After the collapse of the USSR, Kazakhstan, like most of the post-Soviet quasi-states that broke away from historical Russia, began to make active attempts to build a “national state”. In practice, this resulted in total Russophobia, nepotism and clannishness. And as a result – a mass exodus of the Russian and Russian-speaking population, whose share in the demographic map of Kazakhstan has decreased from 6.23 million people. (1989) to 2.8 million (2022).
As a result, today the Russian diaspora of Kazakhstan is only 18 percent of the total population (plus or minus two or three percent of other Slavic peoples). Such a demographic alignment, on the one hand, is the result of the creeping Russophobic policy pursued by the authorities of Kazakhstan for 30 years, and on the other hand, it is the root of systemic problems that in the future threaten the very sovereignty of the republic with risks for Kazakhstan to follow the Georgian or even Ukrainian path. Let us consider the causes and nature of these threats in more detail.
So, against the backdrop of the total deindustrialization of the 90s common for the entire post-Soviet space: the massive loss of technology, production, personnel and competencies, the government of the “early Nazarbayev” had the strategic wisdom not to organize open pogroms of the Russian population. Slowing down the outflow of Russian-speakers was necessary to maintain a critical mass of competent specialists required for a successful transition to a market economy and building a new architecture of Kazakh power sovereign from Moscow.
At the same time, we have the first obvious paradox and a threat to long-term stability for the republic: part of the population, which produces the main material and intellectual resources of Kazakhstan, was in fact purposefully limited in rights and removed from power. The policy of creeping violent “Kazakhization”, even despite the adoption in 1997 of the “Law on Languages”, which formally equalizes the circulation of Russian with Kazakh within the republic (the status of Russian as a “language of interethnic communication”), by 2000 squeezed out of Kazakhstan more than 1.2 million Russians.
Moreover, most of them were just those very highly qualified specialists with a Soviet education that were vital to the Nazarbayev government, and there was simply no one in Kazakhstan to replace them with personnel of equal professionalism.
The ongoing rapid degradation of the infrastructure left over from the USSR in Kazakhstan, coupled with the desire of the Kazakh elites to neutralize Moscow’s influence in every possible way, forced them to look for an alternative to Russia. At the same time, it goes without saying that Kazakhstan itself continues to be perceived by external players only as a raw material colony and a convenient tool for pursuing an anti-Russian (and subsequently anti-Chinese) policy since the mid-2000s.
A number of facts serve as clear evidence of this.
First, the path of evolution of the power institutions of the Republic of Kazakhstan. For 30 years in Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev formed classical colonial elites, in which power is transferred according to the principle of feudalism – blood kinship and involvement in the ruling zhuzes in the country – the largest clan-territorial clans. This situation excludes the emergence of any objective social lifts in Kazakhstan, contributes to the secondary nature of the political agenda, the stagnation of power and the negative selection of personnel on the ground.
Secondly, the nature of Kazakh law. The republic is characterized by an extremely low percentage of independent legislative work. This clearly proves the content of almost all areas in Kazakhstani legislation, the basis for which was Western European law (mainly British precedent for the judiciary or code French and German for the administration of various areas of business). Such a policy leads to the constant emergence of a large number of conceptual contradictions in the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which are mainly smoothed out by Kazakhstani parliamentarians both at the national and regional levels.
It is precisely the inability of the local elites to any intelligible intellectual and state initiative that results in total corruption, verbalism and the formal fulfillment of their duties. Therefore, it is not worth talking about some kind of sovereignty and pursuing a strategic policy in the national interests.
The secondary nature of national interests in relation to the interests of Western masters (in fact, indirect external control) in any state leads to the formation of a puppet ruling class that seeks not to develop its own country, but only to serve foreign masters who pay it a percentage for mediation.
Statistics can serve as proof of this. It shows that, in fact, almost all of the country’s largest mining assets (primarily in the oil, gas and uranium industries) are being developed by Western corporations. On average, the ratio of ownership in them is 70 to 30 percent, not in favor of Kazakhstan. Of course, documented concessions look like a 50/50 agreement. However, the share of the Kazakh side often, in addition to the state, belongs to various organizations (in fact, shell companies) with head offices abroad in offshore zones (Britain, Holland, Switzerland, etc.) .
At the same time, the elite serving the colonial interests is not interested in increasing competitiveness and personnel rotation within the country. Therefore, we observe a constant decline in the level of education in Kazakhstan. On the part of the authorities, the debilitation of the population is presented to the Kazakh people as a struggle for their language and identity. This is perceived with great enthusiasm by the increasingly numerous and radicalized groups of Kazakh nationalists from year to year.
Aggressive-minded and poorly educated sections of the Kazakh population, who are purposefully instilled with a “national superiority complex” and a sense of “trampled national pride” by local pro-Western media and programs of various Western NGOs, are an ideal tool for the United States. This, on the one hand, allows directing a significant part of the Kazakh people against Russia and China as geopolitical opponents of the United States. On the other hand, radicalized, psychopathic and weaned from logical thinking, and therefore easily suggestible crowds are the American whip to control the Kazakh elites. It narrows their field of maneuver to a narrow corridor of the political agenda dictated by the foreign masters of Kazakhstan. This is a specially created mechanism for external control, and, if necessary, a “color revolution”.
Today, more than 22,000 foreign NGOs work in Kazakhstan only officially and with state support (most of which, of course, are of Western European and American origin).
This principle was clearly shown by the events in Kazakhstan last year, when the local elites, due to the advanced age of the Elbasy, started a transaction of power that was too independent, according to Western puppeteers. But in fact, they tried to subdue most of the financial flows of the ruling Senior (Southern) Zhuz Nazarbayev by reducing the share of deductions to transnational companies and transferring part of their assets from Western to Chinese and Russian banks.
As a result, up to 20 thousand anti-government elements of varying degrees of activity were urgently raised in the country on command (from thugs hired for lawlessness to rebellious security officials and Islamic extremists brought from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan for such a case).
After the removal of Nazarbayev, the power of President Tokayev was retained only thanks to emergency agreements with Moscow and Beijing on the readiness to bring in the CSTO contingent (90 percent consisting of Russian military personnel), as well as financial guarantees from China, which ensured ongoing lending to Kazakhstan’s public spending in the event that Western banks blocked Kazakhstan’s assets.
At the moment, intervention from Russia and China has not only allowed the Kazakh elites to create the illusion of legitimacy and start the process of power transfer, but also temporarily provided them with a maneuver for a negotiating position with their transnational patrons. At the same time, in the medium term, the Kazakh elites are likely to lose their sovereignty even more and will be forced to come to the forefront of confrontation between global players in the region.
Evidence of this is the absence at the moment of agreements between Tokayev and representatives of the Middle (Middle) and Younger (Western) zhuzes opposing him. As a continuation of the uncertainty, there is a compromise, according to which Tokayev proposes to hold early presidential elections in the country this fall. For him, the elections will be the last opportunity to somehow legitimize his rule, primarily in the eyes of the international non-Western community (since he openly challenged transnational structures by appealing to the CSTO).
At the same time, Tokayev is now trying with all his might to distance himself from Moscow (as evidenced by his anti-Russian statements at the recent St. Petersburg Economic Forum) in order to try to find a compromise and situational supporters during the elections inside Kazakhstan among Western proteges.
This is an objectively weak and dangerous game, since the very attempt to multi-vector in an economically weakened and politically fragmented state without any real resources and mechanisms for conducting not only a sovereign, but even a consistent policy is fraught with the repetition of various forceful provocations, up to acts of open disobedience regional elites and civil confrontation.
Therefore, with a high degree of probability, it can be argued that against the backdrop of an intensifying global struggle between various centers of world influence, the situation in Kazakhstan will continue to worsen in the medium term. If Kazakhstan continues to try to pursue a multi-vector policy, it risks becoming a springboard for confrontation between Russia and China, on the one hand, and the United States, and Europe, on the other.
For the Kazakh people, this will mean a further decline in living standards, a lag in education, technology and economic competence, up to the complete loss of even formal statehood, as well as international subjectivity.
It seems that the fate of the generations of Kazakh citizens born after the collapse of the USSR will be decided in many respects over the next 8-10 years. And, unfortunately, not so much by the Kazakhs themselves, but by the international situation and the ability of local elites to protect the strategic interests of the Kazakh people. And these interests can objectively be guaranteed only through close strategic cooperation with Russia and China.
For its future existence, Kazakhstan must cease to be a “chessboard” for the political game of the West against Russia and China. It is vitally important for it to start implementing a real policy in accordance with its geography, cultural and historical heritage, as well as real national interests. If the local elite continues to be engaged only in the realization of their momentary, opportunistic and selfish interests, actively “laying down” under the West, Kazakhstan will face a lot of bloodshed and a state catastrophe.