Highly esteemed in his field, Prof. Malikov speaks Russian and English, and has a basic understanding of Kazakh, German, and Hungarian. Here is Part One of a two part series:
If I am not mistaken, you were born and raised in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan . When you were young, was it even conceivable that in your lifetime that the Cold War would end, you would move to the United States, and that you'd a highly regarded college professor?
To be exact, I was born in the Soviet Union. Life in Kazakhstan was not very much different from the life in the other fourteen Union republics at that time. I do not think anybody in the 1980s could believe that the Soviet Union will collapse and that we would be able to choose a country of residence. I always dreamt of visiting other countries, but I would never believe it if somebody told me that I would be living in the USA .
What are the main differences between living in the United States and living in Kazakhstan?
This is a difficult question. I think there are more similarities than differences. At least, I do not experience any cultural shock when I go to visit my parents and friends in Kazakhstan . Thanks to globalization, people in Kazakhstan go to similar movie theaters as they do in America , where they watch the same Hollywood movies, eat in fast food restaurants, go to supermarkets, where they buy Coca Cola and Heineken, and work in their offices using the same computers. Everyday life looks pretty much the same as in the US , or in other Western countries.
As for the major difference, I think it is the attitude to laws. Most people in Kazakhstan do not respect them. As my friend in the Peace Corps said, traffic rules in Kazakhstan are recommendations, not laws. Almost in all spheres of life bribes and connections mean much more than laws or regulations. On the other hand, there are things, which are better in Kazakhstan than in the US - its foreign policy, for example, and its coverage in mass media. When I turn on the television in America, I get the impression that America is surrounded by enemies, and everybody either openly or secretly hates the Unites States. When I watch news in Kazakhstan, I see that Americans are our “strategic partners,” the Chinese are our “traditional friends,” and Russians are “brothers.” It would be great if Americans could watch news from Kazakhstan; it would force their own media to be less paranoid.
How difficult was it for you to learn English? How many languages do you speak?
English is not a difficult language to learn. It has rules, you learn them, and you speak. The Russian language has exceptions, not rules. Every noun makes its plural form in its own way, while every verb makes its past and perfect tense in the most unpredictable way. I am not good at languages. I speak Russian and English, and have some basic knowledge of Kazakh, German, and Hungarian.
Why did you want to become a professor?
History helps people to understand their society, to see where we are coming from and where we are going to. History allows people to challenge numerous stereotypes about different societies, which most take for granted. I like to challenge stereotypes and I also like to help others to challenge them. Being a professor of History is exactly the position that allows me to do this.
What are your feelings on the character Borat, portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen?
I am quite neutral to Borat. Cohen used “ Kazakhstan ” to demonstrate to Americans their own country. He even tried to make Kazakhstan look as far from the reality as he could (being a Kazakhstani, I can easily see it). The belief of some people here that, after watching the movie, they have a better understanding of Kazakhstan upsets me. But again, it says more about some people here than about Kazakhstan.
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