Saturday, February 1, 2020

Kazakhstan Urbanizing So Rapidly that Its Major Cities are Becoming ‘Big Villages’ and Their Residents are Behaving Accordingly, Demographer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 27 – During Soviet industrialization in the 1930s, so many people moved from villages to cities so quickly that urban life was fundamentally transformed; with many long-time urban residents viewing the influx of former peasants threatening the way of life they had come to expect.

            Now something similar is happening in Kazakhstan, journalist Sauliye Isabayeva says. “The Kazakhstan city is already not what it was 20 or 30 years ago. Active urbanization has changed its structure and appearance, adding to it what are clearly expressed rural aspects.” And these are affecting the demographic and social-economic situation of the entire country.

            Kazakhstan demographer Aleksandr Alekseyenko suggests that the most distinctive consequence of this ruralization of cities is that the expected decline in the fertility rate in Kazakhstan’s cities has not occurred and instead has continued to follow rural patterns (

            As a result, the Kazakh share of Kazakhstan’s population is increasing even faster than demographers and officials had predicted only a few years ago, and the national census this year may show that ethnic Kazakhs now form more than 70 percent of the country’s population, almost double their share in the 1980s.

            The unexpected role of the cities is key, Alekseyenko says. Instead of those coming into the cities adopting urban attitudes about family size, they are retaining their rural views and the urban residents in many cases are adopting rural values, exactly the reverse of the pattern in most countries most of the time.

            Such attitudes have been strengthened by the government’s promotion of ethno-national identities and traditions, something that makes the newly urbanized and the long-time urbanized people view the village as the model and seek to make the cities more like them, transforming what had been an increasingly western urban space into an ever more eastern one.

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