Tuesday, October 15, 2019

In Kazakhstan, a Common Civic Identity Now Overwhelms Ethnic and Sub-Ethnic Divisions, New Survey Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 12 – A new study conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung finds that sub-national divisions like families and zhus or even broader divisions like ethnic nations are less important to Kazakhstan residents than is the sense of collective membership in a Kazakhstan civic nation.

            According to the survey the researchers conducted, 66.1 percent of Kazakhstan residents said they felt greatest solidarity with the population of the country as a whole, a figure that suggests “the population feels a sense of membership in a single [non-ethnic] nation” (stanradar.com/news/full/36622-kazahstan-delenie-po-rodam-i-zhuzam-stalo-mifom-issledovanie-chast-1.html).

                Rural residents felt this way somewhat more than urban ones, 75.8 percent to 59.2 percent respectively, a pattern that the researchers said is explained by the fact that “social ties are more developed in villages than in the cities where particularization and the breakdown of traditional relations is breaking down.”

            Compared to the two out of three who identified with all Kazakhstan residents, “only 10.1 percent” – or one in ten – said that they feel in the first instance a sense of unity with representatives of their own nationality.”  But despite that, few are ready to drop the nationality line in passports and other documents.

            Intriguingly, somewhat more urban residents than rural ones listed commonality on the basis of nationality first, 13 percent against 5.9 percent, perhaps an indication that they have lost their ties to sub-national groups and that they have come into greater contact with representatives of other nations.

            Only 2.2 percent listed attachment to a zhus, an extended tribal alliance which at one point dominated Kazakh identity, as their primary source of identity. Thus, the study concludes, “the significant of clan and zhus in contemporary Kazakhstan is insignificant, and this means that sub-ethnic identity is not defining for Kazakhstan residents.”

            In fact, a higher percentage of residents of Kazakhstan listed regional identity in first place than did the zhus, 5.9 percent, and a higher share of them listed language identity higher as well, 4.3 percent. 

More than 40 percent of residents view their country as a multinational one in which citizens in the future will speak Kazakh, Russian and English. Thirty-six percent say they will speak Kazakh and Russian. “Only 10.3 percent say that in the future in Kazakhstan people must speak only Kazakh – and only 5.6 percent say that only Kazakhs should live in Kazakhstan.

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