Kazakhstan thanks 'Borat' for tourism boost

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Kazakhstan's foreign minister on Monday thanked "Borat," the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy that the Central Asian nation once banned for lampooning its people, for massively boosting its tourism.

"With the release of this film, the number of visas issued by Kazakhstan grew tenfold," local news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov as telling a session of parliament.

"I am grateful to 'Borat' for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan," the foreign minister said.

"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" became a hit with critics and viewers alike upon its release in 2006.

But its mocking depiction of Kazakh rural life and the main character's difficult adaptation to the United States created outrage in the former Soviet republic, which had no independent history prior to 1991.

The film's distribution was banned in the nation of 16 million and the authorities even blocked local access to Baron Cohen's website.

Officials have previously bristled at public mentions of the film and Kazakhstan last month lodged a formal complaint with the Olympic Committee of Asia after a spoof Kazakh anthem from "Borat" was played at a sports event in Kuwait.

But Kazykhanov said he approached the film "philosophically," noting that all Kazakh embassies abroad were under "strict instructions" to provide the state anthem and other insignia to local officials to avoid any confusion.

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