Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Two Major Groups Said Preventing Kazakhstan from Becoming a Nation State

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 13 – There are today “two large groups” in Kazakhstan which are blocking the development of that country into a nation state, “Russian speaking officials in power and Kazakhs who have absorbed Russian culture” to the point of assimilation, according to Dos Kushim, the head of the Kazakh Fate of the Nation organization.

            Ethnic Russians living in Kazakhstan, especially the many who have learned Kazakh and identify with Kazakhstan, often make complaints about “how difficult it is to be a Russian in Kazakhstan,” complaints that continue to attract Moscow’s attention (ratel.kz/# and

            One of their number, Kirill Pavlov, a journalist who has become a farmer, is a recent example.  He says that he is “tired of being a Russian in our country [Kazakhstan] because I am a Chuvash. I am tired of being a Kazakh in the near abroad although in my passport it is written that I am ‘Russian.’”

            “I want to be a Kazakhstanets [that is, someone who identifies with Kazakhstan], and I want that not to be not simply a word on paper but something more, something that gets the respect of others, gives one confidence in oneself and produces pride in one’s children,” Pavlov says on the Ratel.kz portal which often surveys people in Kazakhstan about important issues.

            According to the Regnum news agency, “it is not easy for Russified Kazakhs or Russian-speaking officials to live in [Kazakhstan].” Indeed, it suggests, it may be even harder because many people blame them for the fact that Kazakhstan has not become the nation state they hope for.

            One person who does blame such people is Dos Kushim, head of the Ult Tagdyry movement.  And he outlines his reasons in an essay, entitled “Two Big Groups are blockinghte Development of a Nation State” on his organization’s website (ult.kz/post/dos-koshim-ulttyk-memleket-retinde-damuymyzga-eki-ulken-top-kedergi-keltirip-otyr).

            “We have a Russian-speaking society,” he says, which “every time there is a reduction in the space where Russia is used, the Kazakh feels himself like a boat without a sail.  In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the state language have pushed out Russia.” And already in 1991, they are Georgia eliminated Russian language and literature from school curricula.

            He continues: “Only the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz have preserved bilingualism,, but our neighbors are in a better position than we. We are a more Russified people.” And there are two groups, “Russian-speaking officials” and “Kazakhs who have absorbed Russian culture” who are now blocking the formation of a nation state.”

            Russians haven’t learned Kazakh over the last 27 years “not only because of their indifference” to the language issue but also because of the country’s languages law which makes Russian “the language of inter-ethnic communication” and defines it as having “official status.” What Kazakhstan must do is make Kazakh the only official language, Kushim says.

            The Kazakh language activist is one of the initiators of “The Future of Kazakhstan is in the Kazakh Language,” and he and those who believe that have made a start in implementing it in parts of western Kazakhstan (newtimes.kz/eshche/regiony/item/37635-v-zko-propagandiruyut-gosudarstvennyj-yazyk).

            Kushim says that Russian speakers must understand that their futures will become “ever more difficult” if they do not learn Kazakh.”  Others, like Azimbay Gali, share that view and argue that Russian should lose its official status because only 20 percent of the population of Kazakhstan is now Russian (regnum.ru/news/polit/2175520.html).

            Aleksey Lobanov, a Russian activist in Kazakhstan, dismisses the notion that Russian speakers don’t want to learn Kazakh simply because they “don’t want to.”  There may be many reasons, he says, and they should be investigated (ratel.kz/raw/aleksej_lobanov_ja_ne_verju_v_iskrennost_teh_kto_vyvodil_ljudej_na_mitingi).

            According to him, “in the south of Kazakhstan, ethnic Russians aged 20 to 25 already freely speak both Kazakh and Russian, not to speak of the even younger generation. Therefore, after the passage of a certain amount of time, all people will become bilingual,” and that is no bad thing, he argues.

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