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Jimmy Wales in: The Dictator and I

Wikipedian of the Year runs wiki organisation funded by an authoritarian regime


By Andreas Kolbe


[To view or participate in a forum discussion on this topic, please click here.]

The other day an obscure news article caught my eye online: Wikipedia founder to visit Kazakhstan in 2013. Underneath one of Jimmy Wales’ favourite pictures of himself – the one where he is wearing a blue business shirt, nonchalantly leaning against a wall, his famous blue eyes smiling at the reader – the text said, “Wikipedia founder is expected to visit Kazakhstan in 2013, according to Rauan Kenzhekhanuly, founder of WikiBilim Foundation [an NGO to develop the Kazakh Wikipedia].” A little further below, the article said that the project to expand the Kazakh Wikipedia was supported by Karim Massimov, until recently the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, and today President Nazarbaev’s chief of staff.

This piqued my curiosity. Supported by whom? Expanding the various language versions of Wikipedia is not usually a task performed with government support, least of all support from the sort of government Kazakhstan has.

An authoritarian regime

Kazakhstan, oil-rich and the worldwide leader in natural uranium production, is ruled by Nursultan Nazarbaev, a Soviet politburo veteran who has been president of Kazakhstan for as long as the nation has existed (1991). He was already its president when it was still a Soviet republic: he has been in power since 1990. A 2007 constitutional amendment made Nazarbaev personally exempt from any term limits, enabling him to remain President for life. He won his most recent term extension in April 2011, running against token opposition and winning 95% of the vote in an election deemed unfair by international observers.

His presidency has been criticised for human rights abuses and the curtailment of press freedoms, including attempts to control

…continue reading Jimmy Wales in: The Dictator and I