Screenshot of Aisultan Nazarbayev's Facebook account. The man kissing a young Aisultan in the cover photo is Kazakhstan's de facto leader-for-life, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The grandson of Kazakhstan's all-powerful leader Nursultan Nazarbayev has amazed social media users in the Central Asian country by claiming he is a “person without a passport” after spending time in a “private Russian jail.”
Kazakh users reacted with incredulity to the bizarre post on Aisultan Nazarbayev's Facebook account late on January 23 that the 28-year-old appeared to use to criticise state bureaucracy and police.
“Thanks to them I am currently a person without a passport or registration,” he wrote, referring to migration authorities.
In its first few hours, the post, which began with a philosophical question, was shared more than a hundred times.
What is a Motherland? For some, this is just a place where you are registered by passport. For others, this is a place where you feel good. And for someone else, this is a country with which you are connected, like a tree is connected through its roots to the ground, and it doesn’t matter whether there is a registration stamp in your passport or whether you are feeling well there.
While there was no immediate proof Aisultan Nazarbayev wrote the post himself, it would be consistent with strange public appeals of his in the past.
Moreover, last month he had thanked Russian authorities for making him “free again, in the full sense of the word” in another cryptic post that he refused to clarify.
Nursultan Nazarbayev's authoritarian rule over Kazakhstan extends back to the period before the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Aisultan Nazarbayev is the son of his eldest daughter, Dariga, 55.
In 2017, while he was serving as the vice-president of the country's national football federation, Aisultan Nazarbayev admitted his authoritarian grandfather had helped him conquer an addiction to narcotics.
Before landing that job, Aisultan had been vociferously critical of Kazakhstan's football authorities and in particular the federation's head of the time, a loyalist of the president who also served as the country's chief of staff.
Aisultan left the post less than a year later and promptly disappeared from public view.
He found his voice again in the January 23 Facebook missive, fuming at the ex-Soviet republic's state organs dealing with migration, which he described as “simply hell.”
But users struggled to picture Aisultan struggling “like an ordinary citizen” in one of the country's hated “Centres of Service to the Population.”
These centres that deal with registration issues for citizens and foreigners are noted — to put it mildly — for an indifferent approach to customer service.
Why is it that I don't believe this “author” visited a (registration centre) himself?
Now these paper-pushers will lose their heads.
Silent for a year
Most surprising for many users responding to the post was Aisultan Nazarbayev's claim he had spent time in “a private Russian jail.”
“Having freed myself from confinement in a private Russian jail, I returned (to Kazakhstan) without my documents — everything had been stolen and destroyed,” Nazarbayev wrote, without mentioning the reason for his apparent incarceration.
Yet public speculation over Aisultan's whereabouts had been rife for some time due to his silence on social media for over a year after leaving his job in football.
While Aisultan admitted that he could have contacted his 78-year-old strongman grandfather to help solve his apparent undocumented status, he said he was “ashamed to bother the country's leader with an issue that should be resolved automatically.”
Nursultan Nazarbayev's current presidential term ends in 2020. He has never indicated a successor but said in a 2016 interview that he does not plan to hand power over the country of 18 million people to his children.
See also: Kazakhs ridicule ‘self-made man’ puff portrait of presidential grandson
GlobalVoices.Org, 23 January 2019