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THE ASSESSMENT OF RUSSIAN LEGACY IN POST-SOVIET KAZAKHSTAN. PART 2

16 July 2018
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THE ASSESSMENT OF RUSSIAN LEGACY IN POST-SOVIET KAZAKHSTAN. PART 2

This article aims to provide a more detailed and unfolded story on how the Kazakh identity was affected through the imposition of the Russian language and how the situation has changed over time. As it is the second part of the previous essay (see Language at a Crossroads: The Assesmentof Russian Legacy in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan. Part 1), this part will begin with the description of the situation after the dissolution of the USSR.

After the Collapse of the USSR – the Post-Soviet Period

If we accept the idea that the government of Kazakhstan was "strong" enough to achieve its own goals, we could explain it in the context of language policy. State Program “Development of the Kazakh language and other national languages in the Kazakh SSR” in the period up to 2000 was adopted when Nursultan Nazarbayev officially began playing an important role in Kazakhstan's politics. He started ruling after the demonstrations in 1986 and is legally ruling from 1989 ever since and strengthening his position. The central issue for debate among scientists, politicians and people involved in the problem of ethnic politics has become, it is the policy and the status of ethnic Kazakh and Russian language in the republic. After R.Brubaker ideas about "nationalizing nationalism" we could see how the government used these feelings aspiration to support the claims of "core nation" as defined  in ethnocultural terms. These laws were enacted under growing pressure and participatory

Kazakh nationalism has become an essential component in a situation where the Kazakh government was trying to get more space in the room for maneuver. Three years later there was the "Declaration of Sovereignty" published, where the government was seriously touched upon the problem of the state language. For their own political objectives, the Government supported the idea that "the core of the nation" is a legitimate "owner" of the state, which is conceived as a condition for the main people. But despite his condition, the core of the nation conceived as being culturally and economically weak . Weak position regarded as a legacy of the discriminatory policies of the Soviet government.

A clear image can be seen through the observation ratio Kazakhs and Russian economic landscape. By 1989, ethnic Kazakhs comprised 39.7% and Russians 37.8% of the population of Kazakhstan. Kazakhs held positions in the government, administration and mostly preferred humanitarian professions. Most of the population of Russians is represented by skilled workers and middle-class living in urban areas. Economic crisis had negatively affected all of sectors. Even in the early 1990s, about 70% of all consumer goods in Kazakhstan has provided by Russia and other republics. So, the Republican government did in 1989 an attempt to introduce a new program of import substitution to fill the local market consumers. Unfortunately, the program could not overcome the collapse of the economic system of the Soviet Union. Anyway, the Republican political elite took the first step towards real "sovereignty" based on economic factors. Kazakhstan political reforms proceeded in a number of clearly defined steps. During this period the country's political leadership refused to communist ideology and previous social, political and economic institutions and has developed a version of independent and secular state based on market and economic relations and recognition of the universally accepted principles of international law. One of the main obstacles in this way was to create a unified and distinctive nation in a short time and the easiest way was using Kazakh nationalists claim to perform this task. Kazakhstan's political elite simply sorted and gathered up their claims of those questions which are acceptable to the government objectives. In the 1989 - 90s, State program and the "Law on languages" have been taken out in an atmosphere of rapid change in favor of the titular nation. In order to push the Republican supporters of close ties with Moscow government encouraged the heated debates of the Kazakh people troubles in the Soviet era. The government defined in the "Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan" (1991) the status of the Kazakh language in a very limited scale, with “the revival and development of culture, tradition of Kazakh people”. This last point was the most important for the agreement between the Government and the Kazakh nationalists.

Kazakh nationalists were not able to crush the government at this time because of their "backwardness" in comparison with other post-Soviet republics, nationalists and Third World countries. Thus, the state can use the most reasonable for the majority of the country's population issues, along with the process to create its own ideology of state nationalism and remain “not-so-radical”. First State Constitution, adopted in 1993, expressed its desire to keep the state under the control of the process of nation and state building completely in "Soviet- style". The Kazakh language has been defined as "state" language and Russian as the language of interethnic communication.

Thus, these problems have become slaves of ethno- cultural factors in the government's reforms, which included the dominance of ethnic Kazakhs in high-level, in particular leadership positions at the government, ministries and regional governors level. The state does not need Russian population in the same quality, so nationalists respect coincided with the goals of the state. Kazakh nationalists wave of disappointment was still there. The official status of the Russian language provided great assistance to the government in order to decrease the proportion of Russian and other Slavic ethnic groups. Because of all these factors, it ended up with the mass migration of ethnic Russians and Germans to their historic lands. But even in this case, the political leadership was not in danger to share the power with the majority of Kazakh nationalists.

Ethno - citizens could not get a grip, and, moreover, to concentrate it in their hands. The main advantages in this case, were taken by political leaders who quickly replaced the "communist ideology" for a new "state nationalism". When building a new political and cultural status of the individual successfully used some concepts Kazakh nationalists and some claims by the Russian, who became a minority. Crisis helped the government to form the basis of international relations, who had to put both sides. The position of state language in Kazakhstan has been discussed till nowadays.

The most active participants, primarily from among intellectuals and activists of the organization of national and patriotic, mostly argue about the disadvantage of the Kazakh language as a result of the dominance of the Russian language, execution of many officials of their duties without their knowledge, certain manifestations of discrimination against citizens of insufficient knowledge Russian, etc. Due to objective factors, we have to admit the fact that Russian language is still dominating in the daily life of Kazakhstani society. But with the same share of objectivity, Kazakhstan has been independent for almost 27 years, and it is obvious that there is development of the country as a full-fledged sovereign state, and the status of the Kazakh language as the only state language established by the Constitution of Kazakhstan, and the number of Kazakhs in the ethnic structure of the population which is constantly growing and prevailing. But it is more and more beyond the scope of inter-ethnic relations are becoming the subject of controversy inside the indigenous ethnic group. Magnitude of this critical trend manifestations could not but cause concerns among the republic's leadership. Revealing in this respect has been the statement by President

Nursultan Nazarbayev, on October 17, 2013, at a meeting with government officials body "A" (mayors, public officers) that they need to be friendly to the people who do not know the Kazakh language, and not call representatives of the titular nation, not owning them "shala - Kazakhs" ('half-baked' Kazakhs). This is not the first time that the President is taking steps to defuse tensions around the language issue. So, in his annual address to the people of Kazakhstan "Strategy Kazakhstan- 2050 : a new policy for established state", he declared that 2025 would be the year when Kazakh language will start dominating in all spheres of life, and become the language of universal communication and they will be spoken by 95% of the population of Kazakhstan. The policy at the state level to encourage the study of Kazakh citizens besides also Russian and English languages, i.e. trilinguism saved. Thus, the government continues the policy of maintaining a balance in the ethno-linguistic sphere.

The emphasis is on the further development and promotion of the state language. In this vein, Kazakh President also voiced his respective abstracts during the 20th session of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan. According to him, Kazakhstan has more than 100 ethnic groups. Of course, the ethnic diversity which has become a united nation need a good cement, and today, the main factor cementing the unique nation is the Kazakh language - the language of the state. The Ministry of Education and Science is taking steps toward the increase of hours of Kazakh language classes. There are also numerous complaints about the poor quality of textbooks and teaching aids in Kazakh. Therefore, a new minister of education and science and his team is facing the task of correcting errors and shortcomings of his predecessors, and strengthening work in accordance with the aforementioned settings of the President. With all this, we must admit that the language issue is not limited only by the lack of various ethnics of the republic, especially non-indigenous, a sufficient level of proficiency in the State language. The problem is much broader and has serious social and psychological roots.
 
First, it has very weak cultural basis, which stimulates interest in the Kazakh language. Thus, among the domestic works of literature and cinema since independence, there are very few of those that can be compared with the Soviet time masterpieces. Interestingly, it was during the Soviet era, despite its mixed and sometimes tragic processes appeared opera "Kyz Zhibek" book "The Path of Abai", "Blood and Sweat", "Nomads", "Angel in Skullcap", "Salt River of the Childhood", "Chokan Ualikhanov" movies etc. These and other achievements of cultural creativity has an appreciable effect on the expression of interest in the history, culture and, as a consequence, the language of Kazakh people. Compared to this, in the years of independence of Kazakhstan, the cultural creativity declined markedly in its volume, quality and, as a consequence, the level of inspiration to society, and especially the young generation of citizens. It is no accident that many Kazakhs prefer to read and watch in Russian, English, Turkish, etc.

Second one is the influence of globalization on young people. Low levels of availability and quality of national education has forced young people to seek the education abroad. As a result, some of them go to the West, and others, especially when it comes to knowledge of a religious nature, go to the countries of the Middle East. But getting there with the knowledge they absorb confidence and socio-cultural values of the countries and people. Another aspects of globalization is the Internet and social networks. Many people today are literally living in the Internet space, meet and communicate with others around the world, playing in all sorts of online games, etc. So here they give preference to Russian or English. The consequence of all this is that, living in Kazakhstan and being its citizens, many of these people in reality exist in different socio-cultural and linguistic spaces. The same can be said about some repatriates, who, despite the full possession of their mother tongue, are actually native beareres of culture and mentality of the country they came from. In this regard, their adaptation into Kazakh society goes with certain difficulties.
 

Third, many citizens are employed, where the official language is frankly not in demand. Moreover, they are more visible, and it is not necessary. It is not as much about these people as in the medium itself. Even if the administration system is now fully translated into Kazakh, the language of business, services and leisure is still operated in Russian. The President Nazarbayev in his annual address openly said: “When the Kazakh language will be the language of common use, and rise to the level of actual state language, we will call our country «The Kazakh State». The future of Kazakhstan is in the Kazakh language, and the knowledge of Kazakh language is the duty of every citizen. Since language is the soul of a nation, policy of any state is constructed in accordance with the history, traditions and national values of the state-nation. Any country will prosper, when the status of state language becomes immutable. A well-planned language policy is one of the main factors consolidating the Kazakh nation.

Our priority is to develop it actively using in all areas. This is a task which must choose every self-respecting man. We must to start changing our alphabet to the Latin alphabet. This is a fundamental issue that the nation must decide for its bright future. Once in history, we have already made such a shift. For the future of our children, we must take such a decision again. This will create the conditions for our integration into the world, and our children will study the English language which will give impetus to the modernization of Kazakh language. We need to modernize the Kazakh language. This question should not solve the circle separate figures. Government should look into this. Instead of having to know the native language, to promote it, some people declare openly about their reluctance to speak in the official language.”

The language must be a consolidator of the Kazakhstani people. In order to meet positive results, the language policy should be carried out correctly and consistently, without prejudice to any language spoken by Kazakhstani people. Today more than 60 percent of the country's schoolchildren are learning the state language. This is to say that in 10-12 years there will be formed a new generation of Kazakhstan, which speaks in the national language. Most importantly, by 2025, the Kazakh language will be dominate in all spheres of life, become the language of universal communication. And it will certainly be the most important achievement Kazakhstan. This is the main jewel in the crown of Kazakh state sovereignty. 22 years ago, that is, in the first years of Independence, Kazakhs were 6.8 million, which comprised only 41 percent of the population. Nowadays, the situation has significantly changed, because the number of Kazakhs have almost doubled comparing with the first years of the Independence, currently comprising 65 percent of the whole population of Kazakhstan

Final Thoughts on Kazakh History and Future

Kazakhstan is in a phase of quick economic development due to its introduction to the free market and exploitation of natural resources. The cultural situation is changing very rapidly as well, but is marked by many of the phantoms from the future. The Kazakh land was much more mingled with Russian culture and Soviet ideology that has to deal with all of its complicated legacy in new Kazakh identity. According to the questions brought up at the beginning of this essay it seems that Kazakh nationalism demands a special place for language. Kazakhs are definitely a strong, self-conscious nation which has a long history, but they have to rebuild their position in a new, independent and modern world. The new language policy seems to attempt to eradicate the burden of Russian domination and ubleash itself to the Western world by changing the alphabet to Latin.

The course towards West is also complicated since the culture was influenced by the other dominant tradition – the Islamic culture. Nazarbayev is trying to deal with the Soviet mentality of people by accepting international relations, throwing away the central-planned economics and creating a stable state. As we might have noticed, it could be done through the legislation and strengthening the administration which will seriously take care of such kinds of sensitive issues. He is trying to create a unique nation, so he takes the path from state to the nation. In order to fulfill everything properly, he uses language policy, because, as he believes, in few years every citizen will speak Kazakh, which will become a uniting factor for all the people, despite their ethnicity, religion etc. This goal is quite feasible, and we have to admit its convenience which does not intend to discriminate the non-well speakers, but determines a clear image of the future.

In order to improve the situation in the linguistic environment, the government should deal with the demands of all people, and create a comfortable environment to promote Kazakh national culture and traditions. So do Kazakhs in terms of motivating convenient conditios for others. In general, the language issue should be considered with specific practical matters rather than emotions.

 

 MINUAROV I.B.

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