In 2017 Baltabay Kaziev, a native of Astana in Kazakhstan, had reached the grand old age of 92. Like many people of his advanced years, Kaziev had various aches and pains that troubled him from time to time. However, there was one particular spot that was bothering him. And incredibly, the pain he was experiencing could be traced back 73 years to his Second World War service with the Red Army.
Kazakhstan is a land of spectacular landscapes, and these days it is an independent republic. It’s the world’s largest landlocked country, too, although it does border the Caspian Sea, which is itself landlocked. The country also shares borders with Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. And its location in Central Asia means that it’s had a somewhat turbulent history.
The Kazakhs can trace their history back to Turkic nomads who settled the land. But its neighbor Russia has been a major, and often unwelcome, influence over the centuries. In the 19th century, Kazakhstan was effectively ruled by Russia’s imperial tsars. What’s more, tensions between native Kazakhs and Russian incomers frequently boiled over into violence.