Monday, May 17, 2021

Kazakh and Russian Nationalists Increasingly Resemble One Another, Asylbekov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 15 – Kazakh and Russian nationalists increasingly resemble each other, focusing on the same issues but with things reversed like in a mirror where what is on the left for the one is on the right for the other, according to longtime Kazakh commentator Zhandos Asylbekov.

            Kazakh nationalists were outraged when Vladimir Putin suggested that Russia had given away its lands to other peoples in Soviet times and implied that they should be returned. Thoughtful Kazakhs pointed out that there were no lands belonging to any people “immemorial” before 1917.

            But the Kazakh nationalists have been doing exactly when Putin has done. They have routinely published maps suggesting that Kazakhstan should properly extend over the territories of many neighboring countries, including those in Central Asia, the Russian Federation, and China, Asylbekov points out (

            That is hardly the only way Russian and Kazakh nationalists are alike, he continues. They both are obsessed with finding examples “showing the greatness of our peoples in the distant past, their ‘special nature,’ and their unique role in world history,” using facts when they are available and coming up with myths when the facts don’t go far enough to support them.

            Russian nationalists talk about the power of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, while Kazakh nationalists love to point to the times of the Golden Horde, “idealizing the power of the khans and even finding them to be democratic, just and completely supported by the popular masses.”

            Recently, Kazakh nationalists have gone even further and claimed that the khans and the bais under them were wise and progressive and that all the problems that Kazakhs have now are someone else’s fault. In that too, they are like their Russian counterparts with both talking about a golden age and assuming the role of victims of others.

            “Our national patriots are certain,” Asylbekov says, “that if the Russian Empire and the USSR had not existed, then the Kazakhs would be living in a land of milk and honey and that Kazakhstan would be something like Japan.”
            Moreover, both nationalists have their enemies. The Russian nationalists view the West and its allies within the borders of the former USSR and socialists camp as their enemies. But “the Kazakh nationalists add to their Russophobia Sinophobia as well.” And they like the Russian nationalists have domestic enemies as well.

            Russian nationalists blame “persons of Caucasus nationality,” immigrant workers from Central Asia, and “dons of the Israelites.” Kazakh nationalists in contrast blame “numerically small peoples who have better adapted themselves to market conditions and who are more successful than the mass of Kazakhs themselves: the Dungans, the Armenians and others.”

            And finally, both Russian and Kazakh nationalist in the main are hostile to what are customarily called European or Western values. They both support patriarchal traditions and “national codes” that they see as having deep roots in the past and want to go back to that past rather than forward into the future.

            In short, Asylbekov concludes, Russian and Kazakh nationalists for all their hostility to each other are very much like one another, albeit with each condemning in the other exactly what it is displaying in itself.

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