Sunday, March 17, 2019

Kazakh Language Must be Primary Even for Russian-Speaking Kazakhs, Philologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 17 – Rustem Kadyzhanov, who describes himself as “an urban Russified Kazakh” who has conducted his entire academic career in Russian, nonetheless argues that Kazakh must be the priority language for Kazakhs with Russian and English being only in the second and third space respectively.

            The reason that is so, he argues, is that “the Kazakh language must form the internal world of the Kazakh, his individual and national ‘I.’ With this, the Kazakh must enter the world and leave it. He must also know Russian and English, but their significance is instrumental” (

            But to achieve that situation, Kadyzhanov says, will be extremely difficult and certainly not quick. Rural Kazakhs will have no particular problems, but urban Kazakhs will. “From childhood they have existed in a Russian-language milieu and have stayed in it their entire lives.” For the majority of them, “Russian has become their native language.”

            “The Russified Kazakh formed in these conditions is someone with a strong Russian identity. He looks on the world with Russian eyes, he is interested in everything Russian. He watches only Russian television channels and he seeks out Russian sites when he surfs the Internet.”

            “In sports, he roots for Russian teams; in politics, he supports the ideology and actions of the Russian Federation. He loves and sings the songs of the Russian stage. And as a rule, he marries a Russified Kazakh woman and their children in most cases consider themselves Russians and identify with Russian culture,” the philologist says.

            According to the scholar, “the Kazakh identity of the urban Kazakh is weak, but it would be incorrect to say that it is completely absence or is disappearing. That is because however strong his Russian identity, he understands that not a single Russian will recognize him as one of the Russian’s own.”

            The urban Kazakh thus retains his Kazakh identity and he recognizes that this identity is linked to language.  As a result, even though he is a Russian speaker, he declares to census takers and pollsters that Kazakh is his native language when in fact it is not, Kadyzhanov says. And he knows that he should speak Kazakh or know it better than he does, but he doesn’t actually do so.

            The difference between the urban Kazakhs who live “in a modernized Russified world” and rural Kazakhs who “live in a reality with strong elements of traditional life” is a major reason that the Kazakh nation has not come together and developed in the decades since independence, the philologist continues.

            “The Soviet modernization project in Kazakhstan,” he says, “divided the Kazakhs into two unconnected worlds.” Traditionalism dominated the first; but the language of another nation dominated the other.  What the Soviets promoted as Kazakh culture was in fact rural culture brought into the cities despite little interest on the part of the Russified Kazakhs there.

            This divided Kazakh world, he says, “gave rise to a divided Kazakh nation, deeply divided into two parts, traditional rural and Russified urban. As a result of Soviet modernization, the Kazakhs became one of the most Russified nations of the USSR. Indeed, without any risk of exaggeration, it can be said that it is today the largest non-Slavic Russian-speaking nation.”

            According to Kadyzhanov, “Russification is so deeply rooted in it that today, after almost 30 years since the acquisition of independence, the Kazakhs as before remain a Russified nation. And as a result, the genuinely Kazakh world remains deeply split” along linguistic and thus cultural lines.

No comments:

Post a Comment