• Ешқандай Нәтиже Табылған Жоқ

ON 27 May, 2021 Signature of Principal Thesis Adviser In Agreement with Thesis Advisory Committee Second Adviser: Dr. Karol Czuba External Reader: Dr. Barbara Junisbai


Academic year: 2024

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BY Vlad Lim

NU Student Number: 201950507 APPROVED


Dr. Hélène Thibault ON

27 May, 2021

Signature of Principal Thesis Adviser

In Agreement with Thesis Advisory Committee Second Adviser: Dr. Karol Czuba External Reader: Dr. Barbara Junisbai





by Vlad Lim

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts in

Political Science and International Relations






© 2021 Vlad Lim All Rights Reserved






Vlad Lim

Principal adviser: Dr. Hélène Thibault Second reader: Dr. Karol Czuba External reviewer: Dr. Barbara Junisbai



In this research, I analyze the causes of violent confrontations that have taken place in Kazakhstan since independence. In particular, I close an important gap in the literature: most works have focused on certain aspects of ethnic problems in the country, such as language, migration, and Kazakhization, while the causes of violent clashes themselves have been understudied. Thus, my research demonstrates the roots of grievances that lead to mobilization of the titular ethnic group along ethnic lines. I studied the conducive role of Kazakhization on the perception of ethnic superiority among Kazakhs, demonstrating how the government promotes Kazakhness among population. Kazakhization has played an important role contributing to the level of grievances among ethnic Kazakhs. Also, I conducted a careful case selection to find the most suitable cases for examination. I created a sample with three pairs of villages with common characteristics, where non- Kazakh ethnic groups form the majority. The only difference between the pairs was the outcome.

Thus, one sample from each pair experienced violent confrontations, while the other did not. Once I finished selecting cases, I proceeded to the actual examination of the theory. I studied the existence of two essential conditions that seed the feeling of deprivation and can be responsible for the variation across the pairs: poverty and inequality. Specifically, by looking at the data that measures level of poverty, I show a correlation between violent confrontations and poverty rate. However, taking into account that poverty is a common feature to all villages from my Sample size, I found that it is the perception of inequality that is responsible for the variation. Since the data on violent clashes in Kazakhstan is quite limited and can hardly be complete and reliable, I conducted a field study, where I collected first-source data from surveys and in-depth interviews. The data from my field trip reveals the correspondence between the feeling of relative inequality, reinforced grievances and the outcome. Moreover, it shows that the ethnic distribution of business ownership can be a trigger that determines the outcome. To be more specific, in the villages where major businesses and properties belonged to ethnic Kazakhs, violent clashes did not occur, whilst in the villages, where major


properties belonged to ethnic minorities, violent confrontation did occur. Thus, building on the theory of relative deprivation I reveal how business ownership leads to the feelings of deprivation and subsequent grievances, which results in violent confrontations.


Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction………..….………...………9

Chapter 2: Literature Review……….…..……….………..………..12

Chapter 3: Research Question and Theoretical Framework……….……….………...16

Chapter 4: Methodology and Case Selection……….………...28

Chapter 5: Empirical Section……….…….……..40

Chapter 6: Conclusion….……….74



List of Tables and Appendixes

Map 1. 14 oblasts of Kazakhstan...………..……….………..…37

Table 1. Table that represents the Sample of villages and ethnic groups………...38

Table 2. Table with respondents’ questionnaire and interview answers………...……….50

Table 3. Example of major properties that belong to the ethnic minority in Masanchi……...70

Appendix 1. Sample of interview questions………79

Appendix 2. Sample of survey questionnaire………..80



There are a lot of people to whom I am extremely grateful and without whom I would never finish the project. These people helped me when I was struggling with a lot of uncertainties and failures over the whole program. They helped me when I was scared, depressed and anxious. There were a lot of moments of doubts and deep fear that I encountered during the project. I am very thankful that these people always were there for me. Each of them helped me differently, but their help was essential recipe for my progress.

First of all, I want to than my family and fiancée, who were observing my struggle, but still were standing behind and helping emotionally. There were tons of time where I was extremely nervous due to delays and uncertainties in my project, and their emotional help was supporting me.

Secondly, I am grateful for my advisors for their smart advice and honest feedbacks that helped me to improve my work. I want to express gratitude to each of them. Dr. Hélène Thibault was always kind and supportive to me. Despite her overload, she always managed to guide me throughout the whole project. Her guidance significantly contributed to my research skills in general. Dr. Karol Czuba is my second advisor, who is incredibly good listener. I am grateful to his patience and smart, constructive suggestions. His patience and listening skills helped me to ask all the answers I had in mind.

And finally, I am very grateful to Nazarbayev University for the opportunity that it gave me. The completion of this project would definitely not be possible without the services, help and support from professors and other employees of this institution. I am grateful to everyone, who was there for me during the last two years. My sincere thanks to everyone.


Chapter 1. Introduction: Why it is important to study ethnic clashes in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is a post-Soviet country, which needed to resolve multiple acute ethnic questions due to its multiethnic character, once the country had obtained independence. One such question was the fact that the Republic was the only post-Soviet country, where the titular ethnic group was a minority. Taking into account its close proximity and strong dependence from the powerful Russian Federation together with a significant number of Russians in Kazakhstan, the problem of diverse ethnic composition was particularly acute for the government of a newly independent country. It was a real challenge to maintain the peaceful coexistence of multiple ethnic groups while simultaneously raising the role of Kazakhs in the society. This led to the emergence of an unofficial Kazakhization project implemented by the government, which was intended to reinforce Kazakh identity at the expense of other ethnic groups (Karin and Chebotarev, 2002, p.1).

Kazakhization was gradually diminishing political, economic, and social role of many other ethnic groups, which led to the significant modification of ethnic composition. Eventually, there were not many places left where non-Kazakhs form the majority. However, several violent clashes took place, which occurred exactly in the villages where non-Kazakhs form the majority. The purpose of the current study is to examine what causes the clashes. To this end I will carefully examine several pairs of villages where violent confrontations occurred and did not occur to understand what causes the variation between the samples. The understanding of the causes of violent confrontations is my main research puzzle in this paper, which is very important to understand because it can help to better understand the ethnic situation in Kazakhstan. It will also contribute to the existing literature regarding the ethnic situation in the Republic.

There are two equally convincing theories that can explain the causes of ethnic clashes in Kazakhstan. The first is called relative deprivation theory. The theory explains the feeling of economic deprivation as the driving force that accelerates violent clashes (Walker and Pettigrew,


grievances, which is an ultimate force that mobilizes society along ethnic lines and leads to clashes.

The second theory is called the theory of political entrepreneurship (Schneider and Teske, 1992).

This theory implies the existence of certain influential figures in society (local politicians or entrepreneurs), who manipulate with ethnicity in order to satisfy their private interests. Thus, for this theory to be proven, it is important to identify the existence of a private interest in ethnic mobilization. Several sources strongly emphasize private interest as the main driver that creates clashes. The argument, which was strongly opposed by the government, argue that conflicts used to be the result of a domestic fight. Since both theories sound equally convincing, I believed that the field trip would allow me to determine the most suitable theory for this study.

This research contributes to the existing literature on ethnic relations in Kazakhstan. There is a limited body of literature that focuses on different aspects of ethnic clashes in many post- Soviet countries after the collapse of the USSR (e.g. Kyrgyzstan) (Tishkov, 1995). However, there is an obvious gap in the literature when it comes to violent confrontations in Kazakhstan. Usually, scholars, who study the ethnic situation, prefer to study other existing ethnic problems. For example, the literature regarding migration or state language in Kazakhstan is relatively rich (Tussupova, 2014). But there has not been a study that would explain the causes of clashes that took place in the country. I seek to fill this gap in the literature. Therefore, the research question is the following: “What can explain the occurrence of violent clashes in some villages and the absence of the clashes in others, provided that there are a lot of similarities between these villages?” In order to collect data for the analysis, I decided to conduct a field study. The data confirmed the relative deprivation theory. I found a correlation between the perception of deprivation and violent confrontations. To be more specific, I found that in the villages where violent clashes occurred, the feelings of deprivation among ethnic Kazakhs were higher than in the villages where the clashes did not occur. My analysis also indicated that business ownership is a decisive factor, which determines the feelings of deprivation. Thus, I found strong interconnection between ethnic clashes, feelings of deprivation and business ownership. Places,


which experienced clashes are the places where businesses belong to minorities and vice versa.

My thesis proceeds in seven chapters. The second chapter is dedicated to the literature review, which examines existing theories on ethnic clashes. The analysis of the literature is vital to further explore the research question. The following chapter discusses the theoretical framework of this study. Chapter 4 discusses the methodology and case selection. Chapter 5 represents the empirical section and provides the analysis of the data I collected from surveys and interviews. In the next chapter, I analyze my findings in light of the theory and arguments initially proposed. And the concluding chapter explains the importance of the findings and provides recommendations for further research.


Chapter 2. Literature Review: Existing theories of Ethnic Clashes

Young (1986) emphasized three main approaches from the literature on ethnicity:

“constructivist”, “primordialist” and “instrumentalist” (p.21). Each classification provides different perspectives on the correlation between different concepts of ethnicity and ethnic conflicts.

Instrumentalism understands ethnicity as a tool in political and social competition. The idea is that cultural diversity creates social roles that can be utilized in exchange for certain material benefits.

From this perspective, cultural pluralism becomes occasional and circumstantial. The instrumentalist approach is usually utilized by rational choice theorists, who believe that ethnic groups are rational actors, who try to use ethnicity in a way to maximize material benefits. Smith (2001) noted that community leaders, “who used their cultural groups as sites of mass mobilization and as constituencies in their competition for power and resources, because they found them more effective than social classes” (pp. 54—55). Primordialists focus on psychological and cultural factors. They seek to explain powerful emotions that cause ethnic violence. Horowitz (1985) provided an example arguing that kinship “makes it possible for ethnic groups to think in terms of family resemblances” (p.57). Kaufman’s analysis of extreme ethnic violence that occurred in Rwanda and Sudan also supports the primordialist approach. The results showed that symbols in their various forms (e.g. myths) helped to justify hostility and raise the fear of group extinction. The emotional tendency to associate themselves with symbols helped elites in Sudan and Rwanda to make chauvinistic politics popular. Tishkov (1995) claimed: “Rumours and myths based on socially constructed perceptions and on informational simplicity, as well as a situation of group social paranoia, were found to be key elements in precipitating ethnic violence” (p.133). Constructivists argue that it is not so important what is responsible for ethnic groups’ actions, but the very existence of these groups itself. Thus, constructivism tries to grasp the forces that stand behind the creation of ethnic groups. All of these approaches provide different perspectives on possible causes of violent clashes. And in certain cases, they complement one another. As Varshney (2007) pointed out: “No one seriously argues anymore that ethnic identity is primordial, nor that it is devoid of any intrinsic


value and used only as a strategic tool. Pure essentialists or pure instrumentalists do not exist any longer. (p. 291).” For the purpose of the current study, I decided to rely on Young’s classification but to introduce small changes. Instrumentalism explains the ethnic conflicts through the prism of material gains, primordialism emphasizes the importance of psychological factors, constructivism focuses to understand the origin of ethnic divisions. Hence, causes of ethnic conflicts can be motivated by three factors: psychological/emotional, instrumental, and constructivist.

The psychological/emotional approach tends to consider some emotional and psychological sentiments as a basis or significant contributor to the escalation of violent confrontations. Gil-White (1999) provides one explanation of the cognitive school of thought. He demonstrated the importance of ethnic cognition, which has primordialist beginning. He conducted a study in multi-ethnic regions of Mongolia and came to the conclusion that “ethnic cognition is at the core primordialist, and ethnic actors’ instrumental consideration – and by implication their behaviors – are conditioned and constrained by this primordialist core. (p.789).” His analysis showed the existence of strong psychological attachment to ethnicity, which can be decisive factor that predetermines further behavior. Lake and Rothchild (1996) offered a primordialist explanation arguing that “intense ethnic conflict is most often caused by the collective fear of the future. As information failures, problems with credible commitment, and the security dilemma take hold, groups become apprehensive, the state weakens, and conflict becomes more likely” (p.41). They argued that once a multiethnic state becomes weak, ethnic activists and political entrepreneurs can swiftly polarize society along ethnic lines, which in turn can magnify the strategic dilemma and increase the probability of conflict.

A school of thought that focuses on some circumstantial aspects tends to emphasize a specific circumstantial social and political environment that leads to the mobilization of ethnicity and escalation of conflicts. Lee (2002) referred to the term “interactive nationalism” introduced by Hennayake (1992) to explain existing ethnic antagonism in Kazakhstan. The term refers to nationalist sentiments that originate as a result of interactions between the ethnic majority with


ethnic minorities. Thus, interactive nationalism is a nationalism that appeared among minority groups as a reaction to the exclusive nationalism of the majority group with the intention of the latter to establish its hegemony or other forms of domination over the minority. Brubaker and Laitin (1998) emphasized state weakness as an important precondition for ethnic mobilization. They found that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a traumatic process and the subsequent emergence of newly independent states created a lot of weak states, which weaknesses contributed to the growing ethnic and nationalist violence. It can be related not only to the case of Soviet Union collapse, but to other similar transitions, which resulted in the decay of the “Weberian state”. The decline in the state’s monopoly on violence led to its inability to maintain sufficient and effective control over the territory. As a result, states became less capable of suppressing different possible kinds of violence on its territory including ethnic conflicts. The decay of the Weberian state is referred to the examples of post-Cold War world, when the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia created many newly independent states with weak central governments and inefficient control over its borders. Brubaker and Laitin (1998) also offered an example of Sub-Saharan Africa, where a lot of quasi-states appeared due to the inability of its former patrons to effectively establish control over the whole territory. Posen (1993) referred to the one of the main concept from the realist school “the security dilemma” to explain the ethnic conflict in Yugoslavia. According to his analysis, the concept is applicable in collapsing or weak states where the central government is not able to maintain control effectively and groups need to respond to the insecurity. In other words, the absence of a sovereign government is an essential condition. Hale (2004) found that ethnofederal states have more chances to collapse if they have a single ethnic federal region where certain ethnic minority group enjoys superiority in population. Hale (2017) argued to understand ethnic conflicts it is necessary to deeply examine the concept of ethnicity. His analysis is neither primordialist nor constructivist. Hale argues ethnic identity is a cognitive uncertainty-reduction device with special capacity to exacerbate, but not cause, collective action problems.

Another prominent explanation of ethnic clashes is the relative deprivation theory. Walker


and Pettigrew (1984) defined the concept in the following way: “persons may feel deprived of some desirable thing relative to their own past, another person, persons, group, ideal, or some other social category.” (p.302). Guimond and Dube-Simard (1983) argued that the main reason why clashes occurred is not necessarily when people are actually deprived of something, but rather when they feel deprived relative to other groups. Webber (2007) confirmed this position arguing that “relative deprivation is about how we perceive the world” (p.114). Thus, the feeling of relative depravation of one group towards other groups creates grievances, which can be a possible explanation for violent clashes (Gurr, 1970). Murshed and Tadjoeddin (2007) argued that grievances and horizontal inequalities can sufficiently explain conflicts emergence. Gurr (1993) defined grievances as the product of poverty and political and economic differences among groups, and limited political access and lost autonomy are significant prerequisites for separatist demands and rebellion (p.188).

He also argued that relative deprivation is expressed in “discrepancy between the value expectations of individuals and their capability to fulfill these expectations, whereby expectations are understood as goods and life conditions individuals think belong to them (or should belong), while value capabilities are goods and life conditions individuals can attain (or maintain) with the means at their disposal (Dzuverovic, 2013, p.118).” Runciman also argued relative deprivation is evident when “a person A does not possess X, but knows that others possess X. Because of that, person A wants to get X and thinks it is possible (Dzuverovic, 2013, p.118).” Denny and Walter (2013) stated that in the case of civil wars ethnic groups are more likely to be mobilized than any other groups because ethnic groups tend to have more grievances against the state (p.199). They explained the likeliness of existence of grievances along ethnicity claiming that ruling elites in an ethnically divided societies can distribute benefits disproportionately in favor of their own ethnic groups. The relative deprivation theory looks the most promising in my case and definitely needs to be checked. The main reason for this is that the theory explains the existence of grievances, which drives the clashes.

And the grievances occurred due to poverty and inequality. I assume that poverty and ethnic inequality are the features that take place in Kazakhstan. And in districts with a high concentration


of an ethnic minority and Kazakhs, these factors most probably can create the grievance, which might be a cause of the clashes. I also assume that in these areas ethnic groups are quite divided due to the logic proposed by Denny and Walter above.

A school of thought that primarily focuses on certain advantages in the political use of ethnicity is instrumentalism. Many authors particularly demonstrated the role of political entrepreneurs, who significantly contribute to the conflicts. Mobilization along ethnic lines is very convenient in conflicts for political gains but it would be impossible without political entrepreneurs.

Political entrepreneurs are individuals, who influence and change the political direction (Schneider and Teske, 1992, p.737). The theory of political entrepreneurs assumes that there has to be something that drives political entrepreneurs to undertake certain measures. Most economic theories focusing on the role of entrepreneurs argue that the pursuit of profits drives the entrepreneurial process. In local governments, political entrepreneurs can be high-level unelected leaders, such as city managers; elected politicians, such as mayors or members of city councils; leaders of established interest groups; or creators of new groups (Schneider and Teske, 1992, p.738). The findings offered by Posner (2004) on his analysis of Chewas and Tumbukas in Malawi and Zambia demonstrated how political entrepreneurs use ethnic politicization for material benefits. Hechter (1995) argued that “… nationalism can emanate from social or from individual irrationality… The hallmark of rational individual action lies in its instrumentality (p.53).” Hechter explained nationalism from the instrumental perspective arguing that “It is instrumentally rational to be a nationalist if by so doing people believe they will be better off materially, or culturally.” Also, Oberschall (2000) introduced a concept of cognitive frames arguing on the existence of two ethnic frames in mind: “ethnic cooperation and peace frame for normal times and a crisis frame anchored in World War II memories.” (p.982). Analyzing how nationalism and ethnic violence erupted in the former Yugoslavia where people managed to live peacefully for thirty-five years prior to the conflict, he revealed how the former frame was substituted by the latter on the example of Yugoslavia.

Namely, the power competition among elites increased the level of manipulation and mobilization


along ethnic lines and organized mass media propaganda spread insecurity and fear changing the balance in favor of a crisis frame. Thus, Oberschall demonstrated how political entrepreneurs can manipulate emotional sentiments for their own benefits. Williams (1994) focused on two factors to explain ethnic conflicts: (1) class, economy, and competition; (2) demographic factors. Williams noticed that the comparison about the relative importance of material interests (e.g. class position) over ethnic identities and commitments would never provide any conclusions. He pointed out the fact that ethnic factors constantly sacrifice economic interests “in favor of symbolic gains” (p. 64).

A good example is the violence that occurred in India between Assamese Hindus and Bengali Muslims. Williams argued that immigration by the latter led to intense competition over material and political benefits (e.g. working place, land), but the transformation of secular movement into ethnic and religious opposition happened on the basis of cultural issues (e.g. religion and language).

Khazanov (1995) explained ethnic antagonism in Kazakhstan arguing “competition for political participation, economic opportunities, and cultural status virtually ensures that ethnicity will remain an important criterion for political organization and that ethnically based claims will maintain a prominent place on the addenda of the state.” (p.258). He mentioned that the deterioration of the economic situation and subsequent growing unemployment increased Kazakh malice towards ethnic minorities, which resulted in clashes between Kazakh and Chechens in Dzhambul district in 1990 and anti-Chechens demonstrations in Ust’ – Kamenogorsk in 1992.


Chapter 3. Research Question and Theoretical Framework

3.1 Research Question and Arguments

My research question is the following: What can explain the occurrence of violent ethnic confrontations in some villages and absence of the clashes in others provided that there are a lot of similarities between these villages?

First and foremost, I would like to explain why I chose exactly this research question because this choice was not a mere coincidence, but rather it was motivated by my personal experience. As a member of an ethnic minority, I have always had a particularly strong interest in the topic. There is a long history behind my interest in this topic, which started back in my childhood. I was born in a small village, which is only 17 kilometers away from the small city in the Southern part of Kazakhstan called Taraz. I spent my early childhood there because my grandparent and parents were initially living there. Later, my family and I moved to live in Taraz where I graduated from school. I can say that life in a typical Kazakh village is very familiar to me. It is also worth mentioning that I was born when Kazakhstan only recently obtained independence. When my mother was still going to school back in the 1990s, the village was inhabited by various ethnic groups, such as Germans, Koreans, Ukrainians and Russians and the village had a Russian name “Mikhailovka”. However, within the first years of independence between 1991 and 1996 ethnic minorities were massively moving abroad. Mikhailovka used to be mostly inhabited by ethnic Germans during the USSR, but when I am visiting the village today, there are no Germans around. Nowadays, it is mostly Kazakhs. My grandparents are Korean and they represent a small portion of ethnic minorities who stayed. Today, this village has a different Kazakh name “Sary-Kemer”, which can be translated as “yellow sand”.

I think the situation that happened with my grandfather also demonstrates the impact of Kazakhization. Before independence, my grandfather was the director of one local municipal music school. This school was the biggest in the region and at the same time very popular so my grandfather was a well-known person and even several articles were written about him.


Unfortunately, after the independence, it became much harder for my grandfather to preserve his position. He witnessed how Kazakhs were replacing ethnic minorities on management positions of various organizations and institutions, which also contributed to migration. However, my grandfather was able to save his position for several more years after the independence. But it was very difficult because local governmental bodies were constantly trying to appoint an ethnic Kazakh. The only thing that helped my grandfather to stay longer was his good reputation among local people and employees. Eventually, he stepped down and it was painful and unfair for him and for all of us because he dedicated all his life to the prosperity of this school. Today, it is sad to observe that this school is barely surviving.

Other episodes from my life were also forged my interest for the question. When I was studying at school, I noticed the existing prejudice that was usually attributed based on ethnic characteristics. Several times I was even strongly abused and humiliated because of my ethnic identity and so were members of other ethnic groups. In the school, Kazakhs tended to stick with each other and to exclude non-Kazakhs. Usually, when interethnic conflicts occurred, Kazakhs were always the majority. I also noticed the tendency that happened in friendships. For example, most of my friends were ethnic Koreans. I did not realize it earlier, but it became very obvious to me today.

And this pattern was also relevant to other ethnic groups. In short, there were a lot of episodes from my life that made me interested in studying the ethnic situation in Kazakhstan. This is also the reason why I wanted to contribute to the existing knowledge on ethnic problems.

The literature review revealed two main lines of explanations to causes of ethnic clashes that can be relevant to the cases of Kazakhstan: relative deprivation theory and theory of political entrepreneurship. In order to decide what is the most applicable theory for the study, I conducted a preliminary field study, which helped me to resolve the dilemma. The preliminary investigation indicated that relative deprivation theory is the most promising explanation. During my field trip, it became clear that the theory of political entrepreneurship is irrelevant due to insufficient evidence regarding the existence of figures personally interested in violent clashes. Therefore, the


purpose of this thesis was to check the relevance of relative deprivation theory.

After gaining independence, Kazakhstan was the only post-Soviet country where the titular ethnic group was a minority. Taken into account its vulnerable position as a new sovereign state, which was reflected in its close proximity to Russia and historic dependence of Kazakhstan from its powerful neighbor, it was necessary for Kazakhstan to establish itself as a nation in order to preserve independence. Melvin (1993) claimed “at the beginning of 1993, 36.4 percent of Kazakhstan’s population (6,169,000) identified themselves as Russian, while 43.2 percent (7,297,000) considered themselves Kazakhs” (p.208). The government focused to expand Kazakh identity beginning the process of “Kazakhization” (Melvin, 1993, p.208). The policy encouraged local Kazakhs to beget new generation of Kazakhs offering childbirth subsidies and attracting ethnic Kazakhs (Oralmans) abroad to come back to their ethnic homeland. Furthermore, various aspects of Kazakh identity such as language and history were consistently promoted. As Melvin noticed “key government officials and economic managers have been replaced by ethnic Kazakhs, the mythology of continuous Soviet victories formerly taught in the schools has been replaced by a new version of history that stresses Russian and Soviet colonization and, most contentiously, the whole of the republic’s population is required to learn Kazakh.” (Melvin, 1993, p.208). As a result, Kazakhs have become a dominant ethnic group over time seeking to acquire more control over the land, which resulted in ethnic tensions. Tussupova (2014) pointed out that eventually, two groups had appeared in independent Kazakhstan: Kazakhs and Kazakhstanis (p.32). Thus, I argue that Kazakhization legitimized the feeling and expectation among the titular ethnic group about the superior position of their ethnicity in Kazakhstan.

Argument 1. Post-independence unofficial politics known as “Kazakhization” that promoted Kazakh identity legitimized and reinforced the feeling of ethnic superiority among the titular ethnic group.

Nevertheless, Kazakhization played only a contributory role to the ultimate feeling of grievance. This factor alone can not explain variation in outcomes across the pairs of villages.


There are two main factors that usually spark the conflict in accordance with the theory. These factors are poverty and inequality. I assume that the former is equally widespread in all sample villages and plays only contributory role in the overall grievance. Taken into account the role of Kazakhization that raised expectations of Kazakhs, poverty is something that associated with failed expectations, which undoubtedly increased the feeling of deprivation and grievance. Thus, with respect to poverty, I assume that it plays a contributory role to the ultimate outcome.

Argument 2. Poverty is associated with the failed expectation of ethnic superiority raised by Kazakhization, which contributed to the feeling of deprivation and grievances among Kazakhs.

And finally, I expect that inequality or perception of it is something that accounts for the ultimate driving force of variation. Perception of inequality is not necessary built on actual inequality. However, there is more probability where real inequality also takes place. I believe that my field study will reveal what exactly explains the perception of inequality. Since there is a pattern within the sample cases, which shows that ethnic Kazakhs are usually the one, who initiated mobilization, I assume that it is always the titular group, who felt grievances. The perception of inequality usually happened when there is something that makes Kazakhs feel inferior relative to the respective ethnic minority, which causes grievance. However, what exactly accounts for such feelings of inequality can become clear during my field study.

Argument 3. Perception of inequality and inferiority by the titular ethnic group relative to respective ethnic minority is an ultimate driving force that determines the variation between the outcomes.


3.2.Kazakhization and emergence of relative deprivation

3.2.1 Kazakhization and its role in legitimization of perception of Kazakh superiority

The USSR played an important role in the construction and fixation of identities. One of the examples of this is an inscription of identity in the internal passport (Suny, 2001). As Suny pointed out,

“The practice of fixing nationality in each citizen’s internal passport on the basis of parentage rendered an inherently liquid identity into a solid commitment to a single ethnocultural group. Young people with parents who had different national designations on their passports were forced to choose one or the other nationality, which then became a claim to inclusion or an invitation to exclusion in a given republic. In some cases people could opportunistically change their nationality officially, or change their names, to ease their situation in the national republics” (Suny, 2001, p. 873).

It demonstrates that identity is constructed but nevertheless, these categories are useful to explain current ethnic dynamics. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the sovereignty of newly independent Kazakhstan was particularly under threat provided since it was the only country where the titular ethnic group represented a minority population with a significant number of representatives of the Russian ethnic group (Abdam 2016, Peyrouse 2007). Taken into consideration that the Soviet Union regime had been destroying the Kazakh intelligentsia and consistently promoting Russification in Kazakh lands, the Kazakh nation together with its culture, language, and customs were being suppressed. The suppressed status of Kazakhs as an ethnic group during the Soviet period had an impact on independent Kazakhstan, which on the one hand wanted to reinforce the Kazakh ethnicity, and on the other hand, had to maintain peaceful relationships among multiple ethnic groups, which coexisted on its territories (Tishkov, 1994). After the independence in 1991 Kazakhstan became a home for 126 registered ethnic groups (Suleimenova and Smagulova 2005). The multiethnicity created a certain policy led by Nazarbayev, where Kazakhstan promotes a multifaceted state narrative regarding the nation’s identity. It means that


officially Kazakhstan positioned itself as a state, which supports ethnic diversity, but meanwhile insisting dominant role of ethnic Kazakhs (Laruelle, 2016). Because of the legacy of Soviet atheism and the negative perception of Islam, the government pursued a strict separation of religion and state and therefore, excluded Muslim values from the nation-building project mostly (Thibault 2019).

There were many different national-patriotic groups, which were promoting distinct ideas and views on the position of ethnic groups in Kazakhstan. Laruelle (2016) identified several main groups that consisted of various actors, including spiritual leaders, poets, historians, and other representatives of Kazakh intelligentsia. These groups emerged during the perestroika years and called: Zheltoksan, Alash, and Azat. These parties proposed various degrees of radicalism, but all of them were calling for Kazakh nationalism. The only differences among these groups were the vision about the extent to which nationalism had to be strong and the means that need to be applied.

Nevertheless, all of these parties were eventually suppressed to various degrees by the Nazarbayev regime, which implemented its own policy, which later began to be called Kazakhization among scholars and the general public. However, it is important to point out that the existence of nationalist movements took its roots to the pre-independence period, which means that more radical feelings that Kazakhstan shall belong to Kazakhs existed prior to the actual independence of Kazakhstan. In this study I argue that Kazakhization only reinforced this feeling of deprivation, which increased the probability of grievances that spark clashes in cases, where Kazakhs do not feel supremacy. In other words, Kazakhization made it easier for Kazakhs to feel aggrieved due to the existing expectation of Kazakh superiority that was legitimized and promoted by Kazakhization. And one of the essential positions that constitutes such superiority is the economic well-being of ethnic communities.

The project of “Kazakhization” became a fundamental policy implemented by the Kazakhstani government with the purpose to restore the values and identity of the titular ethnic group that was undermined during Soviet times (Nourzhanov and Saikal 1994). The newly adopted


project is an essential step to understand contemporary ethnic relations that existed in Kazakhstan because it significantly transformed the country changing its ethnic composition and roles. The Kazakhization project was implemented as a response to the disappearance of Kazakh language, culture and identity in general, the process that began under the Soviet reign during the 1960s.

Hence, the goal of Kazakhization was to promote the titular ethnic group by providing a special status to ethnic Kazakhs. The favorable position of Kazakhs was reflected in the Kazakhization of the public administration and economic sectors during the 1980s (Dave, 2003). The reforms were directed to substantially increase the role of indigenous ethnicity in all spheres of life, which provoked negative reactions and increased the outflow of ethnic minorities in subsequent years (e.g. Russians) (Abdam, 2016). For example, for the period between 1990 to 1997 about 1.2 million ethnic Russians left Kazakhstan, which was almost 14 percent of population1. The result was the new politics of independent Kazakhstan taking into account ethnic factors employing nationalism as a politico-ideological instrument, which eventually turned into a chauvinistic ideology (Smith, 1996; Abdam, 2016). Chauvinism is reflected in the Kazakhization project, which focused to create a special dominant place for the Kazakh ethnic group. Some authors argue that Kazakhization can be observed via campaigns that were initiated by the newly independent government (Masanov, Karin, Chebotarev, and Oka 2002), such as various attempts to erase historical memories of Russian dominance by changing historical perspectives where Russians began to be seen not as friends to Kazakh, but rather occupiers and enemies (Abdam, 2016). Also, a lot of scholars pay special attention to the language policy, which also constitutes a manifestation of the Kazakhization process. The government-initiated campaigns to revive and promote the Kazakh language in the early years of independence. And lastly, migration policy is another significant factor that constitutes an attempt to increase the role of the titular ethnicity. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, the government used certain migration processes to increase the total number of Kazakhs, which motivated Kazakhs living outside to come back to their homeland. As


a result of such policy, the population of Kazakhs turned from minority to majority.

Kazakhization is hard to trace because this project tends to be unofficial, meaning that the government has not been talking explicitly about that and there are no official documents that would provide evidence about this policy (Abdam, 2016). Kazakhization is rather implicit and unofficial and can be seen through the implementation of certain state practices. It is hard to say whether Kazakhization was a necessary step for Kazakhstan to preserve its sovereignty and build a nation-state as some authors argue (Abdam, 2016), but this process led to the unequal treatment of other ethnic groups by significantly favoring its titular nation. The specific tools that were used to promote special status to Kazakhs were state planning, employment policy on public services, and social engineering. These tools allowed to create special conditions that favored ethnic Kazakhs. As a result, by 1994 the cabinet of presidential administration on 75 percent consisted of ethnic Kazakhs, whereas at the beginning of the perestroika period in the 1980s this number was slightly exceeding 30 percent2. Another evidence of Kazakhization was reflected in language policy, which became highly promoted together with national heroes such as Abay. The evidence of such language promotion can be observed in various ways. For example, the number of Kazakh schools increased twice during the first decades of independence of Kazakhstan, which led to the further promotion of the Kazakh language. In 1989 the Law on Languages was adopted in Kazakhstan. Since then, the number of Kazakh schools has increased nine times. For instance, during the first years of independence, only eight thousand people studied Kazakh in Almaty. As of today, their number has increased 12 times3. Moreover, the evidence of Kazakhization can be traced in the Constitution of 1993, which clearly stated that the Republic of Kazakhstan is an expression of the will of the Kazakh people, which was changed again in 1995. In the new version of the Constitution the phrase “will of Kazakh people” was changed to the “will of the citizens of Kazakhstan”. This minor change makes a tremendous difference because it was a sign that Kazakhstan is for all ethnic communities and under the term “citizens of Kazakhstan”, regardless

2 https://www.zakon.kz/88490-osobennosti-nacionalnojj-politiki-v.html


of their ethnicity.

Thus, under the concept of “Kazakhization”, I understand the political process implemented by the newly independent government, which promoted the superiority of the titular ethnic group via various socio-political and socio-economic instruments. The process is particularly important to the current analysis because I assume that it directly impacted feelings of relative deprivation among Kazakhs in the respective villages where clashes occurred. One of the expressions of economic inequality was the implementation of the Kazakh language as an essential requirement to obtain public service employment. As many sociological studies suggest, the result of such policy can be observed by the fact that 80 percent of governmental and academic positions are currently occupied by Kazakhs (Abdam 2016). Furthermore, some of civil service jobs, including office of the President and the Chair of the parliaments require knowledge of Kazakh language, which automatically excludes these opportunities for many ethnic minorities. In general, it is only one example that leads to unequal opportunities on the labor market for various ethnic groups4. 3.2.2 Factors that cause relative deprivation

In this section, I want to define the concept of relative deprivation based on the literature review written in Chapter 1. Relative deprivation can generally occur as a result of the grievance, which is an essential element and determinant factor that can spark conflicts. The grievance can occur in two ways. First, the existence of relative deprivation reflected in ethnic inequality triggers grievances and promotes clashes. However, grievances can occur even without actual inequality, but rather with the feeling of deprivation. To be more specific, the perception of deprivation is usually subjective and does not necessarily depend on the actual existence of deprivation and inequality. With respect to the case of Kazakhstan, I assume that the feeling of relative deprivation among the titular ethnic group created grievances that played a major role in sparking the clashes.

I examined various existing theories that explain the causes of ethnic clashes. I found

4 Kurganskaya, "Kazakhstan: Language Problem In The Context Of Inter-Ethnic Relations"(02 December, 2015) accessed online: http://www.ca-c.org/journal/cac-06- 1999/kurganskaja.shtml


relative deprivation theory the most applicable to explain the cases of violent confrontations in Kazakhstan. I decided to use this theory because it emphasizes two factors that spark violent clashes: economic inequality and feelings of deprivation. I believe that the causes of clashes in Kazakhstan are exactly these two reasons. I argue that the Kazakhization project implemented by the government reinforced the already existing feeling among the titular ethnic group that their ethnicity shall be supreme. One of the significant measurements of supremacy is economic well- being. Therefore, I argue that in the villages where clashes occurred, these incidents happened due to the fact that Kazakhs were either actually relatively deprived comparing to the respective ethnic group, or at least were feeling deprived.

Second, a contending theory that could have been applied is the theory of political entrepreneurship. As I have already pointed out in Chapter 1, it focuses on political entrepreneurs as major drivers that trigger violent confrontations. Political entrepreneurs can be any individual or group of people, who are able to manipulate with minds of local people. It is not necessary politicians or businessmen. Nevertheless, the theory was ruled out after my field trip to the villages of interest. I did not find any supporting evidence of the existence of local politicians, who could provoke the clashes, or other local influential figures (e.g. businessmen) who could have potentially benefited from the eruption of clashes. Also, I was trying to find anyone who could potentially benefit from the conflict an any ways, but my interviews and surveys did not provide any indications of it.

3.2.3 Kazakhization and emergence of deprivation

I assume that the Kazakhization process and the feeling of relative deprivation among the titular ethnic group are directly interlinked in the context of Kazakhstan. The Kazakhization promoted the superiority of the titular ethnic group raising the expectation of Kazakhs about their dominant role within their homeland. Since Kazakhization was built around the concept of ethnicity, emphasizing ethnic differences, it contributed to certain perceptions of domination among ethnic Kazakhs and subsequent expectations among them of their privileged role among


all other ethnic groups. The ethnic clashes that occurred in Kazakhstan happened in villages where ethnic minorities represented a significant part of the population and where Kazakhs were not better off. Based on my personal observation from the field trip I can say that there is even a tendency that ethnic minorities in the corresponding villages have on average better houses and standards of living in general. These conditions created a feeling of relative deprivation among local Kazakhs. These feelings became particularly acute taken into account the influence of the Kazakhization project, which contributed to the perception of Kazakh dominance and superiority over any other ethnicity.

I argue that it is Kazakhs, who are feeling deprived, and not otherwise. This argument is very counterintuitive in itself. It is expected that Kazakhization had a negative impact on the minorities, who could logically feel deprived and aggrieved. However, I found that in every case of interest it is Kazakhs, who mobilized against ethnic minorities initiating the clashes. The mass mobilization of the titular ethnic groups began in places where Kazakhs lack economic dominance.

To be more precise, I argue that the expectations among the titular ethnic group about the superiority of Kazakh ethnicity, which was reinforced by Kazakhization, increased the sense of deprivation among Kazakhs, who do not feel such superiority in villages where non-Kazakhs form the majority. Hence, in such circumstances, it is very easy to get aggrieved especially because Kazakhization promoted the idea of Kazakh ethnic dominance. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, in my case selection I am specifically focusing to study villages where a significant number of ethnic minorities coexist with Kazakhs. It is expected that in these villages economic inequality exists among respective ethnic groups, where the titular ethnic group on average has a worse standard of living in comparison to corresponding minorities. I expect that this inequality together with the expectation of Kazakhs about their alleged dominance creates a strong feeling of deprivation among them, which eventually sparked the clashes. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, grievance, not the actual inequalities, are responsible for clashes.


Chapter 4. Methodology and Case Selection

4.1. Methodology

I must admit that my nationality provided me with certain advantages during my field study. The local population was not very eager to talk about terrible past events. I assume that if I were Kazakh, it would be much harder for me to talk with ethnic minorities. However, since I am Korean, it was easier for me to position myself as a neutral student of Nazarbayev University, whose only interest was to conduct a university project. Most of the respondents were able to quickly understand that I neither belonged to Kazakh, nor to any of the ethnic minorities involved in the conflict that affected them. It was reflected in their question, when they were asking me something like: “what is your nationality? You do not look like Kazakh or Dungan”. I believe that they were much more opened to me because of my ethnic identity, but it was sometimes still a difficult challenge to obtain information from the respondents. Therefore, I was trying to be persistent simultaneously focusing to make all respondents feel comfortable. It was essential for me to obtain trust from each and every respondent.

There are several tools that I used to check my theory: a) interviews; b) survey questionnaire; c) statistics; d) analysis of Nazarbayev’s speeches.

a) Interviews

It was vital for my research to conduct a field study in order to be able to find out insights from the local population. Since my main focus was to study violent ethnic clashes that took place specifically in small villages, it meant that it would be particularly difficult to find available statistical information that would show the level of inequality in those villages as well as any other relevant information for my project. Furthermore, violent clashes are a highly uncovered topic in Kazakhstan, which means that there is not a lot of objective information available. Therefore, conducting a field study to obtain complete and ultimate data applying interviews and survey methods are the main sources of data in my analysis. Nevertheless, I am also relying on the relevant statistics that were available but simultaneously pointing out the limitations of such data, which


could not be used as a piece of complete information for the analysis.

With respect to the interviews and survey, I conducted fieldwork in the respective villages of interest to study whether relative deprivation really takes place. Particularly, I was seeking to learn people’s attitudes towards other ethnic groups, whether the perception of inequality and grievances exist, and possible cause of grievances that triggered clashes. Also, I wanted to check the presence of political entrepreneurs, which would help me to understand the applicability of the respective theory. Initially, I was planning to take five interviews in each village with local Kazakhs and minorities and I managed to accomplish it. As I explain in the previous chapter, I selected three pairs of cases with the most identical features, where non-Kazakhs form the majority. The ethnic groups that I seek to study in the current paper are Dungans, Uyghurs, Tajiks.

I managed to visit all villages that I was initially planning to visit (see. Chapter 1)

The process of obtaining interview data was complicated because I needed to visit six local villages located in the Southern and Southeastern parts of the country. It turned out to be fruitful research in general and for the theory in particular because I was able to find relevant data, which will be discussed in the empirical section. Shortly, the data supported the main theory and arguments. It showed that the feeling of relative deprivation among Kazakhs occurred in places, where major businesses and properties are owned by ethnic minorities. Furthermore, I resolved the theory problem that I encountered during my literature review chapter. I eventually came to the conclusion that the theory of political entrepreneurs is irrelevant and the most suitable theory is relative deprivation due to reasons mentioned earlier. During my interview with locals, I did not find any evidence that would support the existence of figures, who could benefit from the clashes.

Thus, the field trip gave me confidence in what theory to use and provided me with the necessary data for my study.

I should mention the existing limitations that I encountered during my field trip. The first limitation was related to time. Since I was limited with the course of this semester, I was able to make only one short field trip the duration of which was only one week. Therefore, I needed to


finish all interviews and surveys within this short period. Time shortage was my major challenge.

Also, I was able to choose only one pair of villages for a more thorough examination in order to find out more information relevant to my study. Despite the equal number of interviews and surveys were conducted in every village, I spent more time in Dungan villages. I chose Masanchi/Sortobe and Zhalpak-Tobe because the former was the place with the most recent case that witnessed an ethnic clash, which meant that the consequences from the clash (e.g. property damages) could still be observed. I used the additional time to talk more with the local population in order to find out who exactly owned the major businesses and properties in the area. Thus, I spent extra time examining villages more thoroughly. Another limitation was financial because I had a limited amount of finances, which made it more difficult for me to spend more time in the field and collect more data for the analysis. Nevertheless, despite all these limitations, I was able to collect all necessary data for the study to conduct a solid analysis.

Since the choice of the villages is justified in the previous chapter, I would like to share the interview process. In every respective village, I was conducting interviews with five people, where three were ethnic Kazakhs and two were ethnic minorities. The interviews were conducted in different places upon convenience. I decided to take five interviews from every village because I was limited in time and decided to focus not on quantity but on quality. In order to fill the quantity gap, I also conducted a survey questionnaire. In short, the field trip was very useful to my theory because it helped me to understand the existence of ethnic grievances and economic inequality, which confirmed relative deprivation theory. The sample of the interview questions and survey questionnaire is in Appendix 1. Also, it is important to mention that I was strictly adhering to the rules of Ethics. Therefore, I had not begun my data collection until my IREC approval was not ready.

In every village, I began collecting the data by looking for potential interview prospects.

Since a lot was unfamiliar to me in the new places, I decided to apply the most straightforward approach. I simply began approaching people on the streets. However, I was wearing clothes with


Nazarbayev University logotype and showing my ID to people. I was trying to present myself as clear as possible letting people know that I am a peaceful student from Nazarbayev University, who conducts research for his thesis. Fortunately, not many people were reluctant to talk with me and most of the people were kind, open, and willing to talk. Probably it is because people in villages tend to be less in a rush. And also, they were curious about me too. Some of them have heard about Nazarbayev University. After I introduced myself and disclosed the purpose of my presence, I offered them to participate in the interview. The interviews took place in different locations depending on the situation. Some respondents invited me to visit their homes, while others preferred to be interviewed in local cafes. The interviews lasted from 40 to 70 minutes. The language of interviews was either Russian or Kazakh. Russian was my main language, but some respondents preferred to speak Kazakhs and I agreed. Since the topic of my research was pretty sensible, I was trying to be clear that this is solely for my study purpose and that all the information will be undisclosed and protected. Also, I was trying to point out that they would be able to stop the interview at any time they wanted. Some people refused to participate in the interview, but it was still possible to find 30 people, who were willing to. However, as I mentioned earlier, the biggest challenge for me was time shortage. Also, in order to add randomization, I was selecting people of different age groups, who were older than 21. Thus overall, I conducted 30 interviews in 6 villages from Table 1, out of which 18 were Kazakhs and 12 were representatives of other ethnic minorities. I was trying to control randomization by choosing respondents with different characteristics. The age range of the respondents was 29-56 years old, where 50 percent were male and 50 percent female. The respondents’ occupations were different. I interviewed farmers, shop owners, café employees, employees at wellness complexes, and several business owners. In every village, I interviewed both Kazakhs and representatives of other ethnic minorities.

b) Survey questionnaire

Also, I distributed a survey questionnaire to 20 locals of both genders in every respective village with the same purpose. Both interviews and surveys were intended to help me to understand


economic deprivation. I prepared the questionnaire (see Appendix 2) and distributed it across the villages. I was trying to allocate the questionnaires in equal proportion among ethnic groups. The sample questions had similar content as the interview questions. The only difference is that interview allowed me to go deeper and ask additional questions depending on the situation.

However, the survey questionnaire allowed me to obtain more data. Surveys were especially helpful to me because I was not able to conduct a sufficient amount of interviews due to its long duration. Surveys allowed me to collect more data without spending much time.

I usually began with the interview and at the end of each interview, I was asking the respondents to connect me with someone who could fill the survey. Most of my interview respondents referred me to their neighbors with whom I could communicate and ask to fill the questionnaire. I printed all questionnaires in advance and ask to fill them. Every time I was trying to explain what I am doing and how important it is for me to obtain full responses. In order to make sure that the responses were properly written, I usually preferred to fill them myself while participants were just telling me the answers. It also allowed me to quickly ask additional questions. However, since I had time limitations, I spent less time on the survey questionnaire. It took me no longer than ten minutes to fill the form.

c) Statistics

Furthermore, I examine the information provided by the Statistics Committee to look for the Gini coefficient for the oblasts of interest. Analyzing the data published by the agency I was trying to find the level of inequality across oblasts based on the Gini Coefficient. This data will help me to analyze whether inequality actually exists in the respective oblasts. It will support my claim and confirm the existence of inequality. I decided to use this index because the Gini index measures the extent to which the distribution of income among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. The index provides reliable data because the data are based on primary household survey data obtained from government statistical agencies and World Bank country departments. The index of 0 represents perfect equality, while an index of 100


implies perfect inequality. This analysis will help me to trace the level of inequality in the respective oblasts of interests, which is important for my theory because the idea of relative deprivation is built around inequality, as I mentioned in the previous chapter.

Nevertheless, this index had only limited use for my study. I must admit that the index does not reflect the real situation that was happening in the villages due to the fact that it measures inequality based on taxes, which means only taxable income is taken into consideration. However, a lot of people in the regions earn income that is not taxable because they don’t declare their revenues to the state. Furthermore, the index is unable to clearly show the inequality for the specific village and between specific ethnic groups. It solely describes general inequality in oblasts.

Nevertheless, it was still useful to compare the Gini index among the oblasts to see what region has the highest general inequality. In order to measure poverty, I was relying on the statistics provided by government agencies that used to measure poverty using minimum salary as a baseline. Despite the fact that this indicator also does not reflect the true picture, I decided to use it to identify what oblasts are the poorest.

Since I understand that statistics in Kazakhstan does not reflect the real picture, I used this data only as a supporting evidence for my general logic. The Gini Coefficient does not reflect actual economic conditions because according to the index, Kazakhstan almost does not have poverty and inequality, which contradicts even common sense5. While in reality poverty in Kazakhstan is highly visible especially in rural areas. The coefficient is built on the data provided by the government bodies, which can hardly be recognized as a reliable data.

d. Analysis of Nazarbayev’s speeches

And lastly, I will conduct an analysis of Nazarbayev’s speeches, which will help me to trace the existence of Kazakhization. Since I am arguing that Kazakhization reinforced feelings of Kazakh ethnic superiority, content analysis will help me to analyze the existence of Kazakhization

5 https://zonakz.net/2019/10/02/kazaxstan-pobil-vse-socialnye-rekordy-norvegii/


and whether it actually reinforced the feeling of ethnic superiority. In order to trace the existence of Kazakhization, I will first analyze the speeches of the first president of Kazakhstan that had been made during the first years of independence to prove that the promotion of Kazakh ethnic superiority is part of state nationalist discourses. I will pay special attention to the speeches, where Nazarbayev was mentioning ethnic relations and the role of Kazakhs in the process of nation- building. I decided to use the Nazarbayev speech because it reflects the main political direction chosen by the Republic of Kazakhstan. Furthermore, this analysis is only a complementary source of information needed only to understand whether the political direction legitimized the expectation of Kazakh ethnic superiority. For this purpose, I believe that the excerpts from Nazarbayev’s speech are a good reflection of such legitimization. Also, I will analyze news report covering the specific violent confrontations I look at. Since not a lot of sources publish such kind of information, I will highlight events, which provide valuable information for analysis. I will examine whether the information provided paints the titular ethnic group in a favorable light.

Furthermore, I will analyze the comments to see whether the nationalist sentiments are supported by the general mass or not. Also, I will analyze cultural objects in Almaty and Nur- Sultan and cultural events that took place in Kazakhstan in order to understand whether Kazakh culture receives stronger promotion than other cultures. For this purpose, I will be analyzing messages from the president during the first ten years of independence because these years reflect the period of reshaping the role of ethnic Kazakhs after its long suppression during the USSR period.


4.2 Case selection

4.2.1 Regional distribution of ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan

There are three ethnic minorities, which represent a great proportion of the population in certain regions of Kazakhstan which and can be examined for this study: Uyghurs (1.4 percent of the overall population), Tajiks (0.2 percent), and Dungans (0.3 percent). All these ethnic minorities live in the Southern part of Kazakhstan, specifically neighboring Zhambyl, Almaty, and Turkestan Oblasts3.

Map 1. 14 oblasts of Kazakhstan

Dungans are specifically represented in Sortobe, Masanchi, and Zhalpak-Tobe, which are all located in the Zhambyl Oblast. Masanchi and Sortobe are located close to each other in the Kordai district, where Dungans form a majority. Zhalpak-Tobe is located just a two-hour drive away from the villages in the Zhambyl district and has nearly an even number of Kazakhs and Dungans. A large cluster of Uyghurs occupies Shelek in the Enbekshikazakh district and the village of Chundja in the Uyghur district. Both villages are located in the Almaty Oblast. A high concentration of Tajiks lives in the Turkestan Oblast. Bostandyk, Yntymak, and Enkes are all located very close to one another in the Saryagash district. Also, Tajiks occupy Gullistan of Maktaaralsk district, where they account for 98 percent of population4.

Thus, all cases, where non-Kazakh ethnic groups form the majority, and have examples of both peaceful coexistence and clashes with relatively similar settings are Dungans, Uyghurs and


Figure 1. represents the villages in Zhambyl Oblast that experienced a clash
Figure 2. maps the distance from Masanchi to Zhalpak-Tobe in Zhambyl Oblast
Figure 3. maps the distance from Shelek to Chundja in Almaty Oblast
Figure 4. maps the distance from Bostandyk/Yntymak to Gulistan in Turkestan Oblast

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