Wednesday, May 1, 2024

‘Kazakh Russian-Speaking Poles from Ukraine’ Struggle with Multiple Identities in Present-Day Kazakhstan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 28 – The more than 30,000 ethnic Poles now living in Kazakhstan are the descendants of two waves of Soviet deportations of Poles from the Ukrainian and Belarusian union republics of the USSR in the 1930s, an ethnically diverse borderland that Moscow absorbed after the Soviet-Polish war of 1920.

            When the first wave of Poles was deported at Stalin’s order on April 28, 1936, they became the first nation the Soviets deported as a whole and thus the first of the punished peoples. But because of the complexities of the region from which they came and the subsequent deportation of Poles from Poland after 1940, they have received less attention in the West.

            That is remedied in part by journalist Ramil Niyazov-Aldyldzhyan has published on the SibReal portal, an article that explains why many in this group describe themselves as “Kazakh Russian-speaking Poles from Ukraine” (

            She cites the work of Anastasiya Maskevich, a descendant of the first Poles to be deported to Kazakhstan and author of a book and an English-language master’s thesis about them ( and

            Maskevich points out that while the Poles deported from Poland were able to return home after the end of World War II, the Poles deported in 1937 were not freed from the status of special settlers until 1956 and were restricted from returning home until the very end of Soviet times and the beginning of the post-Soviet period.

            Because they have remained in Kazakhstan so long and because of problems in Belarus and Ukraine, the Poles from this wave now see themselves as part of Kazakh life and define themselves in many cases as “Kazakh Russian-Speaking Poles from Ukraine,” Maskevich and other experts on this group say both because and despite help from Warsaw and Astana.

            The SibReal journalist also interviews Yury Serebryansky, the editor of the journal of the Polish diaspora in Kazakhstan and the author of a novel about the lives of the first wave of Poles to be deported to Kazakhstan, Altynshash, which has won many prizes and details the struggle for survival and identity of the Poles of Kazakhstan.

            “For me,” Serebryansky says, “the Soviet Union finally ended on February 24, 2022 with the beginning of hostilities against Ukraine.” That action burst the bubble that had arisen in Soviet times for many including himself; but tragically, “there was an is a generation for whom the USSR never ended.”

            Such people, he continues, have “their heads somewhere other than in sovereign Kazakhstan.” And almost all questions about what it means to be a Kazakhstani arise from that. “Russian is a colonial legacy and sore point, but,” he says, “the future of the country belongs to bilinguals at a minimum who know Kazakh and Russian and ideally also English.

No comments:

Post a Comment