Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Kazakhstan Goes Virtual

Interesting news coming from the steppes of Central Asia. While we have witnessed a few governments dipping their toes into the virtual waters of Second Life, these have tended to come from the 'developed' nations of Europe, North America and Asia. It therefore comes as an unexpected pleasure to hear that the giant Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan is opening a presence in Second Life. If your Russian is up to it, you can read all about it here. Whether this is part of a wider bid to shake off the image given by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (in his guise of Kazakh TV journalist, Borat) I do not know.

Second Astana takes its name from the capital of Kazakhstan… umm… Astana. Curiously, “Astana” means “capital city” in Kazakh. How spooky is that, eh? (hehe) Oh, and for any New Yorkers, you might like to know that Astana has recently been named "Manhattan on the Steppe." You can find out more about that in this Chicago Tribune article.

I’ve not yet had the pleasure of a trip to Second Astana, but according to reports in the Kazakh press, they have “recreated the central area of modern Astana from Baytereka to the pyramid of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. " The Bayterek, or "Tree of Life”, is the emblem of the city - a large glass sphere perched at the top of a 100-meter metal shaft. The renowned architect practice, Foster + Partners, designed the 62-meter glass pyramid, the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. You can find an extensive report on the real life Astana at Spiegel Online.

Both of these buildings, along with the impressive array of monuments, palaces and offices in between, have been built for President Nazarbayev; part of his bid to put Kazakhstan on the map, and guarantee himself a prominent place in history. To describe Nazarbayev as “controversial” would be putting things mildly, with allegations of human rights abuses,nepotism, brutality, corruption and megalomania. Indeed, many point to the explosive growth of Astana as proof of this megalomania – and will doubtless see its expansion into the virtual realm of Second Life as yet further evidence.

I have read that the development is not officially sanctioned, yet it is intended to tie in with Kazakstan’s plans for digital development and improving the international image of the country. There are plans to expand the presence , with Second Life versions of Kazakh tourist destinations: Almaty, Turkestan and Borovoe.

Oh… if you don’t fancy visiting the Second Life version of Astana, it is also available as a 3D map on Google Earth. Here's a snap I took of the 3D map:

UPDATE: Follow this link for more on the Second Life site.


IYan Writer said...

Great success!

Aleister Kronos said...

Hi IYan

Do you mean the post, the sim or the 3D map on Google Earth (which I have yet to get working)?

IYan Writer said...

You didn't see "Borat", I take it :)


Aleister Kronos said...

IYan... you got me, pal.

Nope... I'd seen his Borat stuff on UK TV and frankly found it unpleasant. I'm not a big fan of comedy based on squirming embarrassment and/or at expense of ordinary people.