ZOiS Report 4/2020

Kazakh and/or Kazakhstani? The National Identity of the Republic of Kazakhstan and its Citizens

Von Beate Eschment 01.09.2020
Members of Almaty’s Assembly of People at the Nauryz procession in 2019 © Beate Eschment

“A Kazakh or Kazakhstani nation? This has been an unresolved dilemma for the past 25 years.” Underlying this observation by a Kazakh political scientist is a further question: does the multiethnic Republic of Kazakhstan view itself in ethnic terms as the state of the Kazakh people, and / or in civic terms as a state of all citizens irrespective of ethnicity — or both simultaneously, as Nursultan Nazarbaev’s government decreed in the early 1990s? And was this dual approach successful? The answer to this latter question continues to be significant for predicting Kazakhstan’s internal stability. Above all, it is a benchmark for assessing the success of the nationalities policy pursued by the First President until he stepped down on 19 March 2019. The conceptual development and implementation of this dual approach coincide with his time in office and reflect his own strong and active commitment to this ideal, particularly in the 1990s.

The results of a ZOiS survey conducted among Almaty’s multi-ethnic population in autumn 2019 show a strong predominance of ethnic self-identification among respondents for the first time; however, civic Kazakhstani identity also resonates so strongly that it is appropriate to refer to the population’s “multiple identity”.