G. R. Dadabayeva, Doctor of Sciences, KIMEP, Almaty
This abstract has concerned primarily with the new look to the stages of post-Soviet Kazakh nationalism development embedded in context of Eurasian concept. Could we prove true widely held predictions about future strengthening of nationalists’ position in post – crisis country? As we state, opposite to above mentioned ideas, the more Kazakhstan would be involved in to Russian politics orbit which means further movement to Eurasian “path” the more undermined should be Kazakh nationalists conventional certainties. More over, one of the world crisis consequences could be displayed in leadership authoritarian tendencies strengthening. The latter undoubtedly ought to erode Kazakh nationalists’ position.
I always have been saying: “First – is an economy, and then – politics”.
N. Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s path, 2006.
“Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign policy is not just a subjective will or “doctrine” of Nursultan Nazarbayev, but, apparently, the result of geographical position of the young independent state, appearance of a new geopolitical reality in the world politics – Central Asia”.
Y. Yertisbayev, Kazakhstan and Nazarbayev,- logics of changes, 2001.
Nationalism Development in Post – Soviet Kazakhstan
Nationalism growth and its strengthening in Kazakhstan could be divided into several stages. The first one (1991-1994) is directly connected with the disintegration of the USSR and direct threat to the country’s territorial integrity. The Russian-speaking population composed nearly half of the republic population and in light of these above mentioned factors was doomed to be ousted from its previous positions. The economic crisis advent in early 1990-s became the main reason of the Slavic people exodus from Kazakhstan. The latter occupied the majority of the working places in Kazakhstan industrial sector and thus had become the target of nationalist claims to promote Kazakh language as the state one. In a case of Slavic people disappearance from republic territory the Kazakhs thus would be given a special status alongside with privileges as for the most suffering side during the Soviet time .
The early Kazakh nationalism problem when independence came was its inability to be some kind of driven factor in political processes opposite to nationalist movements in other countries as Turkey, China and India. What we could observe in these countries was connected with the anti-colonial struggle of indigenous population against foreigners – Indians were fighting for self-determination, Turks were trying to construct their nation-state after empire demise using nationalism as the state ideology, Chinese were cleaning country off any traces of great powers interference. On contrast, Kazakh nationalists couldn’t comprise the previous picture due to different nature of their program.
First, their attempt to withdraw finally Russian-speaking population was doomed from the very beginning. Widely spread Soviet culture along with Russian language long before the independence came had been splitting the Kazakh society into two groups: Kazakh – and Russian-speaking. And nationalism was not an ideology around which they could unite. Meanwhile in India English was an elite language opposite to intensive Russification process had taken place during Soviet regime. Second, if we take the events of 1986 as the beginning of nationalist movement we have to realize it was suppressed after few days of their first steps on the political arena. Consequently it indicates that society attitude towards problems of future nation-state still had been unclear and unstable. Majority of Russian speaking population preferred to stay under Moscow mainly due to close integration of Kazakhstan and Russian economics. And, finally, if Chinese were quite successful on the way of “purging” their country from foreign influence (what in reality was not strong at all) in Kazakhstan this situation would not be possible due to long lasting dominance of Russian culture familiar to nearly everyone.
Precisely, combination of all these factors provided the foundation for insisting on non – powerful enough for nation-building character of “Kazakh nationalism”. The main problem of the situation became question to what extent political nationalism could be powerful within the process of nation-state building. Unfortunately, the nationalists had no their own original program except claims for improving Kazakh language and population position especially in sphere of culture (history, literature, etc.). These claims were mainly driven by the necessity not to find against the foreign dominance but to oust Russians from their working places.
Moreover, they even didn’t think about the necessity to create a special program. Due to the latter circumstances all of their principal suggestions were later used as the agitation slogans by more influential political forces including political elite of independent Kazakhstan .
The political alliance of ruling elite and Kazakh nationalists reached its turning point in 1994-95 due mainly to such factors as parliament crisis and its later resignation. The crisis provoked adoption of a new constitution with more power concentrated in hands of president and working up to now days. Exactly from this moment one could say about the emergence of presidential republic in Kazakhstan, whose leader began to decrease the sphere of opposition activity, including Kazakh nationalists. One of the reasons of appearance of such political situation was the weakness of Kazakh nationalism.
Eurasian strategy for Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan – Russian relations include various factors, such as political/national security, economic/natural reserves (oil reserves), and ethnic/national identity . There is an obvious need in a strong Central Asian security system, which is impossible to maintain without intense Kazakhstan and Russian involvement. Kazakhstan’s ethnic composition and “identity factor” are also among the factors that had a number of determining trends within foreign and national policy of the country.
In 1995 the president began campaign for the creation of Eurasian Union. The idea was initiated by some members of parliament who had expressed the wishes for real and effectively working alliance with Russia. From one side this part of the politicians expressed the interests of Russian speaking population, including Kazakhs, and from the other side they really had been promoted more stable balance between president and parliament.
This parliamentary crisis had finished by the victory of presidential team but in order to consolidate Kazakhstan society and to quite Russian speaking population the president himself declared formation of Eurasian Union as the most desired institute for improving economic situation. Reaction of Russian side was quite predictable. Russian elite quickly realized the real backside of Kazakhstan leader’s initiative. There was no any real essence within these steps of Kazakh government; it was a political stet made for strengthening president positions. But Russia was unable to reject it in order to avoid disappointment from Russian speaking people side in Kazakhstan and thus began first gradual movement forward.
The “Eurasian” idea in Kazakhstan has multidimensional character and was standing far away from simplification often seeing in our analytical works. Let us look at the positive and negative consequences of this union.
Kazakhstan -Russian alliance would immediately give an opportunity to solve all problems connected with borders questions and ethnic conflicts; as for cooperation in military sphere it would provide some space for maneuver towards Middle Asian republics;
for Kazakhstan political elite it was a chance to come to an agreement with Kazakh and Russian speaking people;
the perspectives of economic cooperation of both republics are to work for mutual benefits of Kazakhstan as for Russian side;
the process of Russian people exodus from the territory of republic that took place in early 1990-s stopped due to several reasons; it could be explained not only by growing economic conditions but also because the president had become the main guarantor of interethnic concord;
as for negative consequences, one could suggest that the part of Kazakh nationalists saw the alliance with Russia as an obstacle on its way to become a real mono – ethnic republic; probably the result of the alliance would be the new wave of Russian language and literature growth. The latter means lessening of the working places for Kazakh speaking population unable to compete with Russian speaking specialists. For the certain part of Kazakh people it was the keeping the same outsider position in their own society. But this is true concerning the situation in early 1990-s, now 20 years after Kazakh language provides an advantageous position for those seeking job in public sector;
The alliance with Russia anyway is working against the idea of ethnic nation. For those who think strategically it represents a double-folded question in sphere of nation-state building – to form an ethnic nation on the basis of ‘self-determined Kazakh people” and territorial nation when all citizens of Kazakhstan are Kazakhstani;
However, nationalists were not always in line with president representing opposition views. In a case of moving closer towards Kazakhstan-Russian alliance and thus providing support to the ruling regime Kazakh leadership would get additional points in a game against opposition. Paradoxically, but the union with Russia means the strengthening of authoritarian tendencies in Kazakhstan because the Russian leaders never criticize its politics .
The economic crisis was one of the reasons to concentrate more power in their hands. Stagnation in industrial sector, growth of unemployment and social tension were laying in the foundation of the nationalist’s popularity . The rural districts where mainly the Kazakh population is concentrated are going through bad times. In the South where the number of Kazakh people also overwhelmed the situation is far from optimistic prognosis. In order to keep control over the situation and to avoid the “Kyrgyz variant” the republic leadership was trying to concentrate the whole power n their hands.
But the main condition for strengthening government positions was to get a real support from the population. He latter at least in the context the sharp political and economic crisis had become less achievable target. As for common people their attitude towards government activity looked to be more critical due to as mentioned before deep crisis. The president in these circumstances decided to play a card without risk of loss.
Ethnic concord and peace in Kazakhstan is a main guarantee for co-existence of all nationalities and peoples on the territory of republic. For the political elite the problem of ethnic co-existence has turned to a choice between two strategies – is it necessary to support the claims of Kazakh population consists of half or even more among the inhabitants of republic or maybe to keep further the balance between different ethnic groups and so far to follow keeping previously accepted approach for solving political problems. As for situation today one can observe the rather declining of present elite to a second variant. The Forum of Kazakhstan People’s Assembly held October 20, 2010 has shown the intention of the president to use with some changes second variant. During this political event he was talking about the necessity to keep political stability, tolerance and concord among various groups of the population and at the end of his speech he pointed out very important factor: ethnic agreement for Kazakhstan now means an opportunity effectively solve economic problems and furthermore to continue successful development. But when some of the speakers raised the question of “improving the situation with studies of Kazakh language” he immediately expressed his agreement with this statement. The dominance of Kazakh language in the administrative structures provides for a state an opportunity to keep status of Kazakh population as nation-forming meaning politically dominated group. Thus nationalists would have no any pretext to be disappointed by government actions. In context of avoiding social tensions however paradoxically it seems to look the disappointment of rural Kazakhs or those who have recently moved to cities and towns would be neutralized by support of other ethnic groups in exchange for political stability and opportunities for further developing their culture and language. President also suggested to declare the present 2011, coincided with 20-s anniversary of republic independence, as a year of friendship of Kazakhstan peoples. His speech accurately reflected his loyalty to the previously accepted course.
Without any troubles one could reveal the fact that the majority of Russian speaking Kazakhs alongside with the representatives of other ethnic groups represent the core of “well-to-do” people in Kazakhstan. We could call them somewhat middle class of the republic due to their better economic doing in compassion with Kazakh speaking groups. Their support provides for the president now existing status and moreover it is a possible source of strengthening his positions because he could play with contradictions between different groups.
Partly, crisis has led to those results which strengthened economic dependence of Kazakhstan from China. Chinese growing interest into further developing of Kazakhstan energy resources marketing to the territory of People’s Republic has made unclear the question of its political independence. So far, we can suggest that “Eurasian” strategy of president has become one of the opportunities to keep the balance of powers in republic between China and Russia. In this context the claims of Kazakh nationalists to further “kazakhization” of the country seems to move opposite to president course. Russian Federation is enlarging its military presence in the region not due to security issues especially interesting to her but also because this strategy could be used for cementing economic ties with Kazakhstan. Russian “Eurasian” course inevitably means a turn to the idea of military – strategic supremacy on the territory of Central Asia. In the light of these perceptions Kazakhstan is to become the main strategic partner of Russia. The more European Union would press Russia concerning European problems the more Russia would press Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan, partly due to fact that energy resources marketing from this region are mainly in hands of RF. For Kazakhstan it is quite profitable variant because it will provide for the republic an opportunity to avoid complete economic dependence from China.
The crisis also gave an opportunity to the western clans to strengthen their positions in the leadership of the country. Western region is situated closer to the Russian territory and their domain represents the main deposits of energy recourses. In fact, the latter circumstances are laying in the foundation of their claims to occupy the key posts in the government. Thus the turn in the present political course is indicating to the needs of the moment. The mass losses by southern clans their leading positions and ministerial seats could be seen as reflection of the tendency.
Southern clans are more depending from the Chinese demands because through southern borders is delivered the major part of the consumer goods from People’s Republic to Kazakhstan. More over, southern clans representing the interests of “Kazakh” regions are especially interested in further “kazakhization” of the country. It seems that strict positions of other clans towards the southern kinsmen could be mainly explained by these political reasons, including usual rivalry between representatives of different tribal groups. It’s possible to suppose that president’s accusation in criminalization of part of political apparatus and consequently strict anti-corruption company initiated by top administration have the roots in this phenomenon. Now we can observe that representatives of southern clans are leaving state administration.
Conclusion: How far are lasting the intentions and wishes of clans in order to realize their plans? Probably, president will strengthen his position and concentrate more power in his hands. This is the most realistic variant of country’s further political development. He wants to keep existing balance, trying at the same time to avoid a situation when one the clans would be more successful in order to obtain more influence and thus to break the existing system.
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