Staunton, January 10 – The negative images of Kazakhstan conjured up by the misuse of its national flag not only in the latest “Borat” film but also by some who carried it in the storming of the US Capitol last week are leading some Kazakhs to think about changing their country’s flag and even restoring the banner of the Alash Orda movement of a century ago.
That is all the more so, Kazakh historian Nazira Nurtazina says, because Kazakhstan’s current blue flag is only “weakly connected to the national tradition and cultural code” of the country especially as it lacks “continuity with the historical flags of the ancestors of the Kazakhs” (centrasia.org/news.php?st=1610319240).
Her article has been republished in Turkey where people are undoubtedly thrilled about the possibility that Kazakhstan will reaffirm its links with a Turkic movement that viewed itself as part of the Turkic world a century ago (turkishnews.com/ru/content/2021/01/11/флаг-алаш-орды-возможна-ли-в-будущем-см/).
Nurtazina says that it is especially appropriate to discuss the possibility of changing the national flag now because there is a sense that many things are in motion and that what might have seemed impossible only a few years ago and especially before the pandemic are now happening.
She argues that any new flag must reflect the genuine values of the state-forming people, in this case, the Kazakhs, serve to recall to them their nation’s history and its spiritual foundations, and not leave them indifferent or even angry as does the current blue flag. Of the flags that might be chosen, that of the Alash Orda puts the current “blue” flag to shame.
“Kazakhs do not like the color blue – it is seen as a cold color – and women never wear dresses or blouses of that color,” Nurtazina says. The Alash Orda flag is green with a gold crescent moon and a quotation also in gold from the Koran, reflecting the Islamic traditions of the Kazakh people.
That should have served as the model for the post-Soviet Kazakh flag, especially as the Alash Orda state was multi-national and democratic in its aspirations. Instead, some officials dreamed up a flag completely alien to the people and one that has left them feeling that their flag will attract snickers rather than respect.
Other post-Soviet republics, “like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan” have drawn on their historical and religious traditions in the design of their flags. Only Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have not. It is thus long past time for both to think about coming up with a replacement for their current flags – and the best place to look is in the past.