I was living up in Samal-2 in the mid-1990s, and I could see a large structure being built across the street from the National Museum.  Once, early on a Sunday morning, I could see the bright arc lights of welding.  It seemed like work was on-going on a 24/7 basis.  Often on weekends, I had the occasion to walk past the structure.

When I enquired, I was told that the building was originally intended to be a Lenin Museum, and construction had started before the country’s independence.  Later, it was decided that it should be the Presidential Palace.

At the rate they were going in 1993, it seemed that another decade or more would be needed to finish off the building.  Maybe this is when I learned that, during Soviet times, workers were not interested in completing a project.  Their idea was to keep the job, an attitude that would have been the bane of any manager who was end-result oriented.

Even the Kazakhs were fed up with the slow pace of construction of the Presidential Palace, and I was told that some of the 52 Europeans who were involved in the construction of the Rahat Palace Hotel were borrowed by the City Architect so as to speed up construction.

It was my good fortune to know someone who was a personal friend of the City Architect and, without my pushing for it, my acquaintance invited me to join him on a visit to the future Presidential Palace and the City Architect.  This was in the winter of 1993-94.

I was tickled.  Here might be the only chance I would ever have to see the inside of the Presidential Palace!

Off we went and took a temporary elevator up to a high level within the building.  I am a bit of a nut about mechanical things, how things are made, the fabrication or construction of anything.  So, for me, the day seemed set to satisfy a lot of my yearnings.

It didn’t.  Much of the building was still missing its cladding, exposing the steel beams to the elements.  Some levels had their permanent cement floors, but others didn’t.  Lots of machinery and tools could be seen but, apart from its size, there was nothing about the building to suggest that it would house the President and his administration.  I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of the plans for the floors. The only furniture was the City Architect’s table with the master blueprint and a couple of chairs showing lots of wear and tear.

I hoped to make a return visit or at least to observe progress from the street but the hoardings went up, cutting of the public’s view, and my hoped-for second invitation for an inspection has yet to materialize. (Hint.)

Some viewings are better, and more rewarding, than others.


Book Sales:  Find more stories about Kazakhstan from the 1990s and later in my book, West Meets East in Kazakhstan.  It’s available online in softcover or e-book format from AuthorHouse (the publisher), or Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Website:  My blog posts go out on Facebook and sometimes on LinkedIn.  If you’d like to see them again or check for posts you might have missed, go directly to my website: viewkazakhstan.com


Consultancy:  Although I currently am trying to ensure that my book gets maximum exposure, the fact is that writing and publishing are sidelines for me.  My main focus is assisting foreign companies to engage in business in Kazakhstan (or elsewhere in Central Asia) and assisting businesses and individuals in Kazakhstan with their projects outside of Kazakhstan.

Based on my long career as a lawyer and my time spent in Kazakhstan, I take on projects in a wide range of industries, certainly in oil & gas, banking & finance, and minerals.  But such a statement insufficiently acknowledges the many spheres in which I have had experience – commercial trading, manufacturing in several areas, transport, directorships of companies listed on the London Stock Excange, shipping, and many more.

For further information, contact me at tom.johnsongx@gmail.com and at +44 1753 885955.

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