Kazakhstan’s Antinuclear Initiatives
Representatives of 17 states and employees of over 20 world nongovernmental organizations, among them doctors, explorers, public and political figures gathered in Kazakhstan to back the idea of ‘nuclear-free world’. The forum was also arranged to coincide in date with International Day against Nuclear Tests established by the UN on August, 29, 2009 aimed at boosting efforts of states of the world, governmental and non-governmental organizations in the affair of nuclear tests cessation as the requisite for creation of safer world.
Since almost 70 years ago when in America’s state of New Mexico on Alamogordo test site first nuclear test in history was held, in USSR they took to development of such weapon, too. For its test an area of at least 200 km2 distant from railways and airports is required. A vast steppe site nearby Kazakh city of Semipalatinsk turned out to be the most suitable. It was there where the first nuclear test site in Soviet Union was created.
The first explosion detonated in late August 1949, it outdid American one in terms of yield and in terms of damage to health of population equaled to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With normal radiation dose constituting 20 micro-roentgen per hour, the one in the area constituted as much as 200. Population was not warned about the tests so subsequently no evacuation was carried out. In a couple of following years several more explosions took place according to the same scenario. Care about people’s safety only developed in 1953, then it was decided to relocate inhabitants for the period of tests however everyone was brought back home at earliest convenience.
All in all, nuclear tests were being held in Semipalatinsk area for as long as almost half a century. Total amount of explosions in the period of the test site’s existence constituted 465! And baneful influence of radioactive substances released to atmosphere as a result of above ground, underground and atmospheric tests lead to catastrophic consequences for health of humans and environment of East Kazakhstan Region. Hundreds of thousands people became subject to high exposure doses over this time interval.
In 1989 Kazakh writer and public figure Olzhas Suleimenov, disturbed by death rate in the vicinity of Semipalatinsk, established a movement “Nevada - Semey” that opposed nuclear tests on the site. Over two million Kazakhstan inhabitants affixed their signatures to antinuclear appeal and participated in processions, marches, and demonstrations held in Japan, Kazakhstan, Russia and USA for world without the most dreadful weapon. And it was decision of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President of the country, on closure of the test site in 1991 and nuclear disarmament that broke ice in the world movement for nuclear-free world. These actions resulted in saving numerous lives of people. After cessation of tests in Semipalatinsk activities on Russia’s Novaya Zemlya tests site, American one in the state of Nevada, French test site at Moruroa Atoll and the one nearby Lop Nur Lake in China also subsided.
And although nowadays the issue is globally treated much more consciously, orchestrators of the conference “25 Years of International Antinuclear Movement “Nevada – Semey” believe that there is no way we should forget the damage that had already been done. Kazakhstan, being one of the leading states fighting against nuclear weapons, arranged a chain of events intended to remind community about the problem.
Thus, on August, 14 bike ride of medical students from International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) headed from Semey to Astana.
And in the course of IPPNW conference held at Palace of Independence in Astana eminent scientists delivered speeches. They once again urged governments of nuclear states as well as everyone involved in nuclear weapons production to abandon its making and use. Doctors from Kenya, Lithuania, Finland and a number of other states in their speeches told about underestimation of the danger, discussed reasons why not to invest into arms production industry… Many of the speakers supported their presentations with testimonies of witnesses who live with nuclear heritage.
Next stage of the forum’s vast program was attending Kazakh cities Semey and Kurchatov situated in the nearest vicinity of Semipalatinsk test site.
Ms Darya Karyakina who settled on this trip with her Ukrainian colleagues will tell about what constitutes the importance of the event:
Schedule of the trip to Semey was very tight. Among the actions planned for the day – laying flowers to the monument of ‘Abay’, meeting with youth of the city in the main building of Kazakh Humanitarian and Legal University and an air transfer to Kurchatov. But there were some actions that should be shared about in more detail.
One of the stages of our program was attending Semey’s Historic and Natural History Museum. Among displays that reflect traditions and household of East Kazakh Region there was also a hall dedicated to nuclear history not only of Semipalatinsk test site but there was also a display ‘Memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’.
Secretary General of the organization ‘Mayors for Peace’ and Chairman of World Culture Fund of Hiroshima Yasuyoshi Komizo noted on visiting the display:
“We felt on ourselves all the consequences of nuclear weapon and this underpins our opinion as to its danger. We have to strive for laying down all nuclear weapons for our descendants never to experience all the horrific outcomes of its use”.
Main stage of the trip schedule was plenary session of the conference. Its keynote speaker was the founder of the organization “Nevada – Semey” Olzhas Suleimenov. In his welcome speech he told about ideas and outcomes of the movement’s activities.
Currently “Nevada – Semey” actively continues its work with an aim to save tens of thousand people more. Starting with the very least – teaching peace classes in schools, at colleges and universities of the country and with supporting its activities by exercising particular measures on protection and recovery of environment and through aiding citizens of regions where nuclear tests used to be held. For its historical achievements the movement was recognized by global community and included to UNESCO World Register “Memory of the World”.
The conference gathered in one location representatives of Germany, USA, India, Denmark and many other states to discuss issues crucial for the whole world.
We managed to talk to the United Nations Resident Coiordinator in Kazakhstan Mr. Stephen Tull. He expressed deep support to initiatives of Kazakhstan:
“This is an international day, recognized by the UN. 4 years ago Secretary General of the UN Mr. Ban Ki-moon visited the city of Semey and he still talks about the impressions that Kazakhstan and its active position in disarmament issues made on him and that he is truly happy to be a part of this movement”.
Former Ambassador of the United States in Kazakhstan Mr. John Ordway also supported the event by attending it:
“I was impressed by the very sad history of Semipalatinsk test site and the awful consequences. We know that a lot of work remains to be done to make the site safe not only in terms of nuclear weapons proliferation but also for people of the region to live in it”.
During our trip to Semey we were accompanied by a painter from Karaganda – Karipbek Kuyukov who is an Ambassador of the ATOM project (edit. International company, designed in 2012 in order to provide community with accessible information concerning threats and consequences of nuclear weapon tests for environment as well as for the whole humankind). Unfortunately, he has personal experience of being a nuclear tests victim… Karipbek, who originated nowhere else but in Semipalatinsk Region – a handicapped person from birth, he has no arms, more to that, he is the only one out of 10 family members who survived…
Therefore he dedicated his whole life to try and get it across to everyone how dangerous nuclear weapon is. His paintings that he learned to draw without using his arms are infiltrated with all the suffering he’d gone through. In order to make his principal idea – world without nuclear weapon – come true, Kuyukov also participates in АТОМ international project that tries to attract attention of all people on earth to unite for the sake of nuclear tests cessation.
In conclusion of the trip there was a visit to ‘Stronger Than Death’ memorial where an act of peace dedicated to 25th anniversary of ‘Nevada - Semey’ movement took place.
Hundreds of reasons from experts and dozen of stories from witnesses don’t leave anyone cold. When a tragedy is at a distance, one feels compassionate, like humans do, but when it becomes closer thank to just one trip, one starts being consciously sympathetic. All day long I couldn’t get rid of a thought, what if back then in 1991 it wasn’t over, what would statistics of human suffering be today? But, luckily, ‘Nevada - Semey’ movement is 25 years old and this number isn’t only quantitative but also qualitative indicator and a measure of how powerful movement for peace is. Having been there and having had a deeper look on the whole scale of nuclear problems you realize that you just cannot stay aside any more and even more so you cannot stay indifferent.
Editorial staff of online media about the world THEOUTLOOK.COM.UA expresses special gratitude for organization of the trip to Kazakhstan to employees of the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Ukraine and personally to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kazakhstan in Ukraine Mr. Zautbek Turisbekov.