Friday, April 5, 2024

In Kazakhstan, Moscow Now Working Hard to Ensure Its Propaganda Appears in Kazakh-Language Outlets

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 1 – In a development with potentially far-reaching consequences, Moscow is now working to ensure that its propaganda is carried by Kazakh-language print and Internet media, a strategy that has passed below the radar screens of many but gives the Russian government the ability to divide and weaken Kazakh society, two Kazakh journalists say.

            Russian-language media outlets in Kazakhstan, it is widely recognized, often repeat Moscow positions on key issues, although some of these newspapers and Internet sites have sufficient resources to fact check at least some of them, Moldir Utegenova and Duman Terlikbayev say (

            But it is less widely understood that Moscow is actively working to ensure that its propaganda messages appear in Kazakh-language outlets, places which generally are thought to be independent of Russia but have fewer resources to do the fact-checking that countering such propaganda.

             Utegenova and Terlikbayev say that Moscow used such penetration of the languages of the titular nationality in Ukraine and Moldova to undermine the national unity of those countries and set the stage for Russian aggression in both places. But in their article, they do not address the fact that this Moscow approach now may be true more widely as well.

            Since the end of Soviet times and even before, non-Russian language outlets often carried different messages than did Russian-language ones because Moscow was less concerned with the former because they reached fewer people or because Russian-language sources also reached that audience.

            (On that pattern and the reasons it varied from republic to republic, see my “Readers, Writers and Republics: The Structural Basis of Non-Russian Literary Politics,” in Lubomyr Hajda and Mark Beissinger, eds., The Nationalities Factor in Soviet Politics and Society (Philadelphia, 1990; electronic edition, 2019).)

            In recent times, many have seen polls showing that Kazakhs who rely on Kazakh-language sources are more likely to oppose Putin’s war in Ukraine than are Kazakhs who rely on Russian-language outlets as evidence that Kazakh-language sources are far more immune to Moscow’s messaging (e.g.,

            Moscow is undoubtedly concerned about that development and is working to counter it, not only in the former union republics but in the non-Russian autonomies within the Russian Federation, a trend that has attracted less attention in the West than it should because Moscow by doing so is putting itself in an even better position to weaken or even destroy these nations.


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