Sunday, July 16, 2023

Russian Separatist Attitudes Exist in Northern Kazakhstan But They Aren’t Dominant, Local Editor Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 13 – Polls show that more than a third of Kazakhstan residents fear that at some point, Moscow will invade their country as it has Ukraine and use separatist attitudes among the ethnic Russian population in the northern portions of their country to accomplish its goals (

            Yekaterina Nazarenko, editor of the independent Petropavlovsk.News portal, acknowledges that there are separatist attitudes among part of the ethnic Russian population there, but she says that such feelings are not widely shared and do not constitute any immediate threat (

            Often Kazakhs point to the number of ethnic Russians there who have a Russian passport as evidence of the contrary, but the editor says that most Russians who do have such documents either received them long ago and have just not given them up or use them for business purposes without any thought of political consequences.

            Moreover, Nazarenko says, the Kazakhstan government has made the possession of such documents illegal. In 2021, it punished 17,000 Kazakhstan residents for retaining such documents, and so far this year has identified and punished 233 people for dual citizenship, a decline that parallels a decline in the number of people with a second, Russian passport.

            Some ethnic Russians nonetheless want to keep them because they fear that Kazakhstan might become overly nationalistic as Kazakhs come to dominate an ever larger share of the population there. But few are interested in acting on that concern, she says. For most, having such a document is just an insurance policy.

            “Of course,” Nazarenko says, “in the city there are real separatist attitudes. There is talk in the kitchens about how good it would be ‘if Russia came.’” But the number who really want that is miniscule, and most of them are nostalgic about a Russia that never was or who believe that life in Russia as a whole is like life in Moscow.

            Such people “just Russia on the basis of major cities” shown on television; “but if one shows them for example life in Kurgan, they wouldn’t want that.” Petropavlovsk isn’t perfect, “but all the same, it is better than in Kurgan.”

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