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Visa applications to Kazakhstan rise, thanks to Borat movie

27th April 2012

Despite the government initially banning the film and threatening to sue, Kazakhstan's foreign minister has officially thanked Borat for helping boost tourism to the country

Kazakhstan authorities have thanked Sacha Baron Cohen's creation, Borat, after visa applications increased by tenfold.

Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov recently stood up in parliament and said: “I salute "Borat" for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan. After this film, the number of visas issued to Kazakhstan grew by ten times. This is a big victory for us and I thank Borat for attracting tourists.”

When the 'mockumentary', called Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, was first released in 2006, the authorities had a different reaction to the one seen earlier this week. Officials initially claimed the film portrayed the country unfairly, wrongly depicting Kazakhs as sexist, racist and primitive. The authorities then banned the sales of DVDs, blocked the Borat website and threatened to sue.

In the film, Sacha Baron Cohen's character dons a luminous green mankini, makes jokes about incest and prostitution and travels across the USA in search of the actress Pamella Anderson.

Although the opposing parties seemed to have buried the hatchet, the film is still causing problems for the country six years down the line. It was only last month that the Kazakh government lodged a complaint with the Olympic Committee of Asia when the mock national anthem featured in the film was played after a Kazakh sportswomen won gold in a shooting contest.

The 'anthem' which includes the lyrics: 'Kazakhstan’s prostitutes cleanest in the region. Except of course Turkmenistan’s' understandably caused uproar among the country's shooting team. To avoid future embarrassment, the Kazakh embassy in London has reportedly been ordered to ensure London Olympic Officials know which one is the correct national anthem.

Despite Borat's best efforts to poo-poo Kazakhstan, tourism to the region is growing although it is still little-visited. The oil-rich country has vast and varied landscapes of mountainous wilderness and bustling cityscapes. The stunning Altay and Tian Shan mountains boast an array of rural pursuits such as trekking, rock climbing and horseriding, while Almaty and Astana house dramatic and inventive architecture.

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