On the ground in Kazakhstan’s protests: what really happened?

What began as peace­ful ral­lies over gas price hikes became wide­spread vio­lence as Kazakhstanis took to the streets to demand jus­tice and a bet­ter life

On 2 January, pub­lic ral­lies over a sharp rise in the price of liq­ue­fied gas began in west­ern Kazakhstan. Just four days lat­er, Russian troops would arrive in the country’s com­mer­cial cap­i­tal, Almaty, to assist in peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions. As the order was restored on 7 January, pres­i­dent Kassym-Jomart Tokayev claimed “20,000 ter­ror­ists and ban­dits” had attacked the city as part of an appar­ent coup d’etat. Some 227 peo­ple died in the clash­es, accord­ing to offi­cial sources. The major­i­ty of them per­ished in Almaty.

These whirl­wind events have left many con­fused as to what actu­al­ly hap­pened in Kazakhstan – and what the rela­tion­ship is between the orig­i­nal protests and the violence.

While on 4 January, the nar­ra­tive of civic protest was pos­i­tive and exul­tant in Almaty, overnight it changed, after law enforce­ment used force against pro­test­ers. By 5 January, the mood appeared to be more deci­sive. By the end of the day, it was apoc­a­lyp­tic. A com­mu­ni­ca­tions and inter­net shut­down at the peak of the chaos meant that few details could emerge at the time, leav­ing state agen­cies and media to guide the nar­ra­tive. A more detailed account of how events emerged in Almaty, the epi­cen­tre of the vio­lence, can there­fore shed light on what pro­test­ers may have want­ed. It remains unclear who was behind these episodes of vio­lence, and who exact­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in them.

As jour­nal­ists based in the city, we were present dur­ing events on 4 and 5 January and have attempt­ed to pro­vide an ini­tial, con­firmed pic­ture of events.

Disaffected community

On the evening of 4 January, a group of young peo­ple from a rel­a­tive­ly new lib­er­al polit­i­cal move­ment, ‘Oyan, Qazaqstan’ (‘Wake up, Kazakhstan’ in English), began to gath­er in Almaty near a park ded­i­cat­ed to Nursultan Nazarbayev, which is one of the many ‘sacred places’ devot­ed to the for­mer pres­i­dent cre­at­ed by Kazakhstan’s author­i­tar­i­an regime over the past 30 years. As the activists stood in heavy rain, they hoped Almaty res­i­dents would respond to their call to sup­port pro­test­ers in the west­ern Mangistau region. Initially, their sole ‘sup­port­er’ was a man who came to pho­to­graph them, who was most like­ly from Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee. Even then, demon­stra­tors felt that law enforce­ment did not intend to pro­tect them.

After some time, a large group of men joined the activists, some of whom were known nation­al­ists, who had pre­vi­ous­ly been in con­flict with the Oyan move­ment. That evening, it appears ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences lost their meaning.

Together, the two groups marched down a small street and were soon stopped by the police. In the strug­gle, part of the crowd man­aged to run away, anoth­er group was released by the police, and then the remain­ing peo­ple were detained, beat­en or dragged along the asphalt.

Activists who man­aged to escape the police lat­er joined anoth­er group of pro­test­ers on the city’s out­skirts, after the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, an unreg­is­tered oppo­si­tion ini­tia­tive, called a ral­ly near the Almaty Arena sports complex.

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A march down Abai Street, Almaty | Image: Almas Kaisar

As we observed, some of the peo­ple who gath­ered at Almaty Arena did not belong to any polit­i­cal organ­i­sa­tion or move­ment, and the crowd treat­ed the leader of the Democratic Party, for­mer jour­nal­ist Zhanbolat Mamay, with cau­tion. Some explained their scep­ti­cism over what they saw as Mamay’s pos­si­ble affil­i­a­tion with the Kazakhstani author­i­ties. Mamay him­self, who recent­ly lost a defama­tion claim to the for­mer may­or of Almaty over cor­rup­tion alle­ga­tions, has repeat­ed­ly denied these accusations.

The ral­ly went on for sev­er­al hours, before demon­stra­tors set out on an 18-kilo­me­tre jour­ney to Almaty’s city admin­is­tra­tion build­ing in the cen­tre. Their pro­ces­sion seemed end­less – you couldn’t see its start or fin­ish. People walked along­side traf­fic. Flags were hung from many cars, and demon­stra­tors sat on the back of them. On occa­sion, peo­ple sang Kazakhstan’s nation­al anthem and chant­ed “Alga, Kazakhstan!” (Forward, Kazakhstan!). Residents of near­by build­ings greet­ed them from their bal­conies, giv­ing out water and med­ical masks.

A night of clashes

Throughout the march to the city cen­tre on 4 January, pro­test­ers spoke to one anoth­er enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly. They shared their expe­ri­ences and found sol­i­dar­i­ty in their main demand – not just in reduc­ing gas prices, but in chang­ing Kazakhstan’s entire polit­i­cal system.

For many years, the country’s pow­er elite, busy enrich­ing them­selves, was able to offer cit­i­zens only law­less­ness, a lack of social pro­tec­tion and pover­ty. “The Nazarbayev fam­i­ly steals from us all the time! We feel as if we live only to feed them. Are you also unhap­py with this?” one of the pro­test­ers said.

Now, sev­er­al thou­sand peo­ple were prepar­ing to voice their dis­con­tent in the square next to the city admin­is­tra­tion. Among them were mem­bers of polit­i­cal move­ments, ser­vice sec­tor work­ers, unem­ployed youth from the periph­ery of the city, inter­nal migrants, and a few rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the urban mid­dle class. The major­i­ty of the pro­test­ers, accord­ing to soci­ol­o­gist Serik Beisembayev, who stud­ied pho­tos and videos from the protests, were men aged between 20 and 40.

When the march reached Republic Square, the crowd filled it. The police imme­di­ate­ly fought back with shields and batons. Security forces also began throw­ing stun grenades and spray­ing tear gas, which could be felt even a few blocks from the square.

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4 January: pro­test­ers clash with police on Almaty’s Republic Square | Image: Almas Kaisar

Some of the pro­test­ers began to rip out of the ground flags installed in hon­our of the 30th anniver­sary of Kazakhstan’s inde­pen­dence – and use them against the police. Then, sticks were used as weapons, as well as shields tak­en from the secu­ri­ty forces and paving stones that had been abun­dant­ly laid out by two pre­vi­ous may­ors in the old cen­tre of the city.

Soon a rumour began to spread that Kazakhstani mil­i­tary per­son­nel were head­ed towards the pro­test­ers. “Don’t run away! Why did you come?” peo­ple shout­ed after those who retreat­ed. Someone gave a com­mand, and the crowd stormed the police cor­dons. Others began to move towards Astana Square, where the gov­ern­ment of the Kazakh Soviet Republic was locat­ed dur­ing the Soviet era. For sev­er­al hours, they gath­ered forces, then began to re-engage with the police.

After mid­night, a group of sev­er­al young men secured a truck and used it to lead the van­guard of the protest, which was con­cen­trat­ed near the city admin­is­tra­tion. People climbed onto the building’s roof hold­ing Kazakhstani flags. Almost imme­di­ate­ly, a group of pro­test­ers swept past with plac­ards: ‘The peo­ple are awake!’, ‘The gov­ern­ment should resign!’, ‘The banks are suck­ing the peo­ple dry!’ The mood was jubilant.

Throughout the night, pro­test­ers resist­ed secu­ri­ty forces. They were con­stant­ly crowd­ed out of the square, and dis­persed to dif­fer­ent parts of the city. As the explo­sions of stun grenades increased, so did the force from the crowd – groups of young men began to smash police cars. They were injured, some were tak­en away in approach­ing cars. But peo­ple did not think to dis­perse and remained in the square.

Overnight, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev intro­duced a state of emer­gency in Almaty, which would remain in effect until mid­night on 19 January. Tokayev also ordered reduc­tions in gas prices, and began to reg­u­late the cost of fuels and lubri­cants and essen­tial goods. At the same time, he intro­duced a six-month mora­to­ri­um on a rise in util­i­ty tar­iffs. By the morn­ing of 6 January, it was announced that Kazakhstan’s gov­ern­ment had resigned.

The square is on fire

It appears Tokayev’s mea­sures did not sat­is­fy some of the pro­test­ers, and on the morn­ing of 5 January they decid­ed to con­tin­ue the offen­sive. Most shops, cafes and bank branch­es did not open in the cen­tre of Almaty. Public trans­port did not oper­ate and taxis con­tin­ued to be unavail­able due to inter­net block­ages. Republic Square was cor­doned off by Kazakhstani mil­i­tary in armoured per­son­nel car­ri­ers. Traces of blood were vis­i­ble on the ground.

Closer to lunchtime, anoth­er large pro­ces­sion was formed, but on anoth­er thor­ough­fare, Tole bi. This march devel­oped spon­ta­neous­ly, in part start­ed by ran­dom res­i­dents of near­by hous­es and dis­tricts. Those who had par­tic­i­pat­ed in the clash­es near the city admin­is­tra­tion the pre­vi­ous evening also joined. The pro­test­ers’ demands var­ied: some took to the streets because of prob­lems with hous­ing and unpayable loans, oth­ers to call for wage increases.

People in mil­i­tary or police uni­forms appeared in the crowd. On social media, eye­wit­ness­es report­ed rumours that indi­vid­ual police and mil­i­tary offi­cers had gone over to the side of the pro­test­ers. They shared their equip­ment with oth­er demon­stra­tors to make them stand out less in the crowd, observers believed. We could not con­firm how reli­able this infor­ma­tion is.

Some demon­stra­tors aroused indig­na­tion and fear among oth­er pro­test­ers by their appear­ance: it was easy to mis­take them for adher­ents of rad­i­cal reli­gious move­ments. A beard­ed man with a trav­el bag was sur­round­ed and asked to show the con­tents of his bag. “Is he not a Wahhabite [a fol­low­er of a fun­da­men­tal­ist move­ment with­in Sunni Islam] ? What is he car­ry­ing?” peo­ple asked. There was noth­ing seri­ous in the bag, how­ev­er. In total, about ten men with beards were found in the march.

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5 January: seizure of Almaty city admin­is­tra­tion build­ing. Source: Vlast.kz

On the way, a small group of demon­stra­tors sep­a­rat­ed from the gen­er­al protest and rushed to break glass in an office belong­ing to the rul­ing Nur-Otan par­ty. Soon after, this office caught fire. Later, the par­tic­i­pants of the march decid­ed to block the road in order to impede the move­ment of law enforce­ment. They blocked some ambu­lances, which they thought could be secret­ly car­ry­ing secu­ri­ty forces. When they failed to find police in them, they let them go.

Then the demon­stra­tors began to build bar­ri­cades of slabs, paving stones and oth­er impro­vised means on the Tole bi. ‘This kind of thing has not hap­pened since 1986!’ said eye­wit­ness­es, who were sur­prised by the events unfold­ing. (That year, pro­test­ers had fierce­ly con­test­ed the deci­sion of the cen­tral Soviet author­i­ties to appoint Gennady Kolbin, an eth­nic Russian who had nev­er lived in Kazakhstan, to the head of the Kazakh Soviet Republic. Protesters were fierce­ly repressed as a result.)

Meanwhile, pro­test­ers exclaimed “Oyan, Kazakhstan!”, bor­row­ing the slo­gan from the polit­i­cal move­ment of the same name. Different groups sep­a­rat­ed from them, which stormed var­i­ous build­ings, smashed win­dows and dis­abled sur­veil­lance cam­eras. Peaceful pro­test­ers tried to con­tain their fer­vour, but it did not always work. Tear gas was in the vicin­i­ty and a rumour spread among the crowd that it was being sprayed from the roofs of the sur­round­ing buildings.

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5 January: pro­test­ers out­side Almaty city admin­is­tra­tion build­ing | Image: Almas Kaisar

Gradually, the pro­ces­sion reached Republic Square, which was already occu­pied by oth­er pro­test­ers. Firecrackers, flash-noise grenades and tear gas flew from the city admin­is­tra­tion. Several groups of men broke the win­dows and doors and went inside.

At this point, wound­ed demon­stra­tors began to emerge and were car­ried away from the fir­ing. Someone spoke about the death of sev­er­al peo­ple. Some of those in the square were sure that when you got close to the secu­ri­ty forces, they would shoot live ammu­ni­tion. Others claimed they were shoot­ing rub­ber bul­lets. A thick fog cov­ered the neigh­bour­ing streets more and more.

In the evening, bar­ri­cades began to appear near the city admin­is­tra­tion. This was prob­a­bly the moment when the protest turned into an armed riot. Eyewitnesses began to report that gun shops had been loot­ed and police sta­tions had been attacked. People with firearms began to dom­i­nate over peace­ful pro­test­ers on the streets. The first reports of those killed were received at this time, but it was impos­si­ble to ver­i­fy them: no one answered calls at the city police department.

The approach­es to the pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence in Almaty, mean­while, were over­flow­ing with young men. The fire in the city admin­is­tra­tion was grow­ing. Soon, more fires were blaz­ing in the build­ings of state TV chan­nels locat­ed oppo­site the city admin­is­tra­tion. It seemed as if the whole area was drown­ing in flames.

From protests to armed riots

A lit­tle lat­er, it was report­ed that the city prosecutor’s office had been set on fire. At night, uniden­ti­fied per­sons tried to seize var­i­ous impor­tant build­ings, includ­ing hos­pi­tals and Almaty city air­port. An attack also took place at the city police sta­tion. The num­ber of armed peo­ple near gov­ern­ment admin­is­tra­tive build­ings began to grow.

Фото: Татьяна Чекрыгина / Alamy Stock Photo. Все права защищены.
A burnt out car in the city of Taraz, 7 January | Сожженные в ходе протеста автомобили. Тараз, 7 января 2022.

It is not known exact­ly who made up these armed groups. But in Almaty, accord­ing to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, extrem­ists, crim­i­nal groups and loot­ers were oper­at­ing. It is also unknown who coor­di­nat­ed them – and on what con­di­tions – or whether they were con­nect­ed with one anoth­er. The min­istry is now con­duct­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion to estab­lish these facts.

Photos and videos of peo­ple ran­sack­ing shop­ping bou­tiques, restau­rants and banks flood­ed Kazakhstani social media. There were few­er and few­er police and mil­i­tary per­son­nel vis­i­ble. Eyewitnesses noticed that almost no one opposed the looters.

On 10 January, pres­i­dent Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev said that the armed riots had caused $2–3bn in dam­age to Kazakhstan’s econ­o­my. Similar riots swept through many oth­er parts of Kazakhstan. Active oppo­si­tion to the vio­lence emerged in sev­er­al oth­er regions: Zhambyl, Kyzylorda and Almaty.

In Taraz, a city in south­ern Kazakhstan, a branch of the Nur Otan par­ty burned down com­plete­ly. Three police build­ings and the region­al admin­is­tra­tion were also burned down. In the city of Aktobe in west­ern Kazakhstan, three floors of the region­al admin­is­tra­tion build­ing were destroyed. In Taldykorgan, not far from Almaty, an uniden­ti­fied armed group tried to seize the town’s prison, but failed.

Against intervention

On the night of 6 January, the state of emer­gency was extend­ed to the whole of Kazakhstan. In par­al­lel, Tokayev appealed to the heads of state of the Russian-backed Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) with a request to send troops to Kazakhstan. The pres­i­dents of Russia and Belarus were the first to respond. Soon they were joined by troops from Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Foreign mil­i­tary forces were sent for a lim­it­ed peri­od of time to pro­tect Kazakhstani gov­ern­ment facil­i­ties. Many cit­i­zens per­ceived this as a threat to Kazakhstan’s sov­er­eign­ty and a pos­si­ble rea­son for con­flict between the country’s two large eth­nic groups – Kazakhs and Russians.

This fear was jus­ti­fied. Despite an upsurge in vio­lence in Almaty and sev­er­al oth­er regions, ral­lies in oth­er parts of Kazakhstan con­tin­ued to be peace­ful until 8 January. On 6 and 7 January, thou­sands of peo­ple – men and women of all dif­fer­ent ages – remained in the cen­tral squares of towns and cities. They feared that the CSTO units would begin to use unrea­son­able force against them. This could be due to the recent, unfound­ed scan­dal over the alleged oppres­sion of eth­nic Russians in Kazakhstan.

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President Tokayev address­es the nation on 5 January | Source: Akorda.kz

In con­trast, overnight on 7 January, President Tokayev cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly stat­ed that Kazakhstan had been attacked by ‘ter­ror­ists’, and pro-gov­ern­ment experts began to echo him. Allegedly, with­out the CSTO troops, Almaty would have turned into an Islamic caliphate, they claimed. Mass exe­cu­tions and rape of women would have begun in the city. At the same time, no one tried to give an answer as to why Kazakhstan, which has more than 70,000 peo­ple in its armed forces, was not capa­ble of repelling 20,000 so-called ‘ter­ror­ists and bandits’.

Neither the experts, nor the pres­i­dent, nor the secu­ri­ty forces explained what exact­ly made the armed groups ‘ter­ror­ists’. After secu­ri­ty forces began to detain peo­ple, reli­gious lit­er­a­ture was found in some of their per­son­al belong­ings – so far, this is all that has been pre­sent­ed as evi­dence. Why this lit­er­a­ture was called ‘extrem­ist’ before a foren­sic exam­i­na­tion, no one could say.

This delib­er­ate­ly vague use of the term ‘extrem­ist’ cre­ates a dan­ger­ous inter­pre­ta­tion. Peaceful demon­stra­tors, jour­nal­ists and human rights activists can eas­i­ly be classed as ‘ter­ror­ists’. After Tokayev’s speech, many of these peo­ple expressed con­cern on social media that the ‘anti-ter­ror­ist oper­a­tion’ would end in repres­sion against them.

In the after­noon of 6 January, activists began to flock to Almaty’s city admin­is­tra­tion build­ing. Somewere clean­ing up the mess, and oth­ers joined them, hold­ing ban­ners read­ing ‘Tokayev, with­draw troops (CSTO), we are a peace­ful peo­ple’ and ‘We are res­i­dents of Almaty, we are not ter­ror­ists’. Hours lat­er, at least one of these pro­test­ers was shot.

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Peaceful pro­test­ers in Almaty on 6 January | Image: Facebook

Identifying the culprit

On 7 January, President Tokayev and his sub­or­di­nates pro­posed a more detailed cat­e­gori­sa­tion of protest par­tic­i­pants. In addi­tion to peace­ful pro­test­ers, sup­port­ers of rad­i­cal reli­gious move­ments, crim­i­nal groups and loot­ers were sin­gled out.

The offi­cial charges of armed riots were brought against rad­i­cal reli­gious move­ments and crim­i­nals. Viewers of state TV chan­nels were broad­cast videos in which detainees admit­ted that they were for­eign­ers and had come to Kazakhstan to organ­ise riots for money.

One of the detainees was a cit­i­zen of Kyrgyzstan, jazz musi­cian Vikram Ruzakhunov. In a video tak­en in cus­tody, Ruzakhunov said that he was alleged­ly paid a lit­tle more than $200 for par­tic­i­pat­ing in the vio­lence. After being released from cus­tody, he explained that he had giv­en the tes­ti­mo­ny only to ensure he was deport­ed to Kyrgyzstan. If not for the efforts of civ­il soci­ety and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, Ruzakhunov could have faced a prison term. Another 38 cit­i­zens of Kyrgyzstan were detained as part of inves­ti­ga­tions, but were soon released.

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6 January: Almaty after vio­lence rocked the city | © ITAR-TASS News Agency / Alamy Stock Photo. All rights reserved

At the same time, experts argued that Kazakhstan was not under attack from ter­ror­ists, but rather a clash between two polit­i­cal clans. Arguments appeared in the press that Samat Abish, the first deputy chair­man of the National Security Committee (KNB), and busi­ness­man Kairat Satybaldy were behind the riots. Both are rel­a­tives of for­mer President Nazarbayev.

But on 6 January, the head of the KNB, Karim Massimov, was detained on sus­pi­cion of high trea­son, instead of Abish and Satybalda. Several of Massimov’s deputies were also removed from their posts. On 10 January, sev­er­al senior KNB employ­ees and local police offi­cers were found dead at their homes and workplaces.

On 11 January, Tokayev accused the KNB of ‘ignor­ing the ter­ror­ist threat’. As will be estab­lished by law enforce­ment agen­cies, some region­al KNB lead­ers vol­un­tar­i­ly sur­ren­dered their offices to attack­ers. At least one police chief, in the city of Taraz, was sus­pect­ed of the same offence. According to so far uncon­firmed infor­ma­tion, he took his own life while await­ing charges of treason.

Forget about people

From 6–10 January, fire­fights between secu­ri­ty forces and uniden­ti­fied armed units – whom the state called ‘organ­ised ter­ror­ist forces’ – con­tin­ued in Almaty. At first, the bat­tle cov­ered five or six dis­tricts of the city, though it was lat­er pushed to the periph­ery. Throughout Almaty, there was no access to the inter­net. There were prob­lems access­ing food and util­i­ties. ATMs were dis­abled or destroyed. Residents were hor­ri­fied by the lack of infor­ma­tion and the inces­sant shooting.

Most peo­ple did not leave their homes, though some ven­tured to join the squads col­lect­ing rub­bish and rebuild­ing the city’s infra­struc­ture. Others, main­ly in vil­lages near Almaty, cre­at­ed patrols of local res­i­dents to stop loot­ing by strangers who flood­ed the streets.

People who need­ed to move from one area of ​​the city to anoth­er were in dan­ger all the time. Armed groups also attacked them. The son of Eldar Tuimebayev, the rec­tor of the Kazakhstan National University, died as a result of gun­shot wounds, as did two chil­dren. It is unclear who com­mit­ted the shootings.

According to offi­cial infor­ma­tion, 227 peo­ple died dur­ing the clash­es, includ­ing 19 law enforce­ment per­son­nel. More than 4,500 peo­ple were injured, the prosecutor’s office claimed.

By the morn­ing of 11 January, near­ly 10,000 peo­ple had been detained. But since the Ministry of Internal Affairs does not always spec­i­fy whether peo­ple had weapons or valu­ables at the time of their arrest, it is unknown how many of those peo­ple were detained with­out good rea­son. On 17 January, it was report­ed that 8,354 admin­is­tra­tive cas­es were under inves­ti­ga­tion, and 819 crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions were active. Of these, 45 cas­es con­cerned acts of ter­ror­ism, 36 — mass unrest and 15 — murder.

With the restora­tion of inter­net access on 10 January, arrests of activists and jour­nal­ists came to light. The major­i­ty were released or sent to admin­is­tra­tive deten­tion for a num­ber of days. At least four jour­nal­ists in the Aktobe region were sum­moned for inter­ro­ga­tion. Human rights activists do not exclude that there may be more arrests and interrogations.

Despite the numer­ous civil­ian casu­al­ties, the gov­ern­ment has paid most atten­tion to the deaths of 19 law enforce­ment offi­cers. The pres­i­dent has deliv­ered eulo­gies to the brave police offi­cers and their fam­i­lies are promised free apart­ments and finan­cial assis­tance. Ordinary peo­ple, mean­while, receive more pro-for­ma condolences.

The president’s promis­es to pre­vent future out­breaks of protests look no less pro for­ma, so far. Tokayev vowed to revise the country’s social pol­i­cy, cre­ate a new pub­lic fund that will spon­sor social pro­tec­tion ini­tia­tives, and strength­en the law enforce­ment sys­tem. It looks as if the elites have been told to pay some costs towards the country’s dis­en­fran­chised pop­u­la­tion. In turn, the peo­ple are meant to obey the author­i­ties in exchange for a high­er salary.

The polit­i­cal order built by Nazarbayev looks so far unscathed. The demands and val­ues of the peo­ple have always seemed insignif­i­cant com­pared to the inter­ests of Kazakhstan’s elites. When Tokayev request­ed troops from the CSTO, he intend­ed to pro­tect the author­i­ties. As he said: “the state will not fall” – and as the Nazarbayev side added: “it is monolithic”.

Despite the destruc­tion of the mon­u­ment to Nazarbayev in Taldykorgan and bro­ken signs on streets named after him, Tokayev con­tin­ues to echo the for­mer pres­i­dent. Unpopular ini­tia­tives come not from him, but from third par­ties – Nazarbayev’s favourite trick. Parliamentarians are far from stop­ping the rit­u­al dis­play of loy­al­ty. And pro-gov­ern­ment experts, speak­ing of the need to aban­don the cult of the boss, still praise Nazarbayev’s ‘strong hand’.

Experts pre­dict that next time the cost of not meet­ing Kazakhstani society’s needs may be too high for the coun­try if the right lessons are not drawn. If we rely too much on one per­son – Tokayev, who repeats many of Nazarbayev’s actions – and not on our own polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion, then soci­ety will be quite capa­ble of mak­ing anoth­er mis­take.

Original source of arti­cle: openDemocracy