Sunday, September 22, 2019

Is the Internationalist Movement of Kazakhstan an ‘Interdvizheniya’ of Today?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 18 – At the very end of the Soviet period, Moscow organized the so-called interdvizheniya [“internationalmovements”] in the Baltic countries, groups that sought to save the USSR by promoting close ties between the ethnic Russians and some local people and between both and Moscow.

            Now, a movement in Kazakhstan has emerged that recalls those groups because of the prominence of ethnic Russian involvement in it, that has been accused of links to Moscow and that aspires to become a political party not to prevent the disintegration of something but to promote the re-integration of the post-Soviet space.

            While it is difficult to say how far this parallel holds, it is already obvious that the group which calls itself “the Kazakhstan Society of Internationalists” is at the very least a testing out of tactics which have their roots in the late Soviet period and that may be employed not just in Kazakhstan but in other post-Soviet states as well.  

            Saule Isabayeva of Kazakhstan’s Central Asian Monitor interviews Bakhytzhan Kopbayev, the movement’s leader, about the progress his movement has made since she spoke with him at the beginning of 2019 in an interview that sparked serious controversy (

            (The earlier interview appeared in January. It is available at For the broad and generally negative response it generated among Kazakhs, see

                Kopbayev was cagey about the sources of money behind his group’s rise, saying only that major businesses are quite prepared to invest in his operation. As to his group’s relationship with the republic communist party which also promotes internationalism, the Internationalist leader says that the two can cooperate but the communists are a fading force. 

            The Internationalist movement is stronger, he suggests, because it was created from below, because it explicitly represents “citizens of various nationalities whose rights have been in one or another way denigrated, and because it has “a clear, simple and understandable ideology – the struggle for social justice and equality” and opposition to fascism.

            Eight months ago when he spoke with Isabayeva before, Kopbayev continues, “then we were simply a group of citizens angry about the propaganda of fascist ideas and the rapid spread in the country of Russophobia. And now who are we? An officially registered movement with a firm intention to become a political party.”

                “We have acted step by step,” Kopbayev says, first creating a central staff and then registering groups throughout the country.  Now, we are “ready to move forward, to create out own party, and if we ae able to do that, to take part in parliamentary elections and in the future in presidential ones as well.”

            Despite resistance by Kazakh “national radicals” who often support “fascist” ideas involving the oppression of the ethnic Russian minority, he argues, the Internationalists are gaining strength and will not “sacrifice its principles” to avoid being attacked by others. (That phrase, of course, recalls Nina Andreyeva’s use of it at the end of Soviet times.) 

            Sauliyeva says that many in Kazakhstan believe that the Internationalist Movement is connected with the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation. Kopbayev denies this: Such suspicions “of course, have not been confirmed. They are baseless ... Our Motherland is Kazakhstan and we want to make it free and our people confident in its future.”

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