Every time I go to Alma-Ata, I find more and more distinctions between the Alma-Ata and the Astana residents.

         A lot of civil servants and employees of state companies live in Astana. This leaves an imprint on the general atmosphere in public places. Even on vacation (in restaurants, shopping centers, in the cinema) many Astana residents behave as if they are on duty: they are strict, dressed with restraint, they look around so that, God forbid, not to miss the boss and have time to greet him, and that the boss did not see him in an unseemly way.

        Talks in Astana restaurants are often conducted about politics, therefore quiet and with caution. The most popular topics are personnel reshuffles and intrigues in politics. Everyone here knows who is whose person, and from whose team. The change of the “boss” at one or another post is vigorously celebrated by one company while another is mourning about it. It’s true that often the rank-and-file members of different “teams” are friends and may be sat at one dastarkhan (table). There is a strong rule: if there is a stranger at the table, then not a word could be mentioned about politics and political sympathies. It is not known which camp a stranger will be from. It is possible that he is a representative of the “competing” team, and then excessive frankness can turn into trouble. That’s why in unfamiliar companies for the time being all the interlocutors’ acquaintances are not revealed. It is not known yet how the friendship with this or that person will affect the relations of the interlocutors. Officials, they are like scouts.

        Another thing is the Alma-Ata residents. There are a lot of businessmen, and owners of businesses among them. They are the owners to themselves. They are not afraid of anyone. No one will fire them. Therefore, in public places they behave freely, uninhibited. They talk loudly, laugh cheerfully. They even look different. Bright shirts, light slacks, moccasins on bare feet – that’s a typical Alma-Ata resident on a cool summer evening somewhere on the open terrace of a trendy cafe. Talks are slow, often philosophical. Right there they discuss the work. Here is an incidentally overheard conversation of the Alma-Ata businessman: “Do we need to meet tomorrow? Listen, I cannot meet in the morning, I’ll be in fitness, then I want to go to the motor salon, and need to see a new car. Let’s meet in the afternoon? “. It’s so slow, imposing. Astana officials would be shocked by such a conversation. After all, they do not belong to themselves, they are always in a hurry between meetings, conferences and reports. Each of them, even sipping a cocktail, realizes that at this time he has an accumulating mail on his desk, he still has to go to the office late at night and work, which means that tomorrow he will not get enough sleep. Therefore, what a leisurely conversation can happen? Everything is done very fast. Concretely and briefly about the work.

          In Alma-Ata, the spirit of freedom is everywhere. I think that if the mayor of the city would come to dinner in the restaurant, no one would be impressed. They would just look at him as at well-known person, and will continue to sip their hookah. Because there will be few people who depend on him. The owner of a large trading network, a shareholder of a private bank, a manager of a network of car dealers and the restaurateur himself could sit there. Who cares about mayor?

          While in Astana, it seems to me that the mayor of the city will not be able to have a dinner in a public place simply because many of the officials sitting in the hall would consider it their duty to come up in respectful obeisance and personally shake the hands with the mayor. In this case, everyone will be in full confidence that the mayor knows and remembers him well, and the next day will meet in his office with open arms.

Two worlds, two spirits.

P.S. These are my personal feelings. Perhaps I am mistaken, and it all seemed to me.

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