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10 facts from the history of constitutional progress in Kazakhstan

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10 facts from the history of constitutional progress in Kazakhstan

This year marks several most significant anniversaries in the national history. The 20th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan is among them.

As it is known, the current Constitution of Kazakhstan was adopted by republican referendum on 30 August 1995 and came into force on 5 September 1995 on the date when the results of the referendum were published.

However, constitutional history in Kazakhstan started long before the establishment of the modern state. Today we are glad to present you several interesting facts from the history of constitutional progress in our country.

1. The first sets of laws were developed in the Kazakh Khanate

There were three sets of steppe laws in the history of the Kazakh Khanate. The set of laws entitled "Kasym Khannyn Kaska Zholy" ("Bright Path of Khan Kasym") was developed in the early 16th century, during Khan Kasym’s rule. Khan Yesim adopted several amendments to the laws which were called "Yesim Khannyn Yeski Zholy" ("Ancient Path of Khan Yesim"). But Khan Tauke was the most successful in this sphere. He became the co-author of the new set of laws "Zheti Zhargy" ("Seven Codes").

2. Being a part of the Russian Empire Kazakhstan didn’t have its Constitution

The Russian Empire didn’t have its own Constitution. The state functioned at the basis of the set of laws and legal acts adopted by the Tsarist Government, such as abolition of serfdom, judicial reforms, and to name but a few.

3. The first draft Constitution was prepared in 1911

In 1911 a prominent public figure Barlybek Syrtanov developed a draft document entitled "Kazakh Yelinin Ustavy" ("The Charter of the Kazakh Country"). The main idea of the charter was establishment of independent national sovereign state. Needless to say, this Constitution wasn’t adopted.

4. The draft programme of the Alash party contained some constitutional provisions

The Kazakh newspaper published the programme of the Alash party on 21 November 1917. The structure of the document complied with constitutions of most European countries of that period. The draft included some progressive ideas, including federative principle of construction of the state, establishment of national autonomies, three branches of state authority, universality of right to vote, and so on.

5. The first Constitution of the Soviet Kazakhstan wasn’t adopted appropriately

The draft Constitution of the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted at the local level in 1924. In 1926 it was sent to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee for its approval. However, it was not even examined. Nevertheless, the Constitution was the document in accordance with which all governmental bodies of the autonomous republic acted.

6. During Kazakhstan’s years within the USSR, it had two Constitutions

The first Constitution was adopted on 20 March 1937. The document confirmed the establishment of the Kazakh SSR as a part of the Soviet Union. The second Constitution was approved on 20 April 1978. In a subsequent period it became a basis for development of the first Constitution of independent Kazakhstan.

7. Independent Kazakhstan did not in fact have a Constitution for more than one year

The Constitutional Act confirming the State Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan was signed on 16 December 1991. At the same time the provisions of the Constitution of 1978 and other legislative acts were still valid. However, the Constitutional Law confirmed public and political changes related to claim of the sovereignty. So, the provisions of this act were above the main law of the Kazakh SSR. Therefore, many legal scholars consider the Kazakhstan State Independence Law to be an "interim Constitution".

8. To develop the current Constitution President Nursultan Nazarbayev examined around twenty main laws of different countries

The current Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan was adopted on 30 August 1995. To develop the draft Constitution President Nursultan Nazarbayev examined the experience of various countries. As a result the Constitution of 1995 adopted American experience of establishment and separation of three branches of state power. With regard to legal status of individuals, our Constitution complies with French main law.

9. Kazakhstan and France are the only countries to have Constitutional Councils

With the adoption of the new Constitution independent Kazakhstan faced the need to provide constitutional control. By the way, the Soviet Union didn’t have the proper constitutional monitoring. Initially in the Republic of Kazakhstan this function was entrusted to Constitutional Court (from June 1992 to October 1995). The decision on the establishment of the Constitutional Council was made on 29 December 1995. Constitutional Councils exist only in our republic and France.

10. The current Constitution was amended on three occasions

The appropriate laws were adopted on 7 October 1998, 21 May 2007 and 2 February 2011.


Inna Kuzmenko

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