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Why Did Nur-Sultan Refrain From Any Formal Comment On Zyuganov’s Statement About Kazakhstan? – Analysis

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The Kazakh public opinion have recently been disturbed by Russia’s communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov’s calling upon the Russian authorities to ‘protect the Russian-speaking inhabitants of [Northern] Kazakhstan’ from subjecting to ‘nationalist mistreatment in this republic’.  There is nothing new in that. It is quite another matter that the current situation makes the words by Gennady Zyuganov sound especially ominous. Amid the unwinding crisis in Ukraine, the Kazakhstani public continues to be increasingly concerned about such statements and pronouncements by Moscow politicians. And that’s quite explainable. Moscow turned from rhetoric to action in the case with another post-Soviet country that has a high proportion of Russian speakers, Ukraine. And the Kremlin, according to its representatives, is not going to stop until it gets its goal. There seems to be no guarantee that the act would not be repeated with regard to Kazakhstan. The Kazakh authorities nonetheless appear to have taken a ‘don’t rock the boat’ approach in this context.

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Official Nur-Sultan refrained from any formal comment on Mr. Zyuganov’s recent statement about Kazakhstan. Replying to the questions on this matter asked by local reporters, Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi said: “As to Zyuganov’s speech, let me say the following. First, there will be no formal protest. We proceed from the premise that Zyuganov is the leader of the Russian Communist Party, which is in opposition to the incumbent Russian authorities. As you know, the opposition always expresses views that are either different from or at odds with the official stance of the incumbent authorities. [Second,] Zyuganov’s speech has not been aired by any Russian federal channels. It was confirmed at the highest level during a working visit of our president to Moscow that Russia does not have any territorial claims to Kazakhstan”.

“Our countries have laid a respective legal basis, our borders have been delimitated, and the demarcation process is ongoing. The demarcation process will be completed within the next two or three years”, he added.

Well, according to Kazakh Vice-Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, one of the main reason for official Nur-Sultan’s refraining from any formal comment on Mr. Ziuganov’s recent pronouncement resides in the fact that the latter one is “the leader of the Russian Communist Party, which is in opposition to the incumbent Russian authorities”. Well, that doesn’t sound quite convincing. For there were no formal comments even in some previous instances where the statements towards Kazakhstan such as the one voiced by Mr.Ziuganov, had repeatedly been made by Russian MPs from the ruling United Russia party.

The relevant speech by Vyacheslav Nikonov, the head of the State Duma’s education and science committee, was aired on the state-owned, widely watched Channel One Russia. There, he said that territories of Northern Kazakhstan were ‘a big gift’ from Russia to Kazakhstan. The Kazakh Foreign Ministry publicly rejected this claim. Yevgeny Fyodorov, another Russian MP from the ruling United Russia party, got so enraged by that response from Nur-Sultan, he resorted to the language of threats and insults. He said that if Kazakhstan believed that it had not received ‘gifts’ from Russia, then it must be treated differently. Then the Russian Federation will ‘have to request that they be returned, as you took them unlawfully’. In particular, Yevgeny Fyodorov said the following: “Do you want to leave, Comrade Nazarbayev, Tokayev and [the ones in] the Kazakh Foreign Ministry. All right, take your suitcases, return the territories, the city of Verny (Almaty) and everything else, and leave. They would say: “Where might we go if there would be no territories left for us”. Our answer: What does this have to do with us? Get out of our house. You ‘nitshebrody’ [‘vagrants and beggars’, ‘trash’, homeless people who beg for alms’; in a word those who do not have the right to their own land], rented an apartment from us, then you decided to break up with us –  that being the case, get out of our house, get out of the city of Verny.  Isn’t it logical?”. Thus, Russian MP from the ruling United Russia party, not only made territorial claims against Kazakhstan, but also covered the country’s first and second Presidents, Nursultan Nazarbayev and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and its foreign ministry with vicious insults. 

That verbal aggression against the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Kazakhstan was left unanswered on the part of the Kazakh MFA headed by Mr. Tleuberdi who embodies Nur-Sultan’s posture internationally. But such a stance proved to be of little help in easing anti-Kazakhstani sentiment among Russian politicians and political experts, and media persons. During the second half of 2021, Russia was subjecting Kazakhstan – through the media forces and political circles close to the Kremlin – to all kinds of information attack. And in doing so, the Russian side stopped at nothing. There were the unfounded and insinuated allegations not only against the Kazakh government and the Kazakh Parliament (‘Mendkovich: There are Nazi accomplices in the government of Kazakhstan’, “Kazakhstani system of power are being joined by nationalists obsessed with the idea of the “Great Turan”, “Those nationalists in Kazakhstan’s power, who are set against Russia, have been named”), but also against the President of Kazakhstan (“Who did give the go-ahead for the “the Russian question” to be finally resolved”, “How did Kasym Tokayev deal with the “Russian issue”, “Leader of the “language patrols” is found to have had connections with Kazakhstan’s president”).

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And that media campaign focusing on Kazakhstan goes on to this day. Not long ago, it touched Mr. Tleuberdi himself too. On February 22, a day after Putin recognised two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine as independent entities, RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, who, according to Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper, had earlier exhibited racist behaviour towards Kazakhstan and the Kazakh people, verbally attacked official Nur-Sultan for not being willing to follow Moscow’s lead. “Why did we save them, you ask?” Simonyan wrote on her Telegram page in a post concerning Kazakh FM Mukhtar Tleuberdi’s refusal to support such a move.

Then she added: “In fact, people incapable of being grateful are the most disgusting persons. It’s people like that who easily become traitors. These are the meanest, slimiest, extremely cynical and dangerous people. They are to be avoided. So what could be said about the States”.

This would suggest that the Russian political, intellectual and media elites have seriously and permanently taken on the task of keeping Kazakhstan in suspense. The permissibility of such acts apparently can be explained by two factors. 

First, Kazakhstan perhaps has been and still is the most non-confrontational (with respect to Moscow) ex-Soviet country. Any attempt to go beyond the traditional practice in relations between the two states is decisively halted by those close to the Kremlin circles and the Russian Government, as has been the case with the Kazakh MFA on one hand and the Russian MPs, Vyacheslav Nikonov and Yevgeny Fyodorov, on the other. 

Second, as it now turns out, one can be able to generate wide consensus in the strife-torn Russian society as a whole by giving rise to negative sentiments, emotions and reactions on the part of Russia’s population towards what seems to be happening in Kazakhstan. The topic has proved to be capable of prompting similar reactions even among those having nothing else in common with each other. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that a great number of people representing the whole political spectrum of Russian society, from extreme left to extreme right, have joined that information campaign launched and fanned by media and political circles close to official Moscow. The Kremlin’s cabinet of political technologists must have taken note of such a circumstance.

*Akhas Tazhutov, is a political analyst

Akhas Tazhutov

Akhas Tazhutov is a political analysts from Kazakhstan.

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