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Kazakhstan is Going to Reform National Policy of Interethnic Relations

Following the events in the village of Masanchi in the south of Kazakhstan, the authorities paid attention to the need of systemic analytical work in interethnic sphere. The Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan has a task to review its performance and to strengthen its forecast and analysis. 


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The tragic events in Kordai district of Zhambyl region, Kazakhstan, on February 7-8 continue to be in the public eye and are being discussed at different levels. Unlike the reaction to previous similar conflicts that ended with the criminal penalty of those guilty and organisational conclusions, this time the post-conflict discourse is more expanded.

The question of importance of the study of interethnic relations is being actively discussed. According to officials, analysis in this sphere, which was disregarded before, now comes to the fore.

In reply to CABAR.asia, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan (ANK) writes about the review of its performance due to the conflict in Masanchi. This task, as noted, was set by its chair – the first president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. In particular, the point is the reduction of the number of cultural events and strengthening of forecast and analysis.

“One of the current priority tasks of ANK is to analyse and provide expert opinion of the national policy, to strengthen forecasting functions. This is what we do now,” the reply said.

Deputy chair of ANK Zhanseit Tuimebaev said about the reforms of the national policy in the sphere of interethnic relations at the round table on February 27 at Nur-Sultan. According to the ANK website, he emphasised the significance of the new quality level of research and analysis, forecasting in the sphere of interethnic relations.

“We are analysing if we can establish a separate research institute for ethnic policy. We have organised trips of experts to all locations of compact living of ethnic groups for deep study of the situation at the local level. […] The time has come to hold new researches of closed ethnic groups integration into the Kazakhstan society, as well as to develop new methodologies of conflict solution, use of mediatory technologies,” Tuimebaev said.

Participants of the event noted that Kordai events demonstrated the need for deeper and comprehensive analysis of interethnic relations, as well as for update of the work of state authorities, public institutions.

Село Масанчы после столкновений. Photo: T.Батыршин

Wait until the conflict arises

The expert community has spoken about the need of analysis and forecasting of the situation and prevention of conflicts for a long time. According to researcher and political analyst Vladimir Zharinov, the lack of analysis took place in Kordai, as well as during previous conflicts. Moreover, there is no single reason but many issues involved – social, domestic, etc.

Vladimir Zharinov. Фото из личного архива

“Domestic conflict in which representatives of many ethnic groups participated transformed into an interethnic conflict because the time-tested mechanism of searching for the enemy was activated. The overwhelming majority of interethnic conflicts in the south of Kazakhstan have been caused by domestic conflicts or crimes, dissatisfaction with socioeconomic living conditions,” Zharinov said.

According to him, there was no analysis of this sphere in the south of Kazakhstan. Moreover, it’s true not only about the ethnic issue, but also about manifestations of protest moods – campaigns by mothers with many children, activists of the banned organisation DVK, residents of Arys who suffered from the munitions depot explosion, etc.

“We only state the obvious, but do not study the reasons, do not forecast the options of further development, do not determine the ways of prevention, localisation, or at least minimisation of consequences. After the tragedy everyone is telling we need analysis. Where have you been before?!” the political analyst said.

In 2015 to 2017, the research centre “History and Ethnology” of the M.O.Auezov South Kazakhstan State University held a research of interethnic relations in the region. According to the head of the centre, Serik Dzhunusbaev, the main emphasis was placed on the study of relations between the Kazakhs and Uzbeks. The findings showed that representatives of national minorities were mainly dissatisfied with the policy of local governments, which, according to them, did not provide necessary information to the people.

“In particular, the respondents did not know they could take tests along with the Kazakhs to apply to civil service. They also complained about the closure or reduction of classes for national minorities in the south of the country, about physically or morally obsolete textbooks, whereas Kazakh-language classes had new textbooks,” Dzhunusbaev said.

Based on the research, recommendations for state authorities were developed, namely joint study of children of various ethnicities in one class, organisation of day recreation and labour camps for children of different ethnicities.

These and other recommendations were communicated to local authorities. However, no response followed. According to the researcher, this lack of attention, disregard of requests and discontent of people probably took place in Kordai and finally resulted in tragedy.

Eduard Poletaev. Фото взято с личной страницы в Facebook

The head of public foundation “Mir Evrazii”, political analyst Eduard Poletaev also noted that one of the reasons of the Masanchi conflict, in his opinion, was social injustice, which was there for many years.

“Only after it came to light, we learned that crime bosses ruled there and there is a range of Dungan villages, illegal trafficking, and other problems. It’s obvious we knew little or nothing at all about the events in Kordai,” the expert said.

What analytics should be like

According to Poletaev, state analytics should not be disregarded in this sphere. However, the problem is that it is not available openly.

The plan of activities to implement the ANK Development Concept for 2019-2021 has a chapter – scientific and expert events. It contains, for example, implementation of researches on the problems in the sphere of interethnic relations, organisation and performance of complex sociological research of public mood, sociological researches of interethnic agreement, etc.

However, the Assembly failed to answer if we can find their results in public domain.

Moreover, according to experts, similar works held at the budget costs do not reflect the real situation sometimes. Independent researches are a must to get a real picture. 

Mission failed or accomplished?

Negative expert opinions about the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, namely that it failed to accomplish its tasks, demonstrated its uselessness, needs to be dissolved, etc., were voiced after the tragedy and are still voiced by media outlets and social media. The Assembly explains them as a burst of ambiguous opinions and evaluations, contradictory and emotional judgements and comments. It also thinks that the findings about the crisis in the national policy of interethnic relations are hasty.

“The state fully understands what happened in Kordai district and clearly sees how to improve the situation. The reason behind such conflicts is a set of socioeconomic and cultural problems, “privacy” of ethnic communities, overlapping of social inequality and ethnicity factor, etc.” ANK said in reply to the official request of CABAR.asia.

The Assembly has operated in Kazakhstan since 1995. Until 2007, the main vector of its operation was the creation of conditions for the development of cultures, traditions, and ethnic languages in the country.

In 2007, it was given a constitutional status and nine seats in the lower house of parliament, and the integration of polyethnic society into a consolidated nation and united civic nation based on common values came to the fore. The Assembly solved this task. It’s a different matter that, according to the experts, geopolitical and other changes require the change of forms and methods of work of ANK and other agencies that deal with interethnic issues.

What to do?

According to Serik Dzhunusbaev, a permanent monitoring system should be introduced to prevent interethnic conflicts, principles of self-government should be actively adopted, the authority of the elders and other respected people should be used. He focused attention on the need to hold educational and ideological work with Kazakh young people to prevent nationalistic mood and ideas of supremacy of the titular nation.

Eduard Poletaev also noted that the model of political and authoritative regulation of interethnic relations should be adjusted to avoid similar tragedies in future.

“I think many important decisions should be made based on the public opinion, plebiscite. We also should solve social and other problems of internal migrants who are often involved into similar conflicts due to their unsettled state and discontent,” the political analyst said.

It is also important to keep to the course oriented on analysis. Similar events happened not so long ago. Back in 2014, the director of the Centre of Relevant Studies ‘Alternativa’, Andrei Chebotarev noted higher demand for the interethnic studies reported after the conflicts in Chilik, Malovodnoye, Mayatas.

“Back then, both state and non-governmental authorities began to take some efforts, including the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. However, the demand dropped quickly,” Chebotarev said and added that no one carries such monitoring activities today.

In September 2019, president of Kazakhstan Kassym Zhomart-Tokayev in his message to the people announced the concept of a “listening state” that “responds to all constructive demands of its citizens in a quick and efficient way”. According to experts, this concept should become a reality in order to prevent conflicts.

“The authorities should know what happens in every corner of the country. No information should be blocked. On the contrary, everything should be discussed in order to prevent and neutralise the conflicts,” Eduard Poletaev said.


This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia»

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