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Kazakhstan: Between Scylla And Charybdis?

by serik berik Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 08:13:33 AM EST

Nursultan Nazarbayev frequently draws parallels between his presidential reign in Kazakhstan and the rule of legendary Abylai khan over the (short-lived) confederation of the three Kazakh tribal unions (zhuz) in the eighteenth century. For instance, he usually takes credit for the independence we acquired in 1991, claiming to have protected the unity and freedom of the Kazakh nation in times of political tumult associated with the disintegration of the USSR. Usual are also the simultaneous references he makes to Abylai khan who did save the frail Kazakh nation from destruction during the Dzhungarian and Chinese aggression more than two centuries ago. Never mind the stark contextual differences between the two cases.

Such allusions to the aruak (the sainted forefather of the Kazakh nation) are intended to strengthen the President's popularity at home, which presently does not give much of a result. The multiethnic composition of Kazakhstan implies that only a portion of the population - the ethnic Kazakhs - receives the disguised nationalistic messages of this nature. The rest look at other aspects of the President's governance in making judgements about his suitability for the position he occupies.

Despite the ambiguous effect of the analogy on the President's domestic political image, his deliberate attempts to employ it for these purposes are themselves worth an analysis. Abylai khan is famous for his outstanding diplomatic skills that supposedly played the critical role in the preservation of the Kazakhs in the period of political and military pressures from both China and Imperial Russia. He was successful in his policy of double allegiance and in diplomatic juggling between the two formidable neighbors. A like success Nazarbayev is apparently hoping for today.

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The Kazakhstani Part of the (New) Silk (Rail)Way

by serik berik Wed Mar 22nd, 2006 at 09:34:30 PM EST

As I have promised (again), here's my contribution to the thread on the Eurasian transcontinental railway project.

A bit late but not too off-topic.

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Under A Reasonable Degree Of Self-Censorship...

by serik berik Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 04:18:17 AM EST

I am keeping my promise: here is a diary on Kazakhstan.

Although, I should make a little note here. While I, as a proud son of the great country, bring up in this diary the current issues in Kazakhstani politics that torment my nationalistic mind, I also try to be more or less ET reader-oriented. That is, I try to write about something at least mildly interesting for an average reader in an average "Western democracy."

Hence, the topic: the Kazakhstani bid for the OSCE Presidency in 2009. Should a dictator be cajoled?

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