The steppe in my heart!

In the WittyLeaks series, Diplomac&Trade regularly publishes the personal accounts of ambassadors and other diplomatic mission leaders accredited to Budapest. this time, the departing Kazakh ambassador shares his 'sacred memories of a friendly Hungary'.

During my years in Hungary, I visited almost all regions of this beautiful country, where history and the present, traditions and new trends intertwine. This country is dominated by beautiful architecture, stunning natural landscape, delicious, exotic and rich gastronomy, and famous Hungarian wines. The charming Lake Balaton and Tihany will always remain in my memory.

Pearl of the Danube

Apart from this, I would like to mention the pearl of the Danube: the city of Budapest. I'm just enchanted by the beautiful scenery, beautiful nature and magnificent architecture. I love to take a stroll in the Royal Palace, on Mount Gellért, along the central streets of Pest and next to the majestic Parliament building.

I visited the famous museums, and of course, the famous thermal springs. What impresses me in this country is that there are a large number of festivals where guests can get acquainted with the Hungarian culture and traditions. In particular, Kazakh people like the ‘Spring and Autumn Festival’, the ‘Opera and Ballet Festival’ and the ‘Budapest International Wine Festival’. During winter, you can enjoy the bustle of the Christmas markets.

Feeling at home

While I was working here, I felt like I was in Kazakhstan because, between our countries, there is close historical proximity. Also, there is a desire to revive national culture and traditions and a mutual interest to study common historical roots.

As you know, the descendants of the Kipchak tribes reside in Hungary. They came from the Turgai steppes in the first half of the 13th century. It should be noted that in 2007, our Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev was elected as honorary leader of the Hungarian Kipchaks.

So, what do we have in common? Kazakhs and Hungarians were nomadic peoples: they lived in yurts, were engaged in breeding cattle and were belligerent. Being nomads, Hungarians, like Kazakhs, especially venerated horses. In Hungarian language, there are many words that are similar to Kazakh words: ‘Anya’ – mother, ‘alma’ – apple, ‘kerek (kérek)’ – I need it, ‘alacsony’ – low, ‘kicsi’ – small, ‘keshik (késik)’ – late, ‘balta’ – an axe, ‘sakal (szakáll)’ –beard. For me, it was amazing to see that in the town of Karcag traditional competition for cooking a dish of mutton ‘pörkölt’ (stew) is held annually, which is, according to taste and the method of cooking, no different from the Kazakh dish called ‘kuyrdak’.

Warm and trustful relationship

I am pleased that my official mission was in a timeframe that included such a significant date as the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. After all, a warm and trustful relationship was developed and a strategic partnership has been established between Kazakhstan and Hungary in this – by historical standards – short period.

It should be noted that in 1992, Hungary became one of the first states to recognize Kazakhstan as an independent state, and in 1993, it was in Budapest that we opened our first diplomatic mission in Central and Eastern Europe.

A powerful impetus to the expansion of the bilateral dialogue was provided by the visits to Hungary of the President of our country Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1994 and 2007, as well as the visits to Kazakhstan by Presidents of Hungary Árpád Göncz in 1997 and Pál Schmitt in 2010 and by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in 2012 and 2015. In recent years, there have also been a number of official visits at the level of heads of governments and foreign ministries. Today, our countries have solid legal bases, successfully working intergovernmental commissions on trade, economic and legal cooperation, and an inter-parliamentary friendship group.

In recent years, all our efforts have been focused on the implementation of a number of joint economic projects:

– in 2016, the Kazakh-Hungarian Agricultural Private Equity Fund was established with an authorized capital of USD 40 million. Currently, there is an active implementation of projects in Kazakhstan for which we wish to get advanced Hungarian technologies;

– the opening of direct air service between Astana and Budapest in June 2017 was the result of years of scrupulous routine work; the Hungarian company Wizz Air became an official carrier. This flight is very popular among Kazakh people and our Hungarian friends.

– the Hungarian side allocated 200 grants for Kazakh students who are already studying in almost all Hungarian cities with universities (Budapest, Pécs, Debrecen, etc.). We are certain that they contribute to our friendly and strategic relations.

Along with this, cultural cooperation is the ‘core’ of bilateral interaction. In recent years, famous Kazakh creative groups (Astana Opera, Astana Ballet, etc.) performed in the best concert halls in Hungary.

Also in 2014, an ‘Astana street’ was officially inaugurated in Budapest, where a bust of the Kazakh poet Abay Kunanbayev was installed. In turn, in our capital, Astana, a street was named after Budapest.

We support Hungarian youth who show an increased interest in learning the Kazakh language. For example, Kazakh language and literature are lectured at the University of Szeged and the People's University of Lakitelek. Former students of these universities are already working for the benefit of our countries.

Opened in 2014, the honorary department ‘The Kazakh Way and Nursultan Nazarbayev’ at the Kodolányi János University of Applied Sciences and the center of Kazakh literature and culture at the Hungarian National Széchényi Library evoke particular interest among our Hungarian friends.

Saying good-bye

In summary, I would like to note that it was an honor for me to be a part of the intensification of relations on a whole range of issues on the bilateral agenda. I am sure that the next Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Hungary will do everything possible to strengthen and expand diplomatic relations between Astana and Budapest.

These are the last days of my stay in Hungary as a diplomat. While collecting personal belongings and books, I unwittingly leaf through the collections of poems by Sándor Petõfi. As one of them ‘Hazámban’ (In my homeland) says:

“The steppe expanse in golden wheat,

Where the mirage conjures in summer heat

With play of foggy, ghost paintings are done!

Look at me! Recognized? I'm your son!”

(free translation)

This verse immediately brings to my mind parallels with the text of the anthem of Kazakhstan, which begins with the lines:

“In her sky, is the golden sun,

In its steppes, is the golden grain...”

(free translation)

I feel that longing for home is starting to show. Soon, I will return to my native steppe expanse, whose son I was born to be. However, in my heart, I will always keep a sacred memory of a friendly Hungary.

The Ambassador of Kazakhstan, Nurbakh Rustemov

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