Vladimir Kirilov, international observer
No sooner had the New Year fireworks died down than the most powerful internal political storm in all the years of independence broke out in Kazakhstan. For many of our inhabitants, the events in the neighboring country have become almost a bolt from the blue. For them, Kazakhstan seemed to be an “island of stability”, a state that demonstrated an example of a painless transit of power, pursuing a wise foreign policy.
In fact, everything was not quite so, or rather – not at all so. Experts and analysts who know Kazakh realities well have compared the situation in the country to a “minefield” and have long predicted the inevitability of serious social upheavals. What happened in the ninth largest country in the heart of Eurasia that woke up after New Year’s Eve?
On January 2, when they arrived at the gas station, residents of the city of Zhanaozen (Mangistau region in western Kazakhstan) saw that the prices for liquefied petrol gas had doubled. Discontent turned into rallies demanding to return the old prices. It is difficult to judge how spontaneous these performances were, given the fact that the price increase was announced in advance. Another thing is important – further events showed that these protests were a trigger for large-scale actions that rapidly swept across many regions of the country. Conversations like – but if prices were immediately reduced, then nothing would have happened – let’s leave to naive “kitchen analysts”, since the reason had no fundamental significance.
The main events, which were hastened to be classified as “color revolutions”, moved with lightning speed to the former capital, the largest city in the country – Alma-Ata. The picture began to painfully resemble the Maidan scenario of Ukraine. The economic ones were followed by political demands: the resignation of the government, early parliamentary and then presidential elections, the complete removal of the first president Nazarbayev from power, ensuring the equality of the regions, etc.
There were enough people willing to “ride the protest wave”. The West made certain gestures jointly. Its strategic goal is to form a belt of instability around Russia (and in this case, on the border with Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China). But, apparently, this was not his cycle. As a rule, Washington’s political strategists are pulling up the beginning of active actions for the elections, as it was in Belarus, or significant political events, as it was in Ukraine.
The sleeping cells of the pro-Western persuasion, designed to play the role of the mover of the future revolution, exist in Kazakhstan and continue to be created, but there is still no formalized opposition force. The same can be said for the stands of potential protest. The figure of the fugitive banker thief Mukhtar Ablyazov, who declared himself the leader of the opposition, caused despondency even among the fans of Tikhanovskaya.
By and large, Washington does not care which of the three zhuzes, or even the bandits, will have power in Kazakhstan, the main thing is that the country should be Russophobic, constantly create problems for Russia, weakening it wherever possible. Nevertheless, the Cold War strategists did not hesitate to take advantage of this opportunity to conduct a large-scale training, check communication channels, track the effectiveness of social networks, record the activity of various groups of the population, remove the reaction of the authorities, assess the degree of loyalty and professionalism of the security forces.
Most likely, the real party behind the events was the local elite, tired of the domination of Nazarbayev’s creature, seeking to redistribute the national pie. The perpetrators of the rebellion were radicals of the nationalist and Islamist persuasion, criminal groups associated primarily with drug trafficking, as well as outright bandits and looters. There were more than enough of them in the country. President Tokayev announced the figure of 20 thousand terrorists who unleashed a bloody massacre on the streets of Alma-Ata and other cities of the country.
Infiltration of such a number of militants from abroad seems unlikely. The overwhelming majority of the participants in the actions are a homegrown product, ripened on the basis of socio-economic problems with the full connivance of the security agencies and special services. It was not for nothing that President Tokayev announced the facts of high treason and began to purge the leadership of the power block.
The terrorist nature of the actions of the “peaceful protesters” manifested itself practically from the very beginning of the riots. This was reflected in the seizure of administrative buildings, the airport, gun shops, television and radio centers, as well as in the use of firearms, which resulted in the death of police officers. The security forces were unable to cope with the rampant violence. In these conditions, the involvement of the CSTO peacekeeping contingent on the initiative of the Kazakh president was a timely and, perhaps, the only sure way to overcome the crisis that had arisen.
The reasons for what happened are largely caused by the mistakes of the leadership of the Republic in the domestic and foreign policy of the state. The internal agenda in a country like Kazakhstan is complex, multi-layered and requires a broad and in-depth analysis. With the foreign policy aspect, the situation is clearer. Life has shown that the problems of the former Soviet republics located along the perimeter of Russia arise as a result of their notorious “multi-vector” policy, while geopolitical reality dictates the need to choose between the camps of superpowers. Even the prospect of neutrality looks illusory.
The tilt of Kazakhstan towards the United States will inevitably lead to an anti-Russian transformation of the country. Wanting to receive political and economic dividends, preserve (including personal) foreign assets, win the approval of overseas partners, the country’s authorities turn a blind eye to the activities of thousands (!) Western NGOs, do not repulse Russophobic nationalists, send some signals in the form of a transition Cyrillic to Latin, impose restrictions on the use of the Russian language.
It is quite obvious that radical nationalism in Kazakhstan, as, indeed, in other former republics of the USSR, nurtured on tales of the Soviet period of history, will be directed against the Russian-speaking population of the country (non-Kazakhs make up 30%, including Russians -18%). But the point is that when the “master” who nurtured the Natsiks needs it, all these “language patrols” that nightmare Russians will go to seize administrative buildings and overthrow the unwanted authorities. After all this, is it really any wonder where 20 thousand radical nationalists, jihadists, pan-Turkists (the result of flirting with Erdogan) and grown-up NGOs “fighters for democracy” appeared in the country?
In the end, the question arises: are the authorities of Kazakhstan so short-sighted that they cannot imagine what kind of reaction Moscow will cause anti-Russian Kazakhstan, a state in which 3.5 million Russians live, with which Russia has an almost open border of 7.5 thousand kilometers. and on the territory of which the Baikonur cosmodrome is located. Really, the example of Ukraine does not teach anything. Let’s hope that hot January 2022 will help the authorities of Kazakhstan to correctly determine the priorities that meet the national interests of a friendly country.