Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Russian-Speaking Kazakhstanis More Likely to Support Putin’s War in Ukraine than Kazakh Speakers, ‘Demoscope’ Poll Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 10 – An unusual poll in Kazakhstan conducted by Demoscope for the Adenauer Foundation highlights why it is so important for the governments of non-Russian countries to promote the language of their titular nationality in place of Russian that many of their residents learned in Soviet times and continue to speak.

            Typically, pollsters ask people to identify by nationality; but in this case, they asked people which language, Kazakh or Russian, they would prefer to respond to questions in. The poll which was taken in Almaty thus reported attitudes along linguistic lines rather than along nationality ones with Russian speakers including people from both while Kazakh ones much less likely so.

            Because many Kazakhs prefer to speak Russian rather than Kazakh, the results show just how important language is the formation of opinions because it determines which sources people rely on (demos.kz/opros-znachitelnaja-chast-kazahstancev-podverzhena-vlijaniju-rossijskoj-propagandy/ and russian.eurasianet.org/казахстан-опрос-обнаружил-значительную-поддержку-россии-но-в-основном-среди-русскоязычных).

            Of the 1100 people Demoscope contacted, 77 percent said they preferred to use Russian in answering the questionnaire, while 23 percent said they preferred to use Kazakh. For the sample as a whole, 39 percent said they backed Moscow in its military campaign in Ukraine, while 10 percent said they supported Ukraine.

            But the pollsters said that “the choice of Russian closely correlated with support for the Russian war in Ukraine, while those who spoke Kazakh turned out to be more sympathizing to Ukraine,” a reflection of the sources they rely on for information, with Russian speakers using Russian sources and Kazakh speakers using Kazakh, independent of nationality.

            That pattern affects far more than the assessments people make about Ukraine. For example, the poll found that 38 percent of those choosing Kazakh believe that a Russian invasion of Kazakhstan is a real possibility, while among those choosing Russian, only nine percent say that they think so.

            These attitudes and judgments, the pollsters say, reflect the language of the sources they rely on. Only 39 percent of the sample rely primarily on Kazakh-language media for their judgments about Ukraine, while almost a quarter rely on Russian-language news and the views it presents.

            While the survey has been criticized by some observers as un-representative, these results suggest that a government that wants its population to be independent of another state must promote the use of the national language. Otherwise, it will find that much of its population follows the line of that foreign state rather than the position of its own people and state.

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