Saturday, October 10, 2020

Kazakhstan Still Needs to Decolonize Itself, Kazakh Journalist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 9 – Serik Maleyev, a Kazakh journalist, says that Kazakhstan has not completed the process of decolonization but must proceed along that course if the country is to achieve all that its people deserve and hope for (

            Up to the start of the 1980s, he says, “most Kazakhs had been mankurtized,” that is deprived of the ability to think about their past and future and thus condemned to be led by the nose by the Russians. Those who questioned that arrangement were viewed as “mand or at least as anti-Soviet.”

            “We all were victims of Soviet propaganda because alternative sources of information simply didn’t exist in the USSR,” Maleyev continues. Over the last 30 years, we have recovered in part but only in part given that so many grew up in Soviet times and retain the values of that empire rather than shifting entirely to the values of the Kazakh nation.

            At the start of the 1990s, he says, the republic’s Supreme Soviet was “full of mankurts and traitors to the national interests of the Kazakhs.” The fight between them and Kazakh patriots “did not cease for a single minute.”  Much of it took place in Kazakh-language media because the Kazakh patriots did not find it easy to penetrate the Russian-language kind.

            Nonetheless, over time, progress was made and the situation has improved. But “undoubtedly” there is a need for further decolonization, above all in the spiritual sphere. One reason this struggle must be continued is that Russian propaganda still tries to convince Kazakhs that they are “incomplete” and incapable of acting except in concert with Russia.

            It constantly talks about “’the fraternal help’” Moscow provided the Kazakhs, but any honest assessment shows that that “assistance” was more negative than positive, that the Kazakhs had their national consciousness deformed, and that they lost much else besides in lives, values, and possibilities.

            Those who say that more steps toward complete decolonization aren’t necessary are declaring in fact that faced with current problems, the only way forward is “to shoot oneself in the head.” Only if the national self-consciousness of the Kazakh people grows in strength will the Kazakhs be full decolonized and capable of pursuing their own future.

            In the first years after 1991, many in the non-Russian republics spoke about de-colonization; but in recent ones, few have spoken so directly about it. The reasons are clear: Moscow doesn’t like hearing that, and national elites want to declare victory rather than focus on what has not yet been achieved.

            But Maleyev’s words and especially his reference to mankurtism suggest that just below the surface the issue remains a lively one – and that those who are concerned about this process represent a powerful barrier to any recrudescence of Muscovite control over the former Soviet space.


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