Kazakh Activists Lampoon Secretive State Spending on Propaganda

Application deadline: 
June 17, 2020

With little access to mainstream media, how can activists in Kazakhstan confront state spending on propaganda campaigns and media outlets?

A group of Kazakh activists decided the answer was to hold a satirical mirror up to Kazakhstan, questioning the annual $140m state spending on media outlets and advertising by creating the online parody nation of “Khabarstan”.

In the imaginary country of Khabarstan, everyone is happy, everything is wonderful and enlightened citizens enjoy the visionary leadership of a longstanding and well-wishing president. At least, that is the message pumped out by Khabarstan’s own extremely well funded state media.

But all is not as it seems.

As the visitor scrolls down the page, wandering the streets of the would-be nation, the fictions of Khabarstan continue to blur with the realities of Kazakhstan in a smart and imaginative critique of state spending on propaganda. At the end of the journey, the reader is shown ideas for how Kazakhstan could better spend its $140m propaganda budget, such as on 22 new schools or 45 new kindergartens to address the chronic oversubscription of education services.

The fictional dystopia was created by Daria Sazanovich as part of the Prague Civil Society’s Visual Story-telling Residency Scheme. Rather than presenting straightforward facts, she hopes this creative interpretation will give the reader space to take a step back, absorb the message the Legal Media Centre wants to convey, and question the value of such government spending.

Interview with artist Daria Sazanovich

The project has received considerable media attention including a profile on Esquire and other Kazakh media outlets. You can read an in depth interview with its creators by 34mag here (in Russian and Kazakh).

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