Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may not have changed the global world order, but it has certainly changed the geopolitics of Asia. Before the war, if Belarus was Russia’s closest ally to the west and China to the east, Kazakhstan was unquestionably its greatest ally to the south. Unlike Belarus or China, however, Kazakhstan is not looking for any extra opportunities in its relations with Russia, instead trying to quietly dismantle an alliance it never really wanted without provoking Moscow’s wrath. Chinese President Xi Jinping picking Kazakhstan for his first foreign trip since January 2020, and promising to support Kazakhstan in “safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity”, gives a golden opportunity to further this goal.… Seguir leyendo »
Harrowing images of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have shocked the public—but also raised tough questions about whose lives matter in the West. Critics have focused on the telling contrast in coverage between the welcome given to Ukrainian refugees and the cold shoulder given to those from countries like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan as well as the lack of assistance provided to African and South Asian students trying to leave Ukraine. Before the Russian invasion, however, another country in Eurasia elicited similar questions.
On Jan. 2, protests in western Kazakhstan over a steep rise in fuel prices spread across the country, reflecting the population’s deep-seated anger with corruption, lack of civil rights, and economic inequality and stagnation.… Seguir leyendo »
In January, Kazakhstan was in chaos: mass protests against corruption were spreading across the country, prompting its president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, to appeal to Russia to send peacekeepers from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization to help restore order. Today, however, calm has returned to the streets of Almaty and other major Kazakh cities. Now firmly in charge, Tokayev appears bent on demonstrating to Kazakhstan’s long-suffering citizens that, three decades after becoming independent from the Soviet Union, their country is beginning a fresh chapter in its history.
Tokayev is purging Kazakhstan’s government of the influence of his authoritarian predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who retained significant clout in government and the private sector, even after resigning from the presidency in 2019.… Seguir leyendo »
The January unrest in Kazakhstan revealed to its leadership the dangers of ignoring systemic inequality, corruption, and a repressive political environment and put the need for comprehensive socioeconomic and political reforms at the top of the government’s agenda. The sense of domestic instability has been further exacerbated by the looming uncertainties of the spillover effects of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. Indeed, the international sanctions on the Russian economy have already had devastating secondary impacts in Kazakhstan, with the tenge, Kazakhstan’s currency, dropping 20 percent in value and food prices soaring.
In light of these developments, domestic audiences had hoped President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s State of the Nation address would chart a path to comprehensive political and economic change.… Seguir leyendo »
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s ‘shoot to kill’ order during the recent unrest in Kazakhstan and numerous press reports exposing the corruption of the country’s ruling elite provides an excellent opportunity for the UK government to use its new sanctions regime on individuals.
January’s civil unrest in Kazakhstan – resulting in at least 225 deaths – is a tragedy inflicted on the Kazakhstani people by a repressive kleptocratic regime. The UK government should react to this brutality and corruption by taking a stand about the importance of human rights and the rule of law.
One of the main tools at the UK government’s disposal is the use of sanctions against individuals.… Seguir leyendo »
Hasta hace poco, Kazajistán se consideraba una isla de estabilidad en el espacio postsoviético. Sin embargo, tras las recientes protestas masivas la situación ha pasado a ser muy inestable. El primer punto de esta explosión se produjo en la ciudad de Zhanaozen, cerca de la frontera con Irán, al oeste del país, donde se encuentra una gran planta de procesamiento de gas y donde ya hubo serios enfrentamientos por el petróleo en diciembre de 2011. Las protestas se expandieron después hacia todo el territorio, incluyendo grandes ciudades como Almaty, Nur-Sultan y Karaganda. La subida del precio del gas licuado es sólo una de las muchas razones que explican este episodio, a la que habría que añadir problemas socioeconómicos muy profundos, con una gran brecha entre las élites y el resto de la población, que se encuentra endeudada, así como la transformación de Kazajistán en un Estado-empresa.… Seguir leyendo »
After mass unrest that kicked off the new year, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev attacked his predecessor’s legacy and called for major structural reforms to improve government effectiveness. He blamed the “low level of trust” in government on a lack of meritocracy and high levels of corruption.
In light of the very public elite infighting that’s now taking place, how does corruption figure into what happened in Kazakhstan? My research suggests Kazakhstan’s leaders have tried and failed to maintain a “corruption equilibrium” — maintaining perks for top elites, such as governors, while cracking down on corruption at lower levels.
The population has heard all about corruption
Public statements about anti-corruption reforms are not new, but echo a recent shift.… Seguir leyendo »
As a series of high-level talks between the United States, European allies and Russia wind down this week, an uptick in Moscow's military muscle on its borders will remain a preoccupation of western diplomats long after they return to their duty stations
The roughly 100,000 Russian troops stationed near Ukraine constitutes the biggest security crisis in years for Europe and its allies, including the US. While in Kazakhstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin took this month's brutal crackdown from the regime's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as an opportunity to remind protesters revolutions will never be allowed to spread in the region and by deploying Moscow-led security alliance troops to help quell the unrest, the central Asian country remains firmly in his sphere of influence
The tone of Putin's rhetoric and the trajectory of military deployment leave little doubt over his intentions: to regain control over a wide swath of the former Soviet Union -- even to the point of rolling back the footprint of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the Cold War years.… Seguir leyendo »
What prompted the protest wave that swept through Kazakhstan over the past two weeks?
On 2 January, protesters came out into the streets of the petroleum-producing city of Zhanaozen in western Kazakhstan. They were angry because the government had removed a price cap, leading to doubled fuel prices. While the government’s stated reason for the move was “marketisation”, semi-nationalised monopolies in fact control both supplies and prices. The protests spread rapidly across the country, first to other oil- and mineral-producing regions and then to most districts of Kazakhstan, whose population of some nineteen million is dispersed across a territory the size of Western Europe.… Seguir leyendo »
In early January Kazakhstan was rocked by three cascading events: legitimate anti-government protest against three decades of corruption and ineffective governance under Kazakhstan’s long-time leader Nursultan Nazarbayev; an attempted palace coup; and an armed insurrection led by well-trained mercenaries on the streets of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s commercial capital.
On 2 January, a small demonstration over fuel prices triggered a nationwide protest movement which raged against three decades of rule which did not serve the interests of the people, but rather the ruling elite and its allies. The calls of ‘old man out’ were conspicuously directed at President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s predecessor Nazarbayev, who still retains control of much of Kazakhstan’s political economy.… Seguir leyendo »
The turmoil in Kazakhstan that has cost at least 160 lives and seen Russian troops on the country’s streets was a quarter of a century in the making.
On November 21, 1995, James Giffen, an American businessman, began to wire tens of millions of dollars to a Swiss bank account. According to US prosecutors, Giffen was acting as a middleman and had received the millions from Mobil, the US oil company that was negotiating to buy a Kazakh oilfield.
Only five years earlier, Kazakhstan had been part of the Soviet empire, its oil and valuable minerals under communist control. Now Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had risen from a job in a metalworks’ furnace to become a top Communist party boss, was in charge.… Seguir leyendo »
Kazakhstan, the key strategic partner of the United States in Central Asia, is in turmoil. Until the end of 2021, it was a confident (bordering on smug), upper-middle-income country; its leaders routinely boasted about success at fostering interethnic peace and stability.
Yet in the course of just a few days it has been rocked to the core by the double blow of unprecedented nationwide protests and a power struggle among members of the top political elite. On Jan. 11, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced a deadline for the departure of the roughly 2,500 foreign troops he had invited into the country to help control the unrest.… Seguir leyendo »
«Ni contigo ni sin ti tienen mis males remedio; contigo porque me matas, sin ti porque me muero». La copla popular, atribuida a Antonio Machado y cantada, entre otros, por Emilio José, viene como anillo al dedo para interpretar lo que está sucediendo en Kazajistán.
Hagamos un poco de historia.
El territorio de lo que hoy es la República de Kazajistán ha sido objeto de deseo por diversos poderes imperiales, facilitado por una población tradicionalmente nómada de origen mongol y naturaleza túrquica.
Pero a partir del siglo XIX, en el marco del Great Game entre los imperios ruso y británico en Asia Central, el territorio ha estado de una forma u otra sometido al poder imperial ruso, primero con los zares y luego bajo la Unión Soviética.… Seguir leyendo »
On Jan. 5, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) agreed to send troops to help the Kazakh government quell mounting political unrest. What had started as protests against a rise in fuel prices in the western city of Zhanaozen rapidly turned into broad demonstrations against government corruption and lack of reforms across Kazakhstan’s major cities, including the largest city of Almaty. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev blamed the protests on a “terrorist threat.”
The CSTO’s rotating chair, Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan, granted Tokayev’s request for assistance within hours — following “all-night consultations” that included Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.… Seguir leyendo »
By Friday morning, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued a “shoot to kill without warning” order to security forces, doubling down on the government’s efforts to quell widespread protests that kicked off earlier in the week.
On Jan. 2, citizens in western Kazakhstan turned out to protest a steep jump in fuel prices, which reportedly doubled on the first day of the new year after ratcheting up in recent weeks. Within four days, spontaneous protests in a remote part of the country spread to other cities, including the capital, Nur-Sultan.
Our research on protest and reform helps explain why a sharp increase in fuel prices broke public trust in government.… Seguir leyendo »
To the world’s slippery slopes, add Kazakhstan. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies organized a quick transfer of power there this week, but analysts say the situation remains volatile.
With Russian military backing, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appeared to consolidate power on Saturday, containing protesters who had attacked government buildings last week. Tokayev called Putin to voice “special gratitude” for the Kremlin’s assistance. Russia and other former Soviet states had sent about 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan on Thursday to quell unrest.
Tokayev’s forces on Saturday arrested Karim Massimov — a former prime minister who had been heading Kazakhstan’s intelligence agency and is seen as friendly to the West — and charged him with treason.… Seguir leyendo »
Protesters across Kazakhstan, infuriated by rising prices and corrupt governance, took to the streets this week. While the overwhelming majority of protesters were peaceful, the country’s largest city, Almaty, saw rioting, looting and ongoing street battles. Caught off-guard, security forces cracked down hard, and deaths among protesters and police were reported.
Rather than repress further, many in the security forces switched to support the protesters in key cities across the country. In the span of a few hours on Jan. 5, the tides shifted decisively, with some protesters seizing government buildings. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency, fired his cabinet and addressed the nation, promising major political reforms in an effort to placate the protesters.… Seguir leyendo »
Russia is deploying troops to Kazakhstan, where a sharp increase in fuel prices and the rising costs of food and other necessities have triggered mass protests. So far, dozens of people have died. Government buildings have been torched, statues of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev toppled. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s position is shaky. Unable to quell the protests on its own, the Kazakh leadership asked for assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-led regional security alliance.
Yet Kazakhstan’s problems are not unique to itself. Ominously, prices of staple foods and other vital goods are rapidly rising in Russia as well.… Seguir leyendo »
Even though the Kazakhstan government shut down that country’s Internet, shocking news continues to emerge of the violent protests there that have prompted harsh police retaliation nationwide. That, in turn, has resulted in dozens killed, government buildings aflame, a survival struggle for the ruling regime and a fresh crisis for that regime’s main benefactor, Russian President Vladimir Putin. The West should use Putin’s new problem to dissuade him from recklessly starting another crisis in Ukraine.
To be sure, Putin has long preached about reasserting Russian control over all the former Soviet territories, including Kazakhstan. Putin has said the country was artificially invented by former prime minister and president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who founded and ruled it for more than three decades as a thinly veiled dictatorship, mimicking Putin’s own model.… Seguir leyendo »
The highly-controlled elections to Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament (Majlis) have produced a distribution of seats almost identical to the previous parliament, with ruling party Nur Otan — still under the chairmanship of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev — remaining firmly in charge.
The elections were the first since 80-year-old Nazarbayev yielded his position after nearly 30 years in power to his own hand-picked successor Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev. The leadership’s need for control and wariness of electoral protests is unsurprising in light of the unusual spate of anti-government rallies that took place when Nazarbayev passed the presidential reins in 2019, and the recent post-election demonstrations in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Russia.… Seguir leyendo »