By pure coincidence, the atmosphere of increased security about which I blogged this morning was confirmed in the afternoon.
Every Tuesday, I spend the day at the Kasteev State Art Museum, Kazakhstan’s equivalent of DC’s National Gallery. In return for editing and proofreading English-language texts when necessary, my friends in the Kazakh Painting Department grant me access to their research materials and painting vaults. This is a wonderful arrangement for me as I am able to continue some art historical research even while the museum is technically closed, as it will be probably until next summer.
Today, for the first time since I arrived, the front doors were guarded by a huge Kazakh gentleman with cropped hair wearing the blue camouflage uniform of the paramilitary police force and a flak jacket. A flak jacket at the door to a museum. This was new to me. When I walked past, only nodding him hello (because no one has ever asked to search my bags before), he quickly caught me, grabbed my shoulder and asked me (politely, I should note) to please open my bag. Inside were only books, but he wanted to know who why I needed to take them inside the museum (they belong to the museum).
Nothing more than that happened, so this dramatic story ends anticlimactically, This is too bad for you, but it was great for me. I was surprised at the heightened security and asked my co-workers what it was all about, expecting them to tell me some such dignitary or big-wig was making a visit. Instead they independently suggested that it was in response to the attacks in Taraz. I can only barely imagine why Jund al-Kalifa, other Islamists or just disgruntled domestic “terrorists” might attack the state art museum, but someone seems to think that, as a state institution, it is at risk. At least I know I’m being protected.