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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fake Reporter Annoys Kazakhstan

borat.tvNazarbayev celebrating re-election last year, top, and Borat goofing off.
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- There are plenty of odd things about Kazakhstan, but making women ride on the outside of a bus and drinking fermented horse urine are not among them.

These are both inventions of Borat Sagdiyev, a racist, sexist, boorish, and, crucially, fictional Kazakh television reporter dreamed up by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as a satirical device to skewer his real-life interviewees.

The problem for the real Kazakhstan is that Borat's fake Kazakhstan is threatening to become better known in the West.

Now the two nations are meeting. Real-life Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev flies to the United States next week for talks with U.S. President George W. Bush.

And Borat's new film "Cultural Learnings of America Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" is hitting the movie theaters.

This coincidence has not gone unnoticed by Kazakh officialdom or the Western media.

"I can say unambiguously that the question of this film or of the art, let's call it that, of Mr. Sacha Baron Cohen, will not be discussed [by Nazarbayev and Bush]," Yerzhan Ashykbayev, a Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Monday at a news conference in the capital, Astana.

He was responding to reports in several British newspapers suggesting Borat would top the agenda when the two leaders meet Sept. 29.

Another problem for Kazakhstan is that its representation of itself often does not live up to the facts on the ground. Nazarbayev frequently talks about the country's free media, but a government-appointed organization suspended Cohen's www.borat.kz site in December.

The Foreign Ministry's Ashykbayev has a beef with Borat, who has clearly got under the government's skin. He was the one who last November threatened Cohen with "legal measures" and, in language echoing the country's Soviet past, said the ministry did not rule out that the comedian was "serving someone's political order."

That backfired. Dressed as Borat, Cohen, who is Jewish, said: "I like to state, I have no connection with Mr. Cohen and fully support my government's decision to sue this Jew."

The government has learned its lesson. Official pronouncements have since been dull and convery the message: We understand that it's satire; we just don't like it.

As for Kazakhstan's people, most of them have not heard of Borat. And they aren't likely to.

Fact vs. Fiction



Here are five real facts about Kazakhstan compared to five fictions made up by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's fake Kazakh television reporter, Borat:

Kazakhs drink fermented horse milk, kumys, not fermented horse urine, which Borat claims is Kazakh wine.

The country's president is Nursultan Nazarbayev, not Nazharbayev, as Borat spells it when he lists his heroes. (Many real-life Westerners mispronounce Na-zar-bayev as Na-zhar-bayev.)

Women have the right to vote in Kazakhstan although the country has yet to hold elections judged free and fair by Western observers. Borat acts shocked when told that women vote in the United States and says in his country women come after god, man, horse and dog in order of importance.

Nazarbayev has said he wants his country to be a beacon of religious tolerance. The fictional Borat is venomously anti-Semitic. In reality, anti-Semitism is widespread across the former Soviet Union.

Borat, who is also homophobic, says since the 2003 "Tuleyakiv" reforms, "homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hats." Homosexuality was illegal in the Soviet Union, but wearing blue hats was not a sanction. According to www.gay.kz, Kazakhstan decriminalized homosexuality in 1997.

-- Reuters