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. But 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, is an independent republic. It’s the largest landlocked country in the world, although it does have a border with the Caspian Sea, which is itself landlocked. The country also has borders with Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. Its location in central Asian means 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. Tensions between native Kazakhs and Russian incomers frequently boiled over into violence.