Yerlan Stambekov is one of a few Kazakhstan citizens, who has a deep sense of personal responsibility for what is happening in the country. He started his business activities in the 1990's in the stock exchange. Establisher of Paryz Charity Fund. General producer of the musical group “The Magic of Nomads”. In 2013-2014, he was the Director of the Chamber of Entrepreneurs in Almaty. Currently engaged in business. The ideological inspirer of the Alma Kala event, for the purpose of which in April, 2014, in the southern capital more than 9,000 apple trees were planted. The head of the organizing committee of Toi Kazan Festival of national cuisine and traditions of Kazakhstan people.
- Yerlan when and in what family were you born?
- I was born on December 17, 1966, in a family of professional employees, as in those days were called technical and engineering employees. My mother after she has has been graduated from a polytechnical university, worked at a design institute, and father taught construction technology at a university.
– Now you are an entrepreneur, but perhaps you may be said to be a successor to the civil engineers family dynasty?
– Yes, I chose my profession on my parents’ advice. Although in the childhood I, like all boys, aspired to become an astronaut, and a fireman, and an officer, and a pilot..., but dreams metamorphose in length of time, they become largely your own, or something. When in the seventh grade, I suddenly began to write poetry, then I wanted to become a journalist.
– Why suddenly?
– I have not noticed my bent for poetry before. I just once wrote a good essay about Kazakhstan, and the teacher praised me. And her words awakened my poetic gift. My dad also writes poetry in the Kazakh language, and maternal grandfather composed songs that are still sung in Kustanay region and considered to be folk.
– So, in the same way, you inherited love to music and began composing songs?
– Yes, I was interested in music, you can say, "from the cradle". We have a very musical family, and my uncle, my dad's younger brother, who frequently visited our home, even performed in Dos Mukasan band, and together with Alexander Maslyakov he was an anchorman of popular in those days TV program "Hello, we are looking for talents!". And I probably absorbed all this.
– And you went to a music school?
– No, I did all I could for not being sent to a music school. And I have come to music by myself, when in the fourth grade I began to realize that playing a guitar is great. Then, I asked my mother, and she bought a guitar from someone in our courtyard for three roubles. This guitar was rather old, but when my uncle came and played the Beatles' songs "And I love her", "Yesterday", and then "Let it be", I did not sleep all the night thinking that I will never become such a great guitar player.
And since then I was literally addicted to a guitar. Of course, I was fond of sports as well, did my homework, but I became a real guitar fan, and already in the seventh grade I was considered to be a great guitarist among children. By the way, somewhere at the same time, one of my friends brought a boy two years younger than us in our courtyard, but at that age two years mean a big difference, and I showed him the first chords in the entrance.
Many years later I was very surprised to see him on the TV on Alla Pugachyova’s program "Christmas meetings" within A-Studio group, I am talking about Baglan Sadvakasov. Once later, in person, I asked him if he remember his first chords in the old entrance, and he replied that remembers very well, where his path to success began.
– This the fate of a talent. As for me, in spite of all my exertions, I never learned to play the guitar.
– A powerful incentive is required. I listened with delight to songs of Bulat Okudzhava, Vladimir Vysotsky, Yuriy Vizbor, and many other bards-performers, but I wanted to not only listen to, but also sing. I have had great idols, especially the Beatles. No one modern group has such a powerful, creative energy . They were sixties-spirited, imbued with a spirit of freedom, youth, sincere quest for love and happiness.
– What is surprising is the fact that we, for the most part, did not understand the meaning of texts of the Beatles’ songs, but we felt their magnetism, positive message.
– I cannot boast of my perfect knowledge of English, but totally understand their songs, the melody so much emphasize nuances of feelings and words that they wanted to say. For me the Beatles remains to be one of the examples of how to approach life. I was always attracted to their creativity, the main component of searching for new ideas. They managed to create a religion from their music, which cannot be said about today's musicians. Modern music is rather a background of life, but not a religion.
- Maybe, it is just because young people are different today, with different perception of the world, values, environment? That time needed for a leap forward, liberation from routine and stagnation, from the old dogmas. That was time of hunger for information, many things were forbidden, and now it is the opposite -everything is allowed...
- Of course, historical realities make their impact, but the phenomenon of the Beatles is that they managed to involve several generations to the unprecedented cultural development.
Together with the Beatles we opened for ourselves the new meanings and new forms of life, new music. Thanks to them, the Western young people have steep themselves in the East world beginning to learn enthusiastically Buddhism and ancient Indian philosophy.
The Beatles proved to be much more talented than others. They learned "just-in-time" from life itself and were very capable students and teachers at the same time, though, maybe, they were not fully aware of their mission.
– Did they not realize how strong was their influence over young people?
– Yes, judging by their shocking antics, they didn't wonder about that. They were at the summit of fame and enjoyed it. They gained civil responsibility much later, as parents, as fathers. Much later than they carved out their dashing, golden career.
Shortly before his tragic death, Lennon confessed that he was out of touch with his first son, because he by no means was involved in his upbringing. And he tried to compensate for the lost, he abandoned his career prospects and lived becoming reclusive for five years, dedicating himself to his beloved wife and the second son like a real father.
- Is it possible to be a real father only turning its back on the world?
- Of course,only a few can afford such lifestyle, especially now, when there is a hard process of primary capital accumulation when the Soviet Union, its values and guarantees have collapsed.
And I am, as a father, in debt to my eldest daughter, I also was unable to give her as much attention as I should. Due to the around the clock working, long business trips, I has just not had the time and energy to adequate communication in the bosom of my family.
– And what values have collapsed?
– For example, the absolute value was a close-knit family, divorce was discouraged in the Soviet Union, moreover, if a citizen was a member of the party, the divorce could seriously damage his career in both party and employment.
Children in the Soviet Union were considered a privileged class. Education and health services were free and of good quality, the law enforcement system worked well. And in the country and society upbringing of the younger generation was really paid much attention, and I can not say that everything used to be bad, because I am a product of the Soviet era.
Every summer we travelled to a pioneer camp. My father or mother were buying the vouchers for camps in trade unions for little money. We had very well meals there, our pioneer leaders attended us, we had fun things to do, we were taught communication skills and ability to work in a team, ability to live among the people.
– Apparently, it takes time for the Government to return to reliable social protection of its citizens and education of children.
– Yes, it is not too late to recover the lost things. Now we cultivate new values: religion replaced the party ideology.
– And what does being a religious person mean for you?
– In my opinion, religion is something very personal, I would say, a secret thing. It is not necessary to pray publicly and to prove your love for God in public, you just have to observe the moral law, which is one for all. Religion should not divide people, but to cultivate universal human values, build peace and harmony.
– Traditionally, Kazakh families feel reverence for the parents. Tell me, please, if your father's authority was always unquestioned for you?
– It is hard to tell, I was growing up as a very freakish child. And my parents had a hard time with me. I often fought, and in the kindergarten my friend and me even set fire to the toilet, but ones a teacher told my father that I had a fight defending a girl, and I still remember how much he was proud of my noble act.
In general, I was very outgoing child, loved to invent tales, was always telling funny stories about our friends in the classroom. I was a dreamer in the best sense of the word.
But I very zealously defended my world from invasion of adults, and I am grateful to my parents for their ability to maintain a distance. There were no familiarity and falsehood between us. They always honestly expressed their reaction to my actions, encouraged me to be myself, and I respect them for this.
And after I left a secondary school, when my father said to me: "Let's make a deal, I want you to be enrolled at the Civil Engineering Department, to see army service, and then you will be allowed to do everything you need", – I obeyed him, although I wanted to go to Tashkent to study Arabic there.
– Such a harsh treaty. Today, few parents voluntarily send their child to serve in the army.
– Army is a hard school, but it's not harder than those relationships that develop between the guys in the neighbourhood. A guy has to be able to stand up for himself, to defend his honour and dignity not hiding behind his mother's skirt and father's fists. I knew about myself that no one can force me to do what I do not want to on my own.
– And what about a commander’s order? The army teaches not to think, but carry out orders
– The army is a very good school teaching how to be a soldier. It is said that it's a poor soldier that never wants to become a general, but I would say that it’s a poor general that never knew a soldiers' part. And if a person has to carry a heavy burden of managing people, he should, first of all, try himself on the role of a soldier, in other words, learn by experience, what it means to carry out orders.
And when speaking about the army, we must never call into question its basic principle – the principle of unity of command, because in an emergency you just just have to be able to clearly follow orders, sometimes at the risk of your own life, but not to speculate whether they are correct. I'm sure, those guys, who have seen army service, are always able to fulfil themselves and bear up against the most difficult circumstances.
– Is it about those, who were able to bear up serving in the army?
– You know, most often those weak in spirit are broken up in the army, and not because they are victimized. They can not stand up to the military environment itself, where everyone is equal, when you have no one to take pity on you, to console you, to pat you on the back. When everyone has absolutely the same problems that you have, the same uniform, a hard bed and not very tasty soup.
The army is a real school of life, a school of courage. And I came from there with a clear understanding: to survive in this world, you have to be strong.
– Is it only military service that can come you to such a conclusion?
– No, not necessarily, but understand this correctly, historically, and by nature a man has to protect his homeland, must be strong, but he should still be noble and kind. And believe me, only the army brings up these qualities in the desired degree.
– As for the kindness and generosity education in our army, I strongly doubt.
– Our army is no worse and no better than our society, as we are as it is our army. It is we, who mould its image by our attitudes. We should cherish our army because our children serve there.
Remember the Soviet blockbuster films about military service, such a heroic and romantic image of military service was cultivated by the enormous propaganda machine. That is why, in Soviet times everyone wanted to serve in the army, though, believe me, there were not less problems at that time.
The army's task is to teach how to survive in all conditions and to continue carrying out orders. I have seen army service and do not regret it at all. I was holding a weapon and know what it is capable of, I know how important it is to keep it in strong hands controlled by a clear head and a good heart. Only in the army we are really taught to take responsibility for the fate of people. Only in the army, you begin to understand what firm male friendship means.
This year, on June 1, in conjunction with the movement I Am an Almaty Citizen, we have held an event Paratroopers for Children. Journalists, bloggers and just our friends taking their children, as well as children from one of the orphanages in Almaty, went to the 35th guards assault combat brigade in Kapchagai, where they met army men. The soldiers put all equipment on the drill square, held performance, allowed seeing the accommodation and work chambers, in short, they have shown how our army lives today. The children and adults alike were delighted!
I am sure that if such events are held regularly, attitude of ordinary people to the army will change. It will stop to be closed, which means frightening.
– What branch of arms did you serve in?
– In aviation, as a mechanic, and was out of the army holding the rank of senior sergeant. The army has made its adjustments in my view of life. I realized that I, as a serious man, should know economics, I have to know how the foundation of the well-being of any country is made and what are the constituents of it. That is why I went back to my institute and continued my studies in Economics and Management, but not in Industrial and Civil Construction.
I have been doing business for nearly 25 years, went, as they say, over a lot, through the "influx and reflux", "warming and cooling” concerning entrepreneurship on the part of the government, through an armed raid when our office was turned upside down, through hundreds of obstacles and barriers, through frowns of lawmaking in reference to business, through rogue cops, who were coming for a touch for free, using their authority as a smear.
Someone can say: but now much has changed, the State itself is supporting business, and from who should we defend ourselves? For those, who have recently started doing business, the answer is simple: we have got all these not for nothing. And no one can give us firm guarantees that it will always be this way.
This is a result of large and serious work, which involved and continues to involve businessmen and public figures, with whom I had the good fortune to meet and become friends over the years in the business, with some of them I met and became friends while working in the Chamber of Entrepreneurs in Almaty.
– When did you wish to embark upon a socio-political career?
– In 1989, still being a student I decided to try myself in real politics taking part in the first election on an alternative basis, and I became a city council deputy. At that time, I was 23 years old, I was young and hot and started to learn the public administration.
On the City Council I headed the Commission for Youth, Physical Education and Sports, Afghan War Veterans. It was a time of sweeping change, the country was at a crossroads, it had very complex political processes, and we had to make difficult decisions.
Kazakhstan gained its independence, and we had to build a new economic structure out of the wreckage of the Soviet system immediately and in running condition, because it is impossible to close the country, where millions of people live, for reconstruction.
In 1991, after graduating the institute, I have continued working on the stock exchange. It was a completely new structure, which has been working on development of the securities market in Kazakhstan.
- As far as I'm concerned, this market failed to materialize at that time.
- Yes, it did, for a variety of reasons. After all, what are securities? They are shares of companies that produce competitive products on the free market.
In my opinion, in the coming years our country will actively develop its own food production and agricultural products processing. This is quite an interesting and yet not enough developed segment of the Kazakhstan economy. We have a lot of land, as well as agricultural producers, but processing industry is practically non-existent. And the service industry has the potential for development as well: for example, cafés, snack bars with original products and ideas.
- Kazakhstan started producing its own products literally in the past decade, before that most of companies were braking apart.
- All at once does not happen, the society should recover. For working stock market mechanism we need a solid banking system and improved legislation. We are gradually fine-tuning all these mechanisms of the civilized market. Even now there are less irresponsible people in business.
And we are moving towards a society, in which everyone would worry about his good name, because your name is your capital. The whole civilized world lives in this way. Even now, with good references you can get a bank loan for development of production, purchase of housing or other necessities.
- Therefore, it is necessary to cultivate commitment to one’s reputation in the society. The country has to know the names of its true heroes and their good deeds. However, our media and movies for the most part spread gossip and scandals and promoted anti-heroes’ deeds.
- Now it is time for everyone to think on the personal responsibility for what is happening around. And journalists, politicians, and businessmen, and teachers, and all other citizens are also concerned.
It is not the State's fault that we live with dirty entrance halls and do not have a good playground in our backyard, but it’s ours fault. We should just clean the entrance hall, build a playground, and not only a playground, but also form a social club in an abandoned basement. Who but ourselves will do this?
- Then how can we convince people that their well-being depends on themselves?
– It is useless just to walk around and convince people, the inertia is too strong. The government and business have to invent and run absolutely market-based mechanisms that will encourage social initiative.
You know, even when there is no money, but there is an idea, around which a project can be developed and income can be received, it is very good. Once my friends from Astana called me and asked to come and perform, sing my songs. I did not want to: "Guys, let me pay to you for leaving me alone. I am a businessman, not an artist." We had a good laugh and said good buy.
The next day, my friend came to me and said that one of the orphan homes in Almaty has problems with sewage, and repairs require 300,000 KZT. I remembered the yesterday's call. I called back to the Astana’s friends and said: "Do you still want to invite me? I'll sing, recite poetry, and invite other friends-musicians, we will perform an excellent charitable entertainment program for 400,000 KZT."
They agreed, rented a hall, which eventually turned out to be crowded. We gave a concert, and at the end of it, we held an auction, where I put up for sale my CD with a record of the Centre of Almaty. In the end, we managed to get 4.4 million KZT to help even several orphan homes. A year later, we held a similar event in the southern capital and have gained almost 10 million KZT. I hope it will continue.
- People often complain that they have been provided with poor education, so they have no chance to get a well-paid job, to succeed.
- Education is not provided with. You take only as much as you want. I know many talented guys, who achieved great success in business, without economic or special higher education, only because of their natural instincts and sociability.
The best university is a direct, serious interaction with people. Words, gestures, eyes - all this together are much more helpful for efficient learning. And, of course, you need experience coming through difficulties. It is important to be able to rejoice at what you already have, and aspire to something larger.
- No, many young guys want to be businessmen. What can you say in parting words from the height of your experience?
– No should not swing from one extreme to another. First of all, you should decide, what you want to do. You can start in a small way: learning. One major Kazakhstan’s restaurateur, who is my friend now, in his day started simply as a waiter. And there are a lot of similar biographies.
But now young people often don't have patience, they start, they are in for a penny, and only then realize that they can’t be in for a pound. If you want to engage in production, than start with learning it from even the lowest positions. You should understand why you are there. Spend some of your time learning it, especially this is not for free. You even will be paid a salary, albeit not much. This is is a step towards your own business.
- Tell me, what have you been educated to by today?
- First, I am an economist, businessman, senior manager. I am an executive, organizer, producer, so I help talented guys to make their careers in show business. I can give good advice, because I have the ability to see problem root causes in business not only in my own, but in others as well. And I am always glad, when someone also tells me about my errors.
I am open for communication and interaction. My openness never damages me, but it was always beneficial to me. I am sure that there are more good people in the world than bad ones. But everyone makes mistakes, and therefore, even if someone hurts you, you should give him a chance to clear himself, to correct the error.
After all, we often deny others this opportunity cutting ourselves off with a wall of resentment. We always should look at a person, look into the eyes, look into the heart, it never deceives.
- And what role in your life love to a woman played, has it inspired you to great deeds and great achievements?
- All of the most rational things in my life I have done for the sake of love to my wife. She is a very sensible person, and before I met her, I used to be a desperate guy. Figuratively I could say that I used to climb in through the window to a woman, and she taught me to go in the door. She assert great influence over me and taught me a lot. We mutually enriched ourselves - she has become richer with me, and I have become richer with her.
- If your business were to fail, that what would you still have?
- I have a guitar and a song. My family - my wife and children, my friends. I always say: “The only thing that matters is to have a good head and hands, and with them I always can earn." I would compose and sing my songs.
Maybe I would help someone to conduct business. I would be very helpful. Of course, I would feel stressed, and maybe I would spend a whole month on the sofa, feeling sorry for myself and for the lost, but then I would get up and start all over again.
- What was your most burning ambition in your boyhood days?
- To grow into manhood, so that to be independent.
- But this is difficult?
- It seems to me that being dependant on someone else for the whole life is much harder. Therefore, parents’ mission is to give children a good education, and as for the rest, they have to earn this themselves. Do not deprive them of the opportunity to achieve their own dreams.
- Do you think whether a child is a clean slate, or a specific program that starts at birth?
– I think that every child has own genetic program got from his forefathers and parents, but the way in which it shows itself depends on the environment, where the child grows and is educated. If, for example, a child has talent of a magician, and he grows in a criminal environment, than he would not become a magic artist, but a thief and a swindler.
- This means that it is society, which forms its citizens?
- We are inseparable with our surrounding, and very often we get sick and recover along with the society. At that time, at the beginning of the great restructuring period, I wrote a poem, in which I expressed my attitude to what we're talking about.
Time, I forgive you for
My growing up to a freak
Without roots deep in the ground.
For our rolling as a blunt,
Heaven knows where to,
in pitch darkness.
And I hurt for the paintings,
Where my generation is held by seniors.
You made us so highly raised and dropped
Without heart and soul.
Tomorrow, we will grow to bastards also,
Today the progress is seen yet.
And we also will rely on the time,
As on a big cyclic process.
It hurts; I forgive you, time.
I'm scared; I ask your pardon.
I'll soon shut up under generational change pressure,
Like those many who shut up before me.
- In your poem, you have accurately rendered feelings of those who experienced the the end of the era. Listening to you, I concluded that winners are born, and losers are grown into.
– It may have been true A person indeed is born with great potential capabilities. But who said that these opportunities can only be realized in an ivory tower? Do not try to protect your children from mistakes, which they will have to make in their life. It's useless, but the task is to teach them to correctly bear the misfortunes, not to crack, be optimistic and, despite the loss, to feel up to continue moving on.
We have to live
And after taking rise be ready for falling down,
So that to take rise again
And to be someone in this life.
What is the evil mutter worth
With a gnash of the abraded teeth?
The jackal’s fate for wolf's edification.
Excuse me, but a wolf is better,
Than an oak aged 100 years.
I wrote this poems when I was 18 and was drawn to the color. Even at that time I knew that no matter how hard it goes with you, don't give up. Do not give up under any circumstances, because your hope will die only after you. And it is this, what children to be taught. Just don't give up - and that’s all!