One question remains: What would possess the Kazakhs to battle seriously and actively the only popular image of their country? ~Igor Khrestin
It is surprising that Kazakhstan has not taken a page from the Opus Dei playbook (I can almost guarantee that the previous sentence has never been written before in the course of the history of the English language and will probably never be written again) that made their response to the abominable The DaVinci Code so successful as a PR coup for their order. DVC really only deserved mockery and scorn, but they set about showing what their order was really like and even won some converts in the process.
Imagine the free press Kazakhstan could get if the government there invited Borat to official state functions! Better yet, they could invent their own comically over-the-top caricature of a Kazakh and beat Borat at his own game. But that might be expecting to much, and it isn’t likely to happen. Irony is not exactly a common Central Asian cultural habit, though you would think decades under Soviet rule would sharpen a people’s love of satire. In any case, think about all of the positive things you could tell journalists by way of telling the story of the Real Kazakhstan: “No, gentlemen, in fact we do not keep our women in cages. We don’t have that many cages to start with, and we wouldn’t want to waste them on the women.”
Of course that is terribly unfair (Kazakhstan is perfectly charming and full of empty, arid desert, and they have a shiny, new capital city to boot), but then Yakov Smirnov was rather unfair to the poor folks of Cleveland, which is almost as bad as Kazakhstan for some people in this country. Yet it must be said that, without Yakov and Spinal Tap, most people in the world (and perhaps the country) would not give a second thought to the city of Cleveland. They were not as fortunate as the nearby city of Youngstown, which had its own memorable representative: James “Beam Me Up” Traficant, who was just as ludicrous and colourful as Borat without needing to put on an act.
Borat has put Kazakhstan on the map–he has, as he would put it, made benefit for glorious nation. The least they could do is laugh a little. But then laughing at ourselves more often is something that all of us could stand to try.