MINORITIES AND ETHNIC ISSUES IN KAZAKHSTAN

ETHNIC COMPOSITION OF KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan has by far the largest non-Asian population and the smallest population of other Central Asian ethnic groups (for example, only 2 percent are Uzbek). According to the 2009 the national census Kazkahs make up 63 percent of the population and Russians, 24 percent. The last 13 percent of the population is divided between lots of Central Asian ethnic groups, as well as some European groups such as Poles and even Germans whom the Soviet Union forcibly relocated there after World War II. [Source: Max Fisher, Washington Post, February 7, 2014 |:|]

According to one count there are 130 different ethnic groups in Kazakhstan. These include are some Kurds, most of whom were exiled there in World War II; Cossacks, who are leaders in the movement to have Kazakhstan returned to Russia; and Torgut Mongols, who traditionally were nomads who herded sheep, some horses, cattle and camels in rich pastures in eastern Kazakhstan.

Citizenship is based on residency rather than birth or ethnicity. There is an Assembly of People representing various minorities. Non-Kazakh ethnic groups are well represented in the government and the economy but real power lies in the hands of Kazakhs, particularly those connected with the President Nazarbayev’s family and clan.

Ethnic Group Numbers in Kazakhstan

Ethnic groups: Kazakh (Qazaq) 63.1 percent, Russian 23.7 percent, Uzbek 2.9 percent, Ukrainian 2.1 percent, Uighur 1.4 percent, Tatar 1.3 percent, German 1.1 percent, other 4.4 percent (2009 est.). [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

According to the 1999 census, 53.4 percent of inhabitants were Kazakh, 30 percent Russian, 3.7 percent Ukrainian, 2.5 percent Uzbek, 2.4 percent German, and 1.4 percent Uyghur. Ethnic Groups in 1994: Kazakhs 45 percent; Russians 36 percent; Ukrainians 5 percent; Germans 4 percent; Tatars and Uzbeks 2 percent each. In 1991 the Kazakh and Russian populations were approximately equal. There are about 100,000 Tajiks in Kazakhstan, compared to about 8 million in Tajikistan.

Ethnic groups in 1989: (numbers, percentage of population): 1) Kazakhs: 6,534,000; 39.7 percent; 2) Russians: 6,227,500; 37.8 percent; 3) Germans: 957,000; 5.8 percent; 4) Ukrainians: 896,000; 5.4 percent; 5) Uzbeks: 332,000; 2 percent; 6) Tatars: 328.000; 2 percent; 7) Uighurs: 185,300; 1.1 percent; 8) Belorussians: 182,600; 1 percent; 9) Koreans,103,000; 0.6 percent; 10) Azerbaijanis: 90,000; 0.5 percent. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

The Kazakh Population in Kazakhstan (year, numbers, percentage of total population): 1830: 1,300,000; 96.4 percent; 1850: 1,502,000; 91.1 percent; 1860: 1,644,000; 1870: 2,417,000; 1897: 3,000,000; 79.8 percent; 1926: 3,713; 57. 1 percent; 1939: 2.640,000; 38. 2 percent; 1959: 2,755,000; 30.0 percent; 1970: 4,234,000; 32.6 percent; 1979: 5,289,000; 36.0 percent; 1989: 6,531,000; 39. 7 percent; 1992: 7,297,000; 43.2 percent. ^|^

Soviets Carve up Central Asia

Although the peoples of Central Asia—Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Kazakhs—have a long history the republics that became Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrzgzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan were created in the 1920s as the equivalent of American states with no plan for them ever to be independent countries. The Tajiks were given their own republic but it lacked Bukhara and Samarkand, cities with mostly Tajik populations that traditionally had been Tajik cultural and business centers.

Stalin, serving as people's commissar of nationalities, divided up Central Asia into the current republics in 1924 as part of a divide and rule strategy to thwart any attempt at a pan-Turkic or pan-Islamic revolt against the Soviet Union. Borders were not established along ethnic or geographical lines but along lines mostly likely to suppress dissent. Ethnic groups were divided and placed in neighboring republics rather than into a single nation. Russians were pushed to move in the area.

Before that time there were no real borders in Central Asia. People were grouped together by religion, loyalty to a certain leaders, language in a way that was always changing and never clearly defined. There was no sense of nationhood and even ethnicity. Under the Soviets, ethnicity became defined as rigidly as the borders and many groups were provided with a history, culture and tradition that conformed to Soviet ideology.

Divisions of Ethnic Groups in the Soviet Union

The ethnic mix and configuration of some the ethnic republics in the Soviet Union was odd and unnatural. The strange ethnic make up of some of the ethnic republics was primarily the work of Joseph Stalin, when he served as the People's Commissar of Nationalities under Lenin in the 1920s , to suit the needs of the state not the people. In some cases traditional rivals were placed together in the same state and major population centers for one group were divided into different states. Some of the most creative gerrymandering was done where Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan meet (See Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).

Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: “The Soviet authorities attempted to shape ethnic identities throughout the USSR, and in Central Asia there were particular difficulties as most people here did not see their primary identities at the ethnic or national level. As part of the Soviet process, languages were standardised, traditions codified, pre-existing sub-ethnic identities (for example, tribe or city) were suppressed (for instance, by being removed as an option in the official census), privileges were granted or denied based on ethnic identity, and many people found that they were outside the borders of their titular republic (for example, ethnic Uzbeks inside Tajikistan). Despite the continuing rhetoric that the divisions between nationalities (that is, ethnic groups) would eventually disappear and give way to a unified people, ethnic identities continued to be strongly promoted in the Soviet republics... There were, however, also divisions within the ethnic groups.For Tajiks, there was the reality that ethnic Tajiks from different regions had obvious differences in dialect and in many other aspects of their culture.” [Source: “Tajikistan” by Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ><]

The borders of the ethnic homelands and republics were gerrymandered to suit the divide-and-rule policy of Moscow. Stalin’s idea was to group rival ethnic group into the same states rather than give them their own state so they would be too occupied bickering among themselves to unite against Moscow and threaten the Soviet state and in turn require a strong Soviet military presence to keep the peace. One Russian newspaper editor told National Geographic, “It wasn’t just divide and conquer. It was divide, conquer and tie up in trouble.”

As Lenin’s commissar in charge of national minorities, Stalin created “autonomous regions” of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 1922, as part of the divide to conquer strategy he also employed in Central Asia, where he grouped Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in artificial enclaves. One objective was to create a situation in which if the Soviet republics were ever able to break the grip of Soviet rule they would experience a wave of ethnic violence. One Georgian historian called the autonomous regions “time bombs set to detonate if Georgia became independent.” Indeed that is what happened when Georgia became independent in 1991. It also happened the Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Volga Tartars, Germans and Cossacks, among others, have lobbied through history for the creation of ethnic states within the Russian empire. One American State Department official told the New York Times, “If you are Russian and you look at the map, what you see is that most of the country isn’t yours. The psychological consequences are enormous. It’s as if American had honored all the Indian treaties and everything from the Mississippi to the Pacific was an Indian reservation.”

Mass Deportations of Ethnic Groups

A number ethnic groups deemed untrustworthy by Stalin were sent to Central Asia — particularly Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan — before, during and after World War II. These groups included Germans, Poles, Balts, Koreans, Ingush, Chechens, Meskheti Turks, Kalmyks and Tatars. Many died on the journey to Kazakhstan. Others died not long after they arrived. Some of those that survived continued to live in Kazakhstan. Others returned to their homelands when they got the chance.

In the 1930s, a number of ethnic groups, including the Greeks, Tatars, Koreans and Volga Germans were suddenly evacuated from their homes and sent into exile in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Siberia. Some were imprisoned and executed as “enemies of the people.” More than 1.5 million people were deported to Siberia and Central Asia.

During World War II, the Volga Germans and Caucasus ethnic groups such as the Chechens and Ingush were rounded up a transported in cattle cars to new "homelands" in Siberia and Central Asia. After Stalin died some were allowed to return. The mass deportation and, arguably, genocide against twenty nationalities—including the Chechens, Crimean Tatars, and the Volga Germans—during World War II is called the “war on cosmopolitans.

Fearing them as potential spies and traitors, Stalin rounded up all the ethnic Germans in 1941 and deported them to Siberia and Central Asia. Nearly 900,00 0 people were deported. They rounded up a transported in cattle cars. Some died on the way there. Thousands died in labor camps and coal mines. The mass deportation and, arguably, genocide, against twenty nationalities—including the Chechens, Crimean Tatars, and the Volga Germans—during World War II is called the “war on cosmopolitans.

The Germans were only able leave the places they were exiled to in 1955 and 1956, after Stalin died. In the meantime their homes and land were taken over by Russians. Without an autonomous region they were unable to organize politically and were unable to do much to improve there situation.

As for the Greeks, initially they prospered under Soviet rule. Greek schools, newspapers and culture flourished in places where there were large numbers of Greeks. The number of Greek schools rose from 33 in 1924 to 140 in 1938. There a was political drive to create an autonomous Greek territory. Things changed in 1930s, when Stalin included the Greeks among the groups that were persecuted and deported. Greek schools were shut down. Publications in Greek were banned and much of the Greek population was suddenly evacuated from their homes and sent into exile in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Siberia. Many were imprisoned and executed as “enemies of the people.” In 1949, Stalin exiled tens of thousands of Pontic Greeks in Crimea and the Caucasus.

Movement of Ethnic Groups in Out of Kazakhstan

During the 1950s and 1960s agricultural "Virgin Lands" program, Soviet citizens were encouraged to help cultivate Kazakhstan's northern pastures. This influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but also some deported nationalities) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-ethnic Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Non-Muslim ethnic minorities departed Kazakhstan in large numbers from the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s and a national program has repatriated about a million ethnic Kazakhs back to Kazakhstan. These trends have allowed Kazakhs to become the titular majority again. This dramatic demographic shift has also undermined the previous religious diversity and made the country more than 70 percent Muslim. =

Between 1989 and 1999, 1.5 million Russians and 500,000 Germans (more than half the German population) left Kazakhstan, causing concern over the loss of technical expertise provided by those groups. These movements have continued in the early 2000s. The Kazakh population is predominantly rural and concentrated in the southern provinces, while the German and Russian populations are mainly urban and concentrated in the northern provinces. [Source: Library of Congress, December, 2006]

In the early 1990s, Kazakhstan was the only former Soviet republic where the indigenous ethnic group was not a majority of the population. In 1994 eight of the country's eleven provinces had Slavic (Russian and Ukrainian) population majorities. Only the three southernmost provinces were populated principally by Kazakhs and other Turkic groups; the capital city, Almaty, had a European (German and Russian) majority. Overall, in 1994 the population was about 44 percent Kazakh, 36 percent Russian, 5 percent Ukrainian, and 4 percent German. Tatars and Uzbeks each represented about 2 percent of the population; Azerbaijanis, Uygurs, and Belarusians each represented 1 percent; and the remaining 4 percent included approximately ninety other nationalities. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Ethnic Issues of Kazakhstan

As in the other Central Asian republics, the preservation of indigenous cultural traditions and the local language was a difficult problem during the Soviet era. The years since 1991 have provided opportunities for greater cultural expression, but striking a balance between the Kazakh and Russian languages has posed a political dilemma for Kazakhstan's policy makers. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Kazakhstan's ethnic composition is the driving force behind much of the country's political and cultural life. In most ways, the republic's two major ethnic groups, the Kazakhs and the "Russian-speakers" (Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Belarusians), may as well live in different countries. To the Russians, most of whom live in northern Kazakhstan within a day's drive of Russia proper, Kazakhstan is an extension of the Siberian frontier and a product of Russian and Soviet development. To most Kazakhs, these Russians are usurpers. Of Kazakhstan's current Russian residents, 38 percent were born outside the republic, while most of the rest are second-generation Kazakhstani citizens. *

The Nazarbayev government moved the capital from Almaty in the far southeast to Astana (formally Aqmola) in the north-central region . That change caused a shift of the Kazakh population northward and accelerated the absorption of the Russian-dominated northern provinces into the Kazakhstani state. Over the longer term, the role of Russians in the society of Kazakhstan also is determined by a demographic factor — the average age of the Russian population is higher, and its birth rate much lower.

According to the U.S. Department of State: “Kazakh is the official state language, although local organizations may officially use Russian on an equal basis with Kazakh. The law does not require the ability to speak Kazakh for entry into the civil service and prohibits discrimination on the basis of language. Nonetheless, Kazakh language ability is looked upon favorably, which non-Kazakh speakers protest is language discrimination. The Election Law requires presidential candidates to be fluent in Kazakh.The creation of Kazakh-language schools and the conversion of some Russian-language schools to Kazakh reduced the overall number of Russian-only language schools. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kazakhstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

Outflow of Non-Kazakhs and Inflow of Kazakhs to Kazakhstan

In the early 1990s, the republic experienced a pronounced outflow of citizens, primarily non-Kazakhs moving to other former Soviet republics. Although figures conflict, it seems likely that as many as 750,000 non-Kazakhs left the republic between independence and the end of 1995. Official figures indicate that in the first half of 1994 some 220,400 people left, compared with 149,800 in the same period of 1993. In 1992 and 1993, the number of Russian emigrants was estimated at 100,000 to 300,000. Such out-migration was not uniform. Some regions, such as Qaraghandy, lost as much as 10 percent of their total population, resulting in shortages of technicians and skilled specialists in that heavily industrial area. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

To some extent, the outflow has been offset by in-migration, which has been of two types. Kazakhstan's government has actively encouraged the return of Kazakhs from elsewhere in the former Soviet Union and from China and Mongolia. Unlike other ethnic groups, ethnic Kazakhs are granted automatic citizenship. More than 60,000 Kazakhs emigrated from Mongolia in 1991-94, their settlement--or resettlement--eased by government assistance. Most were moved to the northern provinces, where the majority of Kazakhstan's Russian population lives. Because these "Mongol Kazakhs" generally do not know Russian and continue to pursue traditional nomadic lifestyles, the impact of their resettlement has been disproportionate to their actual numbers. *

The other major source of in-migration has been non-Kazakhs arriving from other parts of Central Asia to avoid inhospitable conditions; most of these people also have settled in northern Kazakhstan. Although officially forbidden and actively discouraged, this in-migration has continued. In a further attempt to control in-migration, President Nazarbayev decreed that no more than 5,000 families would be permitted to take up residence in the republic in 1996. *

Ethnic Strife in Kazakhstan

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote:“The ethnic peace in Kazakhstan is at present very relative and exists mainly because of the quantitative parity of the two major peoples: the Kazakhs and the Russians. However, the worsening economic situation and ethnic competition have clearly increased inter-ethnic tension. All political arguments boil down to whether the republic should evolve into a Kazakh ethnic state or a multi-ethnic national state. Even the territorial integrity of the country is at stake since the secessionist tendencies are rather strong amongst the predominantly Russian population of Northern and Eastern Kazakhstan and are encouraged by certain political forces in Russia. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“It is sometimes hoped that economic improvements may somehow defuse ethnic tensions. the chances for rapid improvement are at present very problematic in Kazakhstan. A genuine power-sharing between the two major ethnic communities is also hardly feasible. On the other hand, the hopes of the Kazakh nationalists that the majority of the Russian will leave the country do not seem realistic. In all probability, the Russian population in the country will have to adjust to an ethnic minority 's status. ^|^

“The main danger for Kazakhstan 's future consists in the attempts to violate the territorial integrity of the country. Their unpredictable consequences may destabilize the whole ex Soviet geopolitical region. The ethnic situation in Kazakhstan should certainly be watched with great attention, but perhaps it is not enough to consider it only as a problem in relations between Kazakhstan and Russia in which other powers do not have any voice. ^|^

History of the Ethnic Mix in Kazakhstan

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: The “highly diverse ethnic composition of Kazakhstan has a long history. In the past the country was the exclusive domain of pastoral nomads. In the second half of the eighteenth century and in the first half of the nineteenth century, Russia subdued and annexed Kazakhstan. Soon afterwards, the Russian government took away the Kazakhs' summer pastures and sometimes even winter quarters and replaced them first with Cossack and then with Russian peasant settlers. About 1.5 million new colonists from European Russia came to Kazakhstan at the end of the nineteenth century and in the beginning of the twentieth century. Kazakh pastoral nomads were gradually ousted to the arid areas of Central and Southern Kazakhstan. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“The Russian colonization of Kazakhstan and corresponding crisis in the traditional pastoral nomadic economy, unsuccessful uprisings, and the turmoil years of the revolution and civil war resulted in a sharp decrease in the country's Kazakh population. Their numbers fell from 91.4 percent in 1850 to 57. 1 percent in 1926. Then, in the early 1930s came the traumatic events of forced collectivization and bloody settlement of Kazakh nomads on fixed lands followed by the famine that decimated their herds and altogether cost them among 1.5 to 2 million souls. Another half million people had to flee from the country. ^|^

“Meanwhile, the Russian and Slavic migrations to Kazakhstan continued. In the 1930s and 1940s the industrialization of the republic stimulated these movements, in the 1950s—the so-called "virgin lands campaign" aimed at sowing wheat on huge tracts of land in the Northern Kazakhstan steppes. The last campaign brought to Kazakhstan another 1.5-2 million new settlers from the European part of the USSR. By 1939, the number of Russians in Kazakhstan had doubled compared with 1926 ; by 1979 this number had doubled again. In addition, in the 1930s and particularly in the 1940s, Kazakhstan became one of the main territories for resettlement of various deported groups and peoples , like Koreans, Germans, Chechen, Ingush, Meskhetian Turks, Kurds, Greeks. and many others. In all, by 1962, the number of Kazakhs in Kazakhstan dropped to 29 percent.^|^

The Kazakh Population in Kazakhstan (year, numbers, percentage of total population): 1830: 1,300,000; 96.4 percent; 1850: 1,502,000; 91.1 percent; 1860: 1,644,000; 1870: 2,417,000; 1897: 3,000,000; 79.8 percent; 1926: 3,713; 57. 1 percent; 1939: 2.640,000; 38. 2 percent; 1959: 2,755,000; 30.0 percent; 1970: 4,234,000; 32.6 percent; 1979: 5,289,000; 36.0 percent; 1989: 6,531,000; 39. 7 percent; 1992: 7,297,000; 43.2 percent. ^|^

Non-Kazakhs Outnumber Kazakhs

The proportion of ethnic Kazakhs in the Kazakh SSR fell from 95 percent to 30 percent between 1900 and 1991 as a result of Russian and Soviet intrusions. Some Kazakhs died. Many fled. Russians, other Slavs and other ethnic groups from the Soviet Union arrived in several waves: From the 1930s they came to work in factories; during the 1930s, 40s and 1950s they were victims of Stalinist purges and repression: in the 1950s and 60s they came as part of the Virgin Lands campaign.

Kazakhstan suffered from waves of large-scale implantation of Russians and other Soviet ethnic groups, including industrialization before, during and after World War II, the Virgin Lands project of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (in power 1953–64) in the 1950s, and the relocation of Soviet industry to Kazakhstan in the 1960s and 1970s. Soviet leader Joseph V. Stalin (in power 1927–53) also forcibly resettled other ethnic groups in Kazakhstan. Soviet agricultural policy was especially harmful to indigenous people and their economy. [Source: Library of Congress, December, 2006 **]

Arrival of Non-Kazakhs During and After World War II

Many European Soviet citizens and much of Russia's industry were relocated to Kazakhstan during World War II, when Nazi armies threatened to capture all the European industrial centers of the Soviet Union. More than 1 million Russians and Ukrainian and other ethnic groups migrated to Kazakhstan to get out of harms way. Groups of Crimean Tatars, Germans, and Muslims from the North Caucasus region were deported to Kazakhstan during the war because it was feared that they would collaborate with the enemy. In the meantime 1.2 million citizens of Kazakhstan were drafted to fight in World War II. Kazakhs became a minority in their own homeland and even their language began ro die out.

Many more non-Kazakhs arrived in the years 1953-65, during the so-called Virgin Lands campaign of Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev (in office 1956-64). Under that program, huge tracts of Kazakh grazing land were put to the plow for the cultivation of wheat and other cereal grains. By 1959, Russians made up 43 percent of the population of Kazakhstan and Kazakhs made up only 29 percent. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Still more settlers came in the late 1960s and 1970s, when the government paid handsome bonuses to workers participating in a program to relocate Soviet industry close to the extensive coal, gas, and oil deposits of Central Asia. One consequence of the decimation of the nomadic Kazakh population and the in-migration of non-Kazakhs was that by the 1970s Kazakhstan was the only Soviet republic in which the eponymous nationality was a minority in its own republic.

1959, riots and insurrections broke out at a steel mill in Temirtau among workers greatly dissatisfied with the poor working and living conditions and the interruptions in supply of water, food, goods, tools — the result of numerous mistakes committed by the administration. Clashes took their toll. Sixteen workers were killed, 27 were wounded and about 70 arrested and convicted. Twenty-eight police were 28 wounded.

Mass Deportations of Ethnic Groups

A number ethnic groups deemed untrustworthy by Stalin were sent to Kazakhstan before, during and after World War II. These included, Tatars, Poles, Balts, Koreans, Ingush, Chechens, Meskheti Turks, Kalmyks, and Tatars. Many died on the journey to Kazakhstan. Others died not long after they arrived. Some of those that survived continued to live in Kazakhstan. Others returned to their homelands when they got the chance.

See Central Asia, Germans, Koreans, Chechens, Minorities. Russian

Growth of the Kazakh Population Since the 1960s

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “However, during the last thirty years their overall proportion in the republic began to increase again because of their high birth-rate and a decline in the influx of non-indigenous groups, above all of Russians. By 1993, the share of Kazakhs in the total population of Kazakhstan had already reached 43. 2 percent, while the Russians' share decreased to 36.4 percent. It appears that Kazakhs have a good chance of becoming a majority in their country again by the beginning of the next century. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“This confidence in the ethnic future of the Kazakhs after the period when their very survival as a people was in jeopardy, contributed to a growth in their nationalism, which in the first post-war decades was at a rather low level. Nationalism became more conspicuous already during the later years of the Kunaev's rule, who until his dismissal in December 1986 held for twenty-four years the position of the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. Although Kunaev was no less corrupt than other Soviet politicians of the Brezhnev period, he was, and still remains, rather popular among the Kazakhs. He tried to advocate the interest of Kazakhstan in the central government,to give preference to Kazakhs over Russians in the republic, and to move them into many key positions in administration. ^|^

Social Structure, Jobs and Ethnicity in Kazakhstan

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “Kazakh social structure remains in many respects pre-modern. It consists of the upper class that includes people involved in government and administration (most of them in the recent past belonged to the former Communist party hierarchy), and the large lower class, the peasantry. Members of the working class and of the middle class from the indigenous population are small in number; most of the latter is white collar or people involved in humanitarian professions. Blue collars and a majority of the middle class came from other ethnic groups—Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Germans, Koreans, and several others. By 1989, 35.8 percent of the employed Kazakhs were engaged in agricultural labor in the state-owned farms (sovkhozes), an additional 8. 3 percent were kolkhozniks. 30.7 were office employees, and only 24.9 percent were engaged in urban labor. Kazakhs provide 51 percent of the administrative personnel but 3.0 percent of the skilled labor and 11.3 percent of the unskilled one. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“The limited industrialization of Kazakhstan conducted by the Moscow center involved the attraction of a work force from the European part of the USSR, and not the creation of an indigenous working class. The participation of Kazakhs in this development was insignificant. However, unlike capitalist countries that usually recruit immigrants from other regions to perform unskilled labor, Kazakhstan attracted immigrants from European Russiato occupy those positions in industry that demanded skilled labor and, thus, they became a labor aristocracy. ^|^

“The construction of industrial complexes did not take into account local needs or local traditions. While the production of consumer goods in Kazakhstan is underdeveloped and about 60 percent of consumer goods haveto be imported into the republic, it contains large mining and heavy industry enterprises (including defense industry), entire industrial branches, even entire cities with the indigenous population comprising the minority. In 1979 the Kazakhs constituted only 20,8 percent and by 1989-26.6 percent of the urban population of the republic; 69,1 percent of them continued to live in the rural areas. By 1989. Kazakhs comprised 57 percent of the whole agricultural population of Kazakhstan. On the other hand, in 1977, they comprised only 1 3 percent and in 1987, 21 percent of industrial workers. ^|^

“Although the educational level of Kazakhs in Kazakhstan is still lower than that of Russians (in 1979, 69 out of 1000 Russians at an age older than 10 years and 56 out of 1000 Kazakhs had a higher education), the number of educated Kazakhs is growing. The Kazakh political elite encouraged this process , sometimes at the expense of other ethnic groups. At the same time an ethnic division of labor still exists in Kazakhstan among educated strata. While the educated Kazakhs are mainly involved in humanitarian professions, the Russians dominate in engineering, the natural sciences, medicine, and so forth. In almost all social levels in Kazakhstan different ethnic groups occupy specific niches in which other groups are underrepresented. Thus, all of them feel victimized. Each group hinders the social and professional advancements of the other. Each group perceives this sectional unevenness in ethnic divisions of labor as oppressive and discriminatory. As a result, the tense situation has emerged in which some social differences take on ethnic colors and social mobility strikes against ethnic boundaries. This contributes to a general deterioration of inter-ethnic relations in the republic. ^|^

Russians and Europeans in the Kazakhstan Economy

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “People of European origin are the main backbone of the skilled work force and scientific-technical personnel. Engineers, technicians, and skilled workers of Slavic. German, or Caucasian origin operated most large enterprises, electric stations, oil wells, mines, railroads, and airports created during the Soviet period. Higher wages, the possibility of receiving an apartment, and good promotion possibilities attracted. with the exception of Germans exiled to the republic by Stalin during World War II. these migrants. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“Until recently, 93 percent of Kazakhstan's industry was directly subordinate to the all-Union ministries in Moscow. The republic's tax revenue from these enterprises constituted only 0.03 percent of its budget. Their employees were not Kazakhstan workers but rather Union workers. They virtually embodied the Union center, its defense and heavy industries, space research and military power. They were far from integrated into the local society, and often considered themselves more as representatives of the center vis-a-vis Kazakhs. Kazakhstan no longer needs many of them in their former capacity, and many Kazakh nationalists regard the "Union people" as potential "fifth column. "^|^

Kazakhs and the Kazakhstan Economy

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “Of Kazakhstan's seventy-one districts, those with a predominantly Kazakh population are economically the most backward and have the highest percentage of unemployed. The developmental lag and the ethnic division of labor that hinder Kazakh participation in modern sectors of economy , contributed to a growth in ethnic competition. The violent disturbances and inter-ethnic conflicts of summer 1989 in Novyi Uzen', Munaishi, Dzetybai, and other centers of oil industry in the Mangyshlak Peninsula in Western Kazakhstan demonstrate where this situation is going. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“The central, Moscow based, organizations have pumped oil from there for decades. In order not to build schools, hospitals, and day care centers they brought in temporary workers from the North Caucasus and other parts of the Soviet Union. These people got better pay and living conditions. In addition, migrants from the Caucasus managed to seize many lucrative positions in trade and services. The central organizations viewed the local Kazakh p opulation as a burden. the Kazakhs remained without work and with nowhere to go. Every three months airplanes brought a new shift of 12 thousand people to Mangyshlak. These shifts included not only skilled oil-industry workers, but also secretaries, cooks , and even office-cleaners, while 18 thousand Kazakh youths remained unemployed. As a result, the latter began to demand the expulsion of migrants of Caucasian origin. Mobs went on a rampage which lasted for several days and resulted in several deaths, numerous injuries, and great damage to various consumer enterprises and services. ^|^

Ethnic Divisions in Kazakhstan Agriculture

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “An ethnic division of labor exists also in agriculture. Kazakhs supply most of the unskilled labor for pastoral production and cultivation. Ethnic minorities like Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Koreans, and others, prefer to be occupied in other, more mechanized and better paid branches of agriculture demanding more skilled labor. This situation also has a long history. Thus, the virgin land campaign in Kazakhstan was at Kazakh expense. In Northern Kazakhstan the campaign closed the Kazakh's livestock-raising state and collective farms, and prevented most of these Kazakh employees from becoming involved in grain production. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“The amalgamation of collective farms ('kolkhozes') into larger units during the Brezhnev period again affected Kazakh peasants and p astoralists in a negative way. It abandoned many Kazakh small settlements ('auls'). However , directors of newly created state farms ('sovkhoses') offered jobs only to young male Kazakhs: old herdsmen ('chabans') remained in their auls. ^|^

“Moreover, the state confiscated about 20 million hectares out of 270 million hectares of Kazakhstan's grazing and arable lands for numerous military grounds and ranges, the nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk and the satellite and missile test center at Baikonur. There are virtually no Kazakhs among their employees, and the state ousted the indigenous population from these lands. Although the antinuclear movement in Kazakhstan unites people from different ethnic groups, some Kazakh intellectuals claim that ethnic Kazakhs suffered more than other groups as a result of the nuclear-weapons tests. They refer to Kazakh villagers who were used as human guinea pigs during above-ground nuclear tests in the fifties, and to those who for three decades were suffering and dying from the consequences of radiation leaks. ^|^

“The overpopulated Kazakh rural regions of the republic also suffer from erosion, salination and desertification, the results of erroneous agro-technology , overgrazing, and a trend from multispecies toward monospecies herd composition. In 1989, salt marshes comprised about 650,000 hectares in Kazakhstan. By 2000, erosion will affect at least 50 percent of all the pastures in Kazakhstan. ^|^

Migration of Kazakhs to the Cities

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: During the 1960s, 70s and 80s “many Kazakhs began to move from overpopulated and under-employed rural areas to the cities. Thus, in 1970, Kazakhs made up only 12.4 percent of the population in Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan ; in 1979, they comprised 16.7 percent; and in 1989, already 2 2.5 percent. However. educationally and professionally, the new migrants from the rural areas are at a disadvantage and encounter strong competition from other ethnic groups. Moreover, social advancement and career promotion for the urban population require a good command of Russian. This puts the Kazakhs in an underprivileged position in comparison to Russian-s peaking urbanites and intensifies ethnic competition. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“However, if the new migrants fail in the cities, they usually can not return to their villages and small towns, because their jobs, if they had any, are already occupied by other people. At best, these people can find only unskilled jobs in the cities. They have little sympathy for the Russians whom they tend to associate with foremen , team-leaders, and superiors of different rank, in other words with the urban population 's alien, competing, and privileged group. Both groups have different incomes, values, life-style, and maintain few contacts with each other. At worst, the new Kazakh migrants remain unemployed and often homeless, and constitute a new and growing underclass in the cities of Kazakhstan. Often they are particularly hostile towards the Russians and other ethnic minorities and prove to be particularly prone to extremism, violence, and crimes. In summer 1990, when some of these desperate people lost any hope for government assistance, they unwarrantedly seized plots of land near Alma-Ata, which created an explosive situation in the capital. ^|^

Political Advantages of Kazakhs

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “At the same time, opportunities for social advancement in the political sphere are better for the Kazakhs than for other ethnic groups in the republic. Through various kinds of official and unofficial affirmative actions, they are over-represented in virtually all republican foci of power. The number of Kazakh humanitarian intelligentsia and students also exceeds the ratio between Kazakhs and other ethnic groups. The reasons for this situation are quite obvious. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“The successful implementation of colonial rule often depended on the participation of some of the indigenous population, and the Soviet policy towards Kazakhstan was no exception. The Soviets created in Kazakhstan completely new political and cultural elites. In these elites, ethnic Kazakhs outnumbered members of all other ethnic groups because the recruitmentto these elites was based, to a significant extent, on ethnic affiliation. An exception was made only for the most important position of the First Secretary of the Communist party of Kazakhstan. During the whole Soviet period only four of twenty-two of these secretaries were ethnic Kazakhs. ^|^

“The Kazakh political elite's privileged positions in the local power structures depended on their compliance with all of Moscow's demands and goals, and with their capabilities to implement policies dictated by the Center. In addition, they had to embrace the Russian language and—at least in public— some of Russian culture and life-style. In return Moscow gave them the right to run internal affairs in Kazakhstan and to distribute preferential treatment and high level jobs. In order to secure their support the Soviet regime reserved a significant percentage of these jobs for Kazakhs. ^|^

Ethnic Tensions in Kazakhstan in the 1980s

In June 1989, ethic riots involving ,members of 70 ethic group broke out in Novyy Uzen, an impoverished town that produced natural gas on the Mangyshlak Peninsula in western Kazakhstan. Many Caucasus groups had settled there and there had been tensions between them and the Kazakhs and other groups. A series of strikes was held at the mines of Karagandin coal basin. Rioting lasted nearly a week and claimed at least four lives.

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “During the "restructuring" period, inter-ethnic tensions in Kazakhstan , particularly relations between the Kazakhs and Russians, became even more salient and today continue to remain tense. During the disturbances in Alma Ata, in December 1986, the blue collar Russian civil population participated in putting down Kazakh demonstrations. In several parts of the city, particularly in the working class neighborhoods, they organized hunts for all Kazakhs appearing in the streets. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“The ethnic peace in Kazakhstan is at present very relative and exists mainly because of the quantitative parity of the two major ethnic groups. However, the worsening economic situation and growing unemployment have clearly strengthened Kazakh malevolence toward all other ethnic groups in the republic.1 Thus, in July and August 1990, Kazakhs were clashing with Chechen in the Dzhambul raion (district). In the beginning of 1992, activists of the Kazakh organizations "Azat" and "Kazak tili" forced Chechen and Ingush living in the Novyi Mir settlement in the Taldy-Kyrgan oblast' to sell their houses for a mere trifle and to immediately leave Kazakhstan. In summer 1991, Meskhetian From 1992 to 1993, Kazakhstan's gross domestic product decreased by 12.9 percent, while the volume of industrial production fell by 16.1 percent, Ind construction and assembly work by 25 percent. The production of main foodstuffs has fallen drastically: meat by 12.6 percent; sugar by 36.1 percent; margarine by 48 percent; and butter by 25.4 percent. Kazakhstan's cabinet of ministers has admitted that the country is on the verge of hyperinflation and that price increases are out of control. Turks living in the Enbekshikazakhskii raion received the ultimatum from the local Kazakhs to leave the raion in three months. ^|^

Politics, Nationalism and Ethnicity in Kazakhstan

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “With the exception of the former Communist party, which was renamed the Socialist party at the end of 1991, all other political organizations, parties , and movements in Kazakhstan in 1988-1992 have been organized, or have split along ethnic lines. The paramount motivation behind the Kazakh organizations is to provide Kazakhs the privileged position in the country and to preserve its territorial integrity. Solzhenitsyn's proposal to annex Northern Kazakhstan, published in "How We Should Build Russia," led to the protests from a wide spectrum of Kazakh intelligentsia and youth and to the demonstrations in Alma Ata on September 21-23, 1990. These Kazakhs put forward counter demands that reminded the Russians that the Omsk oblast' in the Russian Federation was once Kazakh territory. Recently, the radical nationalist Kazakh organizations have issued the warning that if Solzhenitsyn on his current way from Vladivostok to Moscow dares to cross Kazakhstan's border, this will result in violent protest demonstrations and other actions. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

Beginning in 1988, the most outspoken champions of Kazakh nationalism started to call for a complete halt to in-migration of Russians into Kazakhstan. Significant numbers of Kazakhs do not hide their desire for Russians , Ukrainians, Germans, and other non-Kazakhs to leave Kazakhstan. The saying "We bid farewell to Germans [voluntary emigrating to Germany] and shake hands with them: we turn Russians out by kicking their backs" is rather popular nowadays in nationalistic circles. In 1992, a total of 370,000 non-Kazakhs, including about 250,000 Russians, left Kazakhstan. In the near future the situation may become even worse because it is expected that by the year 2000 at least I million more Kazakh youth will move from the rural areas to the cities. All political arguments ultimately boil down to whether the republic should evolve into a Kazakh ethnic state or a multiethnic national state. Kazakh nationalists use the "indigenous" question (and in addition, the consequences of Russian and Soviet colonialism) as an argument for providing them priority and special political status. In the political arena, Russians are already at a disadvantage. In the parliamentary elections of March 1994, which in the opinion of international observers were not free of the government's pressure and manipulation, Kazakhs won 103 of 177 seats (58 percent of the total number), Russians 49 seats, Ukrainians 10 seats, and the rest of the seats were won by members of other ethnic minorities. ^|^

“Many Kazakhs also worry that radical economic privatization and the transition to a market economy will hurt the descendants of pastoral nomads who do not have any tradition of commerce and free enterprise and will inhibit, rather than facilitate, the emergence of a strong Kazakh middle class. Remarkably enough, President Nazarbaev explained his antipathy to outright ownership of land by pointing out that to permit such ownership would be alien to the heritage and mentality of the former nomads. The last decree on the state farms' sale implies only short-term and long-term lease, but still not the private ownership of land. It is assumed that the Russian population should benefit more from the transition to the market economy. On the contrary, the Kazakh middle- and low-level bureaucracy and the strata with low income are more vulnerable, since they are more dependent on the state's control of the economy or on the state's support through budget allocations. ^|^

“The fight for a wider use of the Kazakh language in education, culture, and administrative practice relates not only to the growth of ethnic consciousness and the desire to prevent acculturation, but also to the mundane motivationto place the Kazakhs in more advantageous positions with respect to other ethnic groups. Not without reason, the Slays in the republic are afraid of the policy of "Kazakhization," which they consider an "infringement on other people's rights." While 62.8 percent of the Kazakhs know the Russian language, only 0.9 percent of the Russians and 0.6 percent of the Ukrainians in Kazakhstan can communicate in Kazakh. The language law of September 1989 that declared Kazakh to be the state language of Kazakhstan and required its eventual widespread use in public life, led to protests from the Russian-speaking population. ^|^

Ethnic Tensions and Northern Kazakhstan

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “The fact that the Kazakhs are today a minority in Northern Kazakhstan further aggravates the inter-ethnic relations in Kazakhstan. In 1989, their percentage in the Kokchetav oblast' was 28.9; in the Pavlodar oblast' 28.S ; in the Kustanai oblast' 22.9 ; in the Tselinograd oblast' 22.4; and in the Karagand a oblast' only 17.2. Remarkably, the Kazakh nationalistic parties are receiving the strongest support just in these regions (personal communication with S. Aktaev, a leader of the Azat movement and the Republican Party). Also significant is the fact that the Kazakh immigrants from Mongolia and China are settled in Northern Kazakhstan. Its Russian population consider this as a deliberate attempt to change the ethnodemographic situation. Kazakhstan's parliament's recent decision to move the capital to Akmola by the year 2000 may also pursue this goal. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“Despite the agreement on the inviolability of inter-republican borders made by the leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States, some Russians living in Northeastern and Northwestern Kazakhstan. encouraged by sympathetic nationalists in Russia, want these territories transferred to the latter as the best guarantee against lowering their positions and status. The Ural Cossacks are particularly persistent in this respect: no wonder their relations with Kazakhs are deteriorating. However, the Cossacks are not alone. Demands to create Russian territorial autonomy, or autonomies, in Kazakhstan meet with strong opposition from Kazakhstan's government and Kazakh public opinion. In 1994, the Russian mass media reported cases of persecution of the leaders of the Russian community in Northern Kazakhstan. Likewise, Kazakhstan's constitution excluded double citizenship—another demand by the Russians in the country, and president Nazarbaev resists Russia's persuasion to grant it to her compatriots because this would mean that almost one half of Kazakhstan's population could become Russian citizens. He also made quite clear that any territorial claims to Kazakhstan by Russia would imply unavoidable bloodshed. He is certainly alarmed that Zhirinovsky's claims have a sympathetic ear among some, more moderate, Russian politicians. Once, he even stated that Russia's policy toward the Russian population of Kazakhstan resembles the policy of Nazi Germany towards the Sudeten Germans. ^|^

Nazarbaev’s Policy to Diffuse Ethnic Tensions

Anatoly M. Khazanov of the University of Wisconsin wrote: “Apparently, the multiethnic composition of Kazakhstan was one of the reasons why President Nazarbaev argued for civil accord and inter-ethnic accommodation in the republic, and in 1991 still wanted the preservation of the Soviet Union. On many occasions he declared his allegiance, notto "nationalism by blood," but to "nationalism by soil," which means that his official goal is to make Kazakhstan a nation state. He constantly emphasizes that no one ethnic group should have privileges in the republic. During the 1991 19 presidential electoral campaign he stated : "I will never call a single person in Kazakhstan a migrant." Nazarbaev's sympathy towards authoritarian rule. allegedly as a transitional stage from totalitarianism to democracy, is well known ; he does not pretend to hide it. The independent press and other mass media in Kazakhstan are operating in difficult conditions under constant pressure from the government. Still, so far Nazarbaev has proved to be a very skillful politician who is capable, if not to defuse inter-ethnic tension, then to keep it under control. However, one may wonder whether and for how long he is capable of maneuvering in the future. The Kazakh intelligentsia appeals him "to help his own people" and reproaches him for "neglecting interests of the Kazakh people." On the other hand, the Russian-speaking population though considering Nazarbaev the lesser evil reproaches him for being led by Kazakh nationalists; they claim that although Nazarbaev avoids publicly favoring Kazakhs, this is just what he is doing in his practical measures. [Source: Anatoly M. Khazanov, University of Wisconsin, August 2, 1994 ^|^]

“At present, Nazarbaev's policy is aimed at marginalizing extreme Kazakh and Russian organizations. To achieve this goal he sometimes does not hesitate to resort to police methods. At the same time, apparently in an attempt to widen his support base (Nazarbaev's relations with the former communist nomenklatura remain somewhat strained. In 1993, he complained that the government had proved its complete insolvency. He caustically remarked that an anti-crisis program is a manual for Kazakhstan's bureaucrats in the same way that Decameron is a handbook for a bishop), he wishes to reach rapprochement with more moderate Kazakh parties and organizations and accepts many of their demands. On December 16, 1991 Kazakhstan's parliament declared that all ethnic Kazakhs, wherever they are living, have the right to acquire Kazakhstan's citizenship and/or to return to the country. The Law on migration promulgated on June 26, 1992, promised state support to those Kazakhs who are immigrating to Kazakhstan. On July 17, 1992, the vice-president of Kazakhstan, Eric Asanbaev, plainly stated that "Kazakhstan's statehood will be built on ethnic principles. "^|^

“It is clear that today the question of power sharing between different ethnic groups in Kazakhstan remains unsolved. Although Nazarbaev vigorously denies that different ethnic groups in his country are put in unequal conditions and insists that nobody is discriminated if he does not know Kazakh, Russians in Kazakhstan hold the opposite opinion. Not without reason they complain that they already are denied some prominent and lucrative positions under the pretext that they do not know the Kazakh language which was elevated to the status of the state language of the country. Some Russian deputies of the new parliament have already stated that they are going to demand that both languages be declared the state languages of Kazakhstan. ^|^

“The communists in Kazakhstan have failed to secure ethnic accord. Whether those of the recently emerged new parties which consist mainly of the former communists and are not based on an implied ethnic principle, be it the presidential Union of People's Unity or the centrist National Congress of Kazakhstan (the latter to a large extent remains the party of some of Alma-Ata's intelligentsia), are willing and capable of fostering an inter-ethnic accommodation. remains to he seen. ^|^

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016


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