Dictatorland Series 1: 1.Kazakhstan

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Series 1: 1.Kazakhstan
In this episode, Ben Zand travels to Kazakhstan to experience the sinister and at times bizarre side to living in a dictatorship.

Beginning his journey in the capital city Astana, he finds a wealthy country. In the Bayterek Tower - the national symbol of Kazakhstan - Ben places his hand in a golden handprint of the president, where he's told he can make a wish. But he also finds that he's being quietly accompanied by a minder to keep an eye on him.

Deciding to get out of town, Ben takes the overnight train across the country to Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty. It's Independence Day, celebrating 25 years since the end of Soviet rule, so Ben is keen to see some of the festivities.

But instead, because the government is nervous of protests, Ben is hurried out of town by the local mayor's office and forced to spend the day being shown around a nearby ski resort, where his minders provide him with fascinating facts on the size of the ski lift and the speed of the ice. It's a fun day out, but it isn't really what Ben had in mind. So to try and find out more about the other side of life here, Ben goes to a dissidents' gathering, where he meets Zhanbolat Mamay, who runs one of the few remaining independent newspapers in Kazakhstan.

Zhanbolat explains the fear that he lives in, and how journalists and politicians have reason to be scared for their lives. He recommends that Ben travels to the west of Kazakhstan, and a town called Zhanaozen, if he wants to get a real sense of the anti-government sentiment in the country.

Ben travels to Zhanaozen with a lawyer called Asel, who has spent years fighting for compensation for residents in Zhanaozen, many of whom lost friends and relatives, and many others of whom were injured, when the local police massacred 16 striking oil workers in 2011.

Asel takes Ben to meet two victims of the massacre. But as the sun sets, heavily armed police flock onto the streets - even five years after the massacre, the town is still more or less under curfew. When Ben gets back to his hotel, he's terrified to discover that the secret police are looking for him. It's a scary end to a journey in a country where the government still seems to have a lot to hide.

Presenter Ben Zand
Series Producer Olly Bootle
Executive Producer Mike Radford

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💬 Comments on the video

The lady guide in the blue suit did not find your joke funny. Very interesting series, will more be produced?

Author — Chuck Hall


BTW, Nazarbayev resigned in march 2019

Author — Swarnil Pal


economic stability? this woman is crazy !!!! People give birth to children, because the mentality of the Kazakhs to have many children. People live badly. All power and money belong to the family of Nazarbayev and his entourage.

Author — Neli Ahmat


5:34 Secret policeman!!! Be careful pal!!

Author — Jay_McGill94


I live in here! Oh shit it is not a good thing to be proud of, right?

Author — Bakhtiyar Tabyldiyev


I am from Kazakhstan and really proud of you. Nazarbayev dictator yes

Author — Мейрамбек Амангелдіұлы


Too cocky for my liking. The BBC have employed a boy to do a man's job.

Author — Ebenezer456


Watching other videos of this country i knew something was off. How can you live in a country where the leader is so venerated and population is almost all muslim, it just doesnt add up! Your video cleared up my question!

Author — Denise Marsh


Why you put you hand in Baiterek. Nazarbayev ate your energy))). Some People Who know about bioenergy said that this architecture for eating the people's energy.

Author — Ka4an Kapusty


A stupid "documentary" by a western-centric teenager who has no understanding and respect to the world cultures except what is taught to him at kindergarden.

Author — Miniamania 3d puzzles


did they make you pay for the expense /cost to the mountain trip because I'd be so upset because I dont have money and im always was on a tight budget . I'm so angry that that happened to you! because they ruined your plans .

Author — Sarah Cruz


Actually, it is not Astana anymore, it is Nursultan.

Author — LuckStroN


Right I live in England but lived in Kazakhstan for 10 years and was born there, and I'm happy and also not happy about my ex leader. He improved our country and led it to great achievements. Expo 2017, the richest country in central Asia and much more. He was a dictator and nobody can deny that. He was a likeable leader and improved my country. I am not happy about him being a dictator and I find it terrible but he wasn't a bad leader. Our new president has blocked YouTube and Instagram and has got his police to arrest a man holding up a blank sign for "protesting". At least our country is well off and are happy.

Author — daniel Jones


Hello now our capital isn't Astana now capital of Kazakhstan is Nursultan 🤮



Kazakhstan is a dictatorship freedom for the world

Author — Roman Soiko


Since Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned from office suddenly, is it still a dictatorship or is the new leader at least beginning to take steps in the right direction to provide for more personal freedom's for the Kazakh people? Also, is Kazakhstan safe to travel to? I'm not worried about crime, so much as I'm worried about the government doing something funny.

Author — KroneYT


I am happy that I live in the city of Nursultan, I work at the airport by the name of Nursultan, and I also studied at the school and the university named after Nursultan.
The future we will change Kazakhstan to Nursultanat

Author — zhoke


Almty is not the biggest, but the most populated. The biggest is Shymkent, bigger than Almaty almost twice.

Author — Siro Shickzhal


Nothing new in this report about Kazakhstan actually. I mean it is an autocracy, so what? Is it the only one? Economy is growing, people are living just fine. They have universal healthcare if they don’t have money, affordable one if they don’t want to wait, New schools are being built, students are being sent abroad to study, local universities are available for free. Freedom? Let’s not be naive, where it exists anyway? Toys that your government gave you, is that what you call freedom?

Author — Allazhar Duisenbek


At least there not american puppets, like our politician when they make nation genocide they protecting own people

Author — Dragan Petreski