Sinister Symbolism


Completed in 2002, Kazakhstani artist Sergey Maslov’s installation Baikonur 2 explored an alternate mythology of Kazakh history. The project presented the Kazakh people as “the purest and most direct descendants of the aliens who landed from Sirius 2,000 years ago and inhabited the Earth to create humans from primates…” [1]. Installed in a gallery in Almaty, Maslov’s piece told the story of the years these “astral nomads” spent living on the moon. Projected photo-collages showed men, women, and aliens in traditional Kazakh dress arrayed across the lunar landscape.

In Maslov’s mythology, once the Kazakh people returned to earth they chose Kazakhstan’s steppes for their remoteness—a place where they could conceal their spacecraft from detection. This image of Kazakhstan’s harsh landscape providing the cover for alien life or secret societies is not unique to Maslov’s artistic imaginary. The Caspian Sea, on Kazakhstan’s Western border, has long been associated with UFO sightings and reports of mysterious activity [2]. Since the construction of Astana, the country’s capital, began in the early 2000s, the city has become a popular focus for conspiracy theories. Blogs such as Vigilant Citizen allege that Astana is the headquarters of the New World Order, analyzing its architecture for evidence of occult symbolism.

Maslov, Sergey. Image from Baikonur 2, Digital collage, 2002

A favorite target is the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. Opened in 2006, the building, designed by Foster+Partners, is a 62 meter tall pyramid rising on Astana’s Left Bank. Intended as “a global centre for religious understanding, the renunciation of violence and the promotion of faith and human understanding” [3], it contains meeting spaces, an opera house, a spiritual center, and exhibition areas. Both formally and programmatically, the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation offers a fertile site for occult projections [4]. The programmatic connections to a theoretical New World Order are fairly apparent—the building provides a meeting site from which global religious and political leaders might establish the directives of a clandestine one-world government [5]. But what proofs do the building’s architectural elements provide conspiracy theorists?

Beginning with its form, the pyramid—especially the Great Pyramid at Giza—is a classic symbol of the occult. Conspiracy theorists allege that the missing capstone of the Great Pyramid represents the as-yet-incomplete project of the New World Order. Foster’s Palace mirrors this depiction [6]. The building’s facade consists of two sections: the lower three stories are clad in triangular panels of gray granite in a steel frame; in the two-story apex, the granite is replaced with glass. The translucent capstone both undermines the completeness of the form and lets in the light of the sun—another popular occult motif [7]. Conspiracist David Icke utilizes the pyramid as a diagram of political control, illustrating how the directives of the global elite at the structure’s peak fan out into society at large [8].

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, photo by Maia Adele Simon

Further occult resonances are revealed by the numerological significance of the facade’s panelization. Each of the building’s three facades is split into 5 rows of triangular panels, 25 panels total per side. These numbers: 3, 5, and 25 contain great symbolic import. The first, 3, represents the Holy Trinity. In the Tarot, the fifth trump is the Hierophant or Pope—the “leader of salvation for the human race at large” [9]. The Hierophant represents the New World Order’s singular, universal government. The two digits of 25 added together become 7, a number symbolizing victory [10]. In Babylonian mythology, December 25 was celebrated as the birthday of the sun god, Tammuz.

The central below grade section of the building houses a public opera house. Capping the opera house’s ceiling is a stylized, painted sun. The Order of the Golden Dawn, a Rosicrucian order, take as their emblem a red cross over a white triangle, representing rebirth and resurrection from the underworld. A rising sun is frequently depicted in the triangle’s center, signifying illumination growing out of darkness. For conspiracy theorists, this symbolizes the spread of occult messages through media.

The pyramid’s glass-walled apex houses its primary meeting space—one of the few zones of the building illuminated by natural light. For Vigilant Citizen, this space, in combination with the subterranean theater, forms the crux of the building’s sinister character. “So while the general population is being entertained in the darkness of the material world, the illuminated, sitting right on top of them, are contemplating how to reach godliness” [11].

Described by its architect and the Kazakhstani government as a symbol of accord, for conspiracy theorists, the design of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation offers proof of its central position in a covert system of governance.

[1] Maslov, Sergei, Baikonur 2, translated by Alex Ulko, 2002. In a parallel with Maslov’s artistic project, two Kazakhstani scientists, Maxim Makukov and Vladimir Shcherbak, claim that our DNA contains a signal which might provide a means of proving that it was intentionally introduced on the earth by extraterrestrials. Shcherbak, Vladimir and Maxim Makukov, “‘The Wow! Signal’ of the terrestrial genetic code” in Icarus, Vol. 224, Issue 1, May 2013, p. 228-242

[2] In 1991, a UFO was supposedly picked up over the Caspian Sea by a Soviet radar station in the Mangyshlak Peninsula. The unidentified craft was pursued by military planes before eventually vanishing into thin air. Numerous other reports cite the Caspian Sea as a likely base for alien operations on earth.

[3] Foster+Partners, “Palace of Peace and Reconciliation Opens in Kazakhstan,” 01 September, 2006.

[4] It has also been claimed as a site of extraterrestrial contact: the Weekly World News utilized a photograph of the building to illustrate a 2009 article about the construction of an alien embassy in Astana. Van Datiken, Erik, “Kazakhstan Building Alien Embassy” in the Weekly World News, 23 April, 2009.

[5] Linking the UFO and New World Order conspiracies are writers such as David Icke who, since the 1990s, has claimed that the world is secretly controlled by a race of Illuminati alien-human hybrids known as reptilians.

[6] The building is also proportionally based on the Great Pyramid. The formal concept was dictated by Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

[7] Vigilant Citizen, “Sinister Sites—Astana, Kazakhstan,” 07 March 2009.

[8] Icke, David, …and the Truth Shall Set You Free. (Ryde: David Icke Books, 2004) 177-179

[9] Waite, Arthur Edward, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. (New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007) 44

[10] Sacred Texts, “The Decad,”

[11] Vigilant Citizen, “Sinister Sites—Astana, Kazakhstan”