Exile of the Nomads - Who is entrenching upon the legacy of Nurbulat Masanov?

    The Kazakh Scientific Research Institute on the Problems of the Cultural Heritage of Nomads, is the first (and still the only in the world) scientific research institute for nomadic studies at the national level. The Institute was founded by Nurbulat Masanov – a well-known scientist and publicist.
    This young but valuable institute brings together researchers fr om diverse academic areas - historians, ethnologists, archaeologists, geologists, paleo-climatologists, and many others, thus providing a multidisciplinary scientific approach to their research work which, among other outputs, contributes much to the improvement of a common understanding of the effects of human interaction with the natural environment.
    The Institute’s International Consultative Board includes the most prominent experts in Nomadology:
    - Anatoli Khazanov, member of the British Academy; member of the UNESCO International Scientific Board; professor at the Anthropology Department of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
    - Jacques Legrand, president of INALCO (the National French Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations) since 2005, professor of Mongolian language and literature, member of the UNESCO International Scientific Board.
    - Vincent Fourniau, associate professor at the EHESS (Higher School of Social Sciences, Paris); former director of the IFEAC (French Institute of Central Asian Studies), 1998-2002; member of the Founding Committee of ARIAC (the Association of Research and Information on Central Asia).
    -Catherine Poujol, President ESCAS (European Society For Central Asian Studies), professor at INALCO (National French Institute of oriental languages and civilizations).
    - Jumpei Kubota, project director at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan.
    - Nikolai Kradin, head and professor at the Department of Social Anthropology at the Far-Eastern National Technical University, Vladivostok; senior researcher at the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnology, Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Vladivostok..
    - Gian Luca Bonora, member of the ISIAO (Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient), member of the ASIAC (the Association for the Study of Central Asia and the Caucasus in Italy), and director of the Italian Archaeological Project in Kazakhstan.
    Irina Yerofeyeva, director of the Institute on the Problems of the Cultural Legacy of Nomads, and Laura Masanova, deputy director of the Institute wrote to the Vremya newspaper recently, warning the institute was in danger of being "re-organised".
    Here is a synopsis of the letter:
    ‘This letter expresses our deepest concern over the continued operation of the Kazakh Scientific Research Institute on the Problems of the Cultural Legacy of the Nomads, founded and directd by one of the world’s most distinguished experts on nomads and their way-of-life, Nurbulat Masanov.
    ‘At the moment, the Agency for the Protection of Competition is considering a petition we filed to obtain to permission for the institution’s continued activity. For some unknown reason, so far, the situation is not working out for our benefit.
    ‘The Institute was founded over four years ago as an Limited Liability Partnership, with 100% state ownership, confirmed by government decree.
    ‘During the re-organization process, a former state budget-supported enterprise -- a three-storied facility built in 1941, was transferred into the institute’s charge (the building is located in Almaty along Tole-Bi Street nearby KazakhConcert). The facility was an emergency state of disrepair, and the ministry did not have the funds needed in the budget to finance the repair work at the time.
    ‘Therefore the Committee of the State Property and the Ministry of Culture of the time allowed the Institute to rent out its available premises.
    Since the Institute chose a LLP as its legal form of organization, this enabled it to engage in commercial activity and allowed it to cover its overhead costs with its own revenue… as well as motivate its research associates, make renovations and keep the rented facilitities in good condition.
    ‘The Institute… in times of economic hardship for the nation became a source of annual cash receipts, contributing half of its rental profits into the state treasury.
    …Working as an LLP is not easy, because such a form of organization is not typical for a scientific establishment. But the LLP helps the Institute to justify the state’s trust, which is reflected in general positive conclusions made by the financial control commissions under the Ministry of Finance, an internal audit conducted by the Ministry of Culture and Information and the Counting Committee, on the Institute’s performance during 2007-2010.
    ‘Thus, a shortfall in funding is unjustified in terms of the national interests in the Institute – as was mentioned in a official state financial control declaration, published on February 24, 2010 by an Counting Committee official following the last (Accounting – KNL) revision.
    “The Institute of the Nomads holds research as one the most important areas for enhancing the image of Kazakhstan including developments in science and culture and each year publishes high quality research-based products, conducts international conferences, publishes books and monographies that receive positive critiques within the country and overseas,” the official declaration stated.
    “However, an impression is now emerging that the Agency for the Protection of Competition is not seeking to form an essentially objective image about the Institute and is communicating a suspiciously-biased attitude towards this establishment.
    ‘In turn, the Committee of Culture, which has the ownership rights on our property has taken on the role of ‘villain step-mother’ … and has been constantly lobbying subversively for us at various state agencies. At the beginning of last year, the Committee of Culture forced us to share our property with the Institute of Cultural Politics and Art Studies, which would inevitably lead to the complete bankruptcy to the Institute of Nomads.
    ‘Shortly thereafter, the Committee slashed the Institute’s budget by more that half for 2010, without any explanation. Now it plans to re-organize the Institute from an LLP into a state budget enterprise.
    ‘All the above initiatives are in essence meant to liquidate the Institute of the Nomads….
    ‘Why do we say so? Because having status as state budget enterprise means first of all, getting fixed salary (and wh ere shall we find serious researchers ready to work for 25,000-30,000 tenge?). Second, the state (represented by the Committee of Culture) will be able to regulate the number of the staff and qualification requirements for employees and bring in their candidates for managerial positions, Third, all the income from the Institute’s economic activity will have to be transferred into the state budget.
    ‘In other words, we will not have a penny for development, additional research incentives or to award employees.
    ‘The main thing is that status of as a state budget enterprise facilitates legal procedures to merge our Institute with the Institute of the Cultural Politics and Art Studies –which is what our ‘good-doers’ intend to achieve.
    ‘We remember very well how the enthusiastic Nurbulat Masanov took up the re-organization of the Institute, and how he dreamt of turning it into a leading scientific center for studying nomadism in Eurasia.
    ‘This dream became realizable in independent Kazakhstan. The state program titled, A Cultural Legacy, adopted as per the initiative of President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev made it possible to engage in multi-task research on various aspects of our country’s history and culture. The foundation of the Institute of Nomadism has become a testimony for the fact our country considers profound comprehensive research on the historical past of the ancient nomads on the territory of modern Kazakhstan to be an extremely important and topical problem.
    ‘The intended attempt on part of top officials from the Ministry of Culture to ‘re-organize’ the institute in essence, opens the way for this research center to be liquidated, and along with it, all research-based development, which acquired an outstanding response from across the world.
    ‘Is this a political decision, or an attempt on part of individual officials to get rid of the legacy left by Nurbulat Masanov and bury our memories of him
    - V. Yerofeyeva, Director of the Institute on the Problems of Cultural Legacy of Nomads;
    - L.E. Masanova, Deputy Director; Almaty