ALMATY, Kazakhstan – A leading Kazakh writer has nominated actor Sacha Baron Cohen for a national award for popularizing Kazakhstan. Novelist Sapabek Asip-uly called on the Kazakh Club of Art Patrons to give Baron Cohen its annual award, according to a letter published by the Vremya newspaper Thursday.
Baron Cohen's fictional character Borat "has managed to spark an immense interest of the whole world in Kazakhstan, something our authorities could not do during the years of independence," said Asip-uly.
Government officials in the former Soviet republic have been enraged by Borat's unflattering portrayal of Kazakh life in the spoof documentary, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."
"If state officials completely lack a sense of humor, their country becomes a laughing stock," Asip-uly said.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said earlier this week that Borat has helped to make Kazakhstan better known in the West and he invited Baron Cohen to visit the Central Asian state.
The film, which follows Borat on a trip across the U.S. to report back to his homeland on American culture and lifestyle, has become a runaway hit while generating controversy for scenes depicting misogyny and racism.
"I truly hope my initiative will be supported for the benefit of the glorious nation of Kazakhstan," Asip-uly said.
Asip-uly is known for several novels describing the Russian colonization of Kazakh lands and the Stalinist purges against Kazakhstan's political and cultural elite in the 1930s.