Thursday, October 18, 2018

Kazakhstan Must Strengthen Ties to Kazakh Diaspora, Turkic Peoples in Russia, Narymbayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 17 – Nursultan Nazarbayev has done a good job in reducing the threat of Russian separatism in northern Kazakhstan but he hasn’t taken the next step and established close ties to the Kazakh diasporas in 12 regions of the Russian Federation and to Turkic peoples there, including the Tatars, according to Yermek Narymbayev. 

            The Kazakh opposition politician who has been a political exile in Ukraine since 2015 says that in the long term, his country faces a bigger threat from China than from Russia but that in the short term, Russia and its chauvinist and imperialist policies pose a greater danger (

            To counter that, he tells Ramazan Alpaut of Radio Svoboda’s IdelReal portal, Kazakhstan must not only continue the Kazakhization of the country but expand ties with the significant Kazakh communities in 12 adjoining regions of the Russian Federation and with the Turkic peoples of that country. 

            Such cooperation, which he argues Astana has neglected up to now, would serve notice to Moscow that any moves by the Russian Federation against Kazakhstan could be countered by Astana which would be able to count on the sympathies and support of Kazakhs and other Turkic peoples inside Russia. 

            If that cooperation were significant enough, Narymbayev says, Moscow would be far less likely to move against Kazakhstan however much some in Moscow might like to.

            The Kazakh dissident argues that there are good reasons for thinking that outreach by Astana would be successful. “Moscow’s approach to Kazakhs is quite imperial. Some 1.5 million Kazakhs live in the Russian Federation,” compared to 2.5 million ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan. But there are 4,000 Russian language schools for the latter.

            For the former, for Kazakhs living in Russia, “there is not a single Kazakh-language school.” Simple justice requires that there be “about 2,000. An equally bleak picture exists among the five million ethnic Ukrainians in Russia and also among the indigenous Turkic peoples.

            “For Moscow, close ties between the Middle Volga republics and Kazakhstan are dangerous,” he continues. “They are even more dangerous than their ties with the US. The US is far away but Kazakhstan is close by, and this can intensify separatism among the peoples of the Middle Volga and other peoples as well.”

                Narymbayev’s most radical proposal, one few in Astana would support, is for Kazakhstan to create a Turkic Foreign Legion “on the model of the Spanish or French.” In it, he suggests, could serve representatives of the various Turkic peoples of the Russian Federation.  Each would have its own battalion or regiment and dress in its own national uniforms.

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