Kazakh Ambassador to Moscow Yermek Kosherbaev presented Russia’s Astrakhan oblast Governor Igor Babushkin with Order of Dostyk (“Friendship”) on behalf of Kazakhstani President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev. The award giving took place during the former one’s working visit to the Lower Volga region. As the Ambassador of Kazakhstan pointed out, Mr. Igor Babushkin was presented with the Order of Dostyk in recognition of his outstanding efforts to promote bilateral cooperation and strengthen peace and friendship between the Russian and Kazakh peoples.
Reading the press reports on the awarding, one gets the distinct impression that something’s not right here. We do not know how the Kazakhstani officials’ minds work. But we do feel he, of Russia’s 147.2 million people, should be regarded as the least deserving of special recognition as a person who made an outstanding contribution to ensuring an equitable relationship between the Russians and Kazakhs.
Well, judge for yourself. Astrakhan Kazakhs are the second biggest ethnic group in Astrakhan Oblast, making up about 16 per cent of its population. And meanwhile, they account, according to Idelreal.org, for 80 per cent of those from the Lower Volga region who died in the war in Ukraine. And here’s something else. None of the five vice-prime ministers and the eleven ministers in the Government of Astrakhan, and the numerous department heads and division chiefs in the regional administration is an ethnic Kazakh. All those positions relate to the office of Astrakhan oblast Governor Igor Babushkin. Ethnic Kazakhs seem to be not particularly welcome there. What other word is there for it?
Yet there is an explanation for that. In modern Russia, problems of Kazakhs and those of their kind are often being ignored. These people are quite often being humiliated, degraded and stripped of their innate human dignity, as it was the case with Antonina Li, a third-generation Korean Uzbek, who “moved from Uzbekistan to Russia in the late ’80s in search of better economic opportunities – only to face intense racial persecution for her Korean identity”. It is even worse for those, who are the country’s indigenous inhabitants of [East] Asian descent, since they have no home other than their autonomous republics or districts and they have no place else to go. Russians who run by the slogan ‘Russia for Russians’, target and brutally attack those who don’t have a ‘European face’. As Antonina Li said, after “that, you’re scared, you’re always looking around”, and you receive “no protection from law enforcement officers who seemed to intentionally harass and extort people with Asian facial features”. Isn’t it a terrible thing, to live in a country where you or any other person of your kind is “nobody to that sort of people”?!
In Russia, demand for Kazakhs, Buryats and those of their kind appears when the Kremlin is desperate for cannon fodder, as it is now. Moscow also can manipulate the Russian soldier men with Asian facial features to make them look guilty for war atrocities.
Yet, what is the reason for which the Kazakh President awarded Igor Babushkin with the Order of Friendship?