Dariga Nazarbayeva: "Cross your fingers"
text: Andrej Vandenko , exclusively for Gazeta.kz
A concert took place recently in Beethoven hall of Bolshoi theatre that drew attention of the esteemed public not only and maybe even not so much by Russian and Kazakh songs performed, as by the singer personality.
On that night Dariga Nazarbayeva, the eldest daughter of the president of Kazakhstan, the wife of Kazakhstani ambassador in Austria, was singing...
- How come you’ve reached this sort of life, Dariga Nursultanovna? Who gave you an idea to perform in the Bolshoi?
- The idea was not mine – it was suggested by representatives of the Russian Ministry of Culture. Last October Denis Molchanov, the first deputy to Mikhail Shwydkoy, came to Almaty. After my concert in the philharmonic hall I received an invitation to sing in Moscow. First I didn’t take it seriously, I thought that it was a refined compliment, not more: I’m not a professional singer after all, although I have studied vocals with fine teachers for many years. But in March the conversation about the concert re-emerged and it became clear: it had not been a joke. I came to love the hall right away – it is a cosy, warm chamber?
- Not everyone is allowed to sing in the Bolshoi though, first the validity of aspirations should be attested, shouldn’t it?
- The theatre cares about its reputation, but in this case, the interest was aroused not only by the fact that I was a president’s daughter, I hope. My surname of course played an important role: organisational issues were resolved easier, but the responsibility was also higher. My Moscow friends also would not have taken this risk if they had any doubts about the vocal qualities of their protege`. As for the friendship – authentic and sincere, it is never built on famous names and it is appreciated not for mercantile reasons. I would like to thank again Jakhan Pollyeva, Denis Molchanov, Ilya Reznik, Mark Minkov, Alexander Gradskiy, Konstantin Vorobiyev, all my friends, without whose gratuitous help the concert probably would never take place.
- Nevertheless, with reference to your surname, Dariga Nursultanovna. Have you ever fancied changing it for, say, your husband’s, just to get rid of some cares in your life?
- You know, twenty years ago Rakhat, with whom we were only going to get married, asked me a similar question... I responded that I would remain Nazarbayeva, moreover, because my father didn’t have any sons and the surname should not disappear, my son would also take it. Nurali was born, but in that case my Dad made a noble gesture, saying: "Rakhat is the only son in the family, let your first child remain Aliyev. And the second son will be Nazarbayev". By the way, Aisultan looks very much like his Grandfather. And they have the same surname?
- Rakhat is not offended?
- He is still joking: "Well, after twenty years with me you have deserved to adopt my surname".
- And you are sure answering that the honour is too high for you?
- Yes, my husband wanted three sons and I gave him only two!.. And a daughter. It is true that all men are like that: they dream about sons, but they worship their daughters. Rakhat adores Venus, he spoils her beyond measure. It is curious to watch how their relations develop.
- Does your daughter have a nursemaid?
- Would otherwise be possible with such parents as Rakhat and I? We often stay out. On the other hand, we can already be called mature parents – in the sense that we have learnt what is the authentic happiness brought to you by children, especially by such late child as Venus.
- One can guess what an ambassador is occupied with in a foreign country, but what does his spouse do in Vienna? How do you spend your time there?
- Don’t forget that I have a media holding in Kazakhstan that requires constant attention. The biggest part of the day I spend communicating with Almaty by telephone and through the Internet – let’s say that I manage the process from the distance. I attend to English classes, study in a driving school – it’s not very simple to obtain a license in Austria!
- They don’t make any concessions even for a president’s daughter and a wife of an ambassador?
- Fortunately, nobody overreacts to my surname in Vienna! When I was passing the tests in Almaty road police, nearly a half of the city flocked to watch the show. I passed them on common requirements, my father prohibited to give me an easy time so the coppers were tough with me. As a result I did obtain a license, but Rakhat forbade me to drive in Kazakhstan – too dangerous.
- What about Europe?
- There is another driving culture here, you must know it yourself. I don’t have any fear of the road, but I have difficulties with parking – it is the hardest thing in it!
- What transport means will carry you around Vienna?
- My husband’s gift. It is a small, but convenient car – it’s also easier for parking.
- Has the gift been dated for the completion of the driving school?
- There are graver reasons: it’s been twenty years that we are together with Rakhat.
- Do you remember how you first met?
- I was completing the third year on the historical faculty of Moscow State University, while Rakhat was studying in the Institute of medicine in Almaty. He passed his exams ahead of schedule and came to Moscow to visit his father, who was in hospital after an operation.
- And who is your father-in-law?
- Mukhtar Aliyev is very well known in our country. He is an academician, a heaven born surgeon, as they say. He saved lives to thousands of people, currently he heads a scientific research institute, continues to operate, although he could care more about himself and work less! As for our first meeting? Rakhat came with his friends to our student hostel. I remember how serious I was about a forthcoming examination, nervous, afraid of not passing it. I wasn’t expecting any guests so I ran to open the door undone, with my eyes swollen after sleepless nights. I opened the door and? remained frozen there, seeing a lad with piercing green eyes. I thought then: "Something is going to happen!.."
- Just like that, right away?
- Yes, so it happened. We remained in contact for a week, then, after the exams, I went to Baltic countries for internship and my new friend went back to Kazakhstan. We met again after one month – at home?
I felt his interest in me, I wanted my admirer to like me, but we didn’t talk about love. And suddenly, two days before my departure for Moscow, Rakhat asked me if I would marry him. In this manly manner, without much ado, explanations, "sentiments"? I answered that I had to think about it. I thought for one day and then I said: "Yes..."
- Did you get your father’s blessing?
- The family was watching closely over the development of our relations. Aliya, my youngest sister was only three and I had to take her with me to our dates. Like, look after her? In reality it wasn’t me, who looked after the sister, but she looked after us. Coming home Aliya started to invent things about us: he said so and she answered thus? My parents were interested and the sister because of common attention let her imagination run even further? As a result everybody started to tease me. My parents liked my boyfriend right away. Our fathers knew each other for a long time and I met my husband family only during his suit – literally the day before Rakhat proposed marriage to me. It was all so fast, we were betrothed immediately.
- Did he pay bride-money for you?
- My parents did not require any. That was a mistake, they had to bargain over me!.. I’m joking. I believe that the bride money in our republic is long way in the past, as well as other antiques?
- It would be curious to know if anybody suited you before Rakhat?
- Yes, there were a lot of admirers! That is, not even admirers, but those wishing to become relatives of the Nazarbayev family. One bridegroom was recommended to me after another? I started to hate those chaps even before meeting them. It was a permanent allergy!
- Did your father try to marry you favourably?
- I was only twenty! There was no time for any large-scale search.
- They say that they make matches nearly from the birth in the East.
- Not in our family? However, I remember a Dad’s story. My grandfather, when his son, that is my father, was born, engaged him with the daughter of his best friend, who was like a brother to him. They agreed: when the children grow up we will marry them. Years after, a girl approached my father, who had come to his parents for vacation from Temirtau, where he was a worker on a metallurgical factory and said: "My father before his death bequeathed me to fulfil his will and marry you. But you keep silent. Maybe you think that you’re the only one in the world? I’ve got a lot of admirers, but I am bound by the promise. Tell me: do you marry me or you set me free?" My father said: "You are free"?
So it appears that the generation of our parents still knew such matchmaking, but, I repeat, not in our family. Honestly, nobody makes decision for children in the family. The independence is respected? Only from outside it seems that belonging to the family of the head of state automatically resolves all problems. No matter what you achieve in this life they will continue to whisper behind your back: do you know whose daughter she is? Or else: do you know whom he married?
- However, let’s agree, such whispers are not unfounded. It is hardly likely that an ordinary doctor Rakhat Aliyev would become a deputy head of the national security service and then – an ambassador of Kazakhstan in a European country and OSCE, isn’t it?
- It would make no sense to argue, your words are reasonable. But I can state firmly: I never asked my father to do anything for Rakhat. I understand that this statement of mine is unlikely to be believed, but still I repeat: my husband achieved everything himself – whether in the state service or in business.
- In business? And what did Rakhat Mukhtarovich do for living?
- He started off as many others: he was taking commodities for sale, guarding the cargo, bringing it through customs? In a word, he earned his initial capital by his own hands. When we bought our first car (the fifth model of "Lada"), we felt rich... Then we bought a "ninth" Lada. I started to feel really well off only five years ago. Today I can allow myself to not know what an ambassador salary is.
- That’s why you are not bothered about concert royalties?
- What royalties? Mere costs! The decorations, the costumes, the coaches, the hall rent?
- Where do you take money for that? From your father or your husband?
- Last time Daddy gave me some money when I was studying in the University. When I got married he said: "You family is Rakhat, let him feed you". So I count only on my husband and myself.
- But in the autumn of 2001 you and your husband had troubles that weren’t financial ones, right?
- You know it is not a simple subject. We seek to avoid it – mainly because a lot remains unclear for us in this matter. In my view, there was an attempt of an oligarchic coup d'etat. It all went as per a classic scenario, in which the most important task is to weaken the centre, to take over the biggest Kazakhstani media structures. Our enemies did not restrict themselves in their means, they used everything – the blackmail, the slander, murder threats? Many, not only my family, had to live through this.
- And then your husband departed for Austria as an ambassador?
- In exile, as enemies often interpret this turn in Rakhat’s career. Although we do not perceive the diplomatic position of my husband as a sort of political exile.
I often think about what relation there was between those events. In the autumn of 2001 my husband was the first deputy chairman of NSC (National Security Committee, translator’s note). One rarely makes friends in the national security services, but it’s very simple to make enemies there, of course, if you work honestly. Rakhat never made anything to suspect his honesty and decency. Naturally, he was one of the main targets for our home grown junta, in October 2001 he was in the first ranks among those who opposed it.
Several active participants of those events went to various countries as ambassadors. By the way, one of them is heading the embassy of Kazakhstan in Moscow... It means that the president chose a soft variant in superseding the crisis, not wishing to make the society go through grand upheavals. My father is a master of political compromise and not once he saved our country when the Union collapsed, and then when our sovereign state was becoming. The president Nazarbayev is a centrist, taking into consideration interests of all political groups and social strata. He has the whole country behind him and he is responsible for it.
- I see that this subject requires a separate serious conversation, so let us put it aside, concluding our conversation by what it started with: today, when the Bolshoi theatre stage, Dariga Nursultanovna, has been conquered by you, admit that certainly you have plans for the Viennese Opera? Why not perform there?
- The appetite comes with eating, doesn’t it? A couple of years ago my first CD came out and in the annotation to it I wrote, not without a touch of sadness, that I was not deluding myself: it’s not my fate to be attended to neither in Viennese Opera, nor in La Scala? But now I think: why not take a chance? So cross your fingers!
Also in the "In Depth"
09.01.2013 2012 marked by multiple events in Kazakhstan