Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Kazakhstan had been a part of the Soviet Union since 1920 and between 1926 and 1939 lost 22% of it's population to starvation, violence and mass emigration. Many Kazakh writers, poets, politicians and historians were killed on orders from Joseph Stalin as part of plans to suppress Kazakh identity and culture. During the 1930's and 1940's millions of people exiled from other parts of the Soviet Union ended up in Kazakhstan, in many cases in large labor camps. By 1959, Kazakhs were a minority in their own country, accounting for only 30% of the population, while 43% were Russians.
One of the most controversial elements of Soviet control over Kazakhstan was the Soviet leadership's decision to use lands in Kazakhstan for testing of nuclear weapons starting in 1949, causing catastrophic ecological and biological effects felt generations later, causing even greater anger toward the Soviet system when the long term effects became known.
Growing tensions within the Soviet Union led to a demand for political and economic reform in the 1980's, and came to a head in the early 1990's. When the Soviet Union dissolved, Kazakhstan declared it's independence on this date in 1991, the last Soviet republic to do so in part because of Kazakhstan's leadership feeling that the various republics of the Soviet Union were too interdependent economically to survive separation from each other.
Kazakhstan's Independence Day is normally celebrated for two days, December 16th and 17th with speeches, songs and performances, dressing in traditional clothing and setting up a yurt, a large tent used by nomad Kazakhs, where meals are served. Visits to friends and relatives are made, with gifts of flowers or candies given. Tournaments with traditional games and races are held, and accompanied by other activities that one would normally find at a festival.
Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world and the largest landlocked one. It is located primarily in Asia. It's population mix has swung back toward Kazakhs, who now make up 67% of the population, with Russians at 21%.
In hockey, the Kazakhstan National Team made their World Championships debut in 1993 in "Pool C", the third level at the time, finishing 3rd. They have made a steady climb from their early days, and in 1996 they won "Pool C", earning promotion to the "Pool B". Seven years later, Kazakhstan won the Division 1, Group A (the equivalent to the old "Pool B") in 2003, earning a place in the Top Level for 2004.
After two years of avoiding relegation, they were relegated in 2006 back to Division 1, and finished first in Division 1, Group A early in 2009, earning a promotion back to the Top Level for the upcoming 2010 World Championships to be held in Germany in the spring of 2010.
Kazakhstan has competed at the 1998 and 2006 Winter Olympics, finishing in 8th place in 1998. They did not qualify for the upcoming 2010 games in Vancouver, finishing third out of four in their qualifying group behind winners Norway and also Denmark. They also did not qualify in 1994 and 2002.
Nikolai Antropov became the first ever Kazakh player drafted by the NHL when he was picked in the first round by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1998.
The other notable Kazakh in the NHL is San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, although he is a Russian citizen and currently chooses to play for Russia in international competitions, he did play for Kazakhstan in the 1994 World Championships.
The best known club hockey team of the seven in Kazakhstan is Barys, based in the capital city of Astana, which competes in the primarily Russian Kontinential Hockey League (KHL). They played in the Kazakhstani Championship until 2007, spent the 2007-08 season in the Supreme League prior to gaining acceptance into the KHL.
Today's featured jersey is a 2004 Kazakhstan National Team Roman Kozlov jersey as worn in the 2004 World Championships featuring a pair of our custom made Zepter sponsorship patches on the sleeves. Kazakhstan did end up in the relegation round after three preliminary round losses, but successfully defended their place by winning the group with victories over France and Japan along with tying Ukraine.
This well travelled jersey was purchased by us on ebay from a seller in Australia of all places. It arrived already customized, but given the choice, we would have opted for one of the much longer names frequently found on the national team's roster, with names of 10-14 letters long being common.
Kozlov has competed for Kazakhstan on seven different occasions, including the European Junior Championships in 1999, the World Juniors in 2001 and the World Championships every year from 2001 to 2005 with a record of 27 games, 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points and has spent his professional career in the Vysshaya Liga, the second level of Russian hockey.
This brief video shows Kazakhstan qualifying for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.