The true ‘Kazakhness’ as a resource for the nation-building in modern Kazakhstan in the context of repatriation policy
July 6 – 14, 2014
The geography of research included the cities of Astana and Kokshetau, as well as the village of Krasnyy Yar in the Akmolinskaya oblast. This choice is accounted for by the research goal that is to define the meanings attached to the term ‘Kazakhness’ by different groups of informants in various contexts.
There were two research tasks set:
1. To define what meaning is given to the term ‘Kazakhness’ (‘true Kazakhness’, authenticity) by Kazakh intellectuals – university teaching staff and public figures. And by local officials as they deal directly with people in villages and know their problems well, and also because the access to officials occupying higher state posts was quite problematic, given the limited time of my visit to Kazakhstan and the specifics of Kazakh bureaucracy.
2. To add to the previously studied case of East Kazakhstan (Shygys village) some new materials on the village of Krasnyy Yar built specially for Oralmans under the ‘Nurly Kosh’ programme, for comparison.
- representatives of the Kazakh intellectual community – university faculty and staff (Gumilyov Eurasian National University), two of who have had direct experience of repatriation (from Russia and Mongolia), former officials, and public figures;
- representatives of the city administration (akimat) of Kokshetau, residents of Krasnyy Yar village of the Akmolinskaya oblast.
Research methods used: semi-structured interviews, free conversations, observation, analysis of documents and statistics.
Main research results:
- The ‘Kazakhness’ (true Kazakhness/authenticity) is an important resource and a tool for the inclusion/exclusion in/from the group of ‘citizens of Kazakhstan’ (meaning ‘true citizens’). In this sense, an important category of analysis of the fieldwork material is that of ‘cultural citizenship’, understood as a dual process of internal and external constitution in power-wielding networks connected with the nation-state and civil society (Ong, A. Cultural Citizenship as Subject-Making: Immigrants Negotiate Racial and Cultural Boundaries in the United States // Current Anthropology. 1996. Vol. 37, N 5. P. 737 – 762.).
- The important factors influencing the everyday categorization practices are language (notably, not only Kazakh but Russian, too), culture (depending on the country of repatriate’s origin – Russia, Mongolia, China, Uzbekistan, etc.) and the time of resettlement (those who resettled in the 1990s stand a better chance to be recognized as ‘true Kazakhs’ than those who came in the 2000s).
- There has been a theme raised this year of ‘Russian Kazakhs’ who resettled to Kazakhstan from Russia, under the repatriation programme but not only, that are not perceived as ‘Oralmans’ and in my view, it is potentially a topic for further development in terms of studying repatriation and borders of ‘cultural citizenship’ in modern Kazakhstan.
LSAR research fellow