Thursday, November 17, 2016

Kazakhstan’s Nations ‘No Longer Married to One Other’ But Simply ‘Living Together,’ Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 17 – Research by Kazakhstan’s Strategy Center for Social and Political Research suggests that the various nations of that Central Asian republic no longer feel as if they are “married” but instead think they are simply “living together,” a shift in attitudes that may point to serious trouble ahead.

            That conclusion, based on the center’s surveys of experts in 2002 and again this year (, was offered this week by Gulmira Ileuova, the president of the center (

            The majority of the 20 experts with whom the Center’s researchers spoke say that now just as 14 years ago, “interethnic contradictions in Kazakhstan are not active and bear a not well-expressed character.” But the number of pessimists about the future has increased relative to the number of optimists.

            Only half as many, ten percent rather than 20 percent, say that interethnic relations there are characterized by concord, tolerance and mutual understanding; and the share of those who say that the potential for ethnic conflicts is high has risen from 13 percent in 2002 to 20 percent now.

            According to the experts, who were drawn from several of the national communities of Kazakhstan, there has been a significant reduction “in the manifestation of inter-ethnic problems in labor collectives, in the activities of political parties and social organizations, and in the criminal milieu.”

            But, they says, there has been “an intensification of inter-ethnic problems in government organs, social and public places, the media and in inter-personal relations.”

            Ileusova says that “the main problem” in this area in Kazakhstan now is that “inter-ethnic relations and conflicts in this milieu are considered not in a socio-economic context as most countries do but only in a political one.”  That means that many of the indirect impacts of state policy are never considered.

            Consequently, while most polls show that there have been “on the whole” positive shifts in inter-relationships among nationalities, “at the same time there are changes” connected with “the growing distances which separate citizens of one country.” That is why she speaks of an end of a marriage and a shift to cohabitation.

            ILeusova also says that people who remain in the cities are less likely to see the emergence of ethnic conflict than do those who are familiar with rural areas.  Almost all of the most serious ethnic conflicts in Kazakhstan occur in rural areas where the differences in standard of living are more obvious and there are fewer cross-cutting cleavages.

            And thus she concludes, “all the ethnic clashes today are occurring in the village, in the southern portion of the country, in districts where two ethnic groups [the Kazakhs and the Uzbeks] live close together.”  Nothing is gained, the scholar argues, “by trying to minimize” this reality.

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