Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Ethnic Clashes Increase in Kazakhstan Sparking Fears in Moscow They Will Soon Involve Russians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 1 – Last week, Kazakhs and Uyghurs clashed in Pidzhim, a village that in the past was populated exclusively by Uyghurs but now has an ethnic Kazakh majority. The authorities, including the president of the country, blamed the Uyghurs and suggested they could avoid such attacks in the future by learning Kazakh.

            This combination of continuing ethnic clashes in Kazakhstan and the support the Kazakh authorities continue to give to ethnic Kazakhs is raising concerns in Moscow that clashes may soon arise between ethnic Kazakhs and the still large ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking community in that Central Asian country.

            Indeed, some Russian commentators and Kazakh ones of a pro-Moscow orientation have suggested this danger imminent and are urgin the Russian government must intervene to force Nur Sultan to change course before Kazakhstan becomes “a second Ukraine” (politnavigator.net/novyjj-pogrom-v-kazakhstane-nacizm-kak-instrument-otvlecheniya-ot-nishhety.html; for background, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/09/ome-in-moscow-and-nur-sultan-see.html).

            These commentators are especially incensed because they believe the Kazakh government is promoting ethnic conflicts to distract attention from economic problems and that, even if the Kazakh authorities don’t want a clash with ethnic Russians there, their words may lead to that.

            After all, they point out, the Kazakh president and his government not only blame the victims of Kazakh nationalism but demand that ethnic communities integrate themselves into the broader Kazakh society and that non-Kazakhs learn the Kazakh language and use it rather than Russian or any other tongue in their dealings with officials.

            Those are hot button issues for ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan, few of whom have learned Kazakh and most of whom live separately from the Kazakhs, especially in the northern portion of the country. And consequently, while these expressions of concern may be somewhat hyperbolic, they are not totally inappropriate.

            There are real dangers and each week that brings new clashes between Kazakhs and various non-Kazakh and non-Russian nations adds to the risk that some Kazakhs even if they don’t have the support of Nur Sultan will in fact lash out at the Russians. If that happens, relations between Moscow and Kazakhstan will surely deteriorate.

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