Sunday, September 5, 2021

Beijing Now Views Kazakhstan as a Kazakh and Not a Russian-Speaking Country, Some Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 5 – Beijing’s decision to begin publishing the Peoples Daily in Kazakh has sparked a debate in Kazakhstan as to whether this is simply a propaganda move designed to attract Kazakh support of China, a means to win over ethnic Kazakhs in China, or a recognition by Beijing of Kazakhstan as a Kazakh rather than a Russian speaking country.

            Some analysts say that it is nothing more than an effort to spread Chinese influence among those who are less than thoughtful about what is going on. Among these is nationalist leader Erbol Dauletbek, head of the Homeland Volunteers group (

            In his view, “this is a conquest without war” because “an individual who reads the site begins to think about China as a future super power, and as a result seeks to study it and even live and work there.”

            But other Kazakhs see this as a more positive development. Omarali Adilbekuly, head of the Zhebeu movement, says that in the past, China viewed Kazakhstan as a Russian-speaking country but now it recognizes that Kazakhstan is a Kazakh-speaking republic and is promoting the study of the language by its officials and diplomats.

            In recent years, he says, Kazakh language departments have appeared in the universities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian, supplementing those that have long existed in Kuldzha and Urumchi. “This means,” Adilbekuly says, “that the Chinese have begun to focus their attention on the Kazakh-language reader.”

            Dos Koshim, a Kazakh political scientist, says that China’s actions simply shows that Beijing is recognizing reality and wants to ensure that it reaches people in their own language rather than in another that is or may be becoming foreign to them. It is important that Kazakhs know what China is thinking, and this new service will help.

            He adds that “it would not be a bad thing if the authoritative publications of Europe or the Washington Post would also decide to place materials in Kazakh” on their portals.

            So far, the author of these lines has not seen any Russian reaction to what China has done, but if in fact, Beijing now views Kazakhstan as a Kazakh-speaking country rather than a Russian-speaking one, that is unlikely to be something that many in Moscow will welcome as it will only encourage Nur-Sultan in its promotion of the national language.

            And that promotion not only is leading to more Russian flight from the country but also is creating a greater divide between Moscow and a country with which the Russian side has long assumed it does not face serious problems.

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