Thursday, October 24, 2019

De-Sovietization Will Occur Either Through Modernization or Archaization, Yesengarayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 21 – Kazakh society is divided between those who believe that the only path forward is rapid and radical de-Sovietization and those who say that only by recovering that past is there any change to make progress. But both are based on mythologies that could lead to the archaization of society, Yeset Yesengarayev says.

            The Kazakh sociologist says that his country is divided between two camps, one of which believes that all of its current problems are the result of the Soviet system and the other of which is equally certain that the country’s current problems are the result of turning away from Sovietism (

                The former is more vocal, but neither offers a well-thought-out program, Yesengarayev says. Instead, they deal in slogans: the first refuses to acknowledge the positive things the Soviet system brought Kazakhs and the latter refuses to acknowledge the many negative things that system wrought.

            Any “genuine program for de-Sovietization,” he continues, “must include a discussion of what must be preserved from the Soviet inheritance or it cannot be taken seriously.” But no such program has been advanced, and Yesengarayev says he doubts that anyone is going to offer it anytime soon.

            At the same time, he argues, “real de-Sovietization sooner or later will all the same take place,” but if it occurs without a clear plan, there is a great danger that the country will not move in a modernizing direction but rather be thrown back to certain archaic, pre-Soviet arrangements and values.

            And that means, the sociologist says, that Kazakhs must confront the fact that “de-Sovietization will occur either via modernization or archaization,” with the latter more likely if neither side in the current debate acknowledges the limitations of completely rejecting or completely accepting the Soviet past.

            Without such plans, the danger of archaization is far greater because of “the widespread dissemination in our society of an inclination to dogmatism and reductionism” which are more characteristic of archaic societies than modernized ones. 

            In conclusion, Yesengarayev underscores that he “is not a supporter of the conservation of the Soviet heritage and considers that de-Sovietization is a question of time. But this does not mean that we must today must focus on the problem of de-Sovietization above all.” Instead, it means that the country must choose between modernization and archaization. 

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