While my recent TNR piece was able to cover most of the Tony Blair nexus helping push Kazakhstan’s image, it wasn’t able to get to quite everything. Below are a pair of paragraphs looking at those connected to Blair, from his wife to the founder of Wikipedia, with conspicuous ties to the Kazakhstani government:
But the involvement of Blair’s circle in Astana’s image-brushing extends even further. Lord Mandelson, the past “architect of Mr. Blair’s election victories,” has given speeches discussing how Kazakhstan’s sovereign-wealth fund played a “special role … as a savior of the world economy.” (The subscribers to this bizarre theory are, fortunately, few.) It also came out over the summer that Cherie Blair, the former prime minister’s wife, had been charging Kazakhstani taxpayers thousands of dollars per hour to review the country’s “bilateral investment treaties.”
Further, in 2011, Blair’s friend and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales awarded Kazakhstani “ex-government official” Rauan Kenzhekhanuly as the inaugural “Wikipedian of the Year” after Astana helped fund Kenzhekhanuly’s NGO in developing a Kazakh-language platform. Unfortunately, the funding from Kazakhstan also coincided with numerous articles toeing the government line – the article on Nazarbayev, for instance, contained no notable critiques of his decades-long rule, while Zhanaozen’s entry contained nothing on the massacre. When confronted earlier with such funding conflict, Wales claimed that, “As far as I know, [Kenzhekhanuly’s NGO] organization is not politicized.” In an email exchange with this reporter, Wales said that the NGO’s connections to the government have “absolutely no impact on the fact that they are completely independent of Wikipedia,” and called claims of Blair’s involvement in Wikipedia “ridiculous and untrue”, further noting that he was “proud of our stance in Kazakhstan against tyranny”. He also said implications that his Kazakhstan work was related to Blair’s were “disgusting”.