The common roots and historical ties between the two nations have always served as a firm basis for mutual sympathy and trust. Kazakhstan is the only strategic partner of Hungary in Central Asia and, in turn, Hungary is the only strategic partner of Kazakhstan in the region of Central-Eastern Europe which covers 16 countries. Kazakhstan has a great potential in the field of tourism, with a wonderful mix of natural and architectural attractions and regularly organised large-scale events. I do believe that the decision of the Kazakh government on providing a visa-free regime for citizens of many countries, including Hungary, will result in a significant growth of the number of foreign visitors and raise its attractiveness as a popular tourist destination.

In which fields would Hungarian entrepreneurs find interesting projects in Kazakhstan? Where are they already involved?

Energy is the leading economic sector in Kazakhstan as it has significant oil and natural gas reserves. Accordingly, the biggest Hungarian investor in Kazakhstan is our oil company MOL Group as a member of the joint venture developing an oil field. The two countries also established the Joint Bilateral Investment Fund. Each side has provided USD20 million for joint financing, so the total starting capital is USD40 million. The fund is providing direct support for bilateral projects in the field of agriculture. There are many other examples of successful joint projects as well in the food industry, pharmaceutics, logistics and in green economy.

There are ethnic ties to the Kazakh people. How does this manifest itself?

We know about our common historical background and cultural ties. One of the main elements testifying to these common roots is the fact that some tribes of Kipchaks settled in Hungary in the 13th century. Even now the two central regions in Hungary are called Great Cumania and Little Cumania (Nagykunság and Kiskunság) and around 250,000 ancestors of Kipchaks are still living there. Though they have lost their language, they are keeping their Kipchak/Kun identity. A few centuries earlier, Hungarians themselves arrived in the Carpathian region as the only horse-riding nomadic nation of Europe, and the ancient homeland of Hungarians was Western Siberia and the Southern Ural, which is part of present-day Kazakhstan. We have several words in common like alma (apple), szakáll (beard) and balta (axe). One of the emblematic constructions in the centre of Astana is a tower called Bayterek – the” tree of life”, which is also a common symbol of both Hungarian and Kazakh mythology. President Nazarbayev once said “the Hungarians are the most Western Kazakhs while they are the most Eastern Hungarians.”

Since last year, there is a direct flight between Budapest and Astana. How have the numbers of visitors going both ways changed?

As there is no visa requirement for Hungarians, we do not have exact numbers for our compatriots visiting Kazakhstan, but the number of visa applications submitted by Kazakhs travelling to Hungary has almost tripled since the launch of the air connection. Fortunately, the occupancy rate of the flight is quite high, and we can meet more and more Hungarian tourists and businessmen in Astana.

Apart from allowing oneself to be impressed with a futuristic city project and study the common ethnic past in the National Museum, what other sites would you recommend visiting?

Kazakhstan has put great efforts into documenting and commemorating the victims of the totalitarian system. During the Soviet times, many gulags were erected on her territory, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were imprisoned here – whole nations were forced to resettle in Kazakhstan. One such place was the so-called “Akmolinsk Camp for Wives of the Traitors of the Motherland” with abbreviation ALZHIR, in a village close to Astana. Now there is a museum and a memorial park, and a year ago our embassy erected a monument dedicated to all Hungarian political prisoners detained in gulags on the territory of Kazakhstan during communism. I am proud to learn that many Hungarians coming to Kazakhstan are also visiting this site.

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