Staunton, Mar. 9 – In Soviet times, Moscow always spoke of “Central Asia and Kazakhstan,” in order to highlight the difference within that region of republics with a clear ethnic majority and one, Kazakhstan, that was bi-national and that until the mid-1980s had an ethnic Russian plurality.
But since that time, the share of ethnic Russians in the population has declined and the share of ethnic Kazakhs increased to the point that Kazakhstan is roughly the same percentage Kazakh that the Russian Federation is ethnically Russian. Not surprisingly, government institutions including the country’s legislature have followed suit.
In 1994, 40 percent of the members of the Kazakhstan parliament were non-Kazakhs, a number that has fallen over the course of the last 30 years and is set to continue. Of the candidates for membership in the Majlis now, only 14.8 percent are non-Kazakhs, a figure roughly half of their share in the population (qmonitor.kz/politics/4777).
Unless specific measures are taken, when an ethnic group dominates the population of a country, it tends to be overrepresented in any country with an elected legislature. That is true in the Russian Federation; and it is true in Kazakhstan. But for Moscow commentators, what is acceptable in Russia isn’t in Kazakhstan.
Vladimir Prokhvatilov of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences denounces this trend in that Central Asian country and declares that despite all its talk about democracy and human rights, Kazakhstan is set on becoming a mono-ethnic country where Russians are a minority in all things (vpoanalytics.com/2023/03/06/novyj-kazahstan-budet-mononatsionalnym/).
What he is really angry about, of course, is not the rights of Russians there or elsewhere but about what this trend means for Moscow in terms of having influence in and even control of Central Asia. As long as Kazakhstan was the odd man out, Central Asian unity was unlikely given how large Uzbekistan is relative to the others.
But with Kazakhstan now rapidly becoming a Central Asian country, cooperation across the region becomes more likely because Kazakhstan, together with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan balances Uzbekistan and thus makes their cooperation more likely – and the decline in Russian influence more certain.