On August 29, 1949 the Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapons test, code-named First Lightning in the eastern region of Kazakhstan. The nuclear chain reaction deposited radioactive fallout throughout the region. Over the next 40 years, the Soviet Union detonated another 455 nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan – causing horrific health effects amongst over 2 million of people.
In September this year, on the occasion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, students from through-out Kazakhstan joined Chain Reaction 2016 by participating in a chain reaction of events for peace and nuclear disarmament.
‘In contrast to the destructive chain reaction of the nuclear bomb, shall take place a chain reaction of peace by people of good will. From heart to heart, from human to human, from community to community, from country to country shall pass an impulse, which results in a massive, global, anti-nuclear action.’
Tolegen Mukhamejanov, initiator of Chain Reaction 2016
The Kazakhstan chain reaction of peace started in Semey, the closest city to the former Soviet nuclear test site.
Students of Shakarim University gathered at the monument on Polkovnichyi Island dedicated to those who have suffered from nuclear tests. There they performed the song “Zaman-ai”, a beautiful anti-nuclear anthem composed by Tolegen Mukhamejanov, initiator of Chain Reaction 2016 and one of the leaders of the civil society movement which moved the government to close the nuclear test site in 1991. The students also launched origami cranes (the Japanese bird of peace) into the sky in solidarity with those who were affected by the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The chain reaction baton was then picked up by students at the State Medical University of Semey who organized a flash mob “We stand for a nuclear-free world.” The flash mob featured a performance with umbrellas and balloons. The umbrellas represented the ‘nuclear umbrella’ which cannot prevent a nuclear catastrophe, and contrasted this with the message of peace and nuclear abolition – which could be carried around the world by the balloons.
After Semey the chain reaction baton was picked up students at the S.Seifullin Kazakh Agro-Technical University in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. They organised a flash mob at the technical department.
The chain reaction baton was then passed to the LN Gumilyov Eurasian National University. Students and faculty organised a range of events in every one of the university’s 6 departments. These included a photo exhibition, drawings gallery, performances by music groups, showing a short film, a round table, a survey among the students on their knowledge about the issue, and a contest for the best article on the theme of “Kazakhstan and Chain Reaction 2016”. The events culminated with another flash mob organized by the students.
The baton then moved to the Medical University of Astana, where there was a gala event for Chain Reaction 2016 with over 450 staff and students. The event included a movie ‘The cradle of the nuclear-free world’, a presentation by Professor Bakhtin Meyrat Muhamedkarimovich (Deputy Director of the Institute of Radiobiology and Radiation Protection), and presentations by the president of the Student Council, and two other students. At the end of event, the University Student Council held a peace concert.
The chain reaction events in Astana concluded at the Kazakh National University of Arts. University students organized a colorful dance and musical flash mob featuring mixed choir, children’s choir, “Iligan” and students of the department acting skills.