Today's New York Times reports that "Kazakh Web Sites Blocked in Leader's Family Feud" and explains how soon to be President-for-Life Nursultan A. Nazarbayev is taking on his former son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, who has been described as a crime lord by Kazakhstan-watchers after he was implicated in the kidnappings of several bank executives in this "oiligarchical" nation-state. Now that Aliyev is trying to recast his reputation into that of a freedom fighter, he claims that government censors blocked access to Inkar Info, which had chat rooms in which the president's rivals posted transcripts of damning phone calls involving Kazakh officials. The country's main Internet provider, KazakhTelecom apparently didn't return calls from the Times' reporter. They may not be willing to publicly comment, but the groovy trance music on their home page certainly makes a public statement.
According to the article, the country has been receiving a lot of outside public relations help, so I decided to poke around their official Internet offerings, which I hadn't done since they had formally protested how their nation was portrayed in the movie Borat. President Nazarbayev's official site (see above) isn't as obviously megalomaniacal as some I've seen in Central Asia, although its aggressive opening banner-waving banner and additional loud trance music doesn't speak well to good web design principles, and this sound file under the heading "The President and Music" did make me shake my head in wonderment. In contrast, the main government site was somewhat more subdued. The pitch to Western businesses was probably most obvious at the Kazinform National Information Agency.
Of course, as longtime Virtualpolitik readers know, when it comes to government websites, it is hard to top the former utter craziness of Turkmenistan, which had bizarre cult-of-personality sayings and manifestos to honor onetime head of state Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov. (See here for highlights.) For webheads, it's sad to see how restrained Turkmenistan: The Golden Age has become since the death of their post-Soviet dictator, although at least this page still includes the following national oath.
MY BELOVED MOTHERLAND,
MY BELOVED HOMELAND!
YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME
IN MY THOUGHTS AND IN MY HEART.
FOR THE SLIGHTEST EVIL AGAINST YOU
LET MY HAND BE LOST.
FOR THE SLIGHTEST SLANDER ABOUT YOU
LET MY TONGUE BE LOST.
AT THE MOMENT OF MY BETRAYAL
TO MY MOTHERLAND,
TO HER SACRED BANNER,
TO PREZIDENT OF TURKMENISTAN
LET MY BREATH STOP.