Kazis Toguzbaev, one of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s best known and most respected journalists in Kazakhstan, died on February 28 in Almaty, of complications caused by COVID-19. Toguzbaev was 72 years old.
Nicknamed by his friends and colleagues as ‘Real Colonel’ in recognition of his military service, Toguzbaev started his journalistic career in the late-1990s after he retired from the armed forces with the rank of colonel and very quickly earned prominence for his reports.
In 2007. Toguzbaev was the first journalist in Kazakhstan charged with insulting authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s honor and dignity. He was convicted and handed a suspended two-year prison term.
Toguzbaev started cooperating with RFE/RL in 2008 and, over a twelve-year period, he wrote hundreds of reports, conducted numerous interviews with politicians, experts, activists, relatives of political prisoners, ordinary people.
In December 2011, Toguzbaev reported extensively, although under pressure from the authorities, from Kazakhstan’s southwestern town of Zhanaozen, where the violent dispersal of protests by oil workers ended with the deaths of at least 17 protesters.
Toguzbaev also focused in his reporting on high-profile ethnic clashes, problems faced by religious minorities, inmates, elderly people, political prisoners, pensioners, and youth.
His colleagues will always remember his open face shining with a charming smile and his readiness to help anyone in need – from his colleagues to people he reported about.
Kazis Toguzbaev is survived by his wife Svetlana Lavrentyeva and two sons.