If a nation does not know its history, if the country loses its history, then its citizens have nowhere to go.
Mirzhakyp Dulatuly

Ethno-confessional harmony as a factor of stable development in Kazakhstan

We live in a secular state where all religions have equal rights and the laws of our country call the confessions for friendly attitude to each other

Analysis of processes in different sphere of life of Kazakhstan’s society suggests that there are certain positive shifts on the road to democratization and inter-ethnic integration. First years after sovereignty are characterized by the rapid growth of ethnic self-consciousness, activation of nationalist mood resulted in crisis of inter-ethnic relations. Nowadays different nations seek their own place in changed social, economic and psychological conditions. One of the forms of such search is ethnic self-determination which is not always connected with the aspiration for gaining sovereign statehood.

Nowadays Kazakhstan is in line with global changes in accordance with democratic tendencies of the modern world. It hosts formation of new political institutions, improvement of the legislative framework, establishment and work of the Board for Coordination of implementation of the State program on the development of Kazakh language and other national languages and the Department on migration under the Ministry of Labor. The Law of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan is under development.

However, no one legislative framework is able to overcome antipathy of parallel processes of the formation of national state and ethnic self-determination of all nations living there. Thus, sociologist researches reveal that Kazakhstan’s population inadequately treat some people arrived to Kazakhstan for permanent residence from "hot spots" (Chechnya, Tajikistan) and vulnerable countries (Uzbekistan). The same attitude is observed from some representatives of native population towards Kazakhs who arrived for permanent residence from abroad due to provided preferences. The present situation is used by nationalists in Russia and Kazakhstan who believe that Northern, Eastern and Western regions of Kazakhstan historically belong to Russia.

Thus, it may be concluded that despite the absence of open national and religious conflicts in our country there are some serious problems and contradictions related to multi-ethnical unity of Kazakhstan. To avoid them in future we have to research this sphere of social life.

Along with the process of the rise in ethnic self-consciousness of Kazakhstan’s people the renewal of religious ideology take place. Religion is becoming not only the most important component of the culture but also the way of life of millions of people in Kazakhstan, dominating way of national self-consciousness and a political factor.

The loss of communist ideology, renovation of national and cultural traditions resulted in complicated processes of rethinking of the role of religion among various groups of population. Peculiar ethnic and confessional relations are being constructed in ethnic and religious spheres.

The rise in the number of religious organizations in the republic is the evidence of the fact that citizens of Kazakhstan are provided with real freedom of religion while prohibition on registration of religious associations is removed.

Despite the great number of existing in Kazakhstan religious organizations only 39,7% of population choose to identify themselves as believers and 55,9% of citizens are indifferent to religion. 4,4% of population have no effect on the situation as they consider that they are atheists. However, at the same time we should not forget that the majority of people in Kazakhstan, according to the sociological researches, do not notice any differences between the terms "national" and "religious". Therefore, most of them identify themselves with one or another confession mainly by ethnic origin.

As we can see ethnic identification plays crucial role for the major part of Kazakhstan’s population, with the exception of Chechen, Uighur, and Uzbek nations. Representatives of the most ethnic groups perceive religious practices as a part of ethnic culture rather than something with independent meaning. Such identification of ethnic and religious aspects can be traced among several groups of multi-ethnic and multi-confessional states, including India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Very often this gap results in inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts. For example, in the 20th century — India’s division into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; collapse of Yugoslavia rather by religious than by national origin, and to name but a few.

In contrast to states mentioned above representatives of many ethnic groups moved to our country over the last two centuries. According to the data of the last census the total number of migrants was just under 50% of the population. This resulted in change of identification factors as native and arrived citizens of Kazakhstan faced gradual dilution of ethnic characteristics. Under the present conditions religious belonging became the important factor of ethnic identification.

A sociological survey showed that 50,6% of respondents consider themselves Muslims, 12,5% — Christians, at the same time 11,9% of respondents not only consider themselves believers but also are members of religious association and observe all its rules. Therefore, the majority of respondents cannot be considered as real believers. Opinion of this part of respondents reflects the position of the major part of Kazakhstan’s population which has obvious marginal character. Having identified themselves to a religious community they do not have several key identification characteristics of this community, such as belonging to association and performing religious rites.

There are representatives of all world religions among believers, including Islam, Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant), Buddhism as well as Judaism, ancient polytheistic cults and contemporary formations.

More traditional for local population religions (Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodox Church) play important role in confession life of the country.

Religious organizations play crucial role in Kazakhstan’s stable development. They make their own contribution to stability and inter-national harmony strengthening. Leaders of many associations expressed deep concern over the conflicts in Tajikistan, extremist activity of Wahhabis in Uzbekistan, condemned the activity of so called "Islamic militants" in the Caucasian region and the sally of armed militias in Kirgizia. That is why sermons contain more and more calls for harmony and friendship between nations. All these factors make a positive contribution to social consolidation.

Use of religion’s potential for the achievement of harmony in the sphere of inter-national relations is crucial for stability of the society. This includes involvement of representatives of various confessions to the participation in political events, round tables, Days of spiritual harmony, activity of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan and minor assemblies as well as joint organization of various charity actions contributing to mutual understanding between them.

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Kanafina M. Kh., Nikiforov A. V.
(North Kazakhstan state university named after Manash Kozybayev)