Saturday, February 11, 2023

Unlike in the Caucasus, Intellectuals in Kazakhstan Failed to Promote Kazakh Language in Last Decades of Soviet Power, Zhanabergen Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 9 – Most Kazakhs blame Moscow and its dispatch of massive numbers of ethnic Russians and other Russians speakers to their republic during Soviet times for the fact that the Kazakh SSR was “Russified more strongly than the other republics of the USSR,” Bakhyt Zhanabergen says.

            But the Kazakh commentator says that is only part of the story. And he points to the failure of the Kazakh intelligentsia to stand up for their language, a failure that is striking because the intellectual communities of the three republics in the Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – all stood up for theirs (

            What the activists in those republics achieved from Khrushchev’s time through Brezhnev’s shows that it was possible to insist on official recognition of the language of the titular nationality successfully and without risk of imprisonment or worse at the hands of the CPSU, Zhanabergen says.

            In his article for QMonitor, the Kazakh commentator traces the history of the legal status of the languages of the titular nations of the three Caucasus republics in order to sharply criticize their Kazakh counterparts for failing to do something similar. Had they, he argues, Kazakhs today would be in a much stronger position linguistically and politically.

            This article is a rare example of a contemporary attack on a national intelligentsia by someone who suggests not that such people did too much as many Russian and Moscow-centric critics are inclined to do but rather that the Kazakh intelligentsia did not do even what its counterparts elsewhere did and thus betrayed the interests of their nation.

            It is likely that Zhanabergen is not only settling old scores but also calling on Kazakhstan’s intelligentsia now to take a stronger stand in defense of their national language, something such people can do under current conditions with even less risk than their predecessors faced. 

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