sacred” and the desire “for PR and cheap fame”.
Collected in defense of St. George ribbon signatures will be taken to Astana and passed to the Prime Minister.
Note, the anti-St. George initiative in Kazakhstan is not unique. Reports about the rejection of traditional symbols in post-Soviet republics poured from the horn of plenty long before the anniversary of May 9. In Belarus some used a red-green ribbon as a symbol of Victory Day last May 9, decorated with apple blossom. There was no official ban on the St. George ribbon by Belarussian authorities, but here the Belarussian opposition is also active in setting the tone. The activists are calling on the authorities to ban the symbol of “Russian aggression” in Southeast Ukraine, and proposed that Belarussians use other national symbols on Victory day.
Kyrgyzstan has also decided to abandon the ribbons. According to a statement by the vice-mayor of Bishkek, Aigul Ryskulova, “this year we want to use the colors of the Kyrgyz flag — red and yellow. We called it “the ribbon of Victory”. According to one authoritative Kyrgyz news agency, the order to abandon St. George ribbons came to the mayor’s office of Bishkek from office of the President of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev. The presidential press service denied this information, but it should be noted that the decision on red-yellow ribbons came not from the street, but was adopted by the authorities of Bishkek. A number of experts classify this as a “sabotage of the officially declared line of rapprochement with Russia,” paying attention to the presence of about 16 thousand Western NGOs, operating on the territory of the republic, 200 of which are “working at full capacity of their ability.” And at the same time, noting the lack of adequate control of activities of these organizations from the leadership of the country, and a general pro-Western attitude of a large part of the Kyrgyz elite.
Additionally, tensions around the symbolism of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory Day in a Great Patriotic War on the eve of May 9 also began in Russia — the public protested online against the gradual displacement of traditional Soviet symbols by a “faded remake”. Especially controversial is the new logo with a white dove on a blue background and a small strip of St. George ribbon in the upper right corner, which apparently was developed by the office of the press service and information of the President of the Russian Federation. Many drew attention to the complete lack of similarity with the heroic Victory of the Soviet people over fascism, calling the logo “absolutely toothless and empty”, “ideological sabotage,” an attempt “to steal the country’s history, replacing the symbols of Victory.” Online users opened the electronic collection of signatures for a petition addressed to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, urging him to keep the Red banner and a red star as immutable symbols of Victory in the Great Patriotic war.
KR: It looks like the St. George ribbon is gaining a new meaning – as a symbol against US imperialism