Nationalism as a Political Factor in Late-Soviet Kazakhstan


Helen Lilley graduated from the University of Cambridge in June 2013 with a degree in Russian and German. She has been working for the German Red Cross on a European Voluntary Year since September and will begin a Master’s degree next year, specialising in Central Asian Politics.
This paper was published as part of Vestnik: The Journal of Russian and Asian Studies.

by Helen Lilley
“Nationalism is a political principle which maintains that similarity of culture is the basic social bond.”
– E. Gellner[1]
“Казахстан в современных границах исторически был территорией этнического расселения племен, составивших позднее казахскую нацию и контролировавших всю территорию современного Казахстана. Мы официально заявляли, что независимое государство в своем нынешнем виде – не чей-то подарок казахам, а наша историческая родина, исконно казахская земля.”
(‘Kazakhstan, in its contemporary borders, was historically the territory of ethnic tribes which later formed the Kazakh nation and controlled the whole territory of contemporary Kazakhstan. We have officially announced that the independent state in its present form is not someone’s gift to the Kazakhs, but our historical homeland, the indigenous Kazakh land.’)
– N. Nazarbayev[2]
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“Western in Form, Eastern in Content:” Negotiating time and space in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan
In this paper, my aim is to discuss the cosmopolitan and nationalist political positions in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan. I treat these discourses as idioms utilized by elite in positioning along various political and cultural issue areas. Nationalism and its counterpart internationalism are intellectual projects defined and interpreted in reference to each other by social and political actors.

Consequently, my interpretation is informed by the framework suggested by Rogers Brubaker in his Nationalism Reframed. Brubaker discusses the triadic relationship between what he calls nationalizing nationalisms, homeland nationalisms and the minority nationalisms. I also benefited Katherine Verdery’s discussions on the dynamics of nationalist and internationalist political positions in Post-Communist Romania.
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The Dilemma in the Nation-Building Process: The Kazakh or Kazakhstani Nation?

Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe
Vol 10, No 1, 2011, 31-58
Original text received: January 10 2011 Final version received: April 5 2011
Copyright © ECMI 13 June 2011 This article is located at:

The Dilemma in the Nation-Building Process:
The Kazakh or Kazakhstani Nation?
Özgecan Kesici*
This article analyses the nation-building strategy that Kazakhstan’s government has implemented since independence. It examines why the nation builders have taken the decision to create two nations, the ethnic Kazakh nation and the civic Kazakhstani nation in a multiethnic society. In its analysis the article adopts a constructivist approach.
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State-building, Identity and Nationalism in Kazakhstan: Some Preliminary Thoughts

Working Papers in International Studies
Centre for International Studies
Dublin City University

No. 1/2011

Donnacha Ó Beacháin & Rob Kevlihan

Donnacha Ó Beacháin

Rob Kevlihan2
Centre for International Studies۠۠▪ Dublin City University ▪ Ireland ▪ cis@dcu.ie

1 The authors would like to thank Dr. Nargis Kassenova of the Department of Political Science, Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research (KIMEP) and Dr. Rico Isaacs of the Department of Political Science, Oxford Brookes University for their very useful comments on this paper and Ms Sophia Milosevic Bijleveld for some interesting reading material that contributed to this piece.

2 Authors listed in alphabetic order.


The poster of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, dressed in a business suit but standing in a field of colorful poppies on the steppe nicely illustrates on-going tensions inherent in governing Kazakhstan. Reifying the steppe, such images represent a return to nature and its ‘poetic spaces’ (Smith 1991); yet the president stands not in the traditional garb of a Kazakh elder, but instead strides forth in the uniform of post-Soviet technocratic elites – a well tailored business suit and clean shaven visage.
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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.
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