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Kazakh Elites Divided Over Borat

Is he good or bad for Kazakhstan? Ads coming.

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With two months until Brit comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s bumbling Kazakh reporter character Borat makes his big-screen debut, trailers are in theaters. They feature Borat setting off for America in a car pulled by a horse, after lustily kissing his sister good-bye. Officials at the Kazakhstan Embassy are divided over how to handle the film, since all that many Americans know of Kazakhstan comes from the character. Next month, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Kazakh president, will visit the U.S., and his government will buy “educational” TV spots and print ads about the “real Kazakhstan.” But embassy spokesman Roman Vassilenko says the government is divided on how to respond. Anti-Borat hard-liners have already pulled the plug on borat.kz, Borat’s Kazakhstan-based Website. (In response, Borat claimed to “fully support my government’s decision to sue this Jew.”) Other leading Kazakhs believe efforts at muzzling Borat are clumsy and Sovietesque, and will only goad Cohen on. Cohen’s reps refused to allow him or his alter ego to respond to the controversy because it’s not close enough to the film’s release date.

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