*Novy Vzglyad" (New Outlook)
RED AND GOLDEN
A red flag is hoisting over the gold dome of the Mosque of the city of Najaf, Iraq. It is a flag of the Shias - the followers in Islam who consider Ali (cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed) as their Founder. The Shias (the name comes from Arabic Shiatu Ali - Party of Ali) think that All was the one who opened the innermost meaning of Koran and became the first Imam (spiritual leader) of the Muslims. The knowledge is conveyed only through the direct descendants of Ali and his wife Fatima (Prophet's daughter) Approximately one tenth of almost one billion Muslims living worldwide are Shias. The city of Najaf (in Arabic: hill) is as holy as Mecca for them, as this city was created around the hill where Ali was buried.
Every Shia thinks that it is a great honour to be buried in Najaf. The remains of all wealthy followers of this branch are still shipped there. One of the last descendants of Prophet Mohammed - Ali Shah Aga Khan U. the 47th Imam was buried there. However, his right to be Imam is recognised only by 15 million Shia Muslims who call themselves Ismailis. All that has to do with the genealogical tree of the descendants of the Prophet. The Shias had lots of disagreements in this matter and got divided into sects and the sects got divided into smaller units due to new differences. The entirely legitimate Imams were the ones who received the spiritual power in accordance with the custom of giving it to the eldest son of Imam or the next generation but necessarily in the same family. In spite of different interpretations in Islam they all peacefully get on with the followers worship the same sacred objects. The red flag of the Shia and the green flag of Islam do not deny one another.
Every Friday the successor of Aga Khan II used ю sit facing the direction of Mecca for one hour and contemplated about the heritage of the Prophet. Being his direct descendant he considered himself responsible for the destiny of Islam which entered the world at the time of wars, revolutions and destruction of great empires. Aga Khan III the head of the Ismailis had run the community for such a long period that his term did not only cover different centuries of the European calendar but different historical epochs. The life in 1885 when Aga Khan II was buried in Najaf was not very different from the life in 632 when the Prophet died. But by 1957 when Aga Khan III passed away the world was going through tremendous changes. Realising the complexity of the tasks before his followers the Old Imam appointed his 20 уеar-old grandson, a student of the Harvard University ю be his successor.
MARTYRS. MASTERS, EXILES
The history of lsmailism is rich in personalities and developments that could make heroes and themes of a number of breathtaking novels. A chain of blood-related rulers, leaders and mutineers went through the history of the Near and Middle East stalling from (he son of All. Husain who was killed during the battle with the forces of the throne usurper, up to the time of Aga Khan I who governed the Iranian province of Kirman at the beginning of the 19th century and then rose against his suzerain and left for India with a group of his followers. Some personalities of that chain were remembered by their descendants as great creators, others as warriors and the third ones had only their names remembered. As far as the latter ones concerned they were the so-called hidden Imams who lived at the time of persecution.
The Ismaili Imams managed to unite the spiritual and secular power several times. In the 10th and I 11th centuries the Ismaili dynasty of Faiimites ruled in Egypt. That period was the rise of the Islamic civilisation. The Ismaili caliphs founded Cairo and turned it to the best city of the East - the centre of culture and education. At the end of the 11th century (he Ismailis created a state in the mountainous areas of Iran and Syria. And that particular state became famous and known to the Europeans, as the liming of its creation coincided with (lie formation of a number of kingdoms and counties of the crusaders. Sharing the border with the land of the Ismailis the Europeans got acquainted with their hierarchy and methods of governing.
Being surrounded by the hostile Sunnis the Shias often used the principle of concealment (taqiyyah) which guaranteed their safely. Taqiyyah made provision for a possibility of worshipping of the ruling version of Islam for the sake of preservation of the secret knowledge and its propaganda in the conditions of spiritual and physical terror by the authorities. In their aspiration to secure themselves from the infiltrating agents of the enemy the Ismailis worked out a unique system of the consecration phases to the secrets of their teachings which allowed them to get that Knowledge after spending several decades in the community. The method of this propaganda in the hostile environment was so refined that the Ismaili Da’i (missionary) could attract the most intellectual persons of independent thinking of the enemy in a convenient way.
The Fatimites ruled Egypt and a number of neighbouring areas of the Near East and North Africa. The House of Wisdom which existed in Cairo at that lime represented an educational centre where Da'is were trained. Their task was to convey the message of the Ismailis to the world. According ю the cosmogonic conception in the system of which digit 12 was one of the universal ones the Earth was divided into 12 "islands" inhabited by different nations. One of the islands was inhabited by the Slavic people. It is interesting to know that one of most famous caliphs of this dynasty - Hakim (996-1020) was born from a Russian mother. He became notorious for his wild and extravagant behaviour to be matched with Nero. But he paid lots of attention to the propaganda of the Ismaili doctrines outside his country. After he mysteriously disappeared (he disappeared in one of the suburbs of Cairo when he was riding his donkey one evening) one of the Ismaili communities in Syria surfed worshipping him as a hidden Imam who will return to Earth at the end of life. The above-mentioned community still exists under the name of the Druzes (from the word Darazi. 2 missionary sent personally by Hakim to that region which at present is divided by the borders of Lebanon, Israel and Syria).
The grandson of Hakim - Caliph al.Mustansir (1035-1095)-deprived_his eldest son from the throne and that led to a new schism; a group of Ismailis who were faithful to Nizar and his descendants called themselves the Nizaris. And so today they are headed by the Aga Khan.
The followers of Nizar left for Iran relying on the wide branching net of the Da'is and opened an energetic campaign. And so in 1090-1092 during a powerful people's riot they managed to occupy a number of fortresses in the mountainous areas of the country which created the strong points of a new state that had no analogues in the history. The stale of the Ismailis did not have one and indivisible territory and represented a number of divided enclaves in different pans of Iran and Syria. During the first decades this territory of castles was ruled by governor-generals of the Imams who were "underground" Only the forth descendant of Nizar declared himself as a legitimate ruler - Imam. It happened in 1162. Those Ismailis who ruled the state on behalf of the hidden Imams became notorious for their refined methods of fighting with the neighbouring countries. With the help of incredibly dedicated death-sentenced prisoners - the Fidais - they kept the Muslim as well as the Christian governors in fear. The Fidais used hashish before conducting terrorist acts and for this reason were called Hashishiyun. This word entered European languages in a distorted form as assassin. Up to now this word is used to describe a terrorist in the English and French languages.
The knight orders which appeared during the crusades and developed in Palestine borrowed lots of things from the Ismailis - from the organisational structure to the mystic doctrines and methods of preservation of the secrets. The elements of these esoteric teachings can be seen in the teachings of the Templars. Hospitaliers and the Knights of Malta. The European kings and dukes w ho fought in Palestine were greatly impressed by the mysterious assassins. The images of desperate terrorists became the objects of admiration of the European troubadours and minnersingers who sang of their dedication and bravery.
Extravagant personalities such as Hakim were an exception among the Imams-ancestors of the Aga Khan. The majority of them were fine politicians, courageous warriors, philosophers and mystics. Although they all had different characters, inclinations, temperaments the realisation of their religious mission was the main thing for all of them. That particular factor ensured the dynasty's unprecedented ability to survive which managed to be in power several limes but most of 13 centuries of its existence it remained to be the spiritual power to keep the Ismailis living all over the Muslim world united.
The last bulwarks of the state of Ismailis fell at the second half of the 13th century: the fortress of Alamut in the mountains of Iran was conquered by the Mongols and the Syrian castles were destroyed by Sultan Baibars of Mameluke. Since then the long line (row) of the Imams - heirs of glory of the Fatimites and the governors of Alamut had become the dynasty without a state. Its representatives were either highly respected and lived peacefully or were in exile and had to move from one country to another as it happened to Aga Khan I who initially was in charge of the Iranian province of Kirman and after rising against the Shah government he had to emigrate to British India (1838).
THE PEAK OF THE EPOCH
The title of Aga Khan (In Persia it meant Great Leader) became famous to the world due to the grandson of a Persian aristocrat who ran away from the Shah's revenge. Sultan Mohammed Aga Khan III who headed the Ismailis Community from 1885 to 1957 was the first representative of the Eastern elite and became a member of the club of the Western elite. His enormous political experience, personal charm, wide connections in different countries allowed him to play an important role at the turning points of the history of the modern world.
Being one of the leaders of the Muslim League of India Aga Khan III encouraged the solution of the critical inter-confessional conflicts in the British colonies. Early 1930-s he headed the delegation of this League at the round-table Conference in London which created the foundation for working out the Constitution of India. The perspective outcome of this conference was the declaration of independence of the colony and its division into two states • India and Pakistan. In 1937-1938 Aga Khan III was elected the President of the League of Nations and in this capacity he actively attempted to prevent the world war. During his meetings with Hitler in Berchtesgaden and with Goebbels in Berlin he had an opportunity to find out what the intentions of the Germans were but like other senior politicians he failed to guess in advance the developments in Europe after his attempts to pacify Germany.
During World War II the Aga Khan firmly supported the Anti-German coalition and his son Ali served in the British Army.
The post-war period greatly changed the life of the Ismaili community when the whole world was preoccupied with grand changes. When the British colonial empire broke up the subjects of the-Imam became citizens of a number of states. The main task of Aga Khan III was to develop the areas of education, healthcare and economic independence of the Ismailis. That is the way they could take their deserved place in the rapidly changing world.
The Persian Shah recognised the right of the dynasty of the Ismaili Imams for the title of Royal Highness (Aga Khan I was the son-in-law of the Monarch) and in the 20th century the title of His Royal Highness was given to Aga Khan III by the British Queen. The descendant of the Prophet was accepted as a member of the club of the world elite and after his eldest son Ah married the daughter of Lord Churston whose origin comes from the English King Edward Ш (1327-1377) one of the most ancient aristocratic families of the East became related with the aristocracy of the West. Prince Karim who was born from this marriage became the heir of the Imamat in accordance with the will Aga Khan III who died in July 1957.
The will of his grandfather was a shock for a 20 year-old student of the Harvard University, h was not easy to take heavy responsibilities for the multi-million community of the Ismailis spread over 25 countries of different continents by a person who had a problem-free life of an American student and was an offspring of the wealthiest family?!
Aga Khan III explained his decision: "In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years ... I am convinced that it is in the interest of the Shia Muslim Ismaili community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during the recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook to his office as Imam". Prince Karim. a superbly educated person, brought up in the bosom of the Western culture had to continue the work of this grandfather who put forward the tasks before him ю introduce the Ismailis to the values of the new lime and make provision for them to enter the modern community. That was an extremely complicated task, particularly if one takes into account the fact that most of the countries where the Ismailis lived - South Asia and Tropical Africa - belonged ю the group of backward colonies of the British empire. All-round education, including education of the women, introduction of the modem methods of economic activities and development of the capitalist initiatives of the nationals - that is how the old Imam saw the introduction of the community ю the modern civilisation.
Aga Khan IV has fully justified the hopes of his predecessor It is difficult to imagine a person who is mostly involved in the activities of his community. Those who have met Prince Karim say that he is constantly busy with reading lots of papers, having talks, inspecting different projects created by a number of commercial and charitable organisations functioning under the general leadership of the Imam.
THE SPIRITUAL EMPIRE
As a rule. one would use the u-ord "empire" to describe a state uniting several imions. When we talk about the Ismailis who live all over the world, they belong to different races and nationalities and speak many languages but we still call them the nationals of the Aga Khan. The empire with no common territory, governing structures (typical of a slate) is cemented, first of all, by the spiritual authority of the leader.
Since according to the view of the Ismailis the innermost meaning of Mohammed's Koran was opened only by Ali therefore, his descendants-Imams have been conveying the concealed knowledge. Hence, the religious meaning of the personality of the Imam is more important for the community than the Pope of Rome for his congregation. The faith in the spiritual light coming from the Imam ensured the stability and survival of the Ismaili community despite those multi-century persecutions. And the time swallowed dozens of other sects and even very powerful confessions such as the followers of Zoroaster (fire-worshippers of Iran) or the Sabaeans of Mesopotamia which turned to minor erotic communities scattered all over the world.
In the Middle Ages the Ismailis created an unparalleled system of propaganda of their doctrines. They bad worked for decades among people provoking religious debates and involving the representatives of the Sunni clergy into disputations. The Ismaili Da'is produced a number of prominent thinkers and writers such us Nasir Khusraw and al-Kirmani. They also mention Ibn Sina (Avicenna) as one of the famous Ismaili scientists.
But in accordance with the instruction to follow the path of modernisation and introduction of the community ю the spirit of the dynamic 20th century the attitude of the Ismailis towards the methods of conveying their spiritual heritage has changed. In the distant past due to their fear of repression the Knowledge was conveyed according to the phase of consecration of an Ismaili to the secret doctrines. Today all ancient and modern books of their theologians and philosophers are freely published and studied.
In the late 1977 the Institute of Ismaili Studies was opened in London. One of its tasks was to collect and publish ail Ismaili manuscripts. Hundreds of books of theologians, philosophers, alchemists of the past have already been published. At the beginning of this century a restricted number of devotees had an access to the classic books like "Peace of Mind" by al-Kirmani. Today the Institute provides an opportunity for representatives of all religions to get acquainted with its collection and library.
The London Institute is working on the realisation of the programmes which create conditions to study Ismailism in the wide cultural, linguistic, ethnographic context. Islam is reviewed not only as a religion but as a special form of civilisation. And the development of the religious ideas is recognised as one of the border lines of the development of the Muslim world. Besides, one of the fundamental principles of learning the historical and spiritual realities is to reject the superficial opposition of the East to the West.
As for the methods of conveying of the religious heritage, they are also studied by the Institute. Today the Ismaili message is conveyed not through the Da'is but through the modem information technologies prepared by qualified specialists and teachers. As it is mentioned in one of the information materials prepared by the propaganda institution of the Aga Khan Development Network the task of the education department of the Institute is "to turn the religious education into a creative and fascinating process for the young generation proportionally promoting other areas by using modem principles and methods of teaching". It is unlikely that one could see such a modem way of studying and teaching of the religion anywhere else in the Islamic world.
For the years after the break-up of the British colonial empire and the formation of a number of states the Ismaili community has become more united and influential in spite of the borders that divided it. The Ismailis were persecuted in a number of states, which were headed by extreme nationalists. It happened in 1962 in Burma and in 1972 in Uganda. The subjects of the Aga Khan left their homes for Europe and America. And today the}' have successfully integrated in the Western society without losing their culture or as we say their identity. The focus of the Aga Khan III and his successor on educational programmes and development of the economic independence of the Ismailis has proved to be the right one. The new time did not take them unawares. The spiritual empire of the Aga Khan is entering the 21st century as a full-blooded (sanquineous) and dynamically developing community with clear prospects in mind. But the process of modernisation has become very painful for many nations and religious communities of the East and some communities have even remained at the periphery of development.
HEAVENLY AND EARTHLY
The uniqueness of the Aga Khan among the modem leaders of the world is not only in his high moral authority for his subjects. The Development Network created by him unites different institutions in the field of economy, social and cultural spheres and represents a special structure which docs not only cover the interests of the Ismaili community. For instance, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture focuses on two basic directions - development of the Islamic architecture and restoration of the historical cities and certain architectural objects. The Aga Khan Award which is granted once in three years in the field of architecture serves the creative development of the town-planning ideas according to the traditions of Islam.
Just think of those cities and countries which are under the care of the Trust for Culture. The Aga Khan is not only concerned about the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Ismailis. The notorious Registan in Samarkand and the Old Town in Zanzibar, the fort of Baltit in Pakistan and Zafra House in Spanish Granada, architectural memorials of Tunisia, Egypt. Turkey, India. Yemen - they all belong 10 the mankind.
With the passage of lime the Imams have become less preoccupied with the issues of the spiritual leadership and the cultural heritage due to the earthly matters of the community. The focus of the Aga Khan on the development of economic structures, healthcare, education has led to the creation of a chain of inter-linked programmes. The financial institutions, industrial and agricultural objects. educational institutions and hospitals functioning within the framework of the Development Network define the every day life of the Ismailis. By collaborating with dozens of international and national organisations, governments and private charities in the realisation of its programmes the Aga Khan Development Network has become an influential force of the modem world and a bridge between the developed and developing countries where the Ismailis play a significant role.
The educational, medical, consultative institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network help the population of many developing countries regardless of their nationality and religion. Significant investments have been made in the tourism and publishing industries in Kenya and Tanzania. Several projects have been implemented in the field of agriculture in Pakistan and India which enabled them to considerably increase the productivity of traditional crops.
AGA KHAN AND RUSSIA
After the only visit of Aga Khan III to St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1912 our country had become a white patch for the Ismaili Imams, although the territory of the USSR was compactly populated by the community of the followers of this direction of Islam. The Pamiri peoples speaking different Indo-European languages are united by their common religion. The Aga Khan is a supreme religious and secular authority for 200 thousand Pamiris. Even that multi-decade spiritual isolation from the rest of the world has failed ю weaken their convictions, although the Imam himself has turned to a semi-mythical figure for them.
Only in 1995 Aga Khan IV got acquainted with Russia and then with his religious followers in the Pamirs. His meetings with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, parliamentary and religious dignitaries, scientific and public officials in Moscow provided an opportunity ю establish understanding in many areas, including the matter of restoration of peace in Tajikistan. They also discussed the issue of preservation of neighbourly relations with the countries of the Islamic world taking into account the complicated situation in Chechnya.
The office of the Aga Khan Foundation has been opened in Moscow in order to keep in touch with Russia. Its interests include collaborative programmes in humanitarian and scientific fields. The aid goes to the population of the Pamirs via Russia, which has been implemented since 1993 by a number of national and international organisations. There are also possibilities for interaction in the field of culture and education, in the realisation of economic projects, although now one can talk only about the first steps in the mentioned directions.
The recent visit of the Imam of the Ismailis to Moscow is evidence of his keen attention to Russia. During that visit be had a number of talks at the government level and with the public and religious organisations. The process of mutual understanding has just started and their is still a great deal to do before the world-famous religious figure and philanthropist becomes a usual figure of the political landscape in Russia.
KAZAKHSTAN BRAVING WINDS OF CHANGE
Oman Daily Observer, Saturday 6 January 2001
The land here is as flat as a table. In the old times the owner of a yurta, a nomad habitation, could see a horseman approaching from a dozen miles, and had enough time to knife a sheep and make a beshbarmak by the time the guest arrived. Any bush or small hill became a landmark serving to verify the way along the endless steppe.
Until the mid-1950s it was a virgin land. The richest black soil covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometres had never been ploughed. Only herds of wild animals and flocks of shepherd tribes wandered across the lowlands searching for food and water. Nikita Khruschev, obsessed by a passion for revolutionary transformations, began a campaign to master the untouched lands – Tselina. Huge masses of people and agricultural machinery were transported here to assure a powerful breakthrough in grain production. Over a million German deportees, sent to the Kazakh steppes under Stalin, became members of the Tselina epic.
The dusty plain town of Akmolinsk became the administrative centre of the Tselina. Thousands of barracks and standard five storey houses, nicknamed khruschoba lined up in the bare steppe. This rather unattractive assemblage of buildings was named Tselinograd (they say that Khrusciov did not like the translation of the Turkic name Akmolinsk – White Tomb). But this formal name did not last long – three decades later the town was renamed to Astana, which stands simply for a “capital”.
At the entrance to Astana a barrow is raised, at the top of which there is a stele – a monument to the victims of political repression. Thus, the new capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan seems to personify a challenge to its Soviet past. Not only do the constructions have symbolic sense, everything seems to be a metaphor of harrowing liberation from the grip of the past. New traits are growing through the old profile. Where now dozens of both local and foreign construction firms are involved in making transformations, the Soviet empire standard still dominates with endless shabby blocks, miserable dusty poplars along badly paved asphalt streets. But the advantage of the buildings that are brilliant with glass and steel are made still more evident. Over two years more luxury hotels, offices, banks, trade complexes and leisure centres have been built here than ever before.
The main engine behind the transformations is the president of the republic Nursultan Nazarbaev. Not every politician would dare to realize such an ambitious project as to build a new capital in a severe steppe, where winter temperatures reach minus 40, and dust storms rage in the summer. This task seems even more difficult in a country that is experiencing a deep economy slump. Therefore, Nazarbaev had to overcome desperate resistance to transferring the capital from the beautiful and comfortable city of Almaty, which is situated in the green foothills far in the south.
Kazakhstan seems an island of stability amid its neighbouring countries that have lived through wars and attacks by terrorist groups. It has also avoided large scale ethnic conflicts, notwithstanding the multinational composition of the population. Nazarbaev artfully avoids nationalist trials, he is a leader who looks to the future. It is difficult to identify another president so purposefully moving towards the building of a modern state.
The favourite political-ideological terms of President Nazarbaev are globalisation and Eurasianism. If the former is well comprehensive in the west thanks to its frequent use by the high-ranking officers of the American administration, the latter is only truly familiar to intellectuals. Its meaning is that the traditions and the political order of Kazakhstan reflect its dual nature of a crossroads between the cultures of Europe and of Asia. This is the context that frequent declarations by president Nazarbaev about a particular way for Kazakhstan and about the need for gradual and cautious democratic transformations should be seen in.
At the entrance of the presidential study there are two portraits. One depicts khan Abylay, who lived at the beginning of the 18th century. He headed the struggle of Kazakh tribes against the aggressive state of Jungaria. The other portrait is of khan Abdulhair who in 1731 adopted Russian citizenship, which assured the survival of the Kazakhs in the face of the Jungar threat. It seems logical to interpret the presence of these images in the head of state’s residence as an expression of his devotion to an independent development in close cooperation with Russia.
Last summer Nursultan Nazarbaev was 60. He is a robust man, of above average height, who looks younger than his years. He has an energetic handshake, an attentive friendly aspect, expressive and metaphoric speech. The school of life that this politician has experienced has made him competent in many spheres. A good memory permits him to answer any question confidently. He speaks about the potential of the country’s development for the coming thirty years, about the details of important economic projects, recalling meetings with leaders of other states.
The first president of Kazakhstan spent his childhood in a picturesque mountain locality in the south. His father was an agrarian and a passionate hunter. Together with his father, young Nursultan stealthily approached dangerous mountain cliffs toward careful and strong argali – the progenitors of home sheep. This hunting requires durability and courage. The powerful beast (it is many times bigger than its tamed relative) exceeds man in everything – in sharpness of sight, in scent, in speed. Only few hunters succeed in catching an argali. In this they are similar to only one member of the animal kingdom – a bars (panther), representative of the cat family, brother of the tiger and the leopard that lives high in the mountains. Only a bars capable of fighting an argali.
From his youth the image of a beautiful, strong and freedom-loving animal became for Nursultan Nazarbaev the incarnation of high moral ideals. Becoming a head of state he expressed his understanding of a dynamically developing independent state in the short formula ‘a Central Asian BARS is an analogue of the ‘Far Eastern tiger.’
Long ago Nazarbaev began his working life as an employee at a metallurgic factory. He graduated as an engineer, then worked as a party official at different levels, and finally at forty something became prime-minister of Kazakhstan when the republic was still a part of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev planned to make him vice-president of the superstate and considered him one of the most talented people in the then Soviet elite. History chose another scenario, but Nursultan Nazarbaev turned out to be one of the most outstanding leaders even in the new era. He has an original way of thinking and sees the future through the prism of proper images, like the one of a proud Bars that lives on the snowy mountains.
The resources of the huge state (Kazahkstan is almost 3 million square km in size) now assure the speedy rate of building up Astana. Tomorrow, as Nazarbaev foresees, they will guarantee an economic boom for the republic. Kazakhstan is one of the richest countries; there is plenty of petroleum, gas, copper, lead, gold and many other valuable minerals. But Nazarbaev considers a favourable geopolitical position, making Kazakhstan a bridge between the West and the East, a still a greater wealth. It was here that the legendary Silk Road, which in antiquity tied China with Europe, passed through.
This year for the first time considerable production and GDP growth has been posted, resulting from the reasonable investment policy conducted by the leadership of the country. Foreign companies have found a favourable investment climate and many spheres of application for their capital. One example of the involvement of big corporations in the Kazakh economy is the Caspian Pipeline Consortium project. Major petroleum companies from all over the world joined in the building of a pipeline from deposits in the Kazakh deserts to the Russian Black Sea port. The investments required are estimated to run into billions of dollars, but the incomes will also make up an astronomical sum. Construction of the pipeline is slated to begin next summer.
Nowadays petroleum brings in about a third of state budget revenue. However, volatility on the world energy market can prevent Nazarbaev from realising his plan to transform Kazakhstan into a Central Asian panther. Thus, Kazakhstan set itself a three-year development plan with the goal of posting just seven per cent industrial output growth. This year the fulfilment of a five year plan, with larger-scale aims, will begin. On the question of how he sees Kazakhstan in 2030, Nazarbaev answers that it will be a developed country with a numerous and influential middle class as a base for stability, where there will be no poverty and shocking social contrasts. As a supporter of market economy, Nazarbaev favours an active role for the state in market regulation with the help of legislative tax measures and tariff policy for the state power and gas networks and the railroads.
Besides economic difficulties, Nazarbaev is faced with social obstacles to dynamic development. Corruption is a familiar phenomenon in the power structures of Kazakhstan. Nazarbaev is not a magician, he is not capable of transforming the mentality of the army of functionaries, who grew up in a time when bosses were almighty and citizens were deprived of rights. He is perfectly aware of the danger of uncontrolled authorities for reforms and for the future state. He is also worried about the struggle against criminality that plagues the former Soviet states.
Nazarbaev considers stability in the Central Asian region a condition for successful development. Therefore, he pays a great attention to foreign policy, trying to interest the most influential states in the affairs of the region and to involve them in economic and political interrelations. Much of his foreign policy is aimed at making the most of the good geopolitical position of the country. For example, a treaty on the borders between Kazakhstan and China that for some decades had been an object of dispute between the Soviet Union and China has been signed.
The policy of openness and peace brings its fruit, with stability inside the country and in foreign policy gaining the trust of external investors and international financial institutes.
Rather considerable aid is given by friendly states, especially Islamic ones.
If the entire republic develops at the same rate as the new capital, the dream of the president Nazarbaev of the “Central Asian Bars” will soon become a reality.
THE POTENTIAL OF A MONARCHY
“Modus vivendi” #1, 2002
“Asiaweek”, an influential magazine published in Hong-Kong, has for many years published ratings for the mightiest people of Asia. One can find the names of politicians, industrialists, media tycoons and financiers. The name of Hassanal Bolkiah, sultan of Brunei, has been placed among the top ten with an enviable constancy. Brunei is twice the size of Luxembourg (5765 sq. kilometres) and is situated in the northern part of the Kalimantan island (Borneo), which has just over 300,000 inhabitants. Still, its ruler seems to be considered as important as the leaders of the most populated and vast states of the modern world. Until recently he was reputed the richest person on Earth. Was it this consideration that defined his high position in the ratings?
The sultan of Brunei is a favourite of the Western press. He corresponds to the general idea of an Oriental king: a generous and charming man of fortune – something between Harun ar-Rashid and an Indian nabob. Just like a character from an Arab fairy tale. In Russian folklore a good and beneficent sovereign is also a common figure.
Nonetheless, one cannot use the same techniques that served folkloric personages to draw a portrait of the sultan of Brunei. Undoubtedly, this personality is more interesting than an image created by the diligence of the yellow press. As an heir to the most ancient of the ruling dynasties of the world he is respected by patriarchs of world policy, who can hardly be suspected to be complaisantly amazed by the riches of a sultan. A man that has skilfully governed his state for more than thirty years would be seen as an outstanding person anywhere.
Brunei occupies two enclaves in the northern coast of the Kalimantan island. A country that is situated in a geopolitical centre that has been disturbed almost without intermission by wars, revolutions, economic tremors of a global scale, but maintains a remarkable stability and demonstrates a steady growth in the quality of life. It is situated at the very borderline of drawn out conflicts of interests between super powers. The wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, the Spratly islands conflict, distempers in Indonesia and the Philippines, an unprecedented strong economic crisis in 1997-1999 – the people of Brunei and their leader have had reason enough to be anxious.
The full title and name of the ruler of Brunei would take up some lines. One can read in it both the history of the country and the respectful age of the dynasty to which the 29th sultan Muda Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Vaddaulah belongs. He was born on the 15th of July of 1946, just a year after the country was liberated from Japanese occupation. Hassanal’s father was heir to the throne of Brunei at the time and ascended the throne under the name of Omar Ali Saifutdin III in 1950. The era of his ruling was dynamic in every sense. The country went straight to independence, succeeded in achieving equal rights in distributing oil incomes, obtained a constitution and a parliament and the basic institutions of a modern state such as an army, a finance system and mass media. Following his father’s example the future sultan Hassanal learnt the art of governing the state from his childhood. He received an excellent education: first he studied with private teachers, then he finished the elite college of Victoria (Kuala-Lumpur), and in 1966 he entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Great Britain. After two years in the school of the world military elite, Hassanal received his officer’s diploma and captain’s stripes.
No sooner had the prince returned to his Motherland, was he faced with the daunting task of taking over the throne. In October of 1967 Omar Ali Saifutdin III declared his will to pass the throne to his son. The sultan was still rather young and in good health, so his abdication aroused many questions. One explanation was that he was pressured by Great Britain, which was afraid to lose power over its rich protectorate. Nevertheless, Hassanal continued his father’s policy and constantly strengthened the sovereignty of the state of Brunei in all fields, which eventually led to the declaration of independence on the 1st of January of 1984.
It was not only the resistance of the British authorities that complicated the process of getting independence. In 1962, when the crown-prince Hassanal was 16, Brunei was shaken by a mutiny, organised by the left-nationalist People’s Party. The rebels’ main objective was to immediately end British dominance and proclaim complete independence. The Indonesian authorities of the time supported the People’s Party both morally and financially, with a view to establishing full control over Kalimantan in time. If the extremist forces had come to power then, events in North Kalimantan would have taken quite a different turn, which materialised in some neighbouring countries. But the deep traditions of nationhood and the sultan’s cautious policies have become major factors of stability in the society of Brunei.
Not only is the phenomenal stability of such a small country amazing, it also has the ability be consistent in maintaining its political course and vindicating its original way of development. Surrounded from all sides by “Asian Tigers”, Brunei is strikingly different, both as a model of state organisation, and in its cultural and moral atmosphere. The sultan has declared many times that the monarchies of the Persian gulf are his pattern, the ones that come closest of all to the ideal of an Islamic state. But that does not mean that Brunei is copying the political systems of the marvellous six oil kingdoms and emirates – in Brunei they are interested in preserving the ancient traditions of Malay nationhood and national consciousness. What the sultanate and the Arab countries of the Gulf have in common is the role of the Islam in society.
Bandar Seri Begawan is the most eastern of the Muslim capitals. Its features symbolize the idea of a victorious Islam. Above opulent tropical green the cupolas of the mosque named after Omar Ali Saifutdin blister with gold. It is one of the biggest edifices of its kind in the world. In contrast to the neighbouring countries of Malay Muslim culture that use the Latin alphabet, Brunei uses Arab letters. The sale of spirits is prohibited, they have stricter rules on Islamic morals than their neighbours and Sharia law operates. Still, the population has all the benefits of modern civilisation, with superb infrastructure, medical services and educational system. Everything is free of charge. Moreover, the sultan’s subjects don’t pay any income tax. Nowadays, the national gross product totals almost 15 thousand USD per capita. This level is seen in the most flourishing European countries.
The state ideology of Brunei is Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB). Its historical analogy is the Russian three-in-one formula “orthodoxy, autocracy, people’s spirit”, which reflected the aspiration of Russian tsars to build state life on the basis of religion, authority of hereditary power and nationalism. Here is an official concise formula that sums up this ideology: “It has become the nation's formal guiding light and as a way of life for Brunei Darussalam. It is a blend of Malay language, culture and Malay customs, the teaching of Islamic laws and values and the monarchy system which must be esteemed and practised by all. Islam is tolerant of all religions so the MIB philosophy cannot be viewed as a force that stifles the practice of other religions. Rather it is a vehicle by which other religions can carry on their religious practices and rites as usual with the respect and peace they deserve”.
Monarchy as ideology has deep roots in the country. The Bolkiah dynasty has ruled here for over 600 years. During this time Brunei has known periods of power, years of decay and the revivals that followed. When the flotillas of European countries appeared in the seas of south-eastern Asia, the sultans of Brunei controlled all of Kalimantan (the 750,000 square km island is one of the biggest in the world) and a part of the Philippines archipelago. One can say that by the 16th century Brunei had become a regional hegemon. The colonial expansion of the Portuguese, Spanish, British, Dutch and French led to the enslavement of almost all the countries of South East Asia. Brunei kept its independence longer than any other country and from time to time did considerable damage to the European armies. But over several centuries of opposition the sultanate lost most of its territory, and by 1888 when the British protectorate over Brunei was established, less than 10,000 square kilometres were left of the once extensive state. But even then its neighbours (until 1905) continued with territorial take-overs. But, as if to compensate for the losses, the sultanate turned out to own the richest oil deposits.
Prior to the recent financial crisis that affected Southeast Asia, the future of Brunei looked calm. Because of its shortage in manpower resources, the government of the sultanate had invested huge sums in the economies of neighbouring countries, especially Malaysia and Indonesia. The economic typhoon hit right at them. Thailand, Korea, Japan, Brunei’s most important economic partners, also suffered. At the same time the price of oil plummeted. The subjects of the sultan may not have felt an immediate effect from the crisis, but the country’s foreign assets notably reduced. The results could have been catastrophic, but for the provident policy of Hassanal Bolkiah, who had started long before to place considerable means in different foreign banks, and to invest in real estate, industry and high technology.
The sultanate has long ago waved good-bye to the era, when power and a country’s importance depended on its population and size. Buying companies in different countries, Brunei considerably augments its budget and manages to solve problems that would be difficult to quickly resolve with only its home resources. Thus, by buying some big ranches in Australia, the government has immediately assured massive supplies of meat on the market of Brunei and has got rid of the necessity to spend money importing food that is not produced to sufficient quantity in the sultanate. Investments in hotels, holiday resorts and the entertainment industry in different regions of the world enables the country to avoid direct dependence on the state of the economy in the proper region. Globalisation promises countries such as Brunei even greater possibilities. But the monarch sees both the pluses and minuses of this process. At the beginning of September, an English-language newspaper “Borneo Bulletin” reported that: “His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam warned that although globalisation could lead to an improved quality of life and higher standards of living, it can also bring about the marginalisation of the developing and the less developed countries”.
The recent events in Indonesia show that neither rich nature resources, nor a powerful army or police guarantee internal stability – an external crisis can instantly aggravate the problems have been accumulating in a country for years. The sultan of Brunei tries to stay in touch with his subjects and almost every week he meets with people in an informal atmosphere. He visits mosques and public events, sees oil field workers and dayak tribes, who live in the jungle in the south of Brunei.
Notwithstanding its size, the country is very diversified in every sense. The languages, religions and traditions of all the peoples and races that have contributed in the building of the modern state, maintain their vital force, and national or religious conflicts are out of question. The same can be said about social relations. Though it was not always like that – in the times of the British protectorate there were manifestations over price hikes and extraordinary measures were introduced.
The results of the 33-year rule of Sultan Bolkiah arouses a deep respect in Asia, where the sultan of Brunei has for a long time been a central cultural figure turning the clock of history. Throughout the world the success of such a small country through modernization has stimulated much interest in Brunei and its leader. In Russia where monarchic support is becoming stronger and where new parties and organizations keep appearing that are attempting to restore Russia's historical heritage, the dynamic development of the sultanate is viewed as convincing evidence of the great potential of monarchic rule. In our country where the monarchy existed for 1,155 years, and the communist dictatorship 73 years, examples of successfully developing dynastic regimes are by many seen as a model for the future.
On the threshold of the new millennium a representative forum will take place in the capital of Brunei. An Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will be held on the 15th and 16th of November in Bandar Seri Begawan. President Vladimir Putin leads the Russian delegation. Seven thousand guests will arrive in Brunei to take part in different APEC commissions and to cover the event in the world mass media. The Pacific Ocean region is forecast to become a global centre in the nearest future, where new ideas will be conceived and modern models of development will be exercised. In this region with a very variegated racial, cultural and national composition a major part of mankind now lives. But even though it is surrounded by the most powerful of states, small Brunei is seen as an important link in all international organisations. And this is due to the great personal merit of its dynamic leader, sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.