The Nazarbayev Center and The ATOM Project to Be Presented in Geneva

November 12, 2012

ASTANA, November 12, 2012

The Nazarbayev Center and The ATOM Project will be presented in Geneva on November 19 and will launch two exhibitions, “A Lesson in Peace: Dismantling the Soviet Nuclear Weapons Program in Kazakhstan” and “I Have Only My Heart to Hold You: The Art of Karipbek Kuyukov” which will be open from November 20-30 at the Exhibition Hall of the UN Palais des Nations (14, Avenue de la Paix, Geneva; The exhibition is open to all visitors to the UN; to schedule a visit one must go to Pregny Gate of the UN and get a visitor’s badge).

Kanat Saudabayev, Chairman of the Commission on Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction under the President of Kazakhstan and Director of the Nazarbayev Center, is expected to deliver remarks at the presentation of the Center and of the ATOM Project which is to take place at the Intercontinental Hotel (7-9 Chemin Du Petit-Saconnex, Geneva).

He will be joined by Karipbek Kuyukov, The ATOM Project’s Honorary Ambassador; Laurent Corbaz, Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Operations for Europe and Central Asia; and Ms. Kerstin Vignard, Chief of Projects and Publications and Editor in Chief of the Disarmament Forum of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) will offer welcoming and closing remarks.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the Conference on Disarmament, as well as Kanat Saudabayev and Karipbek Kuyukov are expected to address the launch of the exhibitions at the UN Palais des Nations.

In August 2012, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev addressed a major international parliamentary conference in Astana and launched The ATOM Project as a vehicle to generate global popular support for the permanent end to nuclear weapons testing and, ultimately, the abolition of nuclear weapons. The ATOM Project is a new initiative of President Nazarbayev, building on top of his 21 years of commitment and actions to achieve global nuclear disarmament.
Earlier, in January 2012, the President of Kazakhstan established the Nazarbayev Center which is envisioned as a premier presidential center of its kind, dedicated to advancing peace and development through humanitarian engagement and cutting-edge research, education, and awareness initiatives. The Center, which is charged with implementing The ATOM Project, is located in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

History of Nuclear Testing and Disarmament

For four decades, against its will and without deep knowledge of what was going on, Kazakhstan, then a Soviet republic, was used as the center for Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons testing program. From 1949 to 1991, the USSR conducted more than 450 nuclear weapons tests at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in eastern Kazakhstan, bringing illness and death to around 1.5 million people in the region and radioactive pollution to a huge swath of land.

On August 29, 1991, despite the position of the Soviet government in Moscow, President Nazarbayev of what was then the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic shut down the Soviet nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk. Upon Kazakhstan’s independence in December 1991, against the advice of many within and outside of Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev renounced all nuclear weapons in the country inherited from the USSR. Since that time, Kazakhstan has fully rid itself of all nuclear weapons on its territory – the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal. The infrastructure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site has been dismantled. Many people in the region, though, continue to suffer from nuclear radiation-related diseases, including cancer and leukemia.

The Nazarbayev Center and The ATOM Project

The Nazarbayev Center works to help advance world peace and nuclear disarmament through the creation and implementation of research, analysis, education and awareness initiatives, as well as humanitarian engagement on nuclear nonproliferation, religious and ethnic harmony and economic stability. It also works to strengthen the principles of civic identity and patriotism in the Kazakhstan society and foster interaction and cooperation between state bodies, institutions of science and culture, civil society and the media.

“We have an opportunity to once more remind the world about tragic consequences of the nuclear testing, and push the global community towards more decisive actions to achieve final and definitive ban of such testing,” President Nazarbayev told the conference in Astana as he launched the ATOM Project on August 29, 2012, the UN International Day against Nuclear Tests.

“Under the Project any human being on Earth, who stands against nuclear weapons, can sign an online petition urging governments of the world to abandon nuclear tests forever and ensure early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Ban Treaty. I urge the participants of the conference and all the people of good will to support The ATOM Project and make the creation of the nuclear weapons free world our main goal,” the President said.

Alyn Ware, PNND Global Coordinator, noted, “PNND is honored to partner with The ATOM Project to help educate parliamentarians, governments and civil society about the horrific humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and the imperative this provides for their abolition.”

Karipbek Kuyukov is an artist working in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Mr. Kuyukov is one of the many survivors of nuclear weapons testing conducted at the Semipalatinsk test site. He was born in 1968, in Egindybulak Village in the Karaganda region, only 90 kilometers (54 miles) from the nuclear test site. Due to the effects of nuclear radiation, Kuyukov was born without arms.

Karipbek Kuyukov overcame many challenges on his journey to secure an education and career. Ultimately, he earned a degree in accounting and also became an acclaimed artist. Now, he is continuing his lifelong work as a non-proliferation activist by serving as the ATOM Project’s Honorary Ambassador and calling on the world’s leaders to abolish nuclear testing and achieve the decades-old dream of nuclear disarmament.

“In my paintings, I try to express all the pain that nuclear weapons bring,” Karipbek Kuyukov says. “I was born in the nuclear test site zone. I was born without arms, but I have the power and strength to call on the world to stop the development of nuclear weapons programs. Through my paintings and my personal experience I can tell the story of our nation as a lesson and example for other countries to follow.”

In October, the ATOM Project and exhibition of works by Karipbek Kuyukov organized as part of the Project were successfully presented at the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague (The Netherlands).

The presentation of the ATOM Project and of the exhibition is also scheduled to take place in Washington, DC (USA) in December 2012.