In the ‘truth is often stranger than fiction’ category, this is the kind of publicity that Borat couldn’t buy. With Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie about the hapless Kazakhstani due out next week, the nation of Kazakhstan itself has made a blunder that Borat himself would be proud of.

Borat, “Kazakhstan’s sixth most famous man”

Kazakhstan prides itself on its national language, having seen it as a national symbol since its independence in 1991, when it refused the option to take on Russian. However, the Kazakhstan central bank is planning to circulate new banknotes even though a spelling mistake has been highlighted. And not just any spelling mistake. They’ve misspelt the word ‘bank’.

They’ve used Cyrillic text (as used in Russian) for the word bank on the notes, but it is misspelt using an alternative Kazakh version of the letter ‘K’. Strangely, despite urgings from various political sides not to release the notes, the National Bank plans to release the 2,000 and 5,000 tenge notes throughout November, but will gradually replace them over the following months.

The first thing this makes me think of is the potential future value of those misspelt notes. It would be worth a few thousand tenge to put a few of each note aside somewhere and hang onto them until all the misspelt notes have been retrieved from circulation. You could then have something of a collector’s item on your hands. Of course, that’s assuming that not everybody thinks the same thing. Perhaps all these misspelt notes will enter circulation and never be seen again.

A number of MPs wrote to the Kazakhstan President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, urging him to tell the bank not to circulate the notes.

Nursultan Nazarbayev

The letter said, “We urge you to tell the National Bank not to put out the notes with a mistake in the Kazakh language… The mistake… is not just a spelling problem – it has political undertones.” The only real undertone I can see is ‘Kazakh bank can’t spell and doesn’t really care.’ I’m not sure why that’s political, but there you go.