Kazakh Students Mark National Day With Bicycle Journey

October 12, 2015 – Kazakhstan celebrated 550 years of statehood this month in a series of pageantries across its vast territory covering Central Asia.

People wearing traditional costumes, with pointed fur hats, hunting eagles and stringed instruments, evoked images of their nomadic ancestors, who descended from Genghis Khan.

Starting from 1465, the migratory tribes were united by Sultans Kerey and Zhanibek and settled in the valleys of rivers Shu and Talas, forming the first “khanate,” according to historic records.

Kazakhstan, meaning “the land of Kazakhs,” became integrated into the Russian Empire from the 18th century onward, and formed an “autonomous republic” of the Soviet Union in 1936.

The country gained independence in 1991, and has since become a regional powerhouse, connecting Europe and Asia through diplomatic accords, trade routes and human networks.

Ten Kazakh students at Korean universities took part in a cycling journey last week across the country to commemorate the milestone and engage in a cross-cultural dialogue with Koreans.

“We rested eight hours a day and rode the rest,” said Yeldos Kyrgyzbay, 21, a student at Kookmin University, said in an interview. “To save time, we also rode on the outer lane of the highway, where cars zipped past us at over 100 kilometers per hour.”

The students traveled from Seoul to Daejeon and back from Oct. 7-9, covering 550 kilometers, coinciding with the genealogical years. The trip was organized by the Kazakh Student Association in Korea under the initiative of president Guldana Sakiyeva, 19, who studies at Korea University.

Kyrgyzbay said that his group, wearing uniforms bearing the label “EXPO Astana 2017,” told Korean passersby about Kazakhstan’s history, economy and lifestyle during breaks every 20 kilometers. “We were surprised to find that Koreans knew much more about Kazakhstan than we expected, compared to most Europeans.”

Kanat Dauletov, 22, a student at Korea University said that in Suwon, Osan, Cheonan and Sejong City along the way, their friends provided lodging in their small dormitory rooms and goshiwon, tight, low-cost housing.

“We were struck by the beauty of Korea’s nature, rice paddies, mountains and rivers,” Dauletov said. “It was a landscape we had never seen before studying on campus and hanging out in cities.”

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