Kazakhstan’s Diplomacy: Nineteen Years in Service of National Interests
July 08. MFA
On July 2, Kazakhstan’s diplomats both at home and in overseas missions marked the Day of the Diplomatic Service. The date when President Nazarbayev signed a decree establishing the independent Kazakhstan’s own Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1992 is marked by the nation’s diplomats as a special day to celebrate their accomplishments. Marking the day is a way to recognise the work of several hundreds of Kazakh diplomats in the central office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in posts throughout the world.
“Kazakhstan’s foreign service has created a solid system of relations with our neighbours and global powerhouses, as well as in multilateral formats, which is based on mutually beneficial cooperation and constructive approaches,” Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov underlined addressing the special reception for the Kazakh diplomats on the day in Astana. “The country’s back to back chairmanships in OSCE and SCO confirmed strategic correctness and success of our foreign policy. Yesterday here in Astana the three-day gathering of the 38th session of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers completed, which launched our presidency in this organization. I am confident it will continue the traditions of successful implementation of our country’s initiatives on the international arena,” the Minister added.
During the first official celebration in honour of the diplomatic corps a special reception in 2007 was held to pay due respect to the veterans and staff of the diplomatic corps in Kazakhstan who have served to promote Kazakhstan as an important player in international relations which promotes ideas of dialogue, mutually beneficial cooperation and peace . The fact that Kazakhstan has no conflicts with any country and especially with neighbouring states is a good illustration of the effectiveness of the foreign policy. Moreover, Kazakhstan managed to solve border issues, those that could not be solved for centuries, and the nation for the fist time now has recognised, undisputed borders with all its neighbours.
To be fair, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kazakh SSR legally existed since 1944, so the diplomatic service in Kazakhstan can claim a history of 67 years. However, the real work of the ministry has started only with the independence from the Soviet Union. Prior to 1992, the Ministry’s job was mainly technical, and its responsibilities included organization of receptions of foreign delegations, present speeches at international forums (as part of the Soviet’s Oriental “exotic”), and placing Kazakh students in the Diplomatic Academy of the USSR in Moscow. It was a mix of what one would now call a department for external relations and protocol, and had elements of the ministry of culture and education. However, due to the status of a Soviet Republic, there was not much talk of truly international relations.
The period from 1944 to 1991 cannot be erased from history, and to be fair there is no need for it. The post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs was during the time held by such prominent people in Kazakhstan as Tolegen Tazhibayev (1944-53, 1955-58), Hairgaly Baygaliyev (1953-55), Askar Zakarin (1958-61), Adi Sharipov (1963-66), Balzhan Boltirikova (1966-71), Malik Fazylov (1973-76), Muslim Bazarbayev (1976-81), Mikhail Isinaliyev (1981-89), and Akmaral Arystanbekova (1989-91).
When the truly functioning Ministry of Foreign Affairs was founded in 1992, the main task of the new leadership was the resolution of numerous “technical problems”, the legal and material resources, the structure of the ministry, and personnel matters. Obviously, the human resource capacity of the Kazakh SSR’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was, at best, not up to the new challenges. So, as was the case for many other young nation states, dozens of brightest specialists from other fields were recruited to form the backbone of the independent Kazakhstan’s brand new diplomatic corps. The Ministry started its work, and high representatives of the nation have been sent to the countries of the greatest importance for Kazakhstan as an independent state.
It was in the mid-1990s that the gradual professionalisation of the Foreign Ministry took place. In personnel policy, emphasis was placed on education and promotion of a new generation of diplomats.
Naturally, all these events were not immediate steps. As years went by, the initial recruits of the Kazakh foreign office matured with experience to become the commanding staff supported by hundreds of younger diplomats who had been trained in the international relations schools at home, with the best candidates also obtaining knowledge from prestigious diplomatic schools in Russia, the US, the UK, Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Turkey, and other countries.
Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs today runs 71 diplomatic and consular offices throughout the world. Of these 41 are embassies, eight are diplomatic missions, seven are general consulates, and 12 consulates, two are representative offices with international organizations, and one is an embassy’s section.
In 19 years, six persons served as foreign ministers of Kazakhstan. Those are Toleutay Suleimenov (1991-94), Kanat Saudabayev (1994 and 2009-2011) Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (1994-1999 and 2002-2007), Erlan Idrissov (1999-2002), Marat Tazhin (2007-09), and Yerzhan Kazykhanov, since April 2011. Akmaral Arystanbekova, the foreign minister of the Kazakh SSR, also served as independent Kazakhstan’s foreign minister for a few days after the December 16, 1991, declaration, before becoming Kazakhstan’s first ever ambassador to the United Nations.
Special days in recognition of diplomatic service are also observed in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Moldova, and Ukraine.