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Kazakh editor ordered to pay damages for edition devoted to Adolf Hitler

30 june 2014, 18:57
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Kazakh-language magazine Anyz Adam April issue depicts Adolf Hitler ©Yaroslav Radlovsky
Kazakh-language magazine Anyz Adam April issue depicts Adolf Hitler ©Yaroslav Radlovsky
Magazine's editor Zharylkap Kalybai at the press-conference ©Roza Yessenkulova
Magazine's editor Zharylkap Kalybai at the press-conference ©Roza Yessenkulova

Almaly Distric Civil Court No.2 in Almaty has ordered the editor of the now infamous in Kazakhstan Anyz Adam magazine to pay 13 million tenge (approximately $71,000) in damages following a claim brought by war veterans, Tengrinews reports. The charges stemmed from the magazine's edition devoted to the 125th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth and released before the Victory Day celebrations.

The court ordered the editor, Zharylkap Kalybai, to pay 1 million (around $5,450) to each of the 13 veterans who filed the lawsuit against him as compensation for moral harm. The court also ordered the editor to hold a press conference and give a public apology. 

Kalybai objected to the court’s decision. After the court’s decision was announced Kalybai told the journalists: “None of the 13 veterans turned up for the hearings, not a single one. We (the editorial staff) went to the veterans, to talk to them, to ask them questions. But we were not allowed to see them. They are about 90 years old, they can barely see - they have not read this article! They have not even seen it. How could they have found any fascism propaganda then? And, moreover, how could they have sustained any moral harm? This court was unjust. I will not give any apologies and I will not pay any money. I will appeal the court's decision."

The scandal broke out in April, when Anyz Adam [in translation from Kazakh “Legendary Personality”] issued an edition that was almost entirely dedicated to Hitler. The magazine described him as a strong personality, who fought for the rights of his people. One writer compared Hitler with Putin, albeit noting that the actions of the Russian president could hardly lead to consequences similar to the WWII.

Afghan War veterans, representatives of Great Patriotic War veterans [World War II equivalent in the post-Soviet countries], veterans of Chernobyl and participants of Zheltoksan December Riots were first to publicly react. They launched a public campaign that culminated in a meeting where they stabbed with a weapon and then burned a copy of the magazine, thereby expressing their anger with the magazine’s perceived glorification of the leader of Nazi Germany.

“The magazine’s editorial staff has committed a grave mistake, especially since that issue came out days before the Victory Day celebrations [that take place on May 9 to commemorate the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in post-Soviet countries]. How can we stand them writing that 'Hitler was not a fascist'?” chairman of one of the Veterans Union Serikbayev Kim spoke in outrage.

Granddaughter of general Panfilov of the legendary 316 Rifle Division Aigul Baikadamova had joined the rally in support and said that “the magazine should be closed down and the editor - prosecuted".

The Russian Embassy in Astana swiftly reacted and on April 18 sent a note to the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan. This was reported on the official website of the Russian Ministry. "On the eve of the 69th anniversary of our common victory in the Great Patriotic War that claimed lives of millions of people, both Russian and Kazakh, the emergence of this kind of a “prop book” [propaganda material] is doubly blasphemous,” the official statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry said.  "We hope that comprehensive measures will be taken in this regard.”

The press service of the Agency for Communication and Information of Kazakhstan commented on the issue by saying that the "content of the magazine has signs of violation of the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan in terms of incitement of social, national, ethnic, racial or religious hatred (Article 164 of the Criminal Code).”

The Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan also commented on the situation. He said that the Ministry considered the April issue of the magazine unacceptable because it insulted the memory of Soviet soldiers, who “bravely fought against fascism”. He promised a legal inquiry into the issue. 

A few days later, Kalybai spoke at a press conference to counter the charges leveled against him. He said that the magazine did not glorify Hitler. On the contrary, he stated that it depicted Hitler as an evil personality and noted that only one author (Nagashybai Yesmyrza) expressed his personal opinion that Hitler was not a fascist, which did not reflect the opinion of the editorial staff of the magazine. Kalybai challenged those, who considered the content of the magazine inappropriate, and claimed that if only they had a sufficient knowledge of the Kazakh language, they would have understood that there was nothing resembling promotion of fascism in the magazine.

Kalybai added that there were editions of the magazine that were devoted to Kazakh heroes, including Panfilov. Moreover, there were editions devoted to other controversial personalities, such as Stalin and Goloshchekin [first secretary of Kazakh SSR from 1925 to 1933; was actively pursuing sedentarization of nomadic Kazakhs, leading to enormous loss of life]. These issues, in Kalybai's words, “surprisingly did not create any public discontent”.

Reporting by Alisher Akhmetov, writing by Dinara Urazova


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