Staunton, Aug. 15 – Kazakhstan does face a separatist challenge but not from the Russian north as many in that country and even in Russia think but rather from those both ethnic Kazakh and ethnic Russian in the Western part of the country, people who are more Islamist and opposed to Nur-Sultan than even the Orthodox ethnic Russians in the north, Vladimir Prokhvatilov says.
The Moscow military and security analyst says that recent convictions in western Kazakhstan of ethnic Russians on charges of challenging the territorial integrity of the country are only the tip of a much larger iceberg (stanradar.com/news/full/50146-kazahstan-ocherednoj-prigovor-za-prorossijskie-vzgljady.html and vpoanalytics.com/2022/08/15/kazahstan-pogubyat-ne-mificheskie-russkie-a-zhanaozenskie-separatisty/).
According to Prokhvatilov, “the real danger to the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan” comes from the increasingly depressed social and economic situation of indigenous Kazakhs in the oil-rich West and the arrival there of vast numbers of more religious Kazakhs returning from abroad in hopes of earning high pay in that region.
That region has been the site of social and economic protests for some time, and it was where the attempted putsch in January of this year began. President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev is worried and has even lashed out at local officials for permitting too many Kazakhs from abroad from settling there (liter.kz/mestorozhdeniia-v-zhanaozene-istoshchaiutsia-prezident-1657777328/).
He would like them to move elsewhere, but there is a shortage of jobs; and consequently, if those now causing trouble in the west move to major cities, they are going to form large “ghettos” of increasingly radical Islamists who will challenge Tokayev’s rule, something he obviously wants even less, the Moscow analyst says.
But however explosive these “ghettos” may prove, Western Kazakhstan and its center at Manistau are certain to remain “the driver of new civic disorders,” because of conditions that provide fertile ground for outsiders both Kazakh repatriants and foreign intelligence services to radicalize the population.
“Even if the local authorities there incarcerate all the ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking citizens there,” Prokhvatilov says, the danger of a social explosion will only increase. And he says that Tokay thus “should not be afraid of a mythical independent Northern Kazakhstan but of the emergence of an independence emirate” in the West.